Bloggers v. The Community In The Great Mileage War

There’s a lively discussion going on among feisty members of the MilesBuzz! forum on Flyertalk about a blogger’s role in the mileage and airfare deal community.

At issue is a group of bloggers who have been scouring the forums at sites such as theirs, identifying the best deals and then publishing the information in their blogs. Built for a wider audience, the blogs bring enormous traffic, often leading to a change in terms or cancellation of the deals.

Think of it like a trampoline. If two or three people discover the trampoline and take a jump, everyone has a good time. But if the entire town is invited, the trampoline breaks.

As an example, a recent loophole discovered by members of the forum found that prepaid spending cards could be loaded for no fee with a credit card, meaning one could charge two thousand dollars to a prepaid card, earn reward points and then pay off everything with no fee. The result was a way to effectively earn points for free, something that any budget traveler would swoon for.

Once the blog community caught wind of the deal, however, the financial companies got wise and changed their terms. Members of Flyertalk were enraged.

Further inflaming the situation is the income that many of the bloggers are earning from their sites. A blogger can poach a deal from Flyertalk, several community members pointed out, earn thousands of hits to their site and then burden the reader with dozens of potentially profitable credit card ads. Each credit card application processed from a referral link could score the blogger up to $200. Need an example? Count the credit card ads here. With a popup blocker enabled, I still count 20. Another blogger meticulously shows that with credit card offers he can make about $4000/month in extra income.

On the other side of the coin, bloggers point out that they do a service to the masses by distilling complex info into a simple, easy to read format. But are they putting their pocket books in front of the community?

It’s a grey area. On one hand it seems that the credit card companies have so much influence over the bloggers that they’ll post anything that they think will drive traffic. But on the other hand, public data is public data, and if they want to do the work to build the articles then traffic should dictate success. Whether they can do it with class is up to each blogger respectively. My guess is that when the axe man (ie FTC) comes calling all dues will be paid.

[Flickr image: sfbaywalk]