Courtney Lambert

Paying Bloggers?

 Courtney Lambert

There isn’t a week that goes by when some PR company or other tries to get me to blog some story for their clients. PR Companies are shameless about getting paid by their clients, some like Matthew Hooton even charge clients for getting stories seeded in blogs. They also never pay the bloggers for the services that they bill their clients for.

For them they justify their poor ethics by sniffing that bloggers shouldn’t get paid, all the time billing the client handsomely.

Courtney Lambert has blogged about the propensity of professional media, who think nothing of getting paid themselves also sniffily dismissing the idea that bloggers should be paid:

So why would anyone want to pay a blogger?

Because there is a global market for quality content and people should be financially remunerated for producing good work.

The Huffington Post also has people that contribute content that aren’t paid by Huffington Post but are paid by their respective organisations to share ideas and get a viewpoint across. HuffPost provides a microphone for interest groups and politicians to speak to an audience. So John Kerry obviously isn’t paid to write a blog post but his motivations for contributing should be very clear.  Consultants and figureheads often ‘vanity blog’ to get their brands in front of people and demonstrate thought leadership. Nothing new there.

Sometimes I will write a post on this blog and have an editor contact me to produce a paid article for their website or magazine on the same topic. Does that make me a paid blogger? Or does that then make me a freelancer? What’s the difference and does it really matter? If I write an article for a magazine do I have to declare that I was paid x cents per word?

The overarching business model of media is quite straightforward and a blanket assumption that blogger’s contributions should never be paid for or that paying for blog content is in some way unethical is a bit simplistic.

A more useful question is why would anybody not want to pay a blogger?

The media poach stories off bloggers all the time, more often than not without attribution. The journalists that poach the stories all get paid, why shouldn’t we? Fairfax even stole a whole story and image from me, then had the temerity to copyright their story.

Perhaps it is just that we as bloggers need to find a remuneration model that works…for us. Certainly advertising rates need to improve as our audience improves.

The Rules of Engagement

Courtney Lambert has written an article for Stop Press and the NZ Marketing magazine. It’s called Learning from the Whale: Cameron Slater’s rules of engagement

In the article she talks about my rules of engagement and how “PR trouts and Madmen” would be wise to take heed of, my rules. I’m not sure that I’ve ever thought about having rules but Courtney thinks I do.

Here are the rules as she sees them.

‘I blog for me’

All bloggers will tell you this and for the most part, it’s true. Bloggers like Cam that began with no celebrity kickstart essentially begin talking to themselves out in the wilderness. They’ve earned their audience. Cam has told me some of his blog stats and I know that many politicians, public sector spin doctors and journalists read the Whaleoil blog religiously. Any blogger worth their salt takes their independence seriously and hates being called a mouthpiece or ‘shill’ for a company or political organisation. Never assume you have a blogger in your pocket.

‘Everyone likes attention’

Yes, it’s true, so to dismiss bloggers as attention-seekers is quite silly. Human beings are all attention seekers. Some are just more smarty brains at getting cut-through than others and communications people should be smart enough to learn from the Whale rather then scoffing at him. We’ve moved into the ‘attention economy’ and on that front alone he’s smoking a lot of corporate advertising and PR shops.

‘People shouldn’t listen to me’

When asked why people should listen to him, Whale said ‘they shouldn’t’. Blogging is not North Korea state broadcasting. It’s opt in and out. Whether you agree with him or not, he’s got the microphone and you don’t. I’m sure the irony of being asked ‘don’t you think you get more attention than you deserve?’ by the 60 minutes reporter was not lost on him either.

‘I do get angry’

Many bloggers talk about the cathartic aspect of blogging and Cam has always been very open about this and his struggles with depression. I like reading authentic, raw ideas from people who aren’t afraid to take criticism and kick a few doors down. Corporate twaddle and Getty images of happy people smiling all the time gets tiring. New Zealanders are very voyeuristic and I respect people who open up and pour their guts out in public domain. It’s brave, and many companies would be wise to harden up and start showing a few of their battle scars to customers rather then treating them like lemmings.

‘I’m doing something new in New Zealand politics’

The 100 percent negative campaign Whale is running against North Shore mayor Andrew Williams for Supercity is curiously clever. He’s right. I don’t think it has been done in New Zealand and it’s an interesting idea. Could it be applied in lobbying and government relations? Competitor positioning? Non for profit awareness? Learn from this stuff.

She did miss out my Controlled Escalation Rule. That one goes something like this, and I will use a water fight for the analogy.

I once worked for a telco company with a large population of nerdy kids. They used to play with water-pistols for fun. One day one young pup squirted me in the face with his water pistol. I explained to him that it would be wise to desist from such activities and that I would get him back. He squirted me again and then dared me to get him back. I told him that I would, in my own time, on my own terms and in my own way, but rest assured the retribution would be coming. He laughed.

I waited two weeks, then caught him having a smoke with all his pals on a Friday night during drinks. They had all got changed and ready to go out partying and I was on my way home. I happened to have a full Pump bottle of water. Well, I saw the opportunity and I took it. He copped the whole bottle from his face to his toes and back up at his now drenched cigarette. Then I sat down and told him how controlled escalation works. He used a water pistol, I used a water bottle, he was thinking of using a bucket, I would retaliate with a fire hose, If he used a hose then he would be swimming fully clothed in a pool and so on until he worked out that I never give up and I will keep going until he had learned that you can’t beat me, ever.

So, while Courtney has learned about some of my rules of engagement, there is always the last , as stated above, that one should always remember when taking on the Whale. Fidelity Life are about to discover that controlled escalation.