Jun 22 2007

Commercialisation of the Aussosphere

Published by Meg at 6:07 pm under Aussosphere, Australian Blogs

As an Australian blogger, how often are you getting “pitched” to by web startups or PR firms? How receptive are you?

I’ve noticed the number of pitches are increasing for me. Some I write about, others I don’t. The pitches can be anything from a really awkward attempt (filled with broken links, shocking grammar and punctuation - but I won’t embarrass the author) to a really slick professional approach (don’t have to do much work, here’s all the details including photos, screen shots and logos).

Zest Digital wrote about a blogger relations campaign last month and pointed to an excellent post on Sensual Gourmet called blogger relations 101, a must read for anyone considering pitching to a blogger. This includes tips such as approaching bloggers similarly to journalists, personalising the approach, watching your tone, not to spam, watching spelling and grammar…

I see this as a trend that is only going to increase in Australia, as larger corporations attempt to embrace the “social” aspect of the web, and tap into the Aussosphere as a PR channel.

Yesterday Laurel wrote about ROI on Engaging Bloggers. Toyota in Greece got 15 bloggers to test drive their new Auris and report their findings. The results were extremely interesting. The point Laurel makes at the end is very important

Actually, I guess one area of concern is that traditional media know what side of their bread has got the organic butter on: bloggers only allegiance is to their passion and their conscience. So if your car (product/service) sucks, a magazine might be ‘even handed’ in their review. After all, you also pay for advertising, and they want to be invited to press events again. Bloggers will simply say it sucks and lists the reasons why. And that is the crux of the matter - why people trust social media and complete strangers to ‘expert testimony’ and ‘trained journalism’.

“Bloggers only allegiance is to their passion and their conscience”. I like that phrase.

But I wonder if that will change with commercialisation of blogging, such as the introduction of “pay per post” type reviews, sponsorship and the controversy of the Microsoft Ferrari saga last year. My feeling is that, for the most part, a blogger’s reputation is of paramount importance - both to the blogger and the reader of the blog. This reputation is built on credibility, integrity, transparency and impartiality.

Being self-employed (or self-unemployed!), allows us the freedom of choice to write about whatever we damn well feel like. This is what differentiates us from those paid to write, we don’t have to worry about biting the hand that feeds us.

But as blogging increases in exposure, in viability as a revenue source, and becomes more attractive as a PR avenue, what will happen to this credibility? Could your opinion be bought?

Update: Ross Dawson examines this issue in The Increasingly Tight Limits of Propriety for Bloggers. He writes

The bloggers in this campaign have not done anything that would affect how any reasonable person would perceive their integrity. They have not endorsed anyone. They’ve shared their thoughts on a topic. The fact that some of these bloggers have now shied away or even apologized shows that their sensitivity to potential perceptions is extreme. The degree of propriety expected of bloggers now goes far beyond that expected for mainstream media. That there is transparency and debate on the limits of propriety is good. However it is crazy to say that sharing opinions and ideas is wrong, when these could apply to any company, any product, and any service, and are not linked to any of these.

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16 Responses to “Commercialisation of the Aussosphere”

  1. Snoskredon 23 Jun 2007 at 12:07 am

    It’d cost a lot of money to shut me up, that much I know. I’m not going to lie about something in order to get paid by an advertiser. :) However, I do like to focus on the positive and not the negative, so chances are they would get a fairly positive review anyway. Unless they’re really bad at what they do.

    Snoskred
    http://snoskred.blogspot.com/

  2. Christine Parfitton 23 Jun 2007 at 9:20 am

    Good post Meg with some useful links. The publisher of a search marketing magazine emailed me and asked if he could send me a copy. I said yes, he sent it and I blogged about it because I wanted to. He didn’t ask for a review and there was no payment involved. I haven’t had any “pitches” as such although I have received other similar emails offering free trials of products but without any direct connection to writing about the product.

    The issues are interesting and it’s good to see debate on disclosure and credibility.

  3. Andrew Kaplanon 23 Jun 2007 at 10:58 pm

    This is a topic of interest especially if it relates to areas such as politics, pharmaceuticals or other areas that may have a direct impact on our lives. Imagine a pharmaceutical company paying bloggers to discuss their medicines.

    The reality of blogging for many bloggers is that it is difficult to build an audience and pay for posts for a large company or high profile site could raise awareness of the blogger which will turn into subscribers/traffic. The pay on top of that makes it difficult to resist.

    This has been the debate between “paid journalists” and bloggers. The blurred distinctions such of these have crept into major media and news outlets in the form of “video stories” pre-packaged about a new medical breakthrough or new product.

    As far as this adventure, I decided to blog about a George Clooney movie, which I worked on called “Leatherheads” (to be released in the US Dec 7). My concept was to blog my experiences and then to continue to blog about this movie so that this would raise my profile. I wasn’t paid for it, however, my strategy was to see if I could somehow link with the PR dept and build traffic during this time.

    Also, this week I signed up for a pay for post service and found about 2% of products or services, which I could blog about where I had a belief in the product.

    Andy Kaplan
    eWarrior and MediaMensch Networks
    www.ewarrior.com
    www.mediamensch.com

  4. Megon 23 Jun 2007 at 11:19 pm

    Snos

    I like that approach - to focus on the positive. Sometimes it’s what you DON’T say that speaks volumes.

    Christine

    I think that link to Sensual Gourmet is a classic “how to” - essential reading for any PR firm contemplating the blog approach. It IS an interesting topic.

    Andy

    I haven’t really investigated the pay per post option, but I imagine reputable bloggers would do as you - only choose to write about a product they feel worthy of endorsement.

    Thanks for all your input.

  5. Andrew Kaplanon 23 Jun 2007 at 11:32 pm

    I noticed on the payperpost site they rank the top bloggers in the pay for post website by dollar amount earned. There are some bloggers who have earned close to $10,000 US (12,000 AUD) when the average article that I have seen pays about $12 US.

    Andy

  6. Colin Campbellon 24 Jun 2007 at 2:46 am

    I don’t blog for money, don’t really have a plan and would not be interested in any approach. Happy to write about whatever, but that would take away most of the fun. Interesting all the same as the aussie blogosphere tries to work out where we all fit in. That is the great thing about it, we can all fit in. As in life not all of us will meet our objectives, whatever they may be.

  7. Megon 24 Jun 2007 at 6:29 pm

    I’ve updated this post to include a link to Ross Dawson, as what he writes is highly relevant:
    http://www.rossdawsonblog.com/weblog/archives/2007/06/the_increasingl.html

  8. […] last post discussed the credibility of a blogger. Behaviour like this does nothing to enhance credibility. Either this blogger has been the victim […]

  9. Steven Lewison 25 Jun 2007 at 9:43 am

    Thanks for the link, Meg. As a social media agency we’re being approached by a number of clients wanting to engage in blogger relations. I’m a former journalist and PR person so I’ve pitched and been pitched in “old” media. I’d be interested in gathering the views of Australian bloggers on being pitched, even if it hasn’t yet happened to. I think it would make for an interesting paper.

    If you or anyone reading the blog would be willing to swap notes with me, I’d love to hear from you.

  10. […] writes that she is being pitched more frequently by companies wanting a mention on her blog. Her post […]

  11. Steven Nobleon 25 Jun 2007 at 5:35 pm

    With my personal blog, I get pitched about once every few months by local politicians, state politicians, their staff and lobby groups.

    Usually, it’s to try to alter my view on something I’ve posted about. (I tend to be forthright about political issues, but hard to put into neat boxes like “left” and “right”.)

    If the post takes the form of an email, my approach is usually to direct them to the comments page where they should feel free to upload their opinion.

    When the approach takes the form of a comment, I definitely rate it. In fact, my opinions have been changed in the past by comments left on my blog.

    No one has approached me about briefing me on local political issues but I’d definitely consider it if I thought the encounter was going to be well managed.

  12. Megon 25 Jun 2007 at 9:23 pm

    @ Steven (Lewis)

    “no worries” - it was an interesting piece (I’ll email you directly)

    @ Steven (Noble)

    It’s great that they are reading your blog to get a local’s perspective. I think it’s fair that you direct them to your comments - it’s about the conversation after all. There’s no point trying to convince just one person, because then it puts the onus on you to do their bidding. Better to keep the conversation open and let your reader’s make up their minds…

    It will be interesting to see if there’s more focus on the “community voice” by politicians in the next election - I imagine it would require delicate management.

  13. Laurel Papworthon 26 Jun 2007 at 3:33 pm

    Hiya Megalicious, I always draw a distinction between a nice ‘reader’ pointing out a cool fact about a social network they are attached to, and a nasteh ‘corporate type’ who wants me to drum up Google Juice for their boring-as-batshit site. I can’t tell you how I know the difference, but I just do. Passion for passion maybe. Tho that sounds positively carnal. :P Still, I try to hat tip or point out that I was emailed with the info and the relationship that person had with the site being reviewed.

    When its a begging letter, offering rewards, its lots of fun to Google the company later especially blogsearch.google.com and see who took the bait. heh. A bit dangerous - I could out a few bloggers who blogged, took the goodies and never fessed up that they done it. Shall consider blackmailing them instead. BTW I think I was niaive. Just been through the dark world of blog recycling - people write blogs for 6 months then sell them to Google ad barons. Not every blogger is passionate.

    *disclaimer: Will blog for cocktails - meg is paying me in margaritas to comment here. Heh. :p

  14. Megon 26 Jun 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Hehe :D Do you blackmail for margaritas too, or raise the price to cover a bottle of your favourite liquor?

  15. […] has opened up a discussion on the growing trend for bloggers in Australia to receive pitches from companies seeking to form […]

  16. […] - as I mentioned recently this is built on credibility, integrity, transparency and impartiality. Being yourself, being […]