Monday, April 23, 2007

Ethics of blogging

There’s been a lot of talk recently about a code of conduct for bloggers.

While television remained predominantly on four terrestrial analogue channels, the BBC Governors together with the IBA (later the ITC and BSC) and the regulation was quite lightweight.

Then Ofcom came along with a massive organisation, more heavy-weight regulation to cope with an expanding and increasingly complicated industry. (It’s always struck me as amusing that the Ofcom HQ, Riverside House in Southwark on the bank of the Thames bulges out, signifying the vast workforce stuffed inside?)

The internet managed to regulate itself for the first few years through DARPA and the IETF. A single man, Jon Postel, oversaw the allocation of IP address ranges throughout the world, assuming the authority, rather than anyone specifically appointing him. (Benign dictators are often the most efficient rulers!)

Now that ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is up and running, and the UN is involved, internet governance continues to be debated and grow.

So back to blogging. Brandon from M80 (who specialise in “online grassroots marketing”, creating “brand loyalists that become micromarketing armies for your brands, products and services”, with “campaigns that from from organic to manic”) sent me an email out of the blue. Some of you may have got something similar if you carry film reviews on your blog.

I was just browsing the web and saw that you mentioned The Last King of Scotland in your blog and I was wondering if you would be willing to help and post some information about the film. We are work closely with FOX to help spread the word about the DVD release. If you are interested in posting any resources or writing a review of the film, please let me know. For your help or review, I would be happy to offer you a copy of The Last King of Scotland DVD.

Fair enough. A bit of harmless promotion for a DVD release, recreating the buzz that was there a few months ago when the film was released in UK cinemas? Sponsorship of posts? Or a bribe to get bloggers to promote something they didn’t normally want to talk about?

My take is that it’s somewhere between an attempt to sponsor posts and a bribe. But if bloggers were to take the bait but didn’t acknowledge that they were being externally prompted to post about the film, then that would be a (low level) deception of their readers. On the other hand, if bloggers don’t have a contract (actual, implied or moral) with their readers, does it matter?

Wondering what the commitment was, I emailed back asking ...

So what's the deal? What kind of a plug are you looking for? Something specifically mentioning the DVD release, as opposed to a film review?

And the reply from M80

Basically anything you feel comfortable relaying to your audience. Either a review, banner placement, or a post talking about the film (anything you want). Send me your address and I will send you a copy of the film. In the meantime please check out The Last King of Scotland resource page for additional information (see below).

I didn’t send my address. For as much as I’d love a free copy of The Last King of Scotland on DVD, I’d no intention of mentioning the film on this blog again (having reviewed the cinematic release before Christmas) ...

M80 obviously have a fair amount of success. Their webmaster assets website isn’t terribly well configured, so you can browse up and down the file structure and see the other films that have received their blogtastic attention, and there’s evidence of quite a good take up for their approach.

So Alan in Belfast remains sponsor-free. Go and see The Last King of Scotland at the cinema. In fact, if your circumstances allow, go and see nearly any good film at a local cinema.

Big screen, big sound, immersive experience. Enjoy the event. Don’t sit in front of the box in the corner of your living room, or your computer screen. See it the way the film producers intended. But marketeers: don’t stop sending me interesting emails and offers.


Howard said...

I commend your moral stand. Although personally I have been thinking it could be a good way of increasing my DVD collection :-). I might forward a list of films I would like to review to M80 - not.

Offering a free DVD is fruitless. If you were sent one for agreeing to review a DVD your comments could be seen as biased. Would it prompt you to see the film? I dont think so.

If they sent one becuase you had already given a good review, chances are you went and bought a copy anyhow. If you gave a bad review, why would you want another copy?

No, its an interesting marketing ploy but I can't see it working out to well.

Anonymous said...

It's an interesting point. One well-known publisher has offered me proof copies (not proper review copies, mind!) of forthcoming books that I might want to review on my blog. I've accepted one so far but I do wonder about the situation. Essentially my blog is about books that I have bought and therefore books that I think I am going to like - so if a book gets sent to me more or less at random, it's not really in keeping with the sort of thing I normally read. And what if I don't like it? Is it fair to post a negative review when I wouldn't have chosen to buy the book voluntarily in the first place?

By the way Alan, talking of books: your bookshelf pic on the sidebar is looking a little out of date!

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

The picture was taken about a year ago. Never got round to updating it! Will do so soon.