Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

Since When Does Being Poor Give People Credibility?

You know, this whole debate over the Federated Media "People Ready" ad campaign really chaps my a$$. For the record, I'm not affiliated with Federated Media in any way. But what I really don't understand is, why do people always get up in arms whenever the topic of bloggers getting paid comes up. We don't live in a socialist society, so it's not like the Government takes care of me. I have to take care of myself. So why is the blogosphere so against me getting paid to do what I love? And why would getting paid to do what I love make me lose credibility? So I have more credibility if I'm a tortured artist than if I'm a well-fed writer? Give me a break man.

So if you're someone who is against this, ask yourself this question: Would you all be so self-righteous if Apple was doing this kind of thing for an iPhone ad campaign? Everyone only seems to have a problem with it when Microsoft does it.



  • Michael said:

    I think it is perfectly acceptable for bloggers to be paid. journalists are paid for their work--why not bloggers? I  think that as long as blogs aren't used as pawns and bloggers continue to write on their own accord, 'plogs,' or paid blogs, will only serve to increase accuracy, even-handedness, and currency/relevancy.

    June 23, 2007 4:08 PM
  • I'm all for bloggers getting paid. But when someone gets paid to make a statement/endorse a product which they would not otherwise make/endorse, then they go from insightful blogger to corporate spokesperson. They've essentially sold a bit of themselves to the highest bidder.

    And, BTW, Apple isn't doing this and won't do it b/c they don't need to. Plenty of people are talking about the iPhone yet they are not getting paid for it. How many people who are not getting paid to do it are talking about their "people-ready" businesses?

    I think that helps to illustrate part of the problem.

    June 23, 2007 4:53 PM
  • Dave Winer said:

    It wouldn't make a difference if it were Apple, or Google, or even a small company.

    The people involved are confusing their readers, no matter who is paying.

    That you think it's "self-righteous" tells me that you're prejudged all of us, and that you're likely to cast any criticism in a negative light.

    June 23, 2007 5:57 PM
  • Webomatica said:

    In regards to Apple, I see it this way: if you have a product that isn't generating any buzz on its own, go back and rethink what you need to do with that product to make people want to write about it for free.

    Too much money wasted on marketing when the answer is pretty simple. Instead of trying to prop up something less than perfect with stellar marketing, how about make a stellar product and let marketing happen all on its own?

    June 23, 2007 6:05 PM
  • Bob Jones said:

    With full discolsure, who cares?

    June 23, 2007 6:24 PM
  • JoeM said:

    I have no problem with this.  I wish I could work for MSFT to help make their products better, while working with my customers whom tell me their computer problems and ideas.

    June 23, 2007 7:42 PM
  • Srini said:

    It's not socialism, it's ETHICS brother.  Microsoft plays fast and loose with ethics since even temporary advantage could mean millions in upside, but ultimately, ethics ARE good business.  Marketers should be incredibly sensitive about the possibility of violating ethical standards, which they are, because you don't see BMW or any other serious firm spamming do you?  It's bad business.  You don't spam people, and you don't say that you came up with a topic when a corporation paid you to write about it, not if your positioning is one which relies upon credibility.   Bad business.

    So it is the ethical apathy of your opinion that strikes me.  Would you really so casually let Microsoft directly speak through the voices of some of the most respected tech bloggers?  Is Microsoft next going after university professors?  Must everyone, even independently successful individuals such as Om Malik, be on the marketeer's price list?  Tattoos on our kids next?

    I'm sure I'm characterizing you, and that there is a line that you, too, would not want crossed.  In my opinion, you just set the line a little further away from strict delineation of content and advertising than others.  If this is the case, if you would really rather not see RJ Reynolds secretly sponsoring stop-smoking clinics, then perhaps you can recognize the slippery slope here.  The definition of a slippery slope is that the first step is a doozy; it is to the credit of Federated's bloggers that they balked at this particular business model.  

    Personally I think that Federated green-lighted this idea at a high-level "concept" phase instead of really visualizing what this kind of sponsorship might mean.  I think there was shoddy thinking going on here on all sides, and I think that's because of an endemic apathy to ethics especially when money is on the table, but I think it's a cultural apathy in which Federated has partaken, especially given the current fervor to  to "monetize traffic" by any means necessary.  It is forgivable - once.  They are lucky their "customer-facing staff" - the bloggers - saw the disgust on audiences' faces as soon as the Valleywag article came out, and put a stop to the experiment.

    Ultimately, Microsoft made a really stupid business move.  It is clear that such a campaign is payola and would be seen as such should it be revealed.  It is clear the risks are far greater than the rewards; any publicity is NOT good publicity, and they have made their investment in product development seem inadequate through such desperate, pathetic marketing promotion.  These are business arguments based on ethics, not "socialism".   I think it's deeply ideological that you would confuse the two, but I certainly respect that it is indeed you and only you who say and believe this, not Microsoft.

    - Srini

    June 23, 2007 8:03 PM
  • Webomatica, That would be a great idea, but everything I hear about the iPhone says it will be a less than stellar product, and I don't hear the din getting any quieter. My point is, if Apple came to a blogger and said, "we'll pay you $5000 to try out the iPhone for two weeks and write a review", I bet most people would do it, just so they could get their hands on one.

    Dave, the part of that statement that concerns me is that it you think readers are easily confused. Personally, I assume that my readers are smart, and in most cases, smarter than me. I saw this campaign weeks ago, and I sure wasn't "confused" by it, so I doubt my readers were, either. Any confusion in the situation only came after people raised questions and all hell broke loose.

    The part that I think is self-righteous is that some people think that bloggers are just individual voices, but should be held to the same standards as journalists. What are you then, a blogger, or a journalist?

    And as for money "tainting the credibility", celebrities get paid for endorsements all the time. Ed Bott pointed out a fantastic example: Not only did Gene Shalitt get paid to endorse TiVo, he gets residuals every time it is aired. How is that any different from the revenue that FM is getting from their banner ads?

    June 24, 2007 3:06 AM
  • Jef Wallace said:

    Perhaps these bloggers you speak of would take the iPod and write about their experience, but they certainly wouldn't breach ethics the way you seem to advocate so passionately.  You're so eager for bloggers to monetize their efforts, so eager for Microsoft to promote its products by any means necessary.  It is hard to hear someone in your generation so ethically challenged.  Gene Shalit endorsing TiVo is an upfront transaction well supported by capitalism.  Payola, on the other hand, was prosecuted against the record industry's influence over DJ's in the '50s.  It is unethical, and in some cases outright illegal, and for very good reason.

    - Jef

    June 24, 2007 3:46 AM
  • "How my generation is so ethically challenged?" Wow. Well, since parents are the ones that teach their kids ethics, I think *your* generation was the ethically-challenged one, and they just passed it down. Personally, I had great parents who taught me right and wrong, and I handle my ethics just fine thank you very much.

    So why do you talk about my generation being unethical, and then talk about some company from the 50's?

    As I said, Gene Shalit is getting residuals from the Screen Actor's Guild every time that commercial airs. How is that any different from banner ad revenue?

    Still, no one has come off their high horse and explained in a simple and concise manner why it is wrong. And Jef, how about citing some examples on how it is "illegal"? You say it's "for very good reason"... how about sharing with the rest of us?

    June 24, 2007 12:38 PM
  • Srini, thank you for taking the time to explain your point clearly and concisely.  

    "You don't spam people, and you don't say that you came up with a topic when a corporation paid you to write about it, not if your positioning is one which relies upon credibility. Bad business."

    Here's what I don't understand. It was perfectly clear to me when I saw the site a month ago that it was an advertising campaign. The way I understand it, these bloggers were not paid for their opinion, but they were paid for the ads that ran in the network.

    So here's my question: We're not journalists. We are individuals who have opinions and their own websites. a) Why is this any different than an advertorial or a paid endorsement, and b) why are people talking about ethical rules like there is some blogger regulation that has been broken? There are no rules, each blogger blogs as they see fit. They chose to talk about how they were "people ready". That campaign was not about any one Microsoft product.

    So, is the problem that they didn't disclose? Or that they endorsed Microsoft?

    June 24, 2007 1:17 PM
  • Ali said:

    Srini, morality is like this. the more you talk of it. the less you have of it. Robert, you dont have to give a rat's *** to these *** ***** out there.

    June 25, 2007 3:36 AM
  • glennyboiwpg said:

    Here is the problem from my point of view.  If you write for say... zdnet and they pay you a salary to write on behalf of them... fine, cool, whatever.

    But if a company hands you a product and i'll say it... APPLE gives you a MACBOOK PRO and says hey its YOURS KEEP IT, and oh by the way, could you write an article about this?   then that is wrong!

    its wrong because it puts you in a conflict of interest, we will read your article and say... hmph yeah right as if he is going to say something wrong about that product... he's being paid to say that. (in a sense)

    thats the difference.  Its not getting paid that makes it wrong, its how you get paid.  

    ps I used apple as an example as microsoft fanboys think that Apple gets away with everything and poor microsoft gets nailed every time.  Its wrong no matter who does it.

    June 25, 2007 9:36 AM
  • Richard said:

    If you are not a journalist. If as you say, you are just an individual with an opinion, what makes you think that is worth being paid for? Everyone's got an opinion.

    What level of professional insight have you brought to the debate, that would warrant being paid. What would your motivation be for your comments and would that motivation be open to public scrutiny. Would you be accountable to some form of Blogging code of conduct that would render you subject to punative damages, loss of income or an enforcable blogging ban for a transgression of the code?

    Don't misunderstand me. I think blogging is the next wave of human news services. But it's fairly young (6-7 years only) and the sorts of rules that need to exist to make it open and honest just aren't in place. Until they are and until people can expect a similar level of integrity and due diligence from a blogger as they have every right to expect from a professional journalist then really, where's the value?

    If Michael Jackson endorses Pepsi or the latest hollywood bimbo endorses a moisturising cream nobody expects them to have anything but a commercial interest in the product that they are peddling. The fact that they have been bought is well known. But a blogger who has spent some time developing a following because of his or her insight, humor, speed, website graphics, marketing etc, etc...

    That person may not deserve to be believed if a company offers cash/goods for a positive review especially if he or she is behind on the rent that month.

    That is the difference between a journalist and a blogger. One has made a lifetime commitment to a profession and the other may be open to the highest bidder. The audience has no way of knowing!

    Ethics are not a simple topic. Blogging currently has no enforcable ethical standard.  But I'm sure that one will arrive.

    These things take time. Until then, just blog. If you wan't to be paid to write then become a professional writer. I'm sure there is work out there.

    p.s I am not a journalist, nor do I ever remember meeting one!

    June 30, 2007 7:42 AM
  • Tim Long said:

    There is a lot of bigotry surrounding this subject. I blog and currently I don't get paid. However, I run my own IT business and when possible I try to plug my business or explain my company's ethics and philosophy. That's my payback for the effort I need to put into blogging. So, in effect, I pay myself to blog - although no money actually changes hands. The principle is that same though, as if I were any other company allowing its employees to blog using company resources. The point is, everyone has an agenda - a reason for blogging. That might be commercial, social, egotistical or a combination of reasons.

    If I were offered money to support my blogging, I would take it. No question. But I would not compromise my agenda. If someone wants to pay me because our agendas happen to coincide, then I'm quids in and laughing all the way to the bank. I would however declare that I was being paid. You, as a reader of my blog, would then be at liberty to decide if you trusted me and whether being paid compromised my agenda. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    June 30, 2007 9:04 AM
  • Dan Finch said:

    I'm not sure where the idea of journalistic objectivity came from, but as an ideal it seems a little ridiculous. Sure, it's an excellent principle a journalist or blogger should strive to respect, but it's not something that should be expected of them. If you want to promote products on your blog, good for you, even if you're being paid to do so. I just assume that's the case and evauluate what is written as if it were so. Not disclosing your sponsors may be unethical, but all this angst over profit and marketing stinks of jealousy and weakness. Communication is promotion.

    July 3, 2007 7:49 PM