Should FlyerTalk “Hawk” Deals Directly to Members and Track “Bloggers”?

In a contentious discussion about which frequent flier “blog” is the most useful — in which one topic being fiercely debated is the issue of compensation for weblog authors through affiliate links — FlyerTalk member Astrophsx opines with the proposal of this idea:

“Why not skip the bloggers and put a PR rep on flyertalk and hawk better deals? If Starwood and other companies can create accounts and announce the latest promotions… what is stopping credit card companies from doing the same thing?
“I’ve seen the hypothetical list of commissions paid for affiliate links, but why not come on here and skip the middle man and provide a better bonus? I’m going to guess that credit card companies have enough resources to know that they are paying money to bloggers who in turn tell people to churn their cards and use manufactured spending to meet spending thresholds for signup bonuses.
“I’ve noticed that some of the best credit card offers lately have not come from the links bloggers provide, such as the 100k Amex Plat sign up.”

FlyerTalk member hobo13 believes that there should be a forum on FlyerTalk dedicated solely to weblogs, with at least one discussion devoted to each “blogger” where his or her content may be discussed without having to comment directly at the weblog where that comment can be freely deleted. In fact, a proposal to that effect has been posted this morning.
The downside to this proposal is that many “bloggers” are also members of FlyerTalk — and launching personal attacks against any FlyerTalk member is a violation of the Guidelines & Rules of FlyerTalk. However, the argument is that “professional blogs” are businesses similar to airlines, hotels and rental car companies and are thus subject to pertinent criticism — but would that potentially promote an adversarial atmosphere, as “faceless corporations” are different from the weblog of an individual? Still, I would be interested to see how such a forum would take shape on FlyerTalk if approved by a majority vote of members of TalkBoard,
Furthermore, hobo13 thinks that Internet Brands — the company which currently owns FlyerTalk — “should be all over it” with speculation that activity on FlyerTalk “has to be going down due to ‘blogs’, and “they should be fighting tooth-and-nail to keep the eyeballs right here.”
Au contraire, mon ami.
First, year over year activity has actually grown on FlyerTalk by almost 25 percent when comparing the numbers of January of 2013 versus January of 2012, according to statistics given to me by an official representative of Internet Brands.
Second, there are several weblogs currently owned by Internet Brands, which are as follows:

In my opinion, it is somewhat funny when FlyerTalk members complain that many weblogs simply take the information posted freely on FlyerTalk and post it as their own, as the main purpose of The Gate is to highlight what topics are being discussed on FlyerTalk. In other words, my job with The Gate is to purposely take content posted on FlyerTalk and write about it, as well as link to the pertinent discussions. I enjoy doing that and have enjoyed it for almost seven years now — ever since the days when The Gate was one of the original weblogs of when it was first launched.
I have no intention of posting affiliate links at The Gate at any time in the foreseeable future, so you do not have to be concerned when reading content posted to The Gate. While I agree with the prevailing belief that people in the FlyerTalk community should freely assist each other without expecting compensation, however, I also believe it is unreasonable to expect people to devote significant amounts of time and resources without any compensation whatsoever — especially if the content of that weblog is deemed useful, informative and valuable by its readership. Weblog authors have to eat as well.
I am opposed to disguising an affiliate link as editorial information designed to help the “blogger” profit. Having advertisements posted to support the weblog where there is a clear differentiation between the advertisement and bona fide editorial content is one thing; misleading the reader into recommending a credit card affiliation masquerading as editorial content is another story altogether — especially if earning miles and points is a nascent activity to the reader who may not initially know any better and the link posted by the weblog author may not necessarily be in the best interests of the reader.
When it comes to censorship, I am against it with the exception of extreme examples — such as “spam” or content which may be considered unnecessarily inappropriate. Weblog authors should not generally censor comments in response to posted content. I am a big boy — I can take the negative criticism. Bring it on. All I ask is that the criticism is constructive so that I may learn from it and further improve The Gate for you. I am also always welcome to any ideas, thoughts or suggestions which you may have.
FlyerTalk members also seem to be wary of fellow members who are also “bloggers” but have not posted a significant amount of content to FlyerTalk — presumably because they are probably not willing to freely share information, perhaps? I am not sure that that is a reliable benchmark on which to judge the reputation of a “blogger” who is also a FlyerTalk member — but if it makes any difference to you, I have been a FlyerTalk member for greater than ten years and have easily earned “FlyerTalk Evangelist” status, meaning that I have posted content to FlyerTalk greater than 10,000 times. Honestly, though — does that really mean anything?
Anyway, enough about me. Should Internet Brands ratchet up the promotion of FlyerTalk and its weblogs? Should affiliate links be posted directly on FlyerTalk instead of clicking on the affiliate links of third-party weblogs? Do some “bloggers” re-package information posted on FlyerTalk and post it as their own — and is that considered plagiarism? Do you believe that “bloggers” are ruining FlyerTalk? Should there be a forum dedicated to the discussion of weblogs whose topics are miles, points and travel?
What do you think?

  1. Let me just say that it’s not always bloggers “stealing” info from FlyerTalk, it’s often the other way round as well. LufthansaFlyer is an excellent example thereof. We at the Miles & More subforum have learned of promotions, raffles and numerous behind-the-scenes stories many times over the years owing solely to the fellow in question, with him being the first to post about these – and it’s a pretty active subforum, so that says a lot.

  2. I don’t mind hobo13’s proposal, but I think if he really wants to show his disapproval toward certain bloggers who might censure comments, he can just vote with his eyes and not read their blogs. I can count on one hand the number of comments I’ve censored, and most involved expletives.
    If FlyerTalk’s rules against personal attacks are what’s stopping him, he should comment on a different forum. Hobo13 blames the bloggers for censoring, but apparently he has issues with FlyerTalk’s rules, too. If he wants to have individual forums on each blogger for commenting, he should be able to keep it decent without involving personal attacks.

  3. (Should FlyerTalk hawk deals/) It depends on the type of marketing. I am actively looking for deals, so some level of ‘hawking’ would just centralize those deals I’m already looking for. And if those deal had better terms than some other site, then even better. But if there were more ads randomly scattered throughout a thread, instead of kept at the margins or in its own thread, then I would be turned off by the level of ‘noise’ that represents when reading a thread that is not ‘deal’ related.
    (Should professional bloggers be assigned their own forum) I don’t think this would be wise. Web traffic is increased when there is a community with links in both directions, in multiple threads/blogs. I think there’s a term for this in search optimization…but i’m too lazy to look it up.

  4. Thank you for giving LufthansaFlyer as an example of a source whose content is regarded informative and valuable consistently by FlyerTalk members, gojko88. It is definitely important to note that there are often times FlyerTalk gets its information from external sources, which includes certain weblogs as well.

  5. I have commented recently about the reduced activity levels at FT since I became active in the Fall 2012. I wish we could do something to boost activity, especially from the “oldtimers” who understand inside tips better than the rest of us who merely fly alot.
    I have three points:
    Not all bloggers are playing by the rules.If they are compensated for their posts/reviews, they have to tell us. The FTC published blogger and endorsed persons rules a couple years ago, codifying the recommended practice to disclose any compensation, even as small as a box of cereal, by entities or products reviewed in the blog or by the endorser.
    Both the company featured and the blogger are liable for the blogger’s breach.
    My concern about the bloggers is more a lack of transparency than the fact that they are covering what FT members post first. I want to know if they are compensated to post what they do. I want to know how significant any sponsorship is. I want to know how much I can trust them.
    2. Our options if FT doesn’t get its act together:
    I visited MilePoint today and signed up. The activity at FT, even as reduced as it has become, vastly outpaces that in MRs at MP. I felt frustrated at the random postings in their MR discussion board. I deregistered. It may work for others, just not for me.
    FT is special because its members are. Sure we have some grumpy oldtimers who slap us newbies down. But they know what they are talking about. It’s a valuable resource. And it still stands alone. The bloggers add value, IMHO.
    I am rambling, but the Deal blog points me to threads I had missed or in new forums I don’t visit. I appreciated being informed about VA’s activities in denying the Royal Navy’s engineer the right to wear her uniform while traveling. Others have taught me how to use ITA better and understand offers and how things work.
    3. How FT can maintain/gain traction when others are profiting from our “intellectual property.”:
    The solution isn’t to silence the bloggers. It’s to improve our own marketing at FT to have everyone visit the original source, not secondary ones. It’s a way to drive interest, new growth and revenue. Use this to our advantage. Share how often our posts drive others’ newsfeeds. Let’s brag a little and drag our oldtimer experts out to post more often. Let’s all become more active in posts and info that drives membership and interest. Let’s find the deals and share insight with the uninitiated and even the bloggers.
    We shouldn’t fear the competition, we should lead them.
    my 2 cents.

  6. Thanks guys, I try to be part of the solution as much as possible. However there are times where ideas come to from FT members and if I post something that came from FT, I make sure to give credit to those responsible….like Oliver2002 in most cases. It certainly a two way street that can be used effectively by everyone.

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