As we've noted before, we don't "do" paid advertising here at IB. This was a conscious decision I made when we began: I believed then, as I believe now, that having paid ("click through") advertising would present potential conflicts of interest, and I really had no stomach for that. Over the years, we've received several offers of products or services for review, and have taken advantage of exactly one (our one and only book review). I also received an (unsolicited) package from the Minnesota Blue Cross touting their (then new) transparency efforts.
Of course, there have been other offers, but we've shied away from them. Even my review of iTraige was based on my having paid full retail (almost $2!) for the privilege.
So what's my point? Well, BlogSwag is about to come under a rather significant microcope, "under a coming set of Federal Trade Commission guidelines designed to clarify how companies can court bloggers to write about their products."
On the one hand, I'm skeptical that the FTC has the manpower to actually police, let alone enforce, any such "guidelines." And I'm not really sure that they have the authority to do so (although I'd welcome any light that may be shed on that by our more legally astute readers). On the other, I certainly think that, as readers and consumers, we're entitled to know whether or not a given blogger has a vested interest in "pushing" a particular product or service. I don't have any particular issue with bloggers posting glowing reviews, but if credibility is our sole asset, it seems to me that how we obtained that which is being reviewed is relevant.