Wednesday, August 12, 2009
A reader mailed me a link to an article on CNN about blogging ethics. It turns out that the "best practice" on blogging ethics is exactly what I've always been doing, accepting freebies if that helps the blog, but publicly announcing everything you received to avoid hidden conflicts of interest.
Now that wouldn't have been interesting enough to justify a post, if this week I hadn't received a devious offer. A site which among other things posts gaming review scores was willing to offer me cash if I started mentioning them, and link to them, in my blog texts. They called it "relevant in-content text links". I write a blog text about whatever game, mention "site X gives this game a 8 out of 10 score" with link to site X, and they pay me via Paypal. So they get traffic from my site, their Google rank improves, I get paid, and nobody even notices that I just earned money by advertising.
Not only did I obviously decline the offer, but it left a bad taste in my mouth, because I suddenly see "suspicious" links everywhere. Why did this blogger just link to that commercial site? Was he paid for doing so? Or did he just see something that genuinly interested him and wanted to share?
I didn't inquire far enough to find out how much they would have been willing to pay me, but I'm sure it wouldn't have met my $100,000 buyout price. But as discussed earlier, $100 for some people is peanuts, and for others it is a lot of money. One fellow blogger repeatedly tried to involve me in his business of turning a WoW economic blog into a stream of revenue from selling gold guides.
I once saw a movie where somebody tried to insult a choir by calling them "amateurs", and the choir director calmly explained them how the word "amateur" comes from the latin word for "to love", amare, and describes people who do something out of love for it. While a "professional" obviously does it for profit. So in a way I am proud to be an amateur. But that does not blind me to the fact that the things we might create for love still have a commercial value. There are even sites where you can enter your URL and it calculates how much your blog is worth, based on things like your Google rank or Alexa. I just don't plan to cash in, not now, nor anytime soon, as long as I have financial security from my day job.
So this remains a blog without advertising, neither of the visible nor of the sneaky link kind. You basically have a better chance for me to link to your site if you just ask me to have a look at it than if you offer me money to do so. I do accept freebies related to the subject area of this blog, like free MMO accounts or beta invites, but I will always disclose whatever I received to make it absolutely clear that you can't buy my opinion that way. Until somebody comes up with those $100,000. :)