He has been thinking of late about the ethics of expense accounting in journalism, and specifically on who pays the bills, and he has some interesting observations on how his criticism is affected when the funds come from his pocket.
He suggests most critics can't be clear-minded because their employers are footing the bills. When he reviewed a $400-a-night hotel recently, it dawned on him that he was suddenly bound to be more consumer-conscious --- he was, after all, now a consumer, and had to determine if the room fixtures and luxuries were really worth it.
Niles suggests, too, that one of the reasons user-generated review sites are so popular is that they are being graded by people who you will be if you choose that experience. Imagine, he says, if sports events were only reviewed by those who had to pay to see them.
He provides a good perspective on how the context shifts when you're the benefactor and not only the beneficiary.