When is a blogger not a blogger?

I took part in an interesting session at SXSW today, a group discussion designed to come up with 10 Easy Ways To Piss Off A Blogger. Led by Rohit Bhargava from Ogilvy, the group was made up of a combination of bloggers, marketeers and PR professionals. As someone who has recently started a blog (and has an increasing addiction to it), but who makes a living from PR and marketing, it was really interesting to find myself sitting somewhere in the middle.

The list of ten (and a few more) came out of the discussion, and is posted at Longstation, but the really interesting angle for me was a debate regarding the status of bloggers, and how they should be approached by those of us in the PR world. Specifically, there was some discussion around whether bloggers should be treated as journalists, and whether or not they wanted to be.

It was clear, and not surprising to hear, that bloggers get annoyed when they receive a constant barrage of untargeted PR material. There was some concern about bloggers finding themselves on a number of media databases used by the PR industry, and being increasingly bombarded with generic press releases that are of no interest to them. That’s how we all feel when our inbox gets full of spam.

As any hard-working PR exec will know, this lazy approach will not win any favours with journalists either, but then as a profession we’ve historically had a lot longer to understand how individual media work and the time to build fruitful contacts. The sudden growth of blogging, and a desire to interact with this powerful communication channel, combined with a lack of understanding about how bloggers work is obviously creating real issues for both sides.

The other side of the argument here is when bloggers want to be treated like journalists, but are often not given the same status. An example was given of bloggers being invited to events, but then not receiving press passes and the traditional perks that go with them.

It was all beginning to sound very ‘them and us’. Surely the beauty of blogging is that anyone can set themselves up to get their thoughts and opinions out there. Naturally, the more gifted will build a stonger reputation, a larger following and therefore greater value in the eyes of those of us looking to convince them to give us the odd plug here and there. But as more of us start blogging, the line between ‘them and us’ is going to blur.

The best piece of advice I’ve been given on this subject is from Pete Ashton, who reminds those of us in the business of promotion that the best way to spread the word is to start blogging ourselves. If the content we produce is of real interest and value, it will get picked up. By blogging, we’ll also understand a whole lot more about the process and hopefully how to stop pissing people off!


8 Responses to When is a blogger not a blogger?

  1. […] Are bloggers journalists?: Only when they care about the facts and the truth. […]

  2. […] It was clear from the participants that this is a tricky subject, as some people also noted after the […]

  3. jrp says:

    this difference is simple yet easily misunderstood

    at its core, true, hard-news journalism is objective and well rounded with each side represented

    at its core, true blogging is subjective with one point of view

    the problem lies in the gray area in the middle, such as when a reporter starts editoralizing in the middle of the article or a blogger starts ponding the pavement and working up articles rather than writing about whatever he chooses

    this debate isn’t going anywhere any time soon

  4. MC Milker says:

    A slightly different take than jrp’s…

    Bloggers are rarely “news” journalists. They are more like a columnist found on the editorial page.

    Possibly the best comparison, for a PR wonk to make, is to a book reviewer or a movie reviewer. Both of these types of journalists receive “in kind” compensation for their work.
    Both of these types of journalists provide their opinion on a product that they have used and enjoyed.

    Perhaps, bloggers, should be approached with product the way a studio or publisher approaches a msm reviewer with their product.

  5. Paul Groves says:

    I tend to agree with jrp.
    There is a distinction between what I write – and at times how I write – as a journalist and as a blogger.
    Obviously there is a lot of overlap, but I blog on issues I don’t write on as a journalist and I sometimes blog in a style that wouldn’t work as a feature for a newspaper or magazine.
    I think I’m stuck in the middle of the grey area jrp is alluding to. My journalist training and background is sometimes hard to shake off as a blogger. I’ll carry a link to a quote to provide balance, whereas other bloggers might not bother. I’ve also been asked a few times if I’m interested in developing particular blog posts for feature articles and politely declined as I wasn’t interested in exploring the wider issue, just my own thoughts or experiences (but I pitched other ideas instead!).

    There isn’t an easy answer because the goalposts are continually moving. I’m also not sure whether we’ll ever have a clear answer for the same reason.

  6. […] others don’t.  It was clear from the participants that this is a tricky subject, as some people also noted after the […]

  7. ruthward says:

    Thanks for all of your views and comments. They certainly confirm that this is a complex issue. It will be interesting to see how the relationship between press and bloggers evolves…

  8. podnosh says:

    jrp tells us:

    “at its core, true, hard-news journalism is objective and well rounded with each side represented

    at its core, true blogging is subjective with one point of view”.

    I have been both a hard nosed investigative, political reporter, documentary maker type journalist and blogger type. The difference I find is that as a bloger I no longer pretend to have some special understanding of reality, objectivity or the truth. i recognise it all as a conversation and share it as such.

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