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You Can’t Tame the Blogosphere!

Long time readers will know too well that I hate any attempts to try and mold the blogosphere into a controlled medium with strict rules and regulations. It’s for that reason that I join Michael Arrington in being somewhat annoyed (if we weren’t PG13, I might have used other language) at Charles Cooper’s attempt to create a meme that bloggers should have a “church and state” attitude when it comes to editorial and advertising.

Baloney!

How many times do I have to say this? Blogs became popular because they had no rules. You could write about anything you wished, take money from advertisers if you wish, push your company’s evil agenda – anything was possible. Any attempt to coral the blogosphere will turn it into nothing more than a collection of online newspapers – and who want’s to be vanilla, when you can be Rocky Road?

Sure, many blogs have adopted their own guidelines on editorial, advertising, comments and so forth (such as Marketing Pilgrim), but that doesn’t mean every blog should adopt the same.

You should read a blog because it entertains you, makes you think, annoys you – whatever! If the blog in question doesn’t have clear policies on the lines between editorial and advertising, you just need to accept that and move on. Either you’ll continue reading, knowing that a certain caveat emptor should prevail, or you’ll find a blogger that makes you feel more secure.

The weekend’s blogstorm was more of a storm in a teacup, but here’s the key thing. You can’t fault the reaction of ANY of the bloggers involved. Om Malik felt like he had let down his readers, so apologized and pulled the ads. Great, Malik knows exactly the experience he wants to give his readers and he acted accordingly. Meanwhile, Michael Arrington chose to brush it all off and refused to make any changes. Just as great! Like Malik, Arrington knows exactly the experience he wants to give TechCrunch readers.

One last observation. How ironic that bloggers are being asked to be transparent in their business dealings, when bloggers tend to be the most transparent of all (citizen) journalists?

Mainstream media (which includes CNET) have set their own rules of engagement. Just because the other kids get to play by different rules, doesn’t mean you can try and spoil the party.

Now it’s your turn, weigh-in with your thoughts.

  • http://www.ianbetteridge.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    “Long time readers will know too well that I hate any attempts to try and mold the blogosphere into a controlled medium with strict rules and regulations.”

    Or, it seems, ethics: because that’s what we’re talking about here.

  • http://www.lff.com Fitness guy

    Each individual blog should set their own standards (if they feel they need to) and that should be the end of it.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Ian – yep, even ethics. Personally, my reputation (and my ethics) are more important than a paycheck (I’ve walked away from two companies and one blog over ethics) but I still don’t think we should start regulating blogs. I agree with Fitness guy, blogs should set their own standards.

  • http://www.ianbetteridge.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    Precisely my point, Andy. The issue at hand is that many of the blog posters who took part in the FM/Microsoft campaign have consistently claimed that they are more “credible” than mainstream media outlets. This is especially true of Mike A.

    Yes, blogs should set their own standards. But if they’re throwing stones at the credibility of mainstream media, they’d better make sure that the standards they set are very high. People living in glass houses… :)

  • http://www.marketingneophyte.com Nic Darling

    Blogs should be essentially self-regulating. I could see imposing some restrictions on predatory practices (though even these are likely to get caught and exposed by the blogosphere before any regulatory committee even notices them), but generally readers are able to decide if a blog is providing the information and attitude they want.

    The key is consistency of statement and action. We should strive for it as writers and demand it as readers. Blogs that are consistent should succeed, but if they don’t . . . well, so it goes. Some mainstream news outlets are notoriously inconsistent and still successful. There is no accounting for taste.

  • http://bushidoblog.com.ar Dario

    I agree with you, Andy. The whole idea of the blogosphere is that you’re able to write about that which makes your heart beat faster. With that passion comes a particular insight, comments, etc. Who has the right to hush freedom of speech (or freedom of blog)? Nobody does.

    Keep up the great blog, Andy. Keep doing it your way ;)

  • http://www.inman.com Jessica

    I agree with the idea that the more people try to wrestle blogging into a contained medium with strict rules, the less effective it will be in the end. Every blog has a different purpose and that’s the beauty of it. Some blogs will want to be more like traditional media and have strict guidelines dividing editorial and advertising, while others clearly serve a business and business information purpose. I think as long as the blogger and his or her audience know what the expectations are in the individual case, then that’s the way it shall be. But to try to throw down a bunch of rules will surely spell the end of innovation in blogging. Your readers will know what your intentions are if you’re honest with them. If not, then maybe you’re blogging for the wrong reasons.

  • john caddidy

    So, if I understand your argument, it’s just fine & jiffy for so many marketing hacks and corporate shysters to pay off bloggers — and then said bloggers keep that info from their reading publics? Yuck. The critique of Arrington was correct. It’s not about how to “control” bloggers. It’s about how to make sure we, the public, get the straight dope.