Saturday, August 22, 2015

Amateur Hour in Blogger Review Land

There's a brouhaha over in London Town that I read about where a blogger - Mehreen - apparently hit on a local bakery for some freebies for a review. She didn't get the freebies that she expected and she didn't  like the baked goods (macarons) that she tasted so, for one reason or the other, she wrote a negative review. (I think she might have taken the review down since I can't find it.)

The bakery was outraged and posted an article called BloggerBlackmail. (I haven't been able to chase down a copy of this either.  If someone could post a link to it or copy of it in the comments, I'd appreciate it)

The blogger responded with a self justifying article.  This is what I'm calling out as Amateur Hour.   

The blogger talks about her expectations. She expects a lot to be given to her. She talks about her investment in photography. She talks about her time as valuable and how it takes 8 hours to do a proper review. It's a self-absorbed rationalization.  Pathetic. The odd thing is that the blog itself is beautifully done with gorgeous photography which really is an interesting read about the highlights of luxury dining in London.  But, still, she is in business and it is the blogger's business practices that I'm writing about.

If she thinks she is the business of selling advertising, her thinking should be all about her customer.  How can she generate business for a restaurant or bakery or hotel?  What sort of investment is she asking for from a client and how much business does she feel that she can drive for them?  She should have a professional sales process that focuses on her advertiser's needs, investments, and the return that it provides. She should have a professional way of approaching, selling, and treating her clients.

If she feels that she is in the journalism or media business and her main focus is being a high integrity content producer, she should talk about her readers. For instance, how her readers are interested in knowing whether this restaurant is right for this sort of dinner. Or whether this high priced hotel provides the service, food, and ambiance that they would expect.  As a media content creator, she should have a focus on delivering entertainment and information to readers who rely on her for a specific type of information.

Of course, newspapers and radio stations and TV stations have for a century been aware that they are at the juncture of these two businesses: content and advertising.  It's a delicate position.

The media are definitely in the advertising business. Their money comes from advertisers who expect a high return on their investment in advertising. The advertisers expect clear business practices, a written deal, and an appropriate sales process. Walking in to a restaurant at a time convenient to a blogger, talking to a random employee, and trying to negotiate on the spot for more sweets... not professional.  The fact that she sent an email some period before-hand with a vague proposition and got an enthusiastic response to the concept followed by an unannounced walk-in is not a professional approach. There was no education of the client as to what would be involved or what the benefits might be.

Media are also in the content business of being a trusted source of news and information and reviews.  There are guidelines in most media that separate advertising from content.  Newspapers routinely disclose if the newspaper or journalist have any conflict of interest. The media business is about walking this fine line of aggregating an audience with quality info and entertainment and delivering to this audience, advertising which is not too disruptive.  The mixing of content and advertising is a fine line which all media need to carefully walk.

The idea of a blogger having only one bad review on her site and that one coinciding with the one that didn't give her the freebies that she wanted is appalling.  (Disclosure: I have glanced through her site but I have not read all of her site so maybe there are lots of bad reviews in there). Here's the blogger's big whine:

http://wrapyourlipsaroundthis.com/a-bullying-bakery/
#bloggerblackmail

Writer's note. I put this up and then came back and edited it an hour later. I removed a number of adjectives and tried to become a little more balanced and less inflammatory and judgmental.  I'm aware that I'm on the verge of joining a mob that's publicly shaming someone who has stepped over a line that I consider the line of professionalism.  However, I think this is worth writing about since the rules on blogging and the professionalism of digital content is a hot issue and this is a good example of the pitfalls that await us if sites don't think deeply and adopt mature rules to guide how content and sponsorship can coexist.

No comments: