Bloggers Urge That Organizations To Which They Give "Free Publicity" Advertise on Their Sites:

The Plum Line, Greg Sargent's blog on the Washington Post's, reports:

Some of the leading liberal bloggers are privately furious with the major progressive groups — and in some cases, the Democratic Party committees — for failing to spend money advertising on their sites, even as these groups constantly ask the bloggers for free assistance in driving their message.

The post then goes on to give more details, including this quote from a blogger: "They come to us, expecting us to give them free publicity, and we do, but it's not a two way street. They won't do anything in return. They're not advertising with us. They're not offering fellowships. They're not doing anything to help financially, and people are growing increasingly resentful."

I haven't thought hard about this subject; and I realize that it's easy for me to be cavalier about advertising revenue, since my academic day job lets me blog without worrying about ad income. But still I wonder whether it's quite right for authors who publish their own opinion and news commentary to demand a "two way street" in which the authors get advertising money from the people they praise.

Now some amount of blogger commentary about people who pay them money is likely inevitable. Many bloggers work at think tanks, and they may report on their employer's work product, thus helping promote the employer. I'm a part-part-part-time Academic Affiliate with the Mayer Brown LLP firm, and I occasionally blog about Mayer's cases. That, I think, can generally be dealt with by notes explaining the possible conflict of interest. (For instance, I always note, when I blog about a case that I know to be one of Mayer's, that I have an affiliation with Mayer.)

But if an ostensibly independent blogger has a general pattern of demanding advertising — even indirectly, rather than in some personal communication — from institutions in exchange for publicizing the institutions' work, that sort of relationship strike me as harder to disclose in any transparent way. And my sense is that historically this sort of deal has been seen as not entirely kosher in the newspaper business, or for that matter in the opinion magazine business. Naturally, readers expect that an opinion magazine would have editorial biases. But I don't think they expect that the opinion magazine would be making advertising dollars from positive coverage (or "free publicity") that it provides to various organizations.

On the other hand, perhaps a different model is needed for small blogs that may need advertising income to stay afloat; or perhaps some reasonable disclosure system would suffice to take care of any possible problems here; or perhaps I'm missing something, and there really aren't likely to be any problems. I just wanted to tentatively express my thoughts on the subject, and hear our readers' thoughts in return.