For years, publicists have tempted bloggers with freebies (such as trips to Europe), just as they've long wooed other travel writers—and reviewers of all types of consumer products. Will bloggers be nicer in their reviews if they're not paying? It sure seems possible.
The Federal Trade Commission plans to start monitoring the claims made by bloggers who receive compensation from companies. The Associated Press reports that the agency will "go after bloggers—as well as the companies that compensate them—for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest."
But don't wait for the government to police the Internet. Before trusting a blog, see if it's open about conflicts of interest. For example, on the blog New York Traveler, main author Rebecca Empey has a link labeled "Sitewide Policy." There, she explains that:
This blog sometimes accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertion, and other forms of compensation. The compensation I get may influence the advertising content, topics, or posts made here in the blog. But even though I may accept payment for things, I pledge to give my honest review, experience, finding, or belief. All my views are clearly my own views. Any claim, product, quote, or statistic should be verified by the maker and/or manufacturer, provider, or party in question.
Empey's stated policy is an example of a fine one, according to the FTC's new criteria. It's also good that she has posted a policy at all.
Another tip for readers of travel (and other) blogs: Scan to see how often readers post comments. A group of watchful readers is a sign that a blogger will be held accountable for doing anything shady.