The ethics of blogging: A full disclosure

Recently, an NPR news program featured a story on online communities for diabetics and how patients supported each other through social networks and blogs.  Several bloggers within the DOC (diabetic online community) wrote posts about different pharmaceuticals that were given to them free of charge.  This raised the concerns of some folks at the Center for Digital Democracy.   Bloggers need to disclose any benefits they receive from the sites, services and products they feature and the Center for Digital Democracy felt that some of the bloggers hadn’t gone far enough in disclosing their interactions with the pharmaceutical companies.  Bloggers disclosing their interactions with companies isn’t an expectation held solely by the Center for Digital Democracy.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) expects the same.   In 2009, the FTC announced sweeping new regulations that outlined disclosures that impacted testimonial advertisements, bloggers, and celebrity endorsements.   In the regulations, the FTC required “bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”

As I listened to the new program, I realized that I had never formally disclosed my interactions with advertisers, software designers, technology companies or the other products and services that I review on the 8 Blog.  Since this blog is intended to highlight different technologies and pedagogy related to 21st Century education, I assumed that readers would realize that my thoughts and evaluations are my own and that I receive no compensation for this work.  After hearing the NPR program, however, I realize I need to more clearly disclose what influences my work.  Here goes:

  • I make no money from the 8 Blog.  Every technology and service I feature on this blog is one that I have chosen.  I receive no financial compensation from featuring certain sites versus other ones.  I base my choices for sites and technologies to feature solely on their functionality and educational value.
  • I include links within my posts on this blog.  Every link on the site is one that I have chosen based on their applicability to the topic of which I am writing.  I receive no financial benefit from a reader clicking on a link in one of my posts.  Although I have been approached to receive compensation in this manner, I have declined using my blog for my own financial benefit.
  • All of the products and services I feature on the 8 Blog have been purchased with my own money or through funds at my institution.  If a site or technology is available for free online, it is because the application is still in Beta or is generally available for free to all users (Google Docs, for example).  No products or services have been given to me to be featured on this blog.  The only exception to this disclosure is the post I wrote reviewing a book on Audacity, the open source audio editor.  In the post, I clearly outline that I received the book for free.  What I didn’t explain is that receiving a free book (or anything for that matter) would never affect my endorsement or undermine my impartiality.
  • The 8 Blog appears on a free WordPress blog.  As such, WordPress is free to run advertisements on the blog.  I receive no compensation from the advertisements on this blog.  While I could have the advertisements removed for a small yearly fee, I struggle with paying to provide a service to the community.  It’s one thing to receive no financial compensation (which I understand and fully embrace).  It’s another thing entirely to pay to provide the service.  My suggestion is to ignore the advertisements on the blog.  I do.
  • The tutorials on my YouTube site are not “monetized” in any way.  While YouTube has enabled my account for “monetization,” I have not enabled any video on my YouTube account for this service.  Basically, monetization means that YouTube runs ads alongside my YouTube videos and would pay me for every visitor who sees the advertisement.  I’ve declined all monetization opportunities from YouTube and will not be adding this feature to any of my YouTube videos in the future.
  • Some entrepreneurial readers may be asking why I don’t use this venue to make some money.  I outlined my blogging motivations recently in blog post entitled Why I Blog and I worry that making this process a capitalistic venture would somehow devalue my original intentions or change my focus. I might not be making any money from blogging but I know that my work here has not been compromised by any outside financial influences.
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2 thoughts on “The ethics of blogging: A full disclosure

  1. Dude – it’s snowing on this blog! Also, what is pretty darn funny is that at the bottom of your post is one of the ad-vids you disparage. Darn that WordPress for getting in the way of your altruism!

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