Fookin’ Threadwatch is closing. That’s a shame. We need more edgy voices that aren’t beholden to advertisers.
When the blogshere started, it was all edgy. Why? There was no money in it, so it might as well be fun. Actually, there’s still no money in it, unless a blog takes the shape of conventional old-media, or pimps something.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
However, its one thing to lose the edge, but quite another to lack transparency.
Take the FM writers. They got in serious hot water with their audiences recently when ValleyWag called them out for failing to separate church and state.
“In the ads, and the companion site built by Federated Media, Michael Arrington explains how his Techcrunch site became “people-ready”. “When is a business people ready?” asks Gigaom’s Om Malik. “The minute you decide to strike out on your own…” Other writers who’ve been paid to repeat Microsoft’s slogan include Paul Kedrosky and Matt Marshall of Venture Beat, as well as Fred Wilson, the blogger-investor.”
Some of the writers, like Malik, apologised. Other writers saw nothing wrong in it, whilst a few went on the warpath against those who dared suggest the writers might be beholden to a few rules.
But they are subject to rules, whether they like it or not.
Social rules of engagement don’t just stop because a marketing push is (disingenuously) relabeled “conversation marketing”. The “conversation” is devalued if the nature of that conversation isn’t transparent. Who wants to find out, in the midst of what they thought was a personal conversation, that the conversation is in fact a slick branding exercise?
I, like many, would find that dishonest. It’s not a true voice, and the writers deservedly got hammered for it.
If they’re going to push product, they need to be a lot more upfront about doing so. Even more so, if their existing modus operandi is to use a personal voice, because it is more likely confusion will arise if the mode remains the same, but the message changes mid flight.