Sunday, June 24, 2007

Paying bloggers for comments

There's been quite a dust-up in the blogosphere lately about a deal where Microsoft paid "A-list" bloggers to repeat the company's "people ready" catch phrase in various ways. There's been some useful discussion contrasting "old media" attitudes and attributes (like independence) against the supposed We-The-Media values of the blogosphere.

Turns our some of the citizen journalists were, crudely speaking, for sale.

Of course there have been sins enough to go around amongst professional journalists, in recent times ranging from Jason Blair to Judith Miller. Just last week, there was some flurry over campaign contributions made by professional newsies, including a few at what are now McClatchy operations. (Considering that the story discovered contributions from 143 of more than 50,000 professional journalists, I'd argue that our 99.68% purity rate ain't too bad.)

Microsoft and some of the people they paid characterized the practice as "conversational marketing." Whew; where's George Orwell when you need him? But to its credit, the blogosphere itself mainly identified, criticized and rejected the practice out of hand. Some of the paid-for-bloggers openly repented, and you can be sure few will want to participate in the future.

The best discussion I've seen is happening over at BuzzMachine, where Jeff Jarvis weighs in against the practice. Some of the best discussion is in the comments that follow; I'd encourage you to read all the way through.

One interesting avenue of discussion: What's the difference between "integrity" and "authenticity" in this debate?

1 comment:

  1. I think the difference here is that having "integrity" means that you believe what you were paid to say, but having "authenticity" means that you would have been compelled to say it even if you hadn't been paid. I believe a lot of things that I never feel compelled to blog about and if I *did* blog about them it would imply that they were far more important to me than they actually are.

    For example, I believe that chicken salad should contain chopped celery. I could jump atop the chopped celery soapbox anytime, anywhere, and not be lying. Would that be an authentic representation of my passion about the whole chopped celery issure? Ah... no.

    I think transparency is a very important factor-- like when celebrities endorse a product. I think celebrity endorsement is actually favorable to having random "experts" endorse things because it is so transparent.

    Were the paid bloggers allowed to be transparent? Could one have gone on a blog and said "You won't BELIEVE what Microsoft is paying me to do! All I have to do is say [whatever they were paid to say] and they'll pay me!" At least that would have been honest, authentic and transparent :).

    - Mary