Blogola reared its grinning ugly face in a big way last week and I am still pissed off about Michael Kempner’s barnyard defense of his firm’s blogola campaign. I speak as a blogger on this issue. I am offended by Kempner’s stance. All bloggers should be. Blogola disrespects bloggers and solidifies public perception that we are easily bought, third-tier amateur hacks. As long as Kempner and his ilk are allowed to get away with cheap blog payoffs, that perception is reality.
Kempner is CEO of MWW, a mid-size PR firm (they don’t release billings to O’Dwyer’s). On his blog he defends his firm’s program to give 50 bloggers Nikon D80 cameras for 6 – 12 months, with the right to purchase at a discount at the end. This is standard practice at major media, said Kempner (wrong), and it showed that they treated bloggers as journalists (really, really wrong). Critics of the program are jealous, self-serving and personally destructive, said Kempner. For background see Strumpette Kempner Puts Blog Program In Spin Cycle, and PRBlogNews Kempner Swallows Blogola Whole …
You wonder how the head of a mid-size PR agency can be so clueless about media relations and blogger relations but there it is. “Staff members who borrow equipment, vehicles or other goods for evaluation or review must return the borrowed items as soon as possible,” says the ethic guidelines of The New York Times. Those of us who deal with mainstream media know how sensitive they are to even the appearance of a gift that might sway their judgment.
“Here, take this $1,000 camera for a year and then you can keep it for $100” – try that line on David Pogue at The New York Times and see if he ever talks to you again.
That leaves Kempner and crew to troll for willing victims in the bottom rungs of blogdom. They did a great job of finding 50 who were just ga-ga over getting this wonderful camera to play with for a year. “I was a little surprised to be picked for this - I actually thought it was spam at first,” posted Joe Moraca on his Sarasota Livin’ blog, about receiving his $1,000 camera in the mail. B.L. Ochman was so thrilled about getting her camera that she did an interview with her benefactors, the team at MWW managing the blogola program.
Joe Jaffee, president of ‘new marketing’ company crayon, in his Thank you Nikon post was similarly exultant and disbelieving that he had been chosen for this great honor. Do we need any more proof that bloggers crave validation from established power and are willing whores for expensive swag? Do we have to look further to see why bloggers are dismissed by mainstream media and the general public as questionable sources of news or opinion?
Kempner was right when he said that his blogola program was: “Simple. Clear. Clean. So clean in fact that 46 of the 50 bloggers we invited to participate immediately accepted. Of the remaining four, two haven’t had a chance to decide yet and two declined as they were engaged by other PR firms and felt it would be a conflict.”
Easy pickins’, those bloggers. What should bloggers ensnared in the MWW blogola trap do? Have a personal set of ethical guidelines and be vigilant against PR payola. Check the camera out, record your opinions on your blogs, return the camera to MWW within 30 days (or a reasonable period). Don’t accept the MWW poison gift. Don’t let Michael Kempner and crew disrespect you, and the rest of us, with blogola. Don’t be blinded by the swag. Not all of us are jealous. Some of us think this whole thing is pretty pathetic.
Blogging about this by Nikon D80 blogola recipients has been sparse and defensive. The program is tainted and demeans bloggers and the product. Maybe if MWW is delivered that message through returned cameras we will see a little more understanding in Michael Kempner’s public communication about influencing bloggers.
Mark Rose is editor of PRBlogNews - a web publication focusing on public relations practices in the digital age.