jamie goode's wine blog: Should 'paid for' blog mentions be disclosed? Douwegate

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Should 'paid for' blog mentions be disclosed? Douwegate

In the past I have defended blogging from accusations that many leading bloggers take undisclosed payments for mentions. The accusations have always been non-specific, and I reckon that most bloggers care more for their integrity. But is this changing?

It's my view that a line has to be drawn between editorial content (a writer plugging what they want to plug) and sponsored content (a writer being paid to plug something). I don't accept payment for mentions on this blog, but I'm of the view that any paid mentions MUST be disclosed and flagged as such, if they are to be done at all (and I'm not sure that they should).

Douglas Blyde (www.intoxicatingprose.com) has just twittered that food bloggers have recently been offered 50 per video to post a series of three Douwe Egberts videos. And a number of them have accepted. That's shocking in itself (do they respect their readers' intelligence at all?). But what's even more shocking is that there's a surprising lack of disclosure.

The Douwegate hall of shame includes the following:


Oliver Thring has disclosed the payment quite clearly
Gourmet chick acknowledges that DE are sponsors

40 Comments:

At 4:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for guiding me towards Douwe Egberts coffee, Jamie. I've been teetering between coffee brands for a while now and this has clinched it. Off to Tescos now to pick up some Douwe Egberts. Mmmmmmm. ;)

 
At 5:43 PM, Blogger Douglas Blyde said...

Interesting post, Jamie. Other than ethics, I believe that posting the same videos (three of them) across many blogs (I counted 12) creates a swathe of identical content for readers.

 
At 6:02 PM, Blogger Siany said...

I made the decision to put the video on Domestic Sluttery - http://www.domesticsluttery.com/ - I'm pretty certain DS was one of the first blogs to take the content.

It's clearly highlighted that it's a sponsored video, and we'll be placing a banner advert on the site in the coming weeks. I've never written paid for content and wouldn't ever write a blog post that I was paid for.

But, I don't think bunching all of the blogs who took the ads together is very fair. Of course I don't think our readers are stupid. They can spot an advert when they see one. This is all the video is to me - just a different way of displaying advertising. I'd much rather have unique video adverts than the same old tired skyscraper banners over and over again.

Disclosure is important, but I think the fault in this case possibly lies with bloggers who don't disclose, not Douwe Egberts. Maybe they went about the approach the wrong way, but it's not hard for a blogger to flag up that they were paid to include something.

 
At 6:05 PM, Blogger Douglas Blyde said...

Further from my response (and following more conversation on 'Twitter'), it seems we are to be treated to the final installment of the Douwe Egberts trilogy this coming week replicated over no fewer than 12 blogs...

 
At 6:07 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

As I understand this it is not a question of if you want to or not, you are legally bound to disclose.

Buzz marketing has been illegal since last May.

http://www.ipa.co.uk/Content/Buzz-marketing-techniques-illegal-from-May-warns-IPA-

 
At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jamie, I think that you should be more upfront about your trips.

For example, just saying "I went along to the rugby/cricket today", when usually you there as a guest of a wine company, with free food/booze, should be made more apparent.

Transparency is everything.

 
At 7:32 PM, Anonymous Krista said...

I got an email from Tailsweep, the company responsible for this campaign, and I thought it was pretty ridiculous. And I told them so. Here's the intro...

Hi Kritsa,

I hope all is well.

We have an upcoming campaign for Douwe Egberts that might be of interest to you and your readers.

The premise behind this campaign is to generate awareness for the launch of their new premium coffee through display, video embedding, competitions and an event setup specifically for our partners. Upon our recommendation they really want to engage you/ your readers with not only advertising but also some great exclusive content.

***

Firstly, they spelled my name wrong. This annoyed me. Secondly, I had no idea what Douwe Egberts was, and the intro provided no clarification. Thirdly, any regular readers of my blog would know that I don't cook AND I'm caffeine-free; why would I promote any coffee-related recipes on my blog??? And lastly, it was from the same guy that invited me to an event at St. PANCREAS. Cracks me up every time!

That being said, sometimes I think of all the money I pay Typepad each year, and it would be nice to have someone besides me cover those costs. But if I did that, I would disclose that. And I would have to truly love the product.

 
At 8:27 PM, Blogger Robert Giorgione said...

Yes, I agree that transparency is key. Unfortunately, there are far too many people out there prepared to take far too many 'back-handers' and in the interests of self promotion under the guise of endorsing a product. This completely questions your integrity.

 
At 8:28 PM, Anonymous Bertrand said...

Interesting post, Jamie, as the relations between blogs and companies evolve fast.

Companies offering things (money or trips) for coverage proves that blogs count.
I don't see any problem personally if it is clearly indicated for the reader to know.
Of course loading too much "advertising" or sponsored posts could make your readership tired or dubious even if you aknowledge it as such.
I think that if the volume is reasonable and if the separation of the two types of contents is clearly delimited, there's a way to stay clean and keep having an independant voice.

 
At 8:54 PM, Blogger Chris Applegate said...

Disclaimer - I am not a lawyer - but if someone has placed a promotional video on their blog in exchange for money, and has not disclosed that this is a sponsored or paid placement, then it's probably breaking the law. Schedule 11 of The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 states that: "Using editorial content in the media to promote a product where a trader has paid for the promotion without making that clear in the content or by images or sounds clearly identifiable by the consumer" is considered an unfair trading practice.

Chris above is wrong - not all 'buzz' or 'viral' marketing is illegal, but not disclosing sponsorship or pretending to be a consumer when you've been paid by the brand, are both specifically against consumer law.

When doing paid placements or reviews, bloggers should know the law and disclose fully, but also the agency concerned has a responsibility to inform them, especially if the blogger is not used to running paid placements. Any that doesn't is acting unprofessionally.

(Not to imply any wrongdoing in this case, btw, as not all the details are fully clear, just making a general point of advice)

 
At 8:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

DIsclosure is key, whether it be a trip, paid for advertising or other. If we, and I say we as part of the PR machine that operates so overtly in the UK, do not engage and distribute information to journalists then how does information flow? That said, I'd never expect bloggers or otherwise to post an article based on a meeting or trip I'd arranged - its my job to make the story / tasting / angle of real interest and newsworthy, otherwise don't put it out in the first place...
Bloggers are part of the communications network but I'd be surprised if any PR thought they can be bought any more than traditional media can.

 
At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with most here. The more interesting area in many respects is disclosure of who paid for which trips, as well (an area you could probably improve on yourself, Jamie).

 
At 11:22 PM, Blogger Gourmet Chick said...

Jamie I thought I would comment as one of the people who has put the ad on their blog. As you note I make it clear that it is an ad. I also do not make any comment about the coffee itself or my opinion of it. I think it is an issue of making a clear distinction between editorial and advertisement and if such a distinction is made I cannot see a problem with the position I have taken.

I did think long and hard about this before accepting the advertisement and I have turned away other companies previously. My concern is that the ad has been posted on several blogs so I can see that for readers it is repetitive (but at the same time no one is being forced to watch the video).

I agree with some of the other people who have left comments that it is quite a blurry line between accepting trips or visits to restaurants, wineries etc and accepting an advertisement. Actually accepting an ad is perhaps more clear and upfront.

I think to place an ad or not is a personal choice. Perhaps some people will be turned away from my blog because of this ad. I hope not but it was my choice to place the ad and I agreed to it knowing this was a possible consequence. However I do not think disclosure is merely a matter of personal choice as without disclosure people can be mislead into thinking the ad is editorial content, or they may be mislead by not getting the full perspective on why someone has chosen to write about a certain winery, restaurant etc.

 
At 12:02 AM, Blogger Leon Stolarski said...

I think you are treading on very thin ice here, Jamie. And (if you'll excuse the mixed metaphors) I think you are in danger of overstpping the mark. As a blogger myself, I doubt very much that I would accept any form of advertising - especially for a product that bears no relation to the content of my blog. And, to be honest, although I love my coffee and drink lots of it, Douwe Egberts certainly does not feature on my list of favourites.

Nevertheless, if these bloggers want to boost their earnings by accepting advertising, surely it is none of your business. OK, it is one thing to name the ones who did not "disclose", but another thing altogether to name the ones who did. Exactly what have they done wrong?

I've been following your blog for a long time now and, to be honest, a good proportion of the content is about your trips to wine regions in various corners of the world. I think it is fair to assume (unless you can convince your readers otherwise) that these trips are paid for by the various growers and marketing boards whose wines you are blogging about. And you certainly don't appear to be slumming it whilst you are there. Furthermore, I doubt very much that you give your time for free. So who pays?

I think you can see what I am saying.....

I enjoy reading your blog, Jamie, even if I don't necessarily agree with everything you write - and despite the fact that a good number of your posts appear to be written in order to fulfil some sort of obligation (whether real or imagined) to the people who employ your services. But I really think you should think very hard before publishing comments about others who dare to put their snouts in the trough.

Glasshouses and all that.......

 
At 6:59 AM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

I've been assuming that Jamie isn't actually paid in cash for his trips, but that it doesn't cost him anything. Either way, though, full disclosure would be appropriate if he wishes to avoid charges of hypocrisy.

 
At 7:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alex, that is a rather daft comment.

Of course Jamie isn't "paid in cash" to go on these trips.

But he is flown around the world, put up in the best hotels, and is wined and dined at other people's expense.

And then he has to comment on a product from the company that has paid for his trip.

 
At 9:08 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

The issue is one of disclosure. If a blogger takes payment for inclusion, if this is not disclosed, how are readers supposed to trust reviews or the choice of subject matter?

In response to the comments of others, time for some more clear disclosure from my end.

Most of my trips are paid for. Usually, this means a generic body such as wines of south africa, wines of chile, wine australia. I will get flights, accommodation, meals - everything taken care of. But I'm under no obligation to write anything up.

Sometimes it will be a single producer funding the trip - such as Terrazas who funded my Argentine visit in March 08. I only went on the condition that I could see other wineries too. Or Bollinger for a quick visit to them and Ayala (sister company), or a quick visit with Enotria to Planeta in Sicily in February.

Sometimes I pay for myself (Western Australia 2007, New Zealand 2007, South Africa 2005) tagging on a wine trip onto either a family holiday, or a business trip (when I was otherwise employed as a science editor).

My Napa trip recently was organized by Napa Vintners but they provided only the accomodation - I paid for the car hire, and I happened to be in San Francisco on other business.

What you have to remember is that I'm a freelancer, and I don't get paid while I'm travelling. So a week on a trip is actually quite costly in that sense.

In terms of sports hospitality, I've taken a fair bit in the last couple of years. Here's my shame list!

Pernod Ricard: Rugby Eng v Ireland
Fosters: Rugby Eng v South Africa, cricket Eng v Australia
Thierrys: Eng v WI cricket
DGB: Eng v SA (cricket)
Freicenet (sp) Football - Man C v Fulham, Middl v Fulham
Beaujolais: Wimbledon court 1 (plus one)
Craggy Range: golf day at belfry

 
At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

To Anonymous @ 7.09

I thought that's what Leon may have been suggesting in his comment "I doubt very much that you give your time for free" and so I was suggesting that he does actually give his "time" for free.

BTW - why anonymous?!

 
At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Ozzy said...

From what you say in you last post
Jamie it seems that you are the one pulling the wool over your readers eyes.
Thanks for letting us all know about your paid for trips!! Hope they were worth it...

 
At 1:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jamie
I think that this is a difficult subject. But good for you for airing it! I agree with much of waht Leon Stolarski has written above. Most bloggers seem to be selling/promoting themselves or indirectly a product. If you blog then your are essentially on the internet for everyone to see. This can be very positive, but also can have pitfalls. I am reminded by Gary Vaynerchuk's recent presentation at Wine Future. The 'thank you generation'. The importance of communication and telling stories and connecting with your customers. Also Gary V's ability to communicate and sell wine via his store as well as to sell 850,000 copies of his book...without spending any money on advertising.
I am surprised that Douwe Egberts are brazen enough to pay bloggers and I am not sure whether you personnally benefit by 'outting' various blogs for taking the money.
Being very keen on sport it was good to hear who has been entertaining you at various events!! But your disclosures are only coming to light when you have been asked.
Anyway it is still a slightly murky subject, when blogging and journalism meets business there will always be a difficult link, but none of us should underestimate the intelligence of the reader/consumer...taht's all of us.
Cheers
Hamish

PS I enjoy your blog, even when itis controversial!

 
At 4:15 PM, Anonymous Ian S said...

I'm another who agrees with Leon. I know Jamie has raised disclosure before, but I don't think he's kept to the standards his previous comments suggested.

Indeed in pure monetary terms, what's worse 150 for 3 clearly marked adverts, or thousands of pounds worth of undisclosed hospitality?

I'd definitely recommend that in future, any *non-trivial hospitality / free samples are clearly declared at the foot (or top) of the piece. It needs to be present in the piece to give effective context.

Jamie - Definitely time to put your own ethics up to the standard that allows for a solid base from which to challenge the ethics of others.

regards

Ian

* Being bought a couple of pints of beer; or receiving a simple sample bottle for review is trivial IMO.

* Receiving 12 identical bottles of the wine to be reviewed; getting free tickets to an event; or being wined and dined is non-trivial.

 
At 8:56 PM, Anonymous Mike said...

Be transparent or go home! Citizen journalism - blogs - will never have the credibility they think they deserve unless they are well-versed in journalism ethics. Ignorance of the law is no excuse and you only have to look at television news to prove my point.

 
At 10:43 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Also, forgot to include on the list a trip to bordeaux with mr magrez including chelsea versus the girodins champ league game, and also a free ticket (w/o hospitality) from carlos de jesus of amorim who couldn't use it to see the chelsea vs porto game in london. And I still wish I could have taken up the diam trip that included barca versus real m, and the sogrape trip to see england v france in the opening game of euro 2004 - but I had to turn these down.

 
At 2:51 AM, Blogger Italian Wine Blog said...

Interesting!

Not sure about naming and shaming fellow bloggers as I'm of the opinion that this is their personal business and blog readers are pretty savvy. If they smell a continued stream of advertising they'll soon unsubscribe.

Also Jamie, although I've never accepted payment or any form of monetization on my blog, most bloggers are not paid and spend 1000s of hours a year writing these blogs. I don't begrudge them 50 for an advert now and again. I do agree if it's an advert it should be made clear.

I'm sure we both get 10 offers like this every week what surprises me most is the success of Douwe Egbert in getting so many bloggers to participate.

We all tend to get the same offers, I cant believe D.E managed to charm so many with a 50 note.

 
At 2:54 AM, Anonymous Steve said...

Wow, this is like watching a blog dying in front of my eyes. Not that I care that much- as a writer who works only for money I've long considered that anyone who blogs on the same subject they hope to get paid for is simply saying 'my work is worthless, that's why I give it away'. To pretend otherwise is at the least naive, at worst dangerous for long term literacy standards.
Good luck Mr Goode, but this site must be dead in the water now with the current internet model favouring debate, rather than blindly following an (now proven) untrustworthy source. Ethics are a bitch, eh.

Be warned children, blogging is scabbing, or it's a hobby. Gimme content- it's just a click away, click away, click away.

 
At 5:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

who made you the blog police?

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

Thanks all for your comments

Steve, you don't really get web2.0 do you? If, since 1999, I hadn't given my content away on wineanorak.com, I'd never have got to the point where I earn a living out of doing what I enjoy and do best - writing about wine. It's not that I don't value my writing.

And I don't see any grounds for suggesting that my writing is 'now proven' to be an 'untrustworthy source'.

My post here concerned the practice of non-disclosed advertising masquerading as editorial content. It's fairly clear-cut that this is unacceptable. As a blogger, the reason I raised the subject is because a few are at risk of ruining the reputation of the many, by helping opponents of blogs in their agenda to show that bloggers have lax ethical standards.

We can have the discussion about hospitality, free trips and sample bottles some other time. Then it becomes an issue of whether professional writers are able to do their job properly or not without some level of support from the wine trade, and the answer becomes no, unless you are independently wealthy. But this is a separate debate, and it's not nearly as clear-cut as some seem to think or imply.

 
At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve - your conclusions say more about your own insecurity than they do about Jamie or what he has acheived here. Your exaggeration is shameful.

 
At 1:20 PM, Anonymous Ian S said...

Jamie
Now is a great time to have this debate and I'm surprised at you wanting to block this strand of the discussion.

There is no problem if you're open and honest, but you've not been declaring the hospitality when writing pieces on the places you've visited.

Unless you're open and honest in declaring these significant freebies, then IMO you're misleading your readers.

If you do declare them - in the article itself, not hidden as it is here out of sight of the main blog/site, then it's all upfront and we can take as many pinches of salt as we need when judging what's written.

regards

Ian

 
At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Ian S said...

I call to the witness stand... Mr Jamie Goode. (My emphasis in CAPS). Extract taken from this site (the article on conflicts).

QUOTE
You are invited to go on a junket to Hawaii. Again, I can't see any problem with this, as long as when the critics write up the wines of the Hawaii as the next 'hot thing', THEY REMEMBER TO DISCLOSE IN THEIR COLUMNS THAT THE TRIP WAS PAID FOR by the Hawaii trade office. Again, you have to do the best job you can, being appropriately critical where necessary; anything less and you are letting yourself down. If you aren't sure of your ability to write fairly when someone else is paying, you shouldn't accept the invitation.
UNQUOTE

FWIW I agree with what you wrote above.

regards

Ian

 
At 7:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are many examples on this blog where Jamie has clearly benefited from hospitality, be it financial/food/accommodation/business-class travel/ and other perks.

There was one a year or so ago, when he brazenly opened with: "I went along to event X", and said what a worthwhile project it was, then a few paragraphs later, he admitted that he stood to gain financially from the venture, or had been paid to advise on it.

Such behaviour is highly dubious for a journalist, and it's a bit rich for Jamie to claim any sort of moral high ground when he accepts generous (often non-wine-related) hospitality, without admitting it on his blog.

 
At 8:51 PM, Blogger Adamvdb said...

I like the lawlessness of blogging - anyone who took anything as 100% sure is way too trusting. It would seem that there are a great many potential areas that the more straight laced rule abiding parts of society can justifiably panic about - go buy the ft for more surety of the facts. It would be great pity to put constraints on what is said, what can be said and in what context.

In the case Douwe Egberts - everyone knows its terrible coffee - when I saw the ads/videos I laughed delisted the blogs.

I wonder where googling Douwe Egberts now takes you...........

 
At 6:54 PM, Blogger Piers said...

I've always kind of assumed that a lot of the foreign trips that journalists like Jamie go on are paid-for affairs... Would we really expect that someone who provides as much content as he does pays for all of these trips? Would we level the same accusations at Jancis Robinson et al? (Or is there a difference between 'blogger' and 'journalists' or 'writers'?) I accept that most of these, like trade tastings, are events that don't cost the writer money and you have to judge what they say on that basis. If you trust their opinion then it really doesn't make a difference.

 
At 10:56 PM, Blogger Wine Splodge said...

50.
For all the references to the coffee.
For all the criticism of the blogs who took it.
Not much.

 
At 2:37 AM, Anonymous Steve said...

Jamie, I deliberately exaggerated my point, largely because you were so obviously floundering beneath the ethics issue. Apologies for offending you, but surely anyone can see that, the odd success stpry apart (and I cannot tell a lie, I don't read your blog for its scintillating prose) most of www 2 or whatever we choose to call it consists of persuading users to offer themselves up. The masses create it, someone else calls it social networking and sells it on.
I don't have a big problem with this- whatever the odd anonymous poster thinks. My personal belief is that if once you've given it away it's very hard to persuade anyone to pay for it- i.e. blogging is scabbing. Anyone else can think what they want. I know far too many underemployed talented writers who persist in blogging for nothing- more fool them. Nothing though is stopping your editor at the Express (or wherever) from trawling the net to find the next, cheaper Jamie Goode? That's another argument, that I have no time for here.
But bluntly, if you really believe that bloggers have to adhere to some kind of ethical standards (personally, I prefer to be entertained than edified, but it was you who raised the issue of corruption in the first place) then you have to declare who paid when you take a trip, otherwise you will always be open to accusations. Hell, I've written about many things, often dodgily (who wouldn't cover the bottom of the bill band for a chance to see the first Stooges reunion show? Yet they got their space too- quid pro quo). But covering arts is as much about the way you say it as what you say- you'll look an idiot if you're unprepared on DeLillo or Dylan and every blogging twat on the twatternet knows far more about music or books or films (etc etc) than the poor literate sod that's been watching and listening and reading and playing and writing their whole life.
This is rarely the case for wine writers, who, palate aside, genuinely have a much wider knowledge of their subject than their readership, let alone the general public. We, the readers, all know the trade involves trips and we accept that, just as we know the NME didn't pay to send some hack to review the Cribs in Poland. But making that crystal clear would set a ethical standard for all blogs. It's your choice.

 
At 7:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantastic post.

Over to you, Jamie...

 
At 7:32 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

If you can't wait for the food bloggers to post video 3, here it is:

http://behindeverycup.douwe-egberts.co.uk/index.aspx?deeplink=home

 
At 8:04 PM, Anonymous Ian S said...

Indeed over to Jamie.

The following is apparently 'policy' on wine anorak (www.wineanorak.com/conflicts2.htm)

"... my policy is that I will declare any potential conflicting interests and allow the reader to decide whether or not they think these will result in flawed judgment on my part. "

Yet where are these declarations when these articles are published?

It's a good policy Jamie - but worth nothing if ignored.

regards

Ian

 
At 6:44 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

OK, guys, points taken. In response to the comments here, I will undertake to make a more transparent and proactive declaration of potential conflicts of interests in the future.

 
At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Ian S said...

Jamie
Many thanks for this - it's definitely not intended as a 'beat-up', more a web2.0 customer helping refine the product ;)

As I said, you've laid the standards out well, which hopefully sets the example for other bloggers to follow.

regards

Ian

 

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