The Korea Herald

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지나쌤

Blogging profitable despite recent controversy

By Shin Hae-in

Published : Nov. 21, 2011 - 15:53

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Regardless of ethical issues, blogging is not just about time-killing or communication these days. For some, blogs are an easy road to money. 



Earlier this month, seven “power bloggers” were fined by the Fair Trade Commission for promoting sales of certain products without informing consumers they were receiving commission from companies.
Popular blogger Moon Sung-sil’s blog Popular blogger Moon Sung-sil’s blog

The term power blogger was first used by Naver, a major portal site here, which chose and listed 786 of the most popular and interesting blogs.

Moon Sung-sil, a housewife who became famous after posting easy-to-cook breakfast and dinner recipes on her blog, promoted more than 260 joint purchase events from 2010, arranging sales worth 15.8 billion won ($13.8 million). In return, she received 880 million won from 17 firms, according to the FTC. She was one those fined.

While the fined bloggers argue they never tried to deceive anyone and wrote reviews that “came from the bottom of (the) heart,” according to one blogger, internet users say they would never have purchased the products if they had known the blogging was done in such a “corporate-like manner.”

“I’ve lost faith completely,” says an internet user who used to make frequent visits to Moon’s blog. “I thought of her as an ‘ordinary person,’ if you know what I mean.”

“I feel like a fool who took a con for a friend. Serves me right for trusting something posted on the internet,” the 32-year-old said, asking to remain anonymous.

This recent revelation is perhaps more problematic for Korea due to the characteristics of its bloggers. Unlike overseas power bloggers ― who run blogs based on their knowledge and influence in areas like politics and IT ― a large portion of bloggers here are housewives who talk about cooking and homemaking. Hence the term “wifelogger.”

“Because these blogs are based on daily subjects like traveling and eating, there is more room for companies to use them for advertisement,” an official at a local cosmetics company said on the condition of anonymity.

“Frankly, we are not so unhappy about this new trend,” she said. “It’s so much easier and cheaper than making TV commercials.”

And it appears that it is not a phenomenon that will go away any time soon.

There are currently 53 million blogs and internet cafes in operation in Korea, one of the most wired countries in the world, meaning there may be many more “fishy profit-making activities.”

With the controversy over blogging-for-profit escalating, a parliamentary subcommittee recently passed a bill calling for a one-year shut down of blogs that make profits via illegal advertising.

But unlike the recently fined bloggers ― who contacted firms in advance and arranged group-purchasing opportunities ― other bloggers say they made money “by chance” and feel no shame in it.

“I hate the fact that these few people are creating a negative image about popular blogs and power bloggers,” said Kwon Sun-jae, a 38-year-old office worker who runs a popular blog on movies and books.

Having started blogging as a hobby five years ago, Kwon opened her blog to banner advertisements last year, after she gave up her full-time job. She makes a reasonable profit via the banner advertising, with a good 1,000 people visiting her blog everyday.

Kwon refused to elaborate on how much she makes, saying she makes “a few hundred thousand won” each month, even when profit is bad.

But Kwon feels that painting her as being only in it for the money doesn’t do her justice.

“True. I’m making profit through people who visit my blog,” she said. “But I hide nothing from them and write pretty good reviews that are worth reading.”

“I actually encourage my friends to start blogging to have fun and make money at the same time,” added the mother of two. “But I tell them they have to stick around long enough to start making a full-time income on blogs.”

Myung Seung-un, chairman of the Korea Blog Business Association agreed it was unfair to point fingers at all bloggers making profit from blogging.

“We must remember that the issue here is disguising commercial advertisements as regular blogging ― not blogging itself,” Myung said.

With the influence of bloggers in electronic commerce expected to grow fast, experts are noting the need for proper regulations. It is also important, however, not to damage the flow of information or the freedom of internet users with excessive regulation, they caution.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)