I’ve been watching the BloodCopy debacle for some time. BloodCopy is a new blog in the Gawker Media blog network, about vampired. Problem is, it is a big ad in itself, the whole blog is a HBO promo for the TV series True Blood.
There’s disclosure, hidden away in the Gawker Media footer. There’s no “sponsored post” text or anything. The campaign is, at the very least, balancing along the edge of what is deemed OK within the blogosphere.
We’d better get used to it.
Chris Batty is the VP of sales on Gawker Media, a truly progressive blog network headed up by Nick Denton. Batty said this to Nieman Journalism Lab:
If we’re around in three or four years, the majority of our advertising revenue will be in sponsored posts like this.
Sponsored posts are shunned, and Payperpost comes to mind. However, it is an advertising form that nimbly sidesteps the banner blindness argument. And with disclosure, what’s the problem?
I think it depends on how you disclose it. Look at this screenshot of the Gawker Media footer:
The adverblog is listed there, to the far right. There is a thin line, and a small question mark (which leads to the disclosure). At a glance, there’s nothing that says that BloodCopy is a big ad in itself. The same goes for the actual blog, which will be around for a couple of weeks. It doesn’t say “sponsored blog”. It says BloodCopy. It plays its part.
I think the sales folk on Gawker Media went over the line here. Definitely at first, fooling people, but now still. I think that sponsored posts can be a good solution for blogs to create revenue, but it needs to be obvious that a post actually isn’t your opinion, not even your blog’s opinion, but an ad in blog post form. Obvious. Not “if you look close enough there’s disclosure” but truly obvious.
Gabriel Snyder commented on the whole thing on the Gawker blog, and I’ll let him wrap up this post:
What’s advertising should be called advertising and what’s edit should be called edit. It hurts both to blur the distinction.
I bet there’ll be “sponsored blog” text the next time Gawker Media pulls one of these.
Thord Daniel Hedengren is a designer, writer, and blogger, and also the former editor of The Blog Herald. He used to be a hotshot in the gaming industry in Sweden, but sold everything and went International. Most recently he wrote a book called Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog, and does loads of kickass design.