TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: For a Fee, Some Blogs Boost Firms / Concerns Raised on Disclosure

For a Fee, Some Blogs Boost Firms / Concerns Raised on Disclosure

Monty Solomon (
Fri, 15 Jul 2005 08:47:55 -0400

By Jenn Abelson, Globe Staff | June 26, 2005

Jeff Cutler has never purchased anything from Dot Flowers, but you
might think otherwise, reading the Hingham resident's blog.

"No more driving to the corner to buy flowers and hand-deliver
them," he wrote on his Web page. "Nope. Now I go online to places
like Dot and 1-800-Flowers. I like Dot a little better
just because of the personal touch."

Dot Flowers's ad agency paid Cutler $5 this spring to promote the
florist and put a link to its website on his blog, or online journal,
short for web log. Cutler, who does not disclose the payment on his
blog, is one of more than 2,000 bloggers whom marketer USWeb enlisted
to hawk products and services. That helped the nascent florist double
its sales in the first three months and shoot up near the top of
Google's search list, according to USWeb.

Yes, corporate America has discovered the blog and found that the
grass-roots medium for supposedly unadulterated opinions is also a
powerful marketing tool in a country where about 37 million Americans
read these online journals. Even the state of Pennsylvania has joined
in, offering free vacations to people who blog on its tourism site.

The blog, in many ways, is the perfect marketing tool: original,
personal, and cheap. It has grown popular as advertisers find it
harder to capture consumers' attention in a fragmented media market
that is making traditional television and newspaper advertising less
effective. But despite their foray into advertising, blogs remain an
unregulated forum.

With a growing number of businesses using blogs to help promote their
products, sometimes in ways that are not very transparent, it is
increasingly difficult to discern who or what is behind a blogger's
pitch, be it for a museum exhibit or flower company.

Concerns about disclosure have even reached the Federal Election
Commission, which is holding hearings this week, in part, to discuss
whether to require bloggers to disclose funds they receive from
political campaigns. Disclosure became an issue in South Dakota's US
Senate race between Tom Daschle and John Thune last year, when the
Thune campaign paid two political bloggers to scrutinize Daschle, who
was defeated. The compensation did not come to light until campaign
finance reports were filed.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Well, now we have readers here like
Ms. Hancock who tell us how traditional media is oh, so great and
internet news is likely to be so awful. But the _real_ concern, in my
opinion should be the internet writers -- or the 'mainstream media'
writers, for that matter -- should be those writers of any stripe,
internet or mainstream, who do not disclose the people who are paying
them. I think the readers here know me well enough to realize that I
clearly mark advertising messages as such: the far right hand column
on our web page is clearly marked 'support our advertisers' and the
various things from Google are clearly marked 'Google Ad-Sense'. When,
a few years ago, I had the ITU as a sponsor, I clearly disagreed with
what they and their good friends ICANN promoted regards the net and
they dropped me, which I told all of you. So some of us, at least, try
to run a clean operation, no matter how dismal the prospects for any
long term success. Some of us, within the limits or constraints of our
finances, health and other considerations attempt to use reliable
sources for our news items, to the dismay, perhaps, of those in the
mainstream media who wish it were not so, and to the utter contempt of
'netizens' who were around here before me and who wish I had never
taken on this task, since it interferes with 'their way of doing
things'. And to ICANN and others like them who sit on their fannies
all day holding their conferences in esoteric parts of the world and
seeming to bemoan the ills of the net while in fact ignoring the
floods of spam and scam drowning us out, all I can say is God Bless
you too. PAT]

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