I’m sad. In fact, I’m depressed. Truth be told, I’m downright despondent. No one, not one single
manufacturing company has ever sent me a free product sample in the hopes that I’d write a glowing review.
I don’t deal well with rejection. I tend to internalize things, cut myself, contemplate ending it all in some dramatic way. So, when I read that pay-for-play is a big, and growing, trend in blogging, I curl up in the fetal position for a whole weekend.
All I need is some sign. Some indication that an Apple or a Panasonic or a Coach knows I’m not only alive but ready, willing and quite able to blatantly hype their product. I’ll shill. Just show me some love.
And, here’s another benefit. I won’t tell anyone you’ve given me your product either. There will be none of that transparency nonsense with this blogger. In fact, I’ll follow the lead of Louise Crawford, who created an annual blogging event she calls ‘Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn’ (say, what?).
Crawford was recently called on the carpet by the blogging community for accepting Absolut Vodka’s offer to sponsor her contest. Absolut even created a special drink for the festival called the Brooklyn Spike (named in honor of Spike Lee, another event sponsor). BTW, if it’s a festival for bloggers, how come I wasn’t invited? Looks like another weekend spent in the fetal position. And, check this out, Absolut offered participating bloggers free gifts, including a bottle of Brooklyn Spike and a small digital camera in exchange for coverage. In all, nine bloggers accepted the vodka and eight got cameras. Me? I didn’t even get a dirty shot glass.
Critics of such blatant pay-for-play dubbed Ms. Crawford’s festival a ‘ShillFest.’ Others felt it exposed the sleazy underbelly of blogging. It turns out many bloggers never, ever reveal the largesse driving their content (note: even the legendary TechCrunch was recently nailed when a writer accepted a MacBook computer in exchange for covering a start-up company. That seems like a pretty good deal to me). As the Brooklyn controversy took hold (much as a second shot of vodka starts to take hold and dull one’s senses) some of the pay-for-play bloggers began admitting they’d received gifts from Absolut. But, good ol’ Ms. Crawford didn’t see what all the fuss was about. “I thought of my post as a piece of writing,” she whined, “and they sent me a bottle of vodka.” Good for you, Ms. Crawford. And, I’ll bet the vodka made your writing that much more creative.
So, here’s a plaintive plea from a lonely, dejected overlooked blogger who’d positively kill for a cool pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, a Mammut trekking jacket or a shiny, new Rolex. Send me the freebie and I’ll make it sound like the best thing since sliced bread. Hell, I’ll even write a positive blog if Chevy, or Chevrolet, or whatever the hell they’re now calling the company, sent me one of their clunkers. I can be had, Corporate America. This gun’s for hire.
Agreed, Steve. It’s why Ed made the joke about Foster calling me “Frank”. Lousy CEO.
Really interesting comments, Anurag4 (BTW what is an anurag?). I respect your refusal to pull the post down. I’d do the same.
Interesting post. I write a blog with an ex-P’commer about meals and deals in NYC and we are often invited out to dinner by PR reps (read: we don’t pay for our meals or drinks). We are nervous about the ethical implications, so we always disclose an invitation in the beginning of our post and we always write a fair review, regardless of if we paid out of our own pocket or not. In a recent case, we weren’t bowled over with a restaurant, so we noted both the positives and negatives of our dining experience. We think that seems fair. Apparently the restaurant owner was none too pleased and it caused quite a commotion with the PR rep. We refused to take the post down or edit it and we declined other invitations from the PR rep. I didn’t like feeling pressured to write a positive review just because they invited us to try a restaurant. We’ll have to seriously rethink future invitations because it’s starting to get a little sticky.
You make some really good points, Art. Some bloggers probably are probably struggling financially and willing to write positive posts about a freebie they’ve just received from a manufacturer. And, with the latter, it’s an easy way to game the system and ensure positive press. Seems to me both sides of the equation need to be more transparent about the transaction.
It all comes down to ethics (or lack, thereof). When he was at Newsweek, Ben Bradlee took a lot of heat for writing puff pieces about his friend, JFK. The latter allowed and denied access based upon how favorably a reporter covered his administration. Jim Foster was the same way, Bob.
“It probably also makes them feel like “players…””
Reporters suffer from a similar poison: Access.
Not to dis bloggers (and certainly not to dis Repmanblog) but I have personally shied away from blogging simply because there are no barriers to entry of any kind. I’m all for democratization of the Internet, but I suspect that many a disaffected copywriter laid off by an agency saw blogging as an easy way to start up their own business and keep on writing. I equally suspect that few if any of them put together any kind of business plan that would result in earning any real money. So many of those who shill probably do so because they feel it’s a form of compensation. It probably also makes them feel like “players” to have big companies dote on them with freebies. I absolutely agree with you–I don’t think it’s right. But I do think it’s an unfortunate side effect of the democratization of the Internet coupled with the unscrupulous nature of corporate marketing today.
That’s correct, Greg. Send me a free product and I’ll write a puff piece that will redefine the word biased.
If “this gun’s for hire” I don’t think you can be a straight shooter