More money, more problems. The fine line between independent bloggers and bloggers-as-brands is getting murkier by the second.
Sponsored posts, public appearances, blogger partnerships. The relationship between bloggers and brands is evolving with each new project and placement and becoming a major hot topic in the blogging community. More bloggers are asking to be compensated for their written/visual content and name usage, which is important because bloggers are an extremely valued voice in the industry. But readers are voicing their concerns about editorial integrity and how blogs seem to be becoming platforms for sponsored content instead of blogs that truly reflect the blogger's individuality and original voice.
As a blog reader, it is natural to be curious about how bloggers are making money and what they are paid in regards to public appearances and sponsored content. We are a nosy culture and we want to know everything. However, to play devil's advocate, not every business discloses financial deals and earnings so why should bloggers do the same? The FTC mandates that a blogger must disclose the material connections they receive from brand endorsements but we have yet to see any notable actions from the FTC in regulating this policy. Bloggers typically disclose when they've received free product or gifts on behalf of a brand but we've noticed that nothing is mentioned about public appearances, party and travel trips. It seems unlikely that bloggers can live the life of a true jetsetter without being compensated for their adventures. But gifting trips or adventures is a pretty standard PR gesture, and it isn't surprising that PR reps are extending this opportunity to various bloggers. When it comes down to it, the blogger-brand-reader relationship is complex. Does the blogger have a duty to their readers to hold themself to the purest of editorial standards? Or does the blogger, like a spokesperson or celebrity, have a right to privacy when it comes to business deals?
What's a blogger to do?
Case in point, one of my favorite bloggers has taken the sponsored post road. As a reader, I'm conflicted because I don't find these posts particularly interesting. But I recognize that they are monetizing their content and building their business. We are, after all, advocates for becoming your own business person.
There isn't a set standard as to blogger public disclosure and it's a topic that has generated lots of buzz in the fashion industry, including a mention in Fashionista back in November. This gray, blogging business area is one that will continue to grow in its controversial nature as blogger-brand partnerships become more predominant in the fashion industry.
My question to you, the blogging community, is:
How transparent should bloggers be with their bloggers in regards to their business deals?
image credit: Photographed by Nathaniel Goldberg for V Magazine