Thursday, June 02, 2005

Ah, the thorny issue of "transparency" and "professional blogging"

Steve Rubel reveals that Country Music Television (CMT) is going to pay a guy $100K per annum to watch Dukes of Hazzard reruns every night and blog about it. (Frankly I think you'd have to pay me a LOT more.)

And he brings up the issue of transparency, while working in a nice plug for his company's work with Vespa on blogs.

You will see the first comment is mine, and frankly I think the issue of transparency needs to beyond where it is today and rejoin the rest of the world of ethics in marketing and advertising. A blog is not, as I commented, some unicorn-like creature of purity in the online world. Or maybe I should say...clearly not anymore.

Can we not assume that if the blog is on CMT's on web site it's pretty obvious they own and control the site? Is there much doubt on that? The very act of starting a blog may indicate that they're willing to give the guy a little leeway, but wouldn't you have to very naive to imagine that if he posted something they didn't like they couldn't make him pull it down?

Like let's say I was the Hazzards blogger, and I happened to bring up that I did a summer of summer stock theatre with Hazzards star Tom Wopat in 1985. And let's say I started revealing why all the female apprentices thought he was a real dog. And not in the ugly-face way. See, if I write that here you can be pretty sure that here it stays. If I write it on an official Hazzards blog on the official CMT site, you can be pretty sure they'll pull it down...whether I like it or not.

And I really don't think CMT is obligated to throw up a lot of explanations and go through any machinations to make the obvious even more obvious.

OTOH: if they had Hazzards blogger create a blogspot blog, standing alone, with no links or visual connection to the CMT site...then we've got another situation on our hands.

And existing PR ethics cover that situation by the way.

Ever seen commercials that feature in small print at the bottom:" "Paid testimonials"?

They don't do that to be informative. They do that so that they don't violate ethical guidelines. And yeah, they probably only do that because someone at some time got caught and a ruckus ensued.

So, it's time to move away from there being some blog-specific guidelines and start leveraging the guidelines we already have in place for ethical marketing, advertising, public and investor relations, web design etc.

IMHO of course.

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