Blogger skepticism understandable but in this case wrong

There’s an interesting discussion in the comments to a Jeff Jarvis post about WKRN-TVs announcement last week that it will begin paying video bloggers for material they submit that’s used on-the-air or on the station’s website.

Seth Finklestein Finkelstein (see comments) raised the issue of whether the station isn’t just doing this as a budgeting ploy to get cheap content. I’ve encountered this before, so I asked him what a mainstream company has to do to prove that it wishes to work WITH the local blogosphere rather than exploit it. His response was to defend his cynicism.

Seth is one of the smartest guys out there, so it’s important to pay attention to what he says. This kind of jaded thinking is sadly the norm, and I’ve always pointed out to clients that trying to play with local bloggers can be a minefield. The benefits of doing it right, however, can pay off big time and in many ways. It is upon this, after all, that my theories and axioms are based.

We shall see.

BONUS: Here’s a link to the 3rd segment of yesterday’s Reliable Sources on CNN. The discussion is about online video and its disruptive potential. (Thanks, Harry)

Comments

  1. Not that he needs me to do this, but I am taking Seth’s side on this one.

    Terry, I think you’re too close to the subject to be objective in this case. I’m not condemning this – been there, done that. If Seth’s POV strikes you as "jaded and cynical", how d’you suppose that came about? (And in fairness, Seth if you’re reading this, I do believe that there are times that you’d rather argue "why not" rather than say, "how about…?" Just sayin’.)

    As for there being "no model" for what the station is doing, I disagree. Am I to believe that there is "no model" for any sort of freelance work in any of the mass media? And yes, I am aware that freelance traditionally pays less than staff. Or more to the point, isn’t as reliable in the $$$ department as staff.

    There is one more issue that I am not seeing hide nor hair of: As an example, the Weather Channel solicits (presumably unpaid) "citizen journalist" video for use on their web site, if not the TV network. But TWC claims to have the most comprehensive in-house resources for all things weather. "CitJourno" runs counter to this boast, and thus I perhaps cynically expect such submissions to be stuffed into obscure corners of their web site, as opposed to featured prominently. CitJourno means that TWC fell down on the job. Jaded and cynical, perhaps, but in my view a valid concern.

  2. 0) "FinkELstein", not "FinkLEstein"

    1) Thanks for the compliment

    2) Now, now, that’s not fair. I did answer your question, in a way which is testable (falsifiable)

    3) Such jaded thinking is sadly the norm because it is reflective of the most likely outcome – that is, again, sadly, not changed because it’s not the desired outcome (hope in one hand, * in the other, see which fills up first …)

  3. I accept your perspective, Ethan, but I’ll ask you the same question. What does a station need to do to prove that it wishes to work WITH the local blogosphere rather than exploit it?

    I think it’s fine to be skeptical, but to lop all initiatives into the same doubtful pool is evidence of the same stereotyping that the mainstream has done to bloggers. It doesn’t get anybody anywhere.

    Yeah, I’m close to this, which, I suppose makes me a little defensive. I’ve gone out of my way to point media companies to the inevitable fruit of exploitation, and recommend they do otherwise. WKRN is one client that’s actually doing that, and I get a little miffed when they get tossed in with the rest.

    If that’s wrong, I’m guilty.

  4. Seth, sorry for the typo. It’s been fixed. If testimony from local bloggers isn’t sufficient evidence, and some sort of outside validation is required, then there’s no hope for bloggers and the mainstream ever working together.

    How’s THAT for jaded and cynical?

  5. Terry, what are the local bloggers testifying to? That XYZ Corp is really, really nice? Mob bosses can get people to testify to what nice guys they are. More kindly, people with passionate hopes and dreams often over-estimate how much others share those hopes and dreams.

    I mean, from my point of view, what I’m saying is deeply objective: They (will?) pay bloggers $X. Standard freelance rate is $Y. Is X less than, equal to, or greater than Y? This seems pretty simple.

    I expect X to be less than Y – maybe *much* less than Y – based on very very basic economics. This is not hard to prove or disprove.

    If "some sort of outside validation is required, then there’s no hope for bloggers and the mainstream ever working together." – this sounds like "You don’t love me". We need objective validation precisely so that our hopes don’t make us see things which aren’t really there.

  6. "I accept your perspective, Ethan, but I’ll ask you the same question. What does a station need to do to prove that it wishes to work WITH the local blogosphere rather than exploit it?"

    I’ll ask back, how is freelance work otherwise proven to be safe and effective? I think the short answer is more showing, less telling. If people want to delude themselves into thinking CitJourno is a dead end when in fact it is mutually beneficial, so be it. But "telling" isn’t going to make the sale.

    On that note, I am at a disadvantage as I am not native to the Memphis TV market, but I will stay vigilant to see what comes of CitJourno pro and con.

  7. PS: I just read this and it speaks beautifully to the subject of cynicism:

    "Scratch the surface of most cynics and you find a frustrated idealist — someone who made the mistake of converting his ideals into expectations." – Peter Senge

  8. THIS local blogger is testifying thusly:

    1. Yes, X is less than Y, but we realise that entry level is less than midrange salary at any business. And frankly, most of us bloggers ARE entry level into the video news business. I imagine once we’ve been doing it awhile, we’ll edge ever closer to Y.

    2. I’m pretty much hip deep in the Nashville blogosphere these days. I can attest that we appreciate WKRN for what it’s doing but we’re not all singing its praises blindly and without reservation. There have been serious discussions for the last 5 days about this announcement and what it means. All of the local bloggers are professionals in their fields and are keeping the same weather eye on the WKRN proposal as you outsiders. But we’re happy to help shape it in the direction that works best for both the individuals and the station. Don’t worry, this local blogosphere can take care of itself.

  9. I agree with Kat. We are not naive. But we are excited about something new.

  10. And Seth, if X = Y, then what?

    And testimony is generally regarded as evidence, not that WKRN is "nice" but that it is fair.

    Ethan, so you’re a "show me" kinda guy, eh? Okay. Stay tuned.

    Kat, well said.

  11. Jessica says:

    Seth’s instincts, while cynical, are perfectly reasonable. If they’re paying significantly less, then what they’re doing is offering an internship with a stipend. And who can and should take internships? Those people who have no reputation and need to start their career.

    As Kat points out, that tradeoff is being made (apparently) reasonably here; but in other markets it isn’t.

    If it breaks down, the established local people should simply create their own venue. They’ll get a lot of press simply by uniting and throwing up a competitor; that’s at the very least a bargaining tool.

  12. Terry, if X=Y, then one is a standard-paid freelancer, rather than an underpaid freelancer, or worse, and unpaid freelancer.

    Please note that one way to have that equation be true, is to lower rates for everybody :-(.

    While I understand the validation from editors accepting a creator’s material, I just can’t get excited about freelancing.

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