Should bloggers refuse advertising to maintain independence?
Should bloggers avoid advertising as much as possible, because that is another potential route to influence their writing?
There are organizational structures within newspapers and magazines that create a separation of “church and state,” the separation between editorial and advertising.
Because bloggers are trying to do everything—write, edit, publish and canvas for advertising—they are in a very tricky position.
For example, early this year, I ran into a blogger who was covering a political event, a speech by a political candidate—yet that person was also hoping to get advertising from the candidate's organization hosting the event!
If companies want to influence key bloggers they can do it very easily. Bloggers should stay away from any attempt at establishing a relationship: offers of access to top executives, free entry into conferences, meals and drinks with company representatives, basically ANY personal contact. The best bloggers can thus “keep it real.”
Professional journalists have to deal with this stuff every day: how to avoid attempts at influence, how to maintain professional relationships, and still produce great stories. In the UK, for example, journalists take great pride in being wined and dined yet writing brutally honest news stories about their host. "Biting the hand that feeds IT" is the motto of The Register, the UK tech news site.
Also, bloggers don't have editors. Journalists come under pressure from the demands of their editors for angles or stories that the reporters know are BS. This means that reporters sometimes/often cannot write the story they would like to write.
(I have a solution for this coming up...watch this space!)