The FTC has issued guidelines, which I believe to be unconstitutional, requiring bloggers to disclosure possible conflicts of interest when engaging in free speech rights.
As it happens, I’m not in the business of writing product reviews and pretty scrupulous about spelling out conflicts in the article itself, which is frankly much more useful to the reader than lists on an administrative page most are unlikely to read.
That said, it’s worth spelling out general issues in a single place. If nothing else, it’s something I can link to rather than spelling out the same disclosures repeatedly.
OTB Media has business relationships with a wide variety of advertising networks. With the exception of BlogAds, which gives publishers 24 hours to decline a placement, the others serve ads without consultation with site publishers. It has been years since we’ve turned down a placement from BlogAds, which makes the exception all but moot.
This means that, while we’re indirectly getting paid by the political candidates, companies, causes, or whathaveyou whose ads appear in these spots, we have no relationship with those people and, more importantly, our editorial choices are not influenced by the fact they’re placing ads on our site via a third party network.
This is particularly noteworthy in the case of Google’s Adsense network, which uses keywords and other contextual indicators to assign ads. So, a post about a particular politician, product, or issue may quite well have an ad or ads from that politician or company or their rivals. While not coincidental — indeed, it’s quite intentional on the part of the ad purchaser — it’s independent of our editorial choices. And, indeed, any number of different ads will be served in these spots even on the same blog post page, over the course of time.
I’m currently employed as the managing editor of a non-profit, non-partisan foreign policy think tank, the Atlantic Council. My views expressed here are my own and not necessarily a reflection of the views of the Council, its Board, or its staff. I do most of my writing on foreign policy topics at the Council’s New Atlanticist blog, which I run, with the occasional cross-post to OTB.
I’ve previously been employed by Lanmark Technology and International Development Resources, intertwined firms that contracted my services out to the Defense Information Systems Agency; Brassey’s, Inc. (now Potomac Books); Troy State University (now Troy University); Bainbridge College; The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; The University of Alabama; and the United States Army.
My late wife, Kimberly, was the chief operations officer of Public Opinion Strategies, a survey research firm that does work for many high level Republican candidates and office holders and some major interest groups, until her untimely death on 27 November 2011. Their various clients are listed on their website.
While my wife was alive, my general policy was that, when posting on a POS poll or the work of one of the firm’s partners or associates, to mention this association in the post itself. I typically did not, however, mention this association when writing about clients of the company since I typically didn’t keep track of who they’re working for at any given time and thought it unfair to the firm to mention the association if my comments about the candidate or firm are negative. In the case of extraordinary circumstances, such as the fact that POS partner Neil Newhouse was Mitt Romney’s chief pollster, and that the firm did the polling for John McCain during his 2008 presidential run and for Joe Lieberman once he left the Democratic Party, I’ll typically make it known in a post that the conflict exists but not belabor the point subsequently.