Those of you who follow a number of blogs or are up on the blogging world might have noticed some fairly high profile scandals recently.
Over the last few weeks confessions of some bloggers have exposed a darker side to the blogging industry. Fortunately, none have been related to the travel blogging industry, but the practices of few can call ethics into question for the entire blogging industry.
It begs the question: What is Ethical Blogging?
In the world of today where print newspapers are all but dying off (with the exception of in India, one of the only countries in the world where print newspaper circulation is growing), newspapers come under pressure to cut costs and make economies on staffing, blogging has become the new mass-media. Not only from individuals, but any consumer facing company worth its salt has a blog too. At the end of 2013 it was estimated that there were 152 million blogs out there, covering anything from fashion to personal blogs to beauty and travel.
With the blogging model, most bloggers earn a living through advertising revenues, affiliate links (whereby the blogger gets a small commission for each sale via their site), and sponsored posts (blog posts paid for by the partner company). So far, so good. The challenge with this model can be that it is not necessarily clear to the reader what has been paid for, by whom, and if the content of blog posts represents the honest opinion of the blogger, and ultimately is the reader being told the truth?
Whereas journalists usually follow a strict code of conduct, the advent of blogging has meant that in effect that there are now 150 million+ extra journalists out there, who may or may not follow any specific ethics code or guidelines when producing content or practise ethical blogging.
Conde Nast Traveller (my guilty sunday afternoon pleasure) coined the phrase “Truth in Travel”. They, and some others, famously do not accept invitations to press trips or other ‘freebies’ in return for coverage. Which sets the bar high for ethics in travel journalism, but is a little trickier to follow if you are not a famous glossy magazine with a worldwide readership and deeper pockets than your average travel blogger.
So far all the reasons listed above, I personally feel that it’s important for every blogger to practise ethical blogging, to be transparent about the way they operate, and to have an Editorial Policy that they clearly communicate to their readers. For example: do they receive sponsorship for posts, if so, from who and how does that influence what they’ve written?
You can read Soul Travel Blog’s Editorial Policy below, or find it going forward under the ‘About Me‘ section of my website where it will be kept constantly updated.
Soul Travel Blog’s Editorial Policy:
With the rise of blogging, content marketing, advertorial, paid reviews, influencers, the world of online media is often far from transparent or “what you see is what you get” these days. In the world of travel blogging specifically, FAM trips where bloggers are hosted for free or paid for their blog posts and/or social media are a standard part of doing business.
Because of these developments, I believe it’s more important than ever to be transparent about what is what. Readers have the right to know what has been sponsored or paid for by another party and what hasn’t been.
On Soul Travel Blog, you can always count on the following:
- Everything you see is my own, including images—unless they are clearly marked otherwise—and I own the copyright. Where third party images are used and labelled, they have a creative commons license where the owner allows them to be used (without modification) by others.
- Posts that have been created as the result of being paid for by another party will be clearly marked as a Sponsored Post, at the beginning or end of the blog post, and I will include more details about whether it was part of a hosted trip, etc. Where you don’t see anything, it means that the work has not been sponsored by another party.
- Where affiliate partnerships are used, for which I earn a small commission (which goes towards the ongoing costs of running and operating this site) I will also mark this as a partner and include a note about this near the content.
- Regardless of whether content has been sponsored or not, my opinions are always my own and I will provide the reader with my honest opinion and feedback about a place to stay, a destination, or a product.
- Soul Travel Blog does not partner with brands, organisations or accommodations that do not match with its principles: e.g. a partner must be committed to responsible travel.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section below.