Amy Oztan, who blogs at SelfishMom.com, is particularly transparent when it comes to her sponsors. She has a lot of them — companies who pay her, in money or in product, to advertise on her site or to mention them. Oztan has an entire section explaining how she makes her money, including an extensive index of tabs she uses to alert readers to the economics of everything she writes. It starts with Level 1 — “The product or service mentioned was provided to Amy free of charge (or at a considerable discount not available to the public)” — and goes up to Level 13: “This is a sponsored post. Amy was compensated to write this post. While Amy’s opinions in the post are authentic, talking points may have been suggested by the sponsor.”
Now, here at Oblogatory, I have nothing so formal as a written hierarchy of the many ways I can be compromised, so I thought I might offer a few tips to help you, the guileless reader, determine to what degree I’m in the tank at any given time:
1. Whenever you see the phrase, “batteries not included, except for me they were,” it’s likely the appliance being discussed was provided to me by the manufacturer for my evaluation. Don’t worry—I clean off all such items before sending them back.
2. If I should include a digression such as, “And flavors such as Smooth Ranch, Creamy Picante, and Spicy Cheddar, available in convenient single-size servings as well as the 10 oz. economy size,” in, say, the middle of an obituary, it is likely that a retail distributor or manufacturer’s rep has offered me complimentary snack food products—not to influence my opionion, mind you, but merely to assuage my grief.
3. “Wow, the patented Reflex Filter™ and proprietary on-screen user guide made the entire experience a dream come true, in spite of my severed artery,” is the kind of thing I might say when I’ve received an envelope stuffed with cash and an unsigned note saying, “Keep up the good work plugging the new gadget. Mr. N. at HQ is very pleased.”
4. A tangential refererence such as, “And by the way, there’s never been a better time to book a vacation getaway to Libya on Qadaffhi Airlines,” might indicate that regular monthly deposits to my Swiss bank account have had their intended effect.
5. Anytime I mention how wonderful a certain brand name prescription medication makes me feel without also mentioning that I feel bugs crawling on me when I stop taking it, it may be because a certain friend at OmniGlobe Pharmaceuticals makes sure that I don’t ever have have to stop taking it. (Thanks, Larry!)
6. Finally, if you see introductory clauses such as, “I know I said WordMaster Pro was the biggest piece of shit to hit the software market in some time, but upon further review…” it would be reasonable to infer that substantial inducements—including, but not limited to, cash, cases of that Cabernet I like so much, and introductions to 19-year-old exotic dancers named Megan—may have influenced my opinion.