Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Paid to regurgitate

I had no sooner posted my note on Al Gore's solicitation for the Democratic Campaign Committee when "Valleywag" (via Romenesko) drew my attention to Microsoft's campaign to corrupt journalism. Valleywag alleged that Microsoft is paying the tech writers of Federated Media to repeat its slogan—something like "Peepee Ready," I believe.

One writer of the group, Om Malik, has gotten all apologetic. He writes

I have requested Federated Media, our sales partners, suspend the campaign on our network of sites, and they have. We are turning off any such campaigns that might be running on our network. Would I participate in a similar campaign again? Nothing is worth gambling the readers’ trust. Conversational marketing is a developing format, and clearly the rules are not fully defined. If the readers feel a line was crossed, I’ll will defer to their better judgement.

Odd. I thought the line between news and advertising had been fairly well established.

The fact of the matter is that the original premise of the campaign was to give my thoughts by what People Ready meant to me – it wasn’t an endorsement of a specific Microsoft product.1 (You can read it here, and judge for yourself.) Nor did my words run in any portion of our editorial space. Microsoft asked us to join a conversation, and we did. I wasn’t paid to participate in the conversation, but Microsoft ran an ad-campaign that paid us on the basis of CPM ["Cost Per Impression," I presume].

Have you ever participated in a "conversation" with Microsoft? Not only are you not paid, you're not even answered.

Another Federated Media writer, Paul Kedrosky, has his own blog titled "Infectious Greed." (Do you think I make this stuff up?) It purports to be about "Technology, Finance, Venture Capital and the Money Culture." Perfect. Here's his contribution to the Microsoft "conversation"—

I’ve always been people ready, but I took a long time getting around to telling myself. Instead, I pretended that I liked working alone, or on small projects, and generally flying solo, all the while wondering what was missing. But then a bunch of things happened at once: Startups! Live television! Public speaking! It was fantastic, and I couldn’t kid myself any more: I had always been people ready, and it was time I told me.

If that's what the Microsoft slogan means, I'm "people ready" too. Yoohoo! Microsoft! Over here!

As Lily Tomlin once said (as best I remember), "I only looked like I had integrity because there were no buyers."

This reminds me that I haven't heard back from the NY Times (other than a message that my email would be passed on to the relevant editor) about a certain news story in which the writer had clearly stretched her wits to make an allusion to a company that was running a major ad campaign. She or her editor then helpfully provided a link to the company's home page even though the story concerned a completely different matter.

Should I enquire again? Is the NY Times "people-ready"?

Related post
A letter: Product placement in the NY Times? (5/3/07)



1Mr. Malik apparently has never heard of "soft" advertising. [back]

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