Sunday, July 15, 2007

Blogger Sponsorship and Unwitting (?) MSM Publishers

Plenty has been written about bloggers, sponsorship, and full disclosure. But generally we've seen disclosure on blogs, and bloggers' personal sites. What about bloggers who also write for mainstream-media publications? Especially dead-tree ones, where the printed paper context means background-digging on a columnist is not just a Google-search away?

I recently read a "full-disclosure" post by a top-tier blogger. Ok, cool. A little while later, my mind started doing a slow-motion double-take. A month or two ago, I read a column by this writer in a traditional media publication (which produces a paper edition). I remember thinking the writing was really sharp -- but one pop-culture reference seemed stilted or a little confusing to me. At the time I thought maybe at age 33, I'm old enough to miss a clever Gen-Z quip. But I wasn't convinced, because it referenced a tech area I specialize in. Put another way, this quip was unlikely to be the one I'd miss.

Well, the remark makes a whole lot more sense now. With the recent "disclosure" blog post, I now know that the company mentioned in the print publication has been sponsoring the writer's blogging (and other) activities. It was basically an awkward product placement, with no disclosure at all at the time of publication.

I don't love it. But my bigger question is: what does this print publication (a fairly serious establishment newspaper) think about being used in this way? Did they know and not mind, because it wasn't a hard news story? Or are they in the dark?

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