Maybe you’ve picked up on this too. You notice a site that you like is using thinly veiled sales and marketing just below the surface while trying to present it as interesting information or a story from a trusted tribe member. Sometimes what you see isn’t what you get.
It might even be a mostly interesting story or information. But the issue here is the site’s lack of disclosure and transparency about trotting something out without saying what’s going on. The reader can’t know what’s going on behind the scenes unless he’s told.
Maybe it’s just a little digital backscratching, each writer is talking up the other one on their sites. That’s normal. I think we’re wired for reciprocity. It’s been baked-in over countless generations as a trust generating mechanism while living in small groups and is still with us.
But when there’s no disclosure, and you get a whiff of it, your trust in that site (or person really) is lessened. You wonder if the writer is being paid outright. Or is he being compensated in some other fashion for promoting something, doing it in the guise of telling you a story?
Monetizing a site isn’t a bad thing. But it needs to be explained or be obvious. If a story is told as just a story but it’s actually a paid-for story, the motive for telling that story changes.
The situation feels like the super PACs in politics. They’re trotted out as being separate from candidates when in practice they’re each connected to a candidate, but with lots of winks and crossed fingers behind backs, saying they’re not connected.