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Blogger Endorses Product Without Revealing Payment

Jenn Abelson at the Boston Globe just wrote an excellent article about bloggers receiving payment from advertisers in return for advocating the advertiser’s product, without revealing their payment by an advertiser.

"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 Flowers.com 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.”

Ed Shull, chief executive at USWeb made a comment about the practice of paying bloggers to advocate advertisers products.

“For now, self-regulation rules. ''We try to be as ethical as possible," said Ed Shull, chief executive at USWeb, the ad agency that pays bloggers to post about Dot Flowers and other companies.

‘In our opinion, paying bloggers is no different than Tiger Woods getting money to wear the Nike logo.’

Ed, if Jenn’s article is correct, and you are paying bloggers to advocate products without revealing they are being paid, then I believe there is a difference between Tiger Woods getting paid to sponsor Nike, and Jeff Cutler being paid to write about Dot Flowers.com.  Jeff’s audience are trusting Jeff, their expectation is that he is giving a product endorsement based upon his experiences.  If it is the case that Jeff is being paid by USWeb, then I think that Jeff should tell his audience USWeb is paying him.  I suspect that Jeff is giving a genuine endorsement; Jeff only said he went to the florists site and it had a good selection. However I do believe Jeff’s readers would prefer to know that USWeb is paying him to write about the florist and place the link.

Jenn’s article is a little misleading because if you look on Jeff’s blog, Jeff actually states he has never purchased anything from the florist; see the underlined quote from his blog.

“So, in an effort to avoid sharing, but still making people happy, I've decided to give gifts and compliments to people randomly. For some people I'll send a card, for others a nice present, and for others a bouquet of flowers. And not just ordinary flowers...flowers that take very little effort to send as not to disrupt the rest of my life. No more driving to the corner to buy flowers and hand deliver them. Nope. Now I go online to places like Dot Flowers.com and 1800 Flowers. I like Dot's site a little better because of the selection - but I've never purchased from them. My regular places are Kabloom, 1800 Flowers and the local florist.”

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