I’m leaving the list above blank because it is an exaggeration to impugn the integrity of the folks who participated in the Microsoft “People Ready” campaign as part of what campaign creator Federated Media is calling “the birth of conversational marketing”. But it’s not an exaggeration to suggest that something smells bad about this approach, which manages to cozy up advertisers and editorializers in a way that would make a real journalist blush. But not many participants are blushing and we’re not even seeing any clear thinking on the topic except from Om Malik.
Mike Arrington is being downright ornery, essentially arguing that it’s OK to shill as long as it’s for a lame campaign (hmmm – so it would be wrong to participate if this campaign was brilliant and clever, right?). It was his recent and very cleverly titled rant that made me realize how this “conversational marketing” is a euphemism for old style advertorial nonsense.
The good news is that this is a chance to shifting my blog focus to some of the very insightful commenters who are making a lot more sense than the elite tech group. The advent of big advertising money has been distorting the online experience and many online conversations for some time. This is a natural thing. It’s a function of our human condition and as some commenters have suggested it is naive to assume this won’t happen. But when it happens it is important to point out what is going on! Also it’s hypocritical for those participating to suggest this “campaign participation” is fundamentally different from the practice they routinely excoriate, the growing “Pay Per Post” blogging that also distorts the conversation in an attempt to raise search rankings and prominence for advertiser-driven topics. Even many commenters are missing this obvious point. No, the People Ready people are not blogging about the campaign (well, they are blogging about it *now* but not in a way MS will enjoy) however like money in politics there is generally going to be conflict of interest when you mix ad campaigns, editorial, and money.
I think what bothers me the most about all this is that based on the comments those involved are mostly angry at critics because they are stepping on a potentially lucrative revenue stream. It’s clear to me that “conversational marketing” has already distorted the dialog about good blogging practices. Microsoft’s Don Dodge is calling those of us who object to all this “dumb as bricks” just because we are simply noting the obvious – that an advertising campaign is more than just the advertisements. It is the relationship between the advertiser, the publisher, and
Whoops. I meant “the rest of us”.