Saturday, August 6, 2011

Politics of blogging


For the past few years, have been quiet about issues even if already attacked (directly or indirectly) because of the belief that each one of us are entitled to an opinion.

However, things are now reaching a point where an increasing number of blog posts and feedback are being sent to me by industry peers for comment and clarification. Most of these looked down upon on bloggers - especially the new ones and those who get paid or earn from blogging.

Have also helped out blog communities and partly affected when the main players, whom I have met personally, get into a stage of misunderstanding where those who are not involved or unaware (such as newbie bloggers, supporters, and sponsors) get dragged.

There are now cases as well that social media consultants, who work with bloggers on projects, get into stiffer competition. Some play on "may the best solution" win while others play on "I am better than you are and your offer sucks". Some even have the nerve to instigate a negative campaign on competition to uplift themselves.

There are also situations where bloggers get to a certain level of popularity where they bully prospective or current clients.

Most recently, digital marketers coming up with a list of social media users (that includes bloggers) who actively joins their contest and tagging them for blacklisting.

To relieve me of stress and heartaches, yes it hurts, this is a post that I shall update and send whenever I get asked to comment.



1. Identity building
It takes time for bloggers to build their identity. Most of them don't know anyone popular who will tag them along and give them link love. The effort of going out of their own way to establish an identity should be recognized or appreciated. This is done by joining contests, attending events, among others. That is also how link love is earned naturally.

If you give them a story, they can write about it. At times, surprisingly, there are events that have no story value at all or failed to get the point. Then we have to work harder to make sure the output desired is achieved.

2. Freebies and giveaways
In 1997, I decided to become a freelance writer, web publisher, and start attending media events where I got tagged or found about. Stories get published in my Microsoft-Word created Infotech site (blogs were not really high tech yet then). All I get from attending were free food and give-aways. Today, yes, I still love freebies and giveaways. And yes, I look forward to them. By attending these events and writing stories, was able to start getting stints to contribute to publications. The work I post in my Infotech site eventually paved the way to cover international events in U.S., Spain, Malaysia, among others. All expenses paid but no pocket money provided. I write the stories for free because I love it. Had a lot of bloopers, mistakes, and intrigue as well.

Bloggers don't get paid at all unless they are affiliated with a network that pays them. Or they have regular advertisers in their site that pays on a monthly basis. Attending blogger events is an expense. There is nothing wrong if they will get excited receiving a nice freebie or give-away.

Although some brag about it, you can't blame them. The least we can do as peers is just remind them not to - avoiding misinterpretation by readers.

Apart from the good story, the food and freebies make it also worth the while. Of course, there are some who attend events for their own agenda and don't need your free food and freebies especially those who are well-off and has a blog for an outlet of their thoughts.

At the end of the day, bloggers can't be generalized and no one has any right to say who is superior and who is not. Even this post, take it with a grain of salt. Don't count on it. Use your own practical judgment.

I'm biased as I knew how it felt to start with nothing - that when you go out for the day, the only money you have is good for transportation. Where the only source of meal is the event that you will attend for the day. So if you believe those who frown upon bloggers who are just beginning to attend events and excited with your freebies, then you are no different from them. (and I'm reminded to be thankful for not being discriminated during those times)

3. Blogspots, Multiply, and other free domains
Just because a blogger doesn't have its own domain, uses a free hosting site, and with a simple template, it doesn't make them any less of value. The same goes to those who have a domain, PageRank, custom template, brand, and traffic. It doesn't make them righteous to look down on others.

You have to give newbies time to evolve, grow, and reach their potential. Supposedly, bloggers help each other and give link love to those they meet in events. We are here to pull each other up and not to drag anyone down.

It hurts me when I get clients who seek consulting advise for plans that immediately rules out newbies for what they read or were told. It is so unfair especially if I knew how these people started (and lucky for being affiliated with the famous ones or have a popular name to begin with) or don't need a blog to earn a living or to make a name for themselves. Some would even have the nerve to refer to themselves as role models.

4. Paid post bloggers (updated 5/27/2009)
There are some who bash bloggers for non-disclosed paid blog post and even try to teach their audience on how to spot it as if something sinful was committed. I find that to be very arrogant and blind self-righteous for the following reasons:
  • Most paid blog post are basically paid for the link (contextualize in a feature). The opinion of the blogger is still theirs and is not swayed to the point of lying to the readers.

  • On the issue of disclosure, that is the discretion of the client and the blogger accepting the assignment. We can debate about it forever but in the end it is a private transaction agreed by parties. It is even more straight out in my opinion.

    Why? Do bloggers who claim not to engage in paid blog post declare the expensive meals, gifts or tokens, travel, sponsorship, and give-aways that they got (and compute its equivalent value) in relation to the events or topics they write about? Majority don't. Worst, some even attend the event and/or accept all the gifts / tokens/ give-aways without writing about it because they believe "it is not an obligation". But in the end, companies didn't spend that much money not to hope for something in return (usually at P1500 - P3000 per blogger).

    Some have consulting stints and are already advertisers in their site, then they write about it. Do they say, "by the way, this entity is my client" or "this entity has given me a (gadget)"? Some also get paid P4k up to do one blog post and promotions.

    Who is much fairer now? What is transparency really about? Or in the end, as long as we write truthfully and do not mislead our audience (even if some got paid or received expensive tokens) is the one that really matters? Again, we can debate about it forever.
In the end, bloggers have the right to choose how they want to earn from their site or the manner they conduct their business. I know a lot who rely on it for their daily income, send kids to school, among others. Some re-purpose their received tokens to be passed on to their community.

It can lift them up or bring them down. It's their risk. It's their choice. No one has the right to pass judgment on such practices. I believe in the concept of "mind your own business". It is sad when some can't just seem to respect that and to think that they are well-to-do with their income stature in the first place.

Those who are well-off with advertisers lining up for their site, then all the best to you. Bravo. But please don't insinuate your practice that such is the only right way to do it. Don't impose your standards to others.

This is the reason when I hear negative comments on blog marketing and paid post, I take it with a grain of salt. Especially, if I'm aware on how those who lambast upfront or through blind item earn from this space.

Due to competition and recognition of market to more players, an advertiser now has more choices than before. This affects those who commands a hefty fee for campaigns, events, and post that they do on their site or for the projects they run. In short, it is eating on their income and therefore hurts.

They can either become more competitive, or create intrigues, or worst take the industry down with them. Although I think for the majority who are spectators in these instances, tend to be amused - seeing these actions as inevitable consequence for not evolving.


5. Group politics (updated 8/1/2010)
As bloggers get more organized, groups or communities are also formed. Some are open enough to let anyone join while some have a screening process. As groups grow, politics comes with the territory. Arguments and misunderstanding arises resulting to fall-outs. Some do so quietly while some flaunt it publicly.

Being part of a group requires members having trust in one another. Ground rules are established right from the start that includes your do's and don'ts to avoid subjective point-of-views clashing later on.

Encountered bloggers from certain locations and when asked, "why aren't you a member of this group?" Answers received includes:
  • "It is too elite. Parang sila-sila lang."
  • "Ayoko masali sa away-away nila."
  • "Attended a meeting and they started lambasting a specific blogger whom I have high respect for."
I believe that groups who would like to grow and attract members should try their best being professional in dealing with peers at all times. Have peaceful means in resolving conflicts. Assume actions are done with the best intentions first and foster an immediate dialogue internally to resolve any misunderstanding. Otherwise, it will create confusion and affect the growth of the group.

(The phrase "we're friends" is oftentimes taken lightly. But real friendship survive conflicts and help one another even at their weakest point. This is my bias on group politics.)



6. Name calling and exclusion
It is sad that we have reached the point of discriminating bloggers based on the platform they use, putting a collective name to newbie bloggers attending events (who are still finding their way in the blogosphere), and those who get paid to blog. It is different when it is just a joke and when it gets micro-blogged or blogged or written in a newspaper column.

Regardless of your perceived peers' weaknesses, no one has the right to give labels to anyone. Of course, there are some who enjoys (even if they don't admit) being tagged as belonging to the "elite".

I guess this is the compounding result of letting one blog post (column write-ups or microblog discussion) after the other pass, for the past years, without giving any solid counter-reaction that may have implied the negative assumptions as valid. Then others pick-up and catch-on resulting to chaos.


7. Blog marketing industry competition (August 22, 2010)
This segment is currently evolving. Some challenges:
  • Early and current blog advertising networks combined display advertising, public relation story pitch, one-on-one, contest, events (big or intimate), blogger management (some are exclusive) as part of their blog communication strategy.
  • Players who may have dominated the market earlier were outperformed by competition. Some closed, move on, realign, while others reinvent or evolve.
  • Big number of bloggers will be boasted by blog networks (whether it is Nuffnang, Blogbank, Mad Crowd Media, Red Sight Media). Although in most blog networks, only 10% to 20% are getting 80% of the display ads or campaigns and getting paid.
  • Companies offering blog marketing will find themselves up against new entities and individual blog consultants bidding for projects. Because at the end of the day, I observed it is about the size of one's network, service fee, turnaround time, and your relationship with the influential players in it.
  • Individual bloggers-turned-to-consultants who are focused, determined, and invest in their assets can evolve and form their own formal or informal blog network.
  • Those who are savvy in harnessing social and gaming resources online where target readers can be attracted, offer unique campaign experience, will have greater chances of success.
Bloggers have their own groupings and politics. This is the reason why we have to keep on nurturing new bloggers and encourage more service providers (including bloggers-turned-to-consultant) to get into this space. The more choices the market has, the better it will be for clients - to get solutions that best suit their needs. Reality that there will be casualties along the way for those unable to evolve.



8. Social Media Consultants Competition (January 23, 2011)

As blogging and social media keeps on growing month after month, players coming into this space are of various profession from traditional public relations to advertising professionals. Some have greater resources as well like access to traditional media outlets.

The strength of a social media consultant lies on many factors. To some, it is the size and access to social media influencers. Some are bloggers, community owners, active Twitter users, among others.

As clients get exposed to various bidders in this field, not everyone will have the same standard or perspective on how things should be done.  As I mentioned in point #4, players and competitors in this field can downplay or even skew the motivation or action of players in this space.

Furthermore, as I mentioned in #6, no one has the right to give negative labels to others just because they don't suit your standards. It is also seen as elitist behavior.

However, those who are mature enough, I reckon, immediately recognize this behavior and look at ways on how to go above it.

Example:

1. Like having negative articles on page 1 of search engine results, instead of talking to personalities who put you down (especially if they behave like bullies), you build up new content that highlights the good and latest developments happening therefore gradually move old negative articles to later pages.

2. Social media consultants or blog marketers offering package that will usually involve high profile bloggers versus another proposal that is more focused on link building or blogging by less popular bloggers.

At the end of the day, like-minded service providers and clients will work together. Instead of putting down competitors, focus on building or strengthening your niche. Offer alternative choices and those who don't have anything better to offer will be eased out. Let market forces prevail.

9. Bloggers abusing or threatening companies and individuals (February 4, 2011)

It can't be denied that having a blog with high readership commands some form of influence to its readers. Some use it to educate others while others use it expose an issue or bad practice.

Unfortunately, some use their blog on a different level and may end up harming or abuse private individuals or companies in the process - in the spirit of blogging one's thoughts, experiences, and opinions.

If the entity you write about it is a prospective or current client or supplier or their competitors, just be careful in going out of line and think about the risks you are or asking others to take.

10. Blacklisting bloggers "aggressive" in joining online contest (July 24, 2011)

The most unbelievable update I got to date is when some digital marketers (sadly some are also bloggers) come together to draw up a list of professional contest joiners (some are bloggers) listing their contact details - insinuating some of them as undesirables for their aggressive nature in joining online contest. I'm shocked and just gave a different point of view and advise to the client I stated in the blog post.

I hope my peers in the digital marketing and blog marketing industry will be cautious on this for your actions may affect the clients you have whether they are brands, multinationals, advertising agencies, or PR entities once this list goes out and parties contributing to it are identified. As a moving forward response, perhaps the creation of online contest managers registry can be encouraged.

11. Blogosphere or Egosphere? (August 6, 2011)

My sharing of lessons learned from a briefing / discussion recently that included some moving forward plans merited a combination of positive, constructive, clarifying, against, and unexpectedly - malicious (tend to insinuate or inject speculation based on hearsay or got personal with the intent to destroy instead of being issue-based).

Of course, when the malicious ones are noisy, those who care - worry. To the point, a non-blogger peer in the industry observed, "this should not be called a blogosphere but an egosphere". A comment often said and heard whenever issues are discussed in the blogosphere whether national or local.

All I could do lately is refer to a digital PR class with fellow bloggers as resource persons a few months back. One of them said, "the blogosphere tends to be individualistic in nature. Therefore it is full of egos."

But don't worry, this is healthy and in a sense normal, as it provides the much needed check-and-balance.

Although there are indeed some who have reached a certain level of stature that often get "courtesy call" or "sense of entitlement for invitation or information". Once missed, some make a big deal out of it and become your "frenemies".

I have more to say but I will just update this post as the need arises.