Authenticity is among the highest values in the blogworld. That’s why the blog world reacts so strongly to the idea of fake blogs or “flogs.” The Wal-Mart flog controversy involving Edelman was hyped in part by the paid critics of Wal-Mart funded by unions, but that does not diminish the outrage of the blog world to the idea of a PR company funding a blog that posed as being an authentic expression of personal opinion and experience.
Now Sony has been outed as running a flog through a viral marketing firm called Zipatoni. The justification for the funded promotional blog was that it was humorous. According to a poster on the blog presumed to be a Zipatoni executive, Sony’s reaction to the proposal to do a promotional blog without identity was: “who cares if people find out? As long as it is funny, we do this stuff all of the time.”
If that is the case, the Sony marketing execs do not understand either the value system of the blog world, nor the rules of ethics of WOMMA. Those ethical standards are based, as I recently heard, on this new definition of ROI:
Honesty in Relationship (that is full disclosure of any relationship to the subject addressed)
Honesty in Opinion (the opinions expressed be authentic and not motivated by other agendas)
Honesty in Identity (disclose truthfully the author)
Now it appears, again something I just heard, that the FTC is getting into the act of making these kinds of ethical standards into regulations.
Whether or not this becomes the law of the land or not is not really the point. The law of the blogland has already been well established and is more effective than anything any federal agency can do. Authenticity is the key. I just hope that the blogworld treats inauthentic critic blogs (such as Wal-martwatch.org) with the same degree of flame as they do the flogs that have received all the attention.