Late last night one of my 90 Minds group members posted a link to our internal Socialcast network regarding a new blog. He commented that a new web blog he found looked like an interesting source of information about Software As A Service (SaaS) or cloud computing.
First thing this morning I skipped over to take a look. Sure enough it seemed to be a relatively new blog cataloging news items in the SaaS industry.
The Internet is ripe with sites that spring up overnight with posts populated by RSS feeds from other blogs (aka SPLOGS or Spam Blogs). In general these SPLOGS seems to exist to try to game the system and earn both ad revenue and perhaps measure search visibility for a particular domain.
At first I suspected that’s what this site was. However after looking for a minute it didn’t seem to be your typical SPLOG. There were links to industry analyst blogs. The articles seemed relatively current and topical.
The it hit me as I read the bottom of the blog. There was an entire row of posts sponsored by only one SaaS/Cloud publisher. I took a quick look at the Network Solutions Domain Name Lookup. Sure enough the site is hosted on the server of what seems to be the only sponsor.
Based on a quick review it looks like Acumatica (a provider of SaaS ERP solutions) is hosting the blog – at least according to the data provided by a domain lookup done this morning at Network Solutions. A quick Traceroute which shows the Internet path that your browser follows to find the server seems to back this up.
So what’s my point in all this?
First, there’s nothing wrong at all with publishers using blogs to promote their services or their products. However there’s a great potential that a user will be misled into thinking that the blog is an objective source of information – when it really can’t be if it’s backed by a publisher.
If you’re blogging for your own company – take great care to go overboard and disclose any and all bias. This will help form a greater trust with your reader.
What I thought was especially creepy – and prompted me to write — is this post from the ERPCloudnews site. Notice how they disclaimer indicates that the post is sponsored by Accumatica? That’s good. But why is there a disclaimer “may not reflect the views of ERP Cloud News.” if as I suspect ERPCloudNews is hosted and sponsored by the publisher?
Second, you should have an “About” section that identifies you and provides enough information so the reader can know if the site might have any bias (whether intended or unintended). As a matter of practice whenever I comment about anything related to Sage Software, MAS 90 or MAS 200 (of which I have consultant affiliations as noted on this page) I go out of my way to state that “I am not independent with respect to my comments”. Blogs should make any potential bias clear as well.
From the screenshot below you’ll see the ERPCloudNews affiliation isn’t totally clear. Kudos for disclosing that the authors behind the site are a media firm (fancy name for Public Relations aka Advertising). Not so cool that they fail to disclose the fact that this site appears to sit on an Acumatica server.
What’s the point to all this?
When you blog – fully disclose your bias. If you resell a product you’re not independent. If you derive revenues from a product you’re writing about then you’re not independent – use the “About” section of your blog to make this lack of independence clear. Better that you point it out than to have your reader figure it out and then disregard everything they find on your website as un-trustworthy.
Be careful when reading blogs online. They’re not all as independent as they may seem. Use the information you find combined with your own research to form conclusions. Just as online reviews of books, software and restaurants can be easily gamed by organized groups of individuals – so can blogs.
I’m using one site – erpcloudnews.com – as an example. I’m sure there are many more where affiliations aren’t clearly stated on the blog. There’s nothing technically wrong here – unless your reader starts to sense that there could be the potential for bias in the bog. And if that happens all your goodwill and hard work creating your blog could gradually erode.