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A Blogger Isn’t A Blogger When…

They are paid to post on a blog other than their own. They then become a freelance writer, journalist, hack, whatever you want to call them.

The move by CNet and others to pay bloggers based on page views is no different than previous payment terms – such as words or stories – made to journalists, so, why call bloggers anything other than that? All that has changed is that the payment is more aligned with the reader/viewers interest level.

Further, the move is likely to continue to blur the lines between the independent publication and there so called independent bloggers. Take Information Week whose vendor blogger blogs away in a very self interested fashion only then to be named by the same publication as "one to watch" in the coming year in a full page spread. Self serving? Self interested? Biased? Yep – all of the above. And not an ounce of disclosure or transparency by either party.

As Steve suggests, this should raise an eyebrow – more than an eyebrow. But is very different than bloggers pimping products in post. It is far more subtle than that.

I initially misread a post by Mitch Ratcliffe, taking it (below) to suggest that if we don’t pay bloggers in the same way as journalists their posts don’t have to be informative or accurate? That isn’t what he meant as his comments suggest.:

"at ZD Net bloggers are compensated based on the number of page views they receive and a fraction of the pages in TalkBack, so at the end of the month the size of a check expresses something, but not necessarily our success in being informative or accurate."

I do think though that publications are attaching the mantle of blogger to paid writers and thereby opting out of any sense of integrity that applies to the masthead. Mitch is making an equally important but different point that popularity doesn’t correlate to accuracy – anywhere.

This has been going on for sometime, and pointed to by Tom Formenski and others – so Steve’s revelation isn’t so much that as a rehash. Either way, it’s worth flagging as the standards we expect of publications are increasingly compromised and new means of bloggers generating revenue come to fruition.

Nick makes a good point that businesses and workers tailor what they do in response to economic incentives – a shift in the way publishers and journalists make money means a shift in what gets published. But the message also makes the medium. And once fiercely independent online media are being transformed.

5 Responses

  1. By Mitch Ratcliffe on January 16th, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    Andy, that is a profound misreading of my posting. I was making the point that popularity doesn’t correlate to accuracy–anywhere.

  2. By Chris Ronan on January 16th, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    Dude, this is a great post. Seriously. Sibebar question though. If I am not “pimping products,” can I still be a pimp?

    This question comes up all of the time lately. I am using your post as a great answer to some of the questions I have asked lately about how to get a corporate blog going. You are dead on…we gotta resist the temptation and create great, original content.

    Talk soon.


  3. By James Governor on January 17th, 2007 at 5:23 am

    well steve should certainly know astro-turfing when he sees it. works for Edelman, right? If you work for Walmart…

    disclaimer> i am going to be doing some zdnet blogging this year

  4. By Usher Lieberman on January 17th, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    A blogger isn’t a blogger when they don’t accept comments and engage in a dialogue…whether they’re paid to or not is irrelevant IMHO. What matters is how the medium is used. If they’re being dishonest or disingenuous it will come out (see: Edelman, WalMart, et al). If they are engaging in open dialogue, disclosing potential conflicts of interest, listening to others (even when they disagree) well then, they’re blogging.

  5. By Matthew Jones on January 18th, 2007 at 11:23 am

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    (I am unable to use trackback – as I am on a blogger blog)

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