The bro who iced the New York Times set his sights on greedy bloggers in Sunday’s Week in Review. He presented shameless shillers with a 22 oz Smirnoff Twisted Rasberry — metaphorically. “As blogs take their place alongside traditional media,” writes J. David Goodman, Times blogger, “their writers must grapple with how to take advantage of moneymaking opportunities, steer clear of federal regulations — and remain their ornery independent selves.” Well, “ornery” and “independent” sure are better blogger cliches than “overweight” and “pajama-ed.” But he forgot poor, aspirational and easily bribed…
The promise of a blog lies in its unfiltered voice. Yet the lure of profit is no less powerful for the Web-only writer than for the print reporter. It’s just that most print reporters operate with at least some institutional oversight.
The other difference is that most print reporters operate with at least some form of paycheck. Most bloggers do not. So they scrounge by, sell out and pop a stiffy if you offer them a backstage pass or a bottle of vodka.
Brooklyn Blogfest 2010 serves as an example, in which Absolut brings Spike Lee and digital cameras along for the ride in exchange for some coverage. A few of the bloggers fail to disclose the arrangement and end up not only looking like dopes blogging about vodka, but greedy amoral dopes blogging about vodka. Ew, right?
There are laws, of course, against “deceptive marketing” and companies have their own sets of guidelines, but on the Wild West of the internet, these things are hard to keep track of. And the rules are still being written — just ask Mike Albo, formerly of the New York Times, who eventually lost his column space in the wake of Thrillist-gate 2009.
But a major subplot of the Albo case (keep in mind he did no shilling!), as in many of the blog-for-free-shit controversies, is employment. Albo merely freelanced for the paper, and the life of a freelancer, and often as a blogger, is about taking breaks where you can get them. Because next to no one is doing this for perks or even the paycheck.
So it’s easy to get excited about a press pass, a galley, a free flight to Miami, or a bottle of vodka. As for how to handle the next step — you know, the writing — sure some people are shady (that’s in all fields), but most are still learning.