Dave Taylor has an analysis of ‘professional’ blogging or the steps towards it. Whether we like it or not, we’re likely to display bias for or against a product based on past history and personal values. If a company is either paying or just providing a product to review, subconciously you are more likely to pre-disposed to saying to something positive. Even if you end up negative, I’m pretty sure there would have been a moment of questioning.
Look at the posts about the Stormhoek free wine offer. It looks like around 25-30% of people who received a bottle blogged about it (there was no compulsion to mention it) and they are postive about the wine and give good coverage. But did the fact we got it free mean that we had a unconscious expectation to like it?
The question, then isn’t whether to do it, but whether to disclose, and I suggest that the answer to this supposed ethical dilemma is simply to state that bloggers should use their own judgment. If it is a relationship that’s going to compromise your own integrity, where you’re forced to say positive things about something that you don’t like or wouldn’t otherwise recommend, then you have a problem and you should disclose it to your readers in the interest of retaining your credibility. If not, though, if you’re a gadget freak and Sony or Nokia sending you a neato new toy just sidesteps you having to buy one, well, I suggest that’s not an ethical dilemma at all and doesn’t need to be disclosed.
So instead of a rule or guideline at all, let’s just start talking about a best practice and let each blogger decide where along the disclosure continuum they feel most comfortable.
It’s always going to be down to personal values and beliefs whether or not you blog about products that you may have received or be paid to dicuss. And it’s down to the reputation and trust your readers have in you to determine whether such posts are worth it