Is corruption of the mediacreeping online?BYANGELA CASAUAYPOSTED ON 11/13/2012 9:54 AM | UPDATED 11/23/2012 12:31 PMMANILA, Philippines - From the "Big Bad" to the loot bag?Its common practice for companies or groups to distribute gifts or loot bags to mainstream mediareporters after an event as a token of appreciation. But a group of mostly "mom bloggers," haveallegedly been attending events only if loot bags are distributed afterwards.Content writer Jude Cartalaba, who is also a public relations practitioner, said the "loot bagbloggers" would at times, end up not writing an article for the event they were supposed to cover."Most of the loot bag bloggers are moms, but not all of them. Theres nothing wrong with being amommy blogger as long as you deliver. Sometimes they dont deliver. They get invited by PRdepartments but most of them wouldnt even bother to come up with their own articles,"Cartalaba said.Because blogs are viewed as a more subjective form of media, as compared to traditional mediathat are ideally more objective, Cartalaba said that PR firms expect bloggers to provide originalcontent from their own unique point of view."However, some would rely on copy-pasting. Some companies would prefer that they havesomething to say and deliver to the public," he said.
They prefer attending consumer events, Cartalaba said, because these provide them anopportunity to choose from the various products they could take home that day.Cartalaba said that some of the "mommy bloggers" even compare whats inside the loot bags.And when they dont get invites, one particular blogger would rant about it on Twitter."They would even insist. If theyre not invited, they would find their way to be invited. If oneblogger is invited within their circle of friends, they would let everyone know and then they wouldflock to the event," he said.Although noting that such instances only represent a small percentage of the entire bloggingcommunity, Cartalaba said similar behavior are also known of bloggers invited by a televisionnetwork, who would not attend the events if they would not get at least P1,000 or P1,000 worth ofgift checks.Not limited to bloggersUniversity of the Philippines professor DaniloArao said the issue of accepting financialcompensation or other rewards in exchange for a favorable write up is not exclusive to bloggers."To some extent, the corruption thats happening in media would tend to cut across the differentplatforms. There are similar situations, whether in radio or print, where some people calledhaoshaos (fake journalists) just use their press card to get perks," Arao said.As a PR practitioner, Cartalaba said he has seen "envelopmental journalism," a term derivedfrom the practice of giving journalists envelopes with money. Some of these journalists are fromlifestyle and entertainment, while others even come uninvited.Cartalaba said he believes bloggers are still the "lesser evil" as the practice of providing cash totraditional media journalists is much more ingrained in the industry.In the November 16 episode of Breaking Glass, political consultant and advertising expert GregGarcia talked about "envelopmental journalism" in politics and confirmed that there are alsobloggers who are already accepting payment for content."There are already bloggers who are already being paid, there are brokers who say, I can getyou this blogger, I dont know how legitimate that is, but there are already brokers. I dont believein buying off bloggers. Its like buying off everybody, everybody can be a blogger, its beendemocratized, anyone can put up a blog anytime you want." he said.Janette Toral, author of the book Blogging From Home, and blogger behind Influential Bloggerand the Digital Filipino, said journalists should first clean up their act before requiring the same ofbloggers.
"There have been attacks on bloggers and the execution is even through a blind item. Theresthis undue expectation on bloggers. Accepting freebies and the like, its happening also intraditional media. In fact, precedent ngasila," she said.In 2011, the Philippine Daily Inquirer published a blind item column about a “Big Bad Blogger”managed by a PR firm who allegedly tried to extort money from a restaurateur. A number ofbloggers whose names were connected to the rumor have since denied their involvement in thematter in an ABS-CBN report.But Arao said it should not be a case of "the pot calling the kettle black" as some bloggers havenow realized the need to "professionalize" their craft to maintain their audience."Because of the high incidents of spamming, trolling and free-loaders, many bloggers now realizethat there is a need to be responsible. There is a certain degree of variety or of professionalismthat is necessary that youre able to maintain your readers," he said.Commodification of blogsFrom being mere “online diaries” in the 1990s in the advent of the dotcom boom, blogs are nowincreasingly becoming more “commodified” or commercialized as advertising tools become moreaccessible."It used to be that bloggers write because they are passionate about the things they write about.Im not saying that traditional media arent passionate but its part of their job, as opposed tobloggers, who just do it on the side," Cartalaba said.Cartalaba said he believes that unless bloggers have attained a certain status or designed asustainable model for their blogs, they should not be doing it full-time and using it as a source ofincome."But now, it has evolved. Bloggers see that there is a future, theres a profit and theyre nowbeing tapped as an extension of the public relations strategy of companies," he added.New media theorist Geert Lovink writes in his book, "Zero Comments: Blogging and CriticalInternet Culture" that back in the 1990s, “Blog culture was not developed enough to bedominated by venture capital.”“Blogs first appeared as casual conversations that could not be easily commodified,” Lovinkwrote.But with the rise of web 2.0 also came the rise of citizen journalism and what some may call“professional bloggers,” or bloggers who do it full-time.Being a blogger can now be a distinction and even a profession.
For example, Anton Diaz, author of ourawesomeplanet.com, quit his day job to focus on his blog,according to his online profile.Public relation companies are expectedly aware of the trend. One example is the launch of theMagnum ice cream brand early this year, where promotions centered on social media marketing.Celebrity ambassadors were selected based on the number of their followers and bloggers wereinvited to their events, pushing an already popular international brand into a local “trending topic.”Despite the bad press that enveloped the so-called "Big Bad Blogger" issue last year, restaurantowners in Taguig said they had a similar experience with a blogger after the article came out.They said they invited a popular food blogger to their restaurant through their PR company butthey were informed that the blogger would only write an article if he was paid an amount with 5digits.But the owners said this was an isolated case as most food bloggers whom they invited camewithout asking for any financial compensation.Sustainable blogsBloggers can now use a variety of models to make their blogs financially sustainable.Online tools designed to bring in revenues through advertisements are now more accessible. Forexample, bloggers can subscribe to blog advertising community Nuffnang, which does not onlyserve blogs with advertisements that match their content and readership, but also providesopportunities to attend free bloggers events and get offers for paid posts.A similar example is Google Adsense, where bloggers can apply as publishers, get verified,customize their advertisements then publish them on their website.For bloggers who accept paid posts, the rate is determined by their web traffic and othervariables, such as reader interaction. The higher the traffic, the higher the rate. For paid tweets,Rob Angeles, founder of the "Philippines’ first social media blog," said the rate depends on thefollowing variables: influence of the user, reach, engagement, number of followers, and Klout orKred Score, which measures your web influence.Information from paypertweet.com, a website that allows Twitter users to accept offers for paidtweets, shows that celebrities such as Shakira get paid up to $23,000 per tweet. In thePhilippines, the usual rate per tweet is P1 per follower, such that a Twitter user with 20,000followers could earn P20,000 per tweet.For those whose followers have reached up to 100,000 or even millions, the compensationcomes in packages, depending on the products marketing strategy campaign.Deception
Hans Eric Roxas Chua, co-program director of e-learning EDGEs Certified Digital MarketProgram, said that engaging bloggers and Twitter personalities is different from dealing withcommercial entities such as publishers because arrangements tend to be personal and uniquefor each of them."I would caution against generalizing “bloggers” and “Twitter personalities.” Treat them as youwould treat a person face-to-face, you have to get to know a person first before proposingsomething, right? Before you engage someone, make sure you research that person’sblog/Twitter account first. They may have a related position about whatever communications youwant to engage them for," he said.Chua said that the deals for each blogger, whether through advertisements, paid posts, or paidtweets, are tailored to each blogger depending on his market."Again, since this is very personal, it can range from a simple invite to try out your product (forfree), even shouldering simple travel expenses. If they like your product they may not even askfor anything in return. There are also online celebrities that charge the same way a celebrityendorser would. You may also deal with commercial entities (agencies, blog networks), to reachbloggers that are open to a commercial arrangement," he said.Arao, who is a blogger himself, said there are certain sponsors who would clearly requirebloggers not to disclose that posts have been paid for and to write only positive reviews."What is basic in the issue of selling or monetization is the element of deception," he said."For bloggers, there is a degree of disclosure necessary when it comes to sponsored posts orpaid links," he added.EntrepreneurialBut Toral believes that arrangements for paid posts are "private transactions" between the clientand the blogger, and it is a way for bloggers to be "entrepreneurial.""As long as youre not fooling anyone, youre not manufacturing any information. Theres nothingwrong with it, I believe," she said.Beauty and fashion blogger Liz Lanuzo, who has been blogging for 7 years, said that while paidposts written for the purposes of launching or announcing new products are acceptable, the linemust be drawn in writing paid reviews."It defeats the purpose. Reviewing something, for me, means that I have to write whats goodand whats bad about it. If theres nothing bad then I would say theres nothing bad, but I do notwant to be pressured to water down or hide an opinion or information that may dissuade myreaders from buying what I just reviewed," she said.The key word is honesty, according to Arao.
"We go back to the basics here. There is nothing wrong, despite the weakness of onlinemonetization, in general, there is nothing wrong with making money online -- for as long as youdo it as honestly as possible," he said. - Rappler.com