The Babyrose incident exposed the dirty laundry of some professional bloggers as well as the extent of their power and responsibility.
In a survey of 513 Internet users by the Korea Press Foundation in 2008, online media, including blog posts, placed second in a credibility ranking after terrestrial TV broadcasters.
These bloggers do not just entertain readers. In a DMC Media survey of 1,650 people, 48.5 percent replied that their shopping patterns have been affected by their online pundits. Online Today Korea reported that power bloggers could create 10 times the promotional effect of conventional media advertisements.
Currently, there are about 700 “power bloggers” selected by the nation’s largest portal site Naver.com. Several hundred more are actively working at other sites, drawing tens of hundreds of daily visitors.
These bloggers have emerged as darlings of viral marketers, who target consumers preferring recommendations from “next-door housewives” over newspaper articles or advertisements. They are treated with freebies, samples and sometimes free trips and tours from companies hoping for a mention on the blog.
“Most of the bloggers appreciates the pure joy of being respected but many of them welcome business opportunities, too,” a viral marketer said.
Hyun appeared on a GS Home Shopping channel program to promote marinated meat. With her influence on overall industries, she wrote several cookbooks and appealed to become Martha Stewart of Korea by publishing monthly magazine on homemaking.
The breakdown of Hyun’s enterprise is having a domino effect in the industry.
Moon Sung-sil, another power blogger with 90,000 daily visitors, admitted Saturday that she had received 4-5 percent of the sale of products as commission.
“Some I have received more and some less. But I have paid my tax. I have nothing to be ashamed of,” she said. But she has cancelled all upcoming co-purchasing events and shut down several sections of her blog. Several other similar online communities ceased commercial events over the weekend.
People say it’s time society comes up with ways to hold bloggers to their responsibilities as much as any other online businessmen.
U.S. authorities last year threatened to fine bloggers $11,000 for not clarifying corporate sponsorship in articles endorsing or commenting about products.
“With their growing power, bloggers should think of ways to be responsible about their articles and deeds before any others,” Prof. Kang Mi-eun of Sookmyung Women’s University was quoted as saying to a local paper.
By Bae Ji-sook (firstname.lastname@example.org)