Saturday, June 23, 2007

A-list Bloggers, ReviewMe, PayperPost…what’s the difference?

A group of A-list bloggers, including Michael Arrington, Om Malik and others stand accused of writing paid for/ad-supported praises of Microsoft latest campaign.

Valleywag writes that John Battelle's Federated Media, who manages advertising support for the named A-list blogs got them to write puff pieces.

Puff pieces are common in the print and TV media, with even the best casually reporting Press Releases as actual news worthy events, often praising below-average products from big companies as life changing offerings.

News blogging was meant to change this muddy scenery with intelligent and honest analysis.
However, we all seem to have slipped somewhere down the line of evolution.

Balancing the demands of honest reporting and making money often puts the blogger/entrepreneur on a slippery ground; many publishing upstarts across all medium know this. That said this ‘A-list slipping’ doesn’t help the beleagured cause of intelligent and useful blogging.

Mike Arrington of Techcrunch has often been accused of traversing a grey line on objectivity.

All this leads one to debate where there is indeed any difference between paid- for reviews done by ReviewMe and PayPerPost and so-called elite bloggers.

This post by Michael Arrington covering a Microsoft product release is symptomatic about the issue on hand.
You can gauge how fawning the writeup really is.


A quick response by Om Malik, who is a seasoned and respected journalist, when Valleywag broke this story.

A collection of MediaVidea posts on A-Lists, ethics and related matters:

5 Questions for Bill Gates (re: When Bill met a group of fawning bloggers)

Ethics 101 for blog network Owners

The Attention Economy is an A-lister's Economy

Rules of the Superstar Economy

Downsides of the A-list Phenomenom

Update (24.6.2007)

Jeff Jarvis' analysis of the episode:
While some top bloggers in questions have responded with "I am shocked",or "I am amused" statements, Jeff Jarvis says this episode is a cautioanry tale for bloggers everywhere:

I tried to warn Federated when I adamantly turned down two prior similar campaigns, telling them that this would reflect poorly on the bloggers who do it, possibly on bloggers as a whole, on the network itself, and in the end on the advertisers. But they kept trying to push the boundaries, because that’s what advertisers and thus sales people do.

So ultimately, this is a cautionary tale for all bloggers who take ads: You must set your own boundaries and not let them be pushed. When you do — whatever those boundaries are — that is the very definition of selling out.

In each of these cases, the advertiser’s effort is to get more closely associated with us, our content, our reputations, our brands. They’d like get into our pants mouths. They want us to speak their names. Nicely.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Top 10 Irritating words for bloggers

I bet by now you must have read about this list of top irritating words spawned by the internet. Surprisingly, the top 5 are: folksonomy, blogosphere, blog, netiquette, and blook. The list is a result of a survey by UK based Yougov who polled 2091 people – I am sure most of this pitifully miniscule sample has nothing to do with blogging and tagging…and wiki for the matter which was the tenth on list.

So, without much ado, here is this blogger’s highly subjective list of top 10 Irritating words for bloggers:

Digg Buries
Blog Networks
Spam Blogs
Adsense riches
Top 10
Digg effect
Comments (either you don’t get any or you get so many rants you shut it off)

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Lawrence Lessig’s Plan B to save the world

Lawrence Lessig, who founded Creative Commons, who played a special role in the Microsoft anti-trust case and who also wrote “Code”, has decided after 10 years of dogged activism, that the cause for public domain, net neutrality and limited copyright terms can be served better when you strike at the roots of it all – namely, government corruption – money from big corporations going to politicians just so that the lawmakers keep churning up insane, suffocating laws that hinder public good and creativity.

The DMCA, formulated during Bill Clinton’s president ship in 1998 is a shining example of such a law.

Recognizing that the fundamentals of modern government machinery are themselves rotten, appropriately, Mr. Lessig has decided to shift the focus of his activism towards corruption and how it influences legislation - big money, lobbying, buying people, election funding - go figure.

Not surprisingly, Google has decided to follow Microsoft’s example and is busy building a lobbying engine in Washington. One obvious reason is the raising concern for privacy issues. The Search giant stores an astonishing amount of users’ data and no one is feeling any comfortable with this.

The nexus between governments and big corporations promises to suffocate manifold in digital universe inhabited in most parts by libertarian people.

Who knows? The worst of laws have yet to come.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Matt Haughey suggests doing away with ads for regular users

Some may call this counter-intuitive wisdom. Matt Haughey, who founded Metafilter, suggests websites to have a two-pronged ad strategy – show ads to new users and shut off the ads for regulars and site members, aka ‘the superfans’.

Matt bolsters his argument by pointing that a major portion of any site’s visitors are new users, often directed by search engines and thus you won’t be hurt much financially.

Advertisers who are paying to put ads on your site (unlike Adsense) may miss out in reaching your ‘core group’ of users and you CPM deals may take a hit.

Last year, Seth Godin said something similar, albeit more cynically, about big sites being okay with not caring much with the one-time visitors.

I guess there will always be a struggle in publishers’ minds about the amount of advertising to shown on their properties. Then there are aesthetic considerations to boot.

Whether these suggestions are applicable to social networking sites including the ‘in-thing’ Facebook, I am not so sure – people are so busy looking for new ‘friends’ and 'spam targets' that I am sure they don’t mind the ads much.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Three Things I don't like about CNN

The other day, I read an article quoting the Time Warner chairman saying that the real problem is CNN not which is doing well.

So, here is a take from the Asian side:

Too begin with, CNN is too, for want of a better word, 'magaziny', perhaps trying too hard to become Time magazine-like, whose time is itself gone now, for the increasingly prosperous and aspirational Asian audience.

1. Interviews far too many celebrities.
2. Lots of bland anchors and presenters who try too hard to inject their personalities into the program -everyone wants to become Michael Palin.
3. Few shows worth watching week after week: the only two shows worth watching on CNN right now are The Daily Show (from Comedy Central) and Richard Quest's show.

It doesn't grab you the way BBC does with forthright text and imagery- documentary like video - or, maybe I have better reception than my friends.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Three Things I don't like about the BBC

The BBC is the benchmark as far as news quality and coverage go for quite a long time and there is nothing that can be added to this account. However, there have been times when the Beeb has been over the board while covering the news.

I have been a long watcher of the channel and the local cable operator will vouch for my testy feistiness when I don’t get the signal, as was the case when BBC World went completely digital and turned Pay.

1. The Queen and Brand Britain: There is too much of the ‘royal focus’ and may be it is because the royals are Britain’s primary global branding weapon. That said, it becomes a bit heavy to learn about Prince William’s latest girlfriend.

2. Religion: BBC is renown for its objective reporting but it can’t help itself from covering the Pope’s visit, and at times it can too Catholic for its own good.

3. Using the ‘Great’ attribute liberally: Although not in huge doses like other news channels, the BBC uses the ‘Great’ attribute liberally when covering events such as auctions – the Beatles and Andy Warhol may have been icons for the Baby Boomers but they are blips for rest of us – why not call the truth and say that the Looter businessmen of Russia and the newly rich in Asia can’t make a difference between Warhol and Damien Hearst, art being nothing more than wallpaper/Trophies at the Mantlepiece.

A case may be pointed for Britain becoming the playground for the newly rich from all the sad parts of the world and the news media is loosing the objectivity over it.

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