Disclosure: It’s a Good Thing, If Done Well

Because the blogging boom continues to grow, and because you have things like Pay Per Post and ReviewMe (this is particularly tricky for instance) popping up, disclosure is becoming a popular topic. I think disclosure is a very, very good thing – but like all things, if it’s not done properly it can be a very, very bad thing. I saw this Web site that helps you to create a disclosure policy similar to that of coming up with a Creative Commons License. The problem with wizard-driven output of course is that it often reads as though it were written by a lawyer. I saw this disclosure policy over at ZuneMax, a site we link to frequently from Zune Thoughts, and after reading their disclosure policy I couldn’t help but be left with a negative impression of the site because it essentially says they get paid for every post – which I highly doubt is the case, yet their disclosure policy left me wondering. I’d encourage any blogger concerned about disclosure to simply write their own statement of disclosure rather than using a template-driven tool that makes things sound worse then they really are.

  • zunemax

    Jason,

    I’m sorry the disclosure policy left you with a bad impression of my site. It is of course the last thing I would want. I created the disclosure page just yesterday not because I get paid for every blog post but I have been paid for a few recently and I thought it would be best to be up front about it. Not all of the paid blogging programs require it but I believe they all should.

    I realize getting paid for blog posts is controversial and there will always be some bias towards someone paying you to do something but it can be done in such a way as not to deceive the reader. In the policy it specifically states I will always be honest and I have been. I have only chosen to blog about things that may be of genuine value to my readers and I have been truthful of my opinions in the reviews.

    I don’t go heavy on the sales pitch and most of my paid posts are more keyword rich generic statements about what the website or product does then my opinions or whether a person should buy something. Most of my paid blogging jobs have been about link popularity and not so much sales type reviews.

    Paid blogging isn’t going away and I respect you for maintaining higher ethical standards than myself on the issue but I do believe it can be done in a proper way so as to benefit both the blogger and the reader.

    What could I change in the disclosure policy to make it less offensive? Is it necessary to disclose in the body of each post that its paid in order to not offend?

    Alfred @ ZuneMAX.com

  • Alfred,

    Thanks for stopping by and clarifying things a bit. I think it’s great that you took the step to create a disclosure policy, that’s a good start. To answer this question:

    “Is it necessary to disclose in the body of each post that its paid in order to not offend?”

    Yes, I believe it is – because if you don’t, how will any of your readers know which posts are being paid for and which are not? I hadn’t actually looked at the full front page of your site before I made the blog post, but now that I have I’m even more confused by what I see. There are a whole bunch of strange posts like this:

    Jindabyne ()
    March 05th 2007 Posted in The Zune, Video, Zune, Television
    Comments(0)

    Are those paid posts? What do all those movies have to do with the Zune? Is this post about Bollywood movies a paid post?

    http://www.zunemax.com/zune/what-happened-to-american-movies

    I guess if I were a normal user reading your front page I’d wonder what all that stuff was. I find myself suspecting everything I’m seeing and not knowing if it’s your real opinion or not. That’s probably not what you want, and it’s certainly no way to build up a respectable site. Now when I see something there and want to link to it from Zune Thoughts, I’m going to wonder if I’m linking to something “real” or something that’s an advertisement. That probably means I won’t link at all because there’s no way for me to know. πŸ™

    Believe me, as someone that makes a full-timing living from running content Web sites, I understand the desire and need to earn income from online activities. People deserve to get paid for what they do. But I don’t think this whole Pay Per Post/Review Me thing is the best way to do that.

    Ultimately it’s your site, so you can do what you want with it, but I think anything that blurs the line between real editorial content and paid content will only end up hurting your site in the end. That’s just two cents from someone that’s been at this a long time… πŸ˜‰

    – Jason

  • Alfred,

    I just visited Zune Max again today after getting a Google alert about you posting some new Zune news I see that you’re posting more DecalGirl skins. Assuming that you’re an affiliate, you might want to do what I do: when I’m posting an affiliate link to something I add the word [Affiliate] somewhere in the post (usually immediately following the link). That way people know it’s an affiliate post and can judge it accordingly.

    – Jason