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BlogTalk: Transparency

by - Friday, March 30, 2012

Are you enjoying this series? Any topics you want to discuss that haven't been? Let me know!

Today we're talking transparency. More and more, I see its a topic that bloggers have to address. As a blogger's popularity grows, the more opportunities come her way. PR companies come calling with products to try for review, shops offer goods for giveaway, brands provide discounts or even free goods in exchange for blog coverage. But how much of that, if any, should be disclosed to the blog reader? If a blogger starts to take on more sponsored posts, should all those posts be identified as such? Do readers have a right to demand full transparency? Or should a blogger consider those benefits like income in return for the countless hours put into writing, researching, and editing posts and as such, not feel a need to disclose their income details?

I don't have answers to these questions. I feel transparency is a personal choice of the blogger and we all have different levels of comfort. I've seen bloggers address this topic in varying ways. You can check out examples of how Jenny, Liz, and Cassie have tackled this tricky subject. For me, as a reader, I appreciate it when things are disclosed to me. If it is a sponsored post, I want to know. If something was given for free or in exchange for a review, I want to know. I would rather a blogger be upfront about how they're benefitting than find out later they were paid or swayed in some way for their opinion.

As a blog writer though, I feel there are boundaries as to what readers are entitled to. Should they know when I was given free product? Yes. Should they know when I've been paid to post about something? Yes. If I was given something (product/service/discount) specifically because I have a blog and there is the expectation I will post about that thing (positively or negatively), then I think there should be disclosure. 

But how much to disclose is personal preference. I don't think readers are entitled to know how much you were paid for a sponsored post nor how much of a discount you were given to go with a particular product. I also feel readers don't have a right to pass judgement if a blogger chooses to take on advertising or be compensated to blog in any manner. That's an individual choice, the motivations to which we're not privy. Even if you are compensated in some way, I think the opinions you express should be your own, truthful, and how you really feel.

But that's just my opinion. What do YOU think? How do you deal with transparency on your blog? As a reader, what level of disclosure do you like to see? 

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  1. I know it's the law in the US to disclose on your blog if you've been sponsored, etc. There is an interesting article here:
    I don't know how this applies to Canada though. I know in Canada we have strict rules regarding give-aways and Quebec residents, so that needs to be addressed.
    If a blogger discloses I don't mind if they are reviewing something, or even doing a topical post that was sponsored by some brand. It is none of the readers business how much they received or what the conditions are and it's the personal choice of the blogger to how much sponsored content they want to provide.
    I do have to say though that I don't enjoy blog posts at all that are sponsored AND written by the sponsor, such as Electrolux did on Little Green Notebook - I a) don't read those and b) question as to why they just don't commit to buying ad space.
    I also as a reader am a little disappointed when I go to read 3-4 of my favourite blogs and they are ALL running a post sponsored by Cool Whip or some other brand - again they just don't seem as authentic.
    I fully understand that many of those blogs use such posts as part of their income, but I've seen much more innovative approaches.
    And don't get me started on embedded/hidden links to brands that are completely irrelevant to the blog post, brands that the blogger never even used (it's obvious, b/c they are some bath brand not even available to ship to Canada).
    Rant over ;)

  2. meredith lamb12:30 PM

    Interesting topic... I do not blog anymore however, I am addicted to reading them!  My favourite is Young House Love and I take comfort in the fact that they do not accept any free products from companies.  (And if on the off chance that they do - they are VERY transparent about it and the associated costs of everything.)  I find their blog so truthful and I never wonder if they are being paid for any of their posts.  I love how authentic and trustworthy they are in comparison to so many other bloggers that I still enjoy reading but wonder about their authenticity sometimes.  If a blogger starts doing too many sponsored posts, I find myself naturally just giving up on them....

  3. Theweekendhomemaker12:30 PM

    Hi - I am a blogger but my day job is in marketing governance. It's a requirement of the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) that bloggers disclose connections with product or service endorsements. You could be fined $11,000 for repeat violations.

  4. As a blogger, I approach it as if I were a reader: Would I, the reader, want to know if I, the blogger, were being given compensation? Yes. Therefore, I disclose it. However, I don't think disclosing the actual amount is necessary. Just that you are being compensated, or you were asked for a review. If the company requesting the review isn't ok with that, then I turn down the offer. 

  5. my mind always goes to YHL when the topic of transparent blogging comes up - they really do an ahhh-mazing job at keeping their successful and main source of income blog suspicious free {my opinion}. 

  6. Julie Lechleiter12:30 PM

    I love reading your Blog Talk posts! Such great information. Personally, I always find that the more transparent a blogger is as a reader, the more you feel connected and invested in their blog. 

  7. ramblingrenovators12:30 PM

    Great link - thanks for providing that! I have also heard that its illegal for bloggers to do giveaways. Not sure if that's true or not.

    I wonder if Canada has similar disclosure laws.

  8. Transparency is such a tricky subject...but I think you've hit the nail on the head Jennifer. Every blogger needs to choose what's right for them. I think there is noooooo problem with blogger's benefiting from all their hard work with a few complimentary products and such. A simple, short disclaimer letting readers know that a post has been sponsored, is all I feel the need to know as a reader, so I would only feel the need to supply others with that same info. Great post as always Jen. Cheers!

  9. I always find this such an interesting topic! It's important to note (I don't know how widely known this is) that it's actually against the law for a blogger to receive some sort of compensation (free product, money, etc.) for a post and not disclose it. I can't remember  the exact name of the law, but you can be fined for not disclosing that you were compensated for something. So, transparency is very important! Even without the law, I agree with you that readers deserve to know when you've been paid to talk about something.

  10. cassie (hi sugarplum)12:30 PM

    I love this series, and especially this topic. Its a tricky one, but your thoughts are spot on. Im trying to find my way with it, the line of keeping my blog my own personal outlet, while taking advantage of opportunities it brings. When I do accept a sponsored post, I almost aleays write it just as personally as a regular post, with my own opinions and thoughts

  11. ramblingrenovators12:30 PM

    I have to agree with you. I don't enjoy those sponsored posts that are written by the sponsor - it takes away from the "voice" of the blog.

  12. barbara @hodge:podge12:30 PM

    Interesting post Jen. I have to admit I can't stand overly sponsored blogs with adds flashing across the top or when they even have a voice telling me "i won", even if it was a favourite blog I will go read a different one. I am trying to find a balance and try to be transparent. Recently I did product review and received free product, it was product I would of purchased at one point and I felt suited my blog. But yes transparency is fair to the reader, to a point like you mention. I also feel along with transparency comes authenticity which you can lose with sponsored posts, etc. The blog can start to lose the voice and personality of the blogger. Such a new territory we are venturing in with rules that are still unclear {giveaways, etc} 

    Thanks for another fabulous discussion!

  13. Cynthia Weber12:30 PM

    There have been many good points raised by not only this post but all posts in this series. I am very grateful as a new blogger to have found this site. The more thoughtful and informative information we have and share the more insightful and honest our blogs can be. Thank you for the opportunity to learn from all of you!


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