Mike Arrington, hanging in Davos with the global power elite, has a great title today with “Scoble Sells Out“, a fake jab at his pal Robert Scoble who is finally putting ads on his hugely popular blog (and is also lounging in Davos with the power elite!).
No big deal in my view – Scoble has been good about disclosure and perhaps even more importantly is a basically stand up guy, so I hardly worry that he’s going to start misleading readers in favor of sponsor B.S.
That said, the blogging community would be well advised to develop disclosure standards if people want to maintain credibility and avoid the huge ethical gray areas that come about when socializing, economics, and blogging come together as they have over the past few years.
My view on corruption in politics (and blogging is similar) is that the challenges don’t come from basic dishonesty or payola – there is some of that, but the key problem is more subtle. In systems where economic support flows to those who *already* share the set of opinions with the money folks you don’t need any dishonesty to have a major distortion of the process in favor of those groups that can fund the people who share their ideas. Often people wrongly suggest that votes are “bought”, when this is rare. Rather support flows to the candidates who share the views of the supporters. This system would actually work OK if the contributions were small, but loopholes have allowed certain groups to have hugely disproportionate impact on our system.
This is why the conversational marketing model is bogus. Bringing businesses into the conversation is a good general idea. But if it only involves those businesses who can afford to buy a conversation it’s just a step away from basic advertising, yet disguised as real dialog. That isn’t corruption, but it is distortion.