October 7, 2009

BlogHer, the FTC, ethics and conflicts of interest

How BlogHer deals with reviews and conflicts of interest from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaI‘ve been struck by the varying reactions to this week’s news that the Federal Trade Commission will now begin to regulate product endorsements not just in advertisements but also on blogs and other forms of social media. (PDF here; the regs don’t start until page 55.)

Two heavyweight bloggers and longtime free speech champions Jeff Jarvis and Dan Gillmor — bless them — have lambasted the FTC for its move into the online arena (here are Jeff‘s and Dan‘s posts, and reader comments). While I think skepticism is in order, and the specifics of the government’s involvement need to be more clearly defined, in the end I believe the FTC’s move is a healthy and welcome development for social media.

I’m coupling my thoughts on the FTC ruling with an interview (above) I did a while back with Jory Des Jardins, co-founder of BlogHer, which I’ve just gotten around to publishing today. In it, Jory describes how JCPenney approached BlogHer with the idea of having bloggers in its network of 2,500 blogs write about its new line of Linden Street furniture as part of BlogHer’s review program.

As in its past dealings with retailers, the BlogHer exec team decided on this approach: It would allow a dozen bloggers to accept $500 gift cards to purchase furniture from JCPenney, but only on the condition that the bloggers fully disclose the relationship with both Penney and BlogHer, that the bloggers be free to write reviews and produce videos telling about their experience — both positive and negative — and that the reviewers could not accept any advertising from JCPenney. Importantly, they were not paid to write product endorsements but to write reviews. BlogHer then assembled their posts into a widget, which they ran across their blog network.

JCPenney was “thrilled” with the program, and so were the bloggers. (You can judge for yourself about the quality of the reviews; this one was typical. The authenticity is what makes this valuable to marketers.) BlogHer has run several similar retailer partnerships — and in each case, Jory says, the key ingredient was disclosure.

Watch, embed or download the video on Vimeo

Lisa Stone, another co-founder of BlogHer, evoked the same themes in her keynote address to the Online News Association conference on Saturday. One reason for BlogHer’s continued growth and success, she said, was they adhere to the same standards and practices that traditional journalism institutions have built up over the decades. By 2006, BlogHer “became the schoolmarms of the Internet,” Lisa said.

Every one of the 2,500 bloggers participating in the BlogHer network must fax in a signed agreement to abide by BlogHer’s community guidelines. BlogHer blogs must not contain “editorial content that has been commissioned and paid for by a third party, (either cash or goods in barter),” the guidelines say, and so I wish the guidelines page would address how reviews fall into a different category. (For the record, I think the way BlogHer has done this is absolutely fine, though this would violate many newspapers’ policies.)

Lisa also made clear that BlogHer has no desire to impose its guidelines on the entire Internet. “We don’t believe in a universal standard for the Internet,” she said.

Fair enough. It’s not BlogHer’s job to police the Internet. Nor mine. Nor the Media Bloggers Association’s. Two years ago I chaired a committee to write the association’s Statement of Principles, which includes this:

“Clearly disclose conflicts of interest including personal relationships, financial considerations or anything else that might influence or appear to influence your independence and integrity. If you accept payments from advertisers or sponsors, clearly demarcate advertorial from editorial content.” Continue reading

August 28, 2006

How to increase your site’s accessibility


Here’s a 4-minute video interview I conducted with Skye Kilaen at the recent BlogHer conference about how to make your website or weblog more accessible to the disabled.  (Ourmedia page | watch video)

Format: MPEG-4 (iPod compatible); 10.2MB; 4:16; Ourmedia page | watch video; video quality: ** (out of 5)

Cross-posted to Real People Network.

July 31, 2006

Photos and video from BlogHer

Arianna Huffington & JD Lasica

Halley Suitt

Here are some final photos of BlogHer in a Flickr photo set. That’s a bad photo of me with Arianna Huffington at top; Halley Suitt in a smaller image.

As for videos, here are three, with more coming in mid- to late August:




From top:

• Jory des Jardins,  co-founder of  BlogHer, talked about the conference as it was ending Saturday — including plans for next year’s BlogHer in Chicago in July —  in this 4-minute video interview.    (Ourmedia page | watch video)

•  Elisa Camahort,  co-founder of  BlogHer, talked about the conference as it was winding down Saturday evening  in this 5-minute video interview.    (Ourmedia page | watch video)

•  Adrianna Montague-Gray, a PR professional for a nonprofit in New York, assessed BlogHer from an attendee’s perspective in this 3-minute video interview.    (Ourmedia page | watch video)

Cross-posted to the Real People Network