This “disclosure” issue seems to be embedded in the a rock, stuck without movement. How can we keep the blogosphere “transparent?” Is a blogging with integrity badge enough? As I sat here pondering this, I thought of Shakespeare. If he were writing a sponsored review of a product, how would he proceed?
As an English major, I am uniquely qualified to answer this question. I can safely say that I know exactly what William Shakespeare would do in this situation. Just look at the opening scene of Hamlet. In that famous scene, the Sentinels wait for the Ghost of the King. We do not meet the main character, Hamlet, as of yet. Instead, Shakespeare uses these secondary characters for exposition, setting up the scenario BEFORE we meet the star.
The same technique can be used in a sponsored review. Rather than jumping right into the meat of the post with the review, jarring the audience with an overload of information, the blogger/reviewer could take his time, much like Shakespeare does, setting the stage and the atmosphere, and drawing his audience into the story with suspense and needed exposition.
Here is an example of an updated Shakespearean-type introduction for a sponsored review of Welch’s Grape Jelly, using the American English of today, that solves both the disclosure AND the transparency issues in one swoop.
“The following is a review of Welch’s New and Improved Grape Jelly. The nice people at Welch’s sent me a case of their product, as well as invited me to their headquarters in Concord, Massachusetts, paying for my airfare and hotel, where I enjoyed a blogger get-together and lunch with the entertaining and gracious Mr. and Mrs. Welch.”
BOOM. That’s it. This “intro,” as we might call it nowadays, would “set the scene,” explaining to the audience the backstory. If I was this writer’s friend, I will probably go, “Oh, how nice for you! I’m curious to hear more!” And I will read your review, and I will believe what you say, because I have seen your integrity IN ACTION. You have set up the story properly, right from the beginning. Shakespeare would never put essential information at THE END, like so many of you do, because it makes for bad drama. I don’t want to read about a product and learn at the END that the writer was paid to write it, or got some freebies! That is like watching King Lear for three hours, being totally confused by the plot, and only finding out in the last act that he has three daughters! That is poor playwriting!
So let’s thank Shakespeare for a simple and effective solution to our blogging woes. Why don’t we just make this the standard, like the intermission at a Broadway show, so then we all are on the same page and there is no confusion?
Or as Hamlet told Horatio in his final moments, “If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, / Absent thee from felicity a while, / And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain / To tell my story of Welch’s Grape Jelly.”