Brett Tabke recently created a supporter's only thread about the potential downfall of blog ad networks, claiming that they may end up undermining our ability to trust what we read. Bill Hartzer (who I am generally a big fan of) added
There are still unbiased sources out there, you just have to look for them.
I responded to the thread with (roughly) the following (edited on my blog for better formatting and grammar, and I added more depth to my opinions here):
There is no such thing as an unbiased source. Unbiased = unreal.
I think as user / consumer is transferred into a market participant beyond just what they consume that we will
- see our own influence (and influences) better
- take better care of our attention
- be more likely to find things we are passionate in
- get better at judging the intent of others
- generally trust most things we see less.
While on the surface it is easy to paint that lack of trust as a negative thing, I think a lack of trust toward authority (ie: questioning what you see, why you were shown it, and who placed it there) is an important component in any functional society.
The only reason that learning to not trust what you see is a negative is because there is so much fraud in the world perpetrated by power source who only retain power through the ignorance of the average citizen. Why are most articles in the mainstream media about SEO usually focused on black hat techniques? Anything that challenges any established authority system is deemed to be wrong by default, especially when evaluated by existing sources of power.
Would I have joined the military if I knew more about the military industrial complex? Not a snowball's chance in hell. Should I be quiet about them doing illegal things like destroying some of my work records prior to processing me out of the military? Not a snowball's chance in hell.
I believe consumer generated media will transfer power away from macro-parasites toward creative and passionate individuals who are driven to change the world.
I also think that anyone who communicates, even if only for themselves, is selling something...even if that potential gain is just trying to understand our own faults and why we think the way we do.
On another front, which is more ethical and legitimate? Blindly trusting an ad system that promotes products you know nothing about and is pushed to no end by the goal of achieving an efficient market. Or, writing about things you know about, and occasionally getting paid for the value of your time, feedback, and influence?
How relevant is a Google AdLink with my name and brand name in it that links to a list of ads that does not even include me? How is that any more legitimate than getting paid to review things you find interesting?
Some of my other blogs have no commercial intent to them, but they still rank for a lot of things, and I still learn a bunch from other's feedback, and I also think I learn a lot about myself by reading how I was thinking when I was doing different things.
The biggest thing that is killing off traditional publishing is the lack of personality, lack of passion, and a lack of bias (or watered down pro corporate bias) which is contained in nearly every piece of content they create.
I would rather read a passionate author than one that abides by some arbitrarily crafted ethical standards. Would a newspaper ever publish a self analysis like this? No. And if I read a person long enough I can understand their biases much greater than I can by reading random published articles. And if earning the trust of readers is harder then it will be valued more.
The big reason that people are against open networks, paid placement, free markets, paying individuals what they are worth, or anything that redistributes power is that many of the most powerful sources in the world stand to lose power if we question authority. And so they must play down the roll of or try to undermine the credibility of competing business models (or anything that threatens the ideology they sell or their business model). Nothing new there, it has been going on forever (even if the sources of power do not hold themselves to the same standards they want to hold amateurs to).
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