Amsterdam 'junket' provokes debate on blogger ethics

6th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

7 February 2006, AMSTERDAM — Its backers see it as an interesting experiment, but its detractors feel it is a junket. The result is a war of words in the 'blogosphere'.

7 February 2006

AMSTERDAM — Its backers see it as an interesting experiment, but its detractors feel it is a junket. The result is a war of words in the 'blogosphere'.

*sidebar1*The controversy stems from the decision to bring 25 bloggers from the US to Amsterdam for five days, courtesy of the Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (NBTC).

The bloggers have been given free flights on KLM and accommodation at either the
Lloyd Hotel or the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky. Both are five-star hotels near the centre of Amsterdam, the 'disclosure' on bloggersinAmsterdam notes.

The idea came about when Sebastian Paauw, "a cool young guy at the Netherlands Board of Tourism, approached us about buying ads on blogs," Henry Copeland of Blogads - a US-based company that sells advertising space on blogs, wrote in January of this year.

"After some brainstorming and number-crunching Sebastian came back and asked about bartering blog-ads for trips, saying they normally had a pile of plane tickets for journalists and that it would be fun to see what happened if these went to bloggers instead," Copeland said.

Asked for its comment, the NBTC directed Expatica to Paauw's own blog entry in Dutch about how the trip came about. Realising the trip would be controversial, they agreed on strict ground rules that were incorporated in a disclosure all participating bloggers had to link to from their sites.

The main condition was no blogging about the trip would be required.

In exchange for the trip each blogger agreed to [a] be interviewed about the trip, [b] give (the NBTC’s site) one month of premium adspace, and [c] put the "Bloggers in Amsterdam" logo in their nav bar for one year, linking it to this blog post to disclose the nature of the trip. "The mantra here is transparency," the disclosure said.

One of the bloggers coming to Amsterdam is Heidi Swanson, who runs the 101Cookbook blog. "I'm excited about it. It is a transaction that works for someone like me - with a site that has the focus that mine does," she told Expatica.

"To be able to visit an exciting city like Amsterdam in exchange for advertising space is an interesting and creative trade. It enables an independent publisher like myself to travel, broaden my horizons, see and experience new things - and potentially share some of these thing with the people who visit my site (although that is not a requirement)."

Danny Glover, Managing Editor of National Journal's Technology Daily in the US, isn't so enthusiastic, and isn't one of the 25 participants.

"Bloggers of all stripes love to bloviate these days about public officials who accepted money or luxurious treatment from corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff in his attempt to curry government favor for his clients. But that doesn't mean bloggers are above accepting pampering by people with an agenda," he wrote as Beltway Blogroll.

"Bloggers no doubt will justify the trip by highlighting the transparency of the junket," he said.

He continued: "No one who makes the trip is compelled to write one word, good or bad, about Amsterdam, and maybe some bloggers will return home and say nasty things about the place. But somehow I doubt they will."

Washington blogger Mark Tapscott is also skeptical about the trip. "Sooner or later, bloggers have to address these kinds of ethics issues, just as the mainstream media folks have been doing for decades," he wrote.

And Canuckflack (Colin McKay of Ottowa) contributed his views in a piece entitled ‘Blogger junkets: does that make a blogger your pimp or your bitch?’

"Don't get me wrong - I can see the value in the transaction for the sponsor/client. It's a good idea to pitch as a public relations consultant. But I thought blogs were beginning to build some editorial credibility?"

McKay imaged that "somewhere a magazine publisher is wetting his pants thinking of this arrangement. Chinese wall between advertising and editorial? GONE! He can only imagine a freelancer writing his feature for free, their only compensation the free minibar almonds and ogling the rich girlfriends at the pool bar!"

Copeland anticipated and welcomed the debate. "While we’vie heard of companies giving freebies to bloggers, there has been no standard yet for how to disclose the nature of the gifts and whether there are any quid pro quos."

"We hope this project helps to highlight the question of best practises on disclosure. I’m sure we’ll get some feedback on this and look forward the discussion," he said.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]

Subject: Dutch news

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