The New York Times called my attention today to ethical problems with blogs that do product placement, such as shilling for a certain brand of vodka without disclosing gifts from Absolut:
a blogger must be clear about any “material connections” with a sponsor, especially if these would not be expected by the reader.
My reaction was "wow, I had no idea we could make money that way!" Given the pathetic results of my fund-raising efforts so far on behalf of Aid Watch and the Development Research Institute, clearly it is time to "think outside the box." What product could Aid Watch strategically but unobtrusively mention in our blogs in return for generous support from the manufacturer?
After at least 5 seconds of undistracted brainstorming, I think I hit upon a product that has universal name recognition, not to mention utilization, among NGO workers: Birkenstocks!
I can testify that I myself can hardly write a column without the podiatric support of my own Birkenstocks, which have held up well in 9,772 days of consecutive daily wear in all weathers. So Global Birkenstock Conglomerate Inc., I hope you are reading this, please send a check as soon as possible made out to "Development Research Institute."
I do have to confess one ethical lapse that already occurred. I walked over to my office yesterday in my comfortable Birkenstocks and picked up my mail, which contained a free gift of chocolate. It was delicious Madécasse chocolate from Madagascar, sent to me as a thank you for all the blogs Aid Watch did trying to save the jobs of Malagasy textile workers from US trade sanctions.
I do remember vividly a meeting with Laura in a cafe right next to our local Birkenstocks retailer, where we strategized for a long time about which blog posts would most likely result in free chocolate. Now that I have come clean, I do recommend this wonderful chocolate very highly .
Please keep this between us -- I have not yet shared any of this gift haul of 4 large chocolate bars with Laura. I'm concerned about her cholesterol , since she has yet to adopt the kind of footwear, such as Birkenstocks, that makes long, healthy walks in Manhattan possible.