Are Bloggers Just Cheerleaders?

With apologies to cheerleaders and all the athletic prowess it takes to perform those stunts, this post addresses the actual cheering part of the cheerleading profession.

Some situations have recently come forward that have me wondering where bloggers are placing themselves on the news / marketing spectrum.

While many rail and chant and rally that bloggers are journalists, others are proving themselves to be little more than shills for companies, easily bought with a cd, shampoo sample or fancy dinner out.

While the FTC is stepping in and placing regulations mandating that bloggers must disclose so-called “pay for post” entries, no such regulations exist in Canada.

There is no mistaking that bloggers aren’t journalists. They don’t work in big towers surrounded by editors and researchers and producers. Usually, bloggers are just happy little people at home who like to overshare stories about their lives and photos from their day. Yes, some take journalism seriously, but blogging really is a cottage industry of hobbyists. And it’s these hobbyists that are taking the blogging name down.

When a media event announcing a new product is held, journalists will attend and feel no obligation to praise the product. Bloggers, on the other hand, act like invited guests. Flattered that their little piece of the blogosphere has been noticed by the outside world. They enjoy the attention and free lunch and don’t want to bite the hand that feeds. In the end, the announcements are heralded with angel trumpets.

Look at what happened last week with the Nestle Family fiasco. Some bloggers were invited to LA to panel for Nestle and sample some products and, in the end, act as marketing megaphones for the company. The web responded with a huge backlash against the bloggers. Should the bloggers have approached the panel with a more critical eye, or were they to go as happy coupon clippers who just got a golden ticket to Hollywood for a free weekend?

Molson Canadian Hockey House was unveiled in Vancouver yesterday. The newspapers are taking a hard line on the choice of caterers (American Uber Chef Wolfgang Puck) and the price tag for admission ($500). The invited bloggers are trumpeting the press release with little cause for criticism or evaluation.

On Twitter, Peechie agreed that marketers reaching out to bloggers are looking for cheerleaders and when they don’t get it, they look elsewhere for love.

@peechie: i got some review products once, didn’t love them, said so… mysteriously I haven’t received any more… my initial thought: there are way more bloggers than big media outlets. one blogger disses you, move to the next.

Unless your blog is as big as a “legitimate” news organization, you’re just one of the ducks in the row. They may pick you first, but if they don’t get the proper response there’s someone sitting in the second spot who’s just as valuable.

Fewer mainstream news organization exist, so even though they may not get the treatment they were expecting for product A, when product B comes out the company still needs to hit up the company in an effort to get the message out to mainstream audiences.

It’s not news, I was on about this last summer as well:

Actually, it might not be the bloggers they’re getting over on, it’s more likely the rest of the PR sphere that is getting gamed. Boris Mann defends his site’s approach by saying: “Many people benefit from the ability of UV to help generate “press” credentials, for everything from music awards to the Olympics.”

In other words, a few bloggers, without much clout, readership, or influence, are trying to artificially increase their standings on the internet so they can catch some creds and go to a free concert.

In the end, the bloggers merely become brand cheerleaders, but should we be expecting anything more?

Oregon Ducks Cheerleaders Photo on Flickr by Avinash Kunnath