Buzz, blogs, and bucks

The Wall Street Journal tries to find a story in bloggers being on the advisory board of FON and blogging about it but they don’t come away with much because most of those bloggers disclosed that they were on the advisory board.

This raises a question about conflict of interest — a question with a pretty simple answer: Disclose.

But it raises a bigger question about whether all these bloggers are trying to be journalists. They’re not. Some are just people. Some are advocates. Some are journalists. Newspapers tend to think that if it has words it must be somebody trying to be like them. But that’s not always the case and it’s a mistake to think that all bloggers are trying to be minimedia. They are what they are: people.

And those people do, indeed, need to care for their credibility. If a neighbor told me to go buy tile at a great store and didn’t tell me he owned a piece of it, I’d be pissed if I found that out after I had a problem with the place; I wouldn’t trust his next recommenation much. Credibility and trust matter in life as they are supposed to matter in journalism. Trust is the organizing principle of life.

But that doesn’t mean that we all have to take some journalistic vow of uninvolvement. What, David Isenberg can’t both write about open networks and be involved in them? Of course, that’s ridiculous. David Isenberg has a stance on networks and I expect him to live and talk from that perspective.

Similarly, considering my health hiccup of late, I’ve been reading lots of sites and blogs and articles and PowerPoints by lots of people, including some from the company that makes the drug that I’m taking now. I know their perspective. I take that into account. But I find them all valuable. In fact, I find what some of the affiliated people have to say more valuable than some of the unaffiliated precisely because I do know their perspective.

The secret to this is disclosure. And the irony of this is, of course, that journalists are the worst at disclosing. They think they shouldn’t or don’t have to but they are the ones who demand that everyone else should disclose. Doctor, take your own medicine.

: Don Dodge also writes about how much easier it is to launch a company today in part because you don’t have to do through the gatekeepers of the press. Witness the launch of CoComment this week, upon which I commented along with many others. They launched via blogs and they got help doing that from the guy who understands spreading a message via blogs better than most anyone: Hugh MacLeod. Says Dodge:

We now live in a meritocracy. Money, VCs, and the press no longer decide what will be successful. Great products/services with intuitive designs that solve a real problem win.

The people who are in the best position to know what’s good are often those are most deeply involved in the arena a company is entering. Once I know their relationship, I can judge what the say accordingly, can’t you?

: And here is my disclosure.

: LATER: David Weinberger responds to the article. He’s nicer about it than I would have been. But then, he’s nicer than I am.

: Doc has links to much more discussion.