Blogging with Integrity (?)

Blog with passion and integrity.
I believe this should be every blogger's mantra to maintain the authenticity and credibility of his or her blog. 

I am relatively new in the Philippine blogosphere, 20 months to be exact, and I am already saddened and frustrated by some unethical practices plaguing the community which I have observed and, unfortunately, have experienced first hand.
To illustrate, read this eye-opening experience by Gary of TechExchange which really appalled me, and then, this latest news article from Inquirer.net which created a major buzz on Twitter today.

I also share the sentiments of blogger Christine from the popular Manila Fashion Observer (MFO).  It's like she read my mind!  So with her permission, I am re-posting her entry (main part) for the benefit of my readers, the local blogging community and social media. This is a personal opinion and should be read without prejudice.

     "I was just chatting with a friend who was in marketing in Manila and I was surprised and at the same time shocked at how blogging has turned into such a business back home. She told me some bloggers are now being paid to attend events and write about them.
     Now, there's nothing wrong from earning from a hobby, but I think there ought to be some sort of blogging ethics not just for bloggers, but also for the companies who work with bloggers. I think ads on blogs are ok. Those "pay per link" programs are tacky and off-putting (like "life insurance" and "plumbing solutions" in blogs, hahaha), but they're pretty legit. But, I don't think big companies should pay bloggers to attend events and write blog posts about the products they launched.
     Sure, invite bloggers to events and give them a loot bag, it's good mileage for new products and fun for bloggers to be in on what's new. But I honestly feel there is no need to throw money at them. It's just against the essence of blogging in my opinion. People read blogs because we are not (well in my case) paid to write about them. We write about stuff we personally like, people that interest us, new products or services that we perceive to be of value to our readers.
     The reason why people read blogs is because of its "man on the street" appeal. Here's a regular person, she bought or came across this product, this is what she thinks. I mean seriously, if your product is good/fabulous/excellent, bloggers will write about it. On the flip side, if you have a lousy lemon, then expect to get an earful as well. Bottom line, you don't need to and should NOT pay to get a mention, capisce? Honestly, people are smart. They will see through a blogger who is paid to write. Eventually, that person will lose credibility along with your products. Hopefully, that blogger does not bring down the blogging community along with him/her.
     Not all bloggers are in blogging for the freebies. A lot of us started blogging before all these "perks" came along. We blogged then because we love what we do, and we still blog even if it still is a hobby and not a source of income or recognition or what not. I really think there should be an education for all those into blogging as to what it is and what it ought to be. My friend admits that some agencies still do not know how to approach blogging. I suppose, they just did a "Borat" and threw cash at them hoping that would take care of itself. Personally, I think that's corrupting the blogging system."

Very well-written post. I totally agree with her on this. Like Christine, I blog because I enjoy it. I treat this as a creative outlet, sharing my interests and experiences as a woman, mom and homemaker. If you want to advertise or sponsor my blog, that's fine with me. But to get paid to review a product or service? To write about something I haven't even seen, been to, tried nor experienced? I don't think so.

As a backgrounder, for those who still don't know, I worked in advertising and public relations (PR) for 10 years and have dealt with clients from diverse industries as well as with traditional media representatives. Of course, we give them gifts and product samples as tokens of appreciation for accommodating our press releases and attending events that we organize on behalf of our clients. This is a common traditional media practice. But then there's always the possibility that other agencies opt to give payola to guarantee a published release. I guess the practices then and now have evolved (?). With the strong influence of social media and blogging, sadly, many industry practitioners and clients are still clueless as to how to deal with bloggers. And a lot has already been said and written about this. Just check out the links below.

As much as I would love to earn from this new hobby of mine, I honestly still haven't even figured out the ins and outs of effectively monetizing while maintaining the integrity of my blog! I am still learning. Hoping bloggers will continue to blog with passion and integrity. We owe this to our readers and to the blogging community.

Thanks to Gary for sharing your experience and directing me to MFO, and thanks to Christine for sharing these links that offer different perspectives:
On sponsored blog sites: http://www.wwd.com/media-news/marketings-new-rage-brands-sponsor-influential-bloggers-3230386?full=true
     To quote:
David Lipman of the Lipman agency, whose many fashion clients include Diane von Furstenberg, David Yurman, Burberry, BCBG, Lord & Taylor and St. John, prefers to work with bloggers as editorial outlets rather than as advertising ones. “We’re in a multimedia world, and you need to communicate on all cylinders,” he said. “I think the best way of working with a blogger is to get them deep into a brand [and] let them understand the brand and what the brand is doing that moment.”
Most of the time, he is not a fan of sponsorships, advertorials, product placement or giving away merchandise in exchange for coverage. “I find that disingenuous,” he said. “It loses integrity. I think that’s the whole point of the Internet — the freedom of it, the genuineness of it. It’s believable, it’s real, and that’s the best way to go about it. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. Otherwise, if you force feed it like that, and you pay for it — bloggers have to make a living — but if you pay for it, it becomes an advertorial. Advertorials are the lowest form of advertising.”

Related posts on the hottest news in the Philippine blogosphere today:
Here is a brilliant response by one of the most influential bloggers, Marketman:
More insightful views by reputable columnist and blogger Cecile Van Straten:

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