A Look at Ethics of Travel Blogs
Byline: Nicholas Kralev, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Do travel blogs influence your decision-making when booking a trip? Does it make a difference to you whether an airline a blogger writes about has treated him to a free flight? When it comes to ethics, should readers be less strict with blogs than with the mainstream media?
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs covering all aspects of travel - both from a business and leisure perspective. Most of them haven't had a new post in months. As all initial enthusiasts eventually discover, maintaining a blog in any field is much more difficult than starting one.
Many travel blogs are dominated by the author's personal experiences on the road and feature numerous photographs of airplane seats, in-flight meals and hotel rooms. They are informative - even educational - and sometimes entertaining, but their readership tends to be relatively limited.
The blogs with a larger following seem to be those that critically examine various facets of the travel industry and those offering specific advice about booking a trip, such as finding cheap tickets or securing upgrades. Because of their influence, those are the blogs that attract the attention of airlines, hotels and other businesses.
Travel companies are slowly awakening to the importance of new media. The bad news for them is that, unlike traditional media, where they have established relationships with a relatively small group of beat reporters, bloggers are much more difficult to manage. The good news for them is that the blogosphere has no editorial rules; authors are free to write anything they want, and they don't answer to editors.
The absence of an ethics code hasn't been lost on travel companies, which have been offering bloggers free or discounted flights, hotel stays and meals. Most mainstream media organizations are almost certain to decline such gifts.
If you are a travel blogger but don't have the funds to travel regularly, a free ticket from an airline may be just what you need.
There is no authority or professional association to scrutinize what bloggers write, so some of them don't find it necessary to disclose their relationships with airlines - some even publish paid content.
Others accept free trips with the condition that there be no strings attached, and they will inform their readers of the arrangement. …