Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Giving it away

A while ago I wrote about promotional blogging, and how I feel that getting paid to promote a product in your blog changes the way you write and the status of the blog, the way gettign paid for what used to be fun so often does. Today I want to talk about "giving it away", about bloggers who give their content to big companies for free.

In Dagbladet.no blogs are the next big thing. The paper has discovered that while journalists can write OK blogposts, good bloggers do it better. So they have opened two new blogs for the public: a gameblog and a politics blog. And they have managed to attract some of the better known individuals in the Norwegian blogosphere to their project, particularly to the politics blog.

While I think it is great that papers in Norway recognize the skill of these people, I am also surprised. These are people who already have good, visible blogs where they reach a large audience in their own right, and then they choose to sell advertising for Dagbladet.no instead?

OK, I can see that there is a certain usefullness in posting under the umbrella of a large newspaper, and get publicity through the paper's front page, but posting under ads for whoever paid Dagbladet to be featured around their more interesting nodes, and even doing it for free? The newspaper does not ask these people to blog for them randomly, after all, they ask because these are names that attract readers. And the newspaper is in the business of selling readers to advertisers, not content to readers. To be able to charge for free content is a very sweet deal indeed.

13 comments:

Jill said...

I've actually recommended this to a couple of students, after talking with Snorre Bryne, the games journalist running this. I mean, yes, I agree that it's weird that it's unpaid. Really weird. But I think there's a point in one's career where doing some unpaid stuff that gets you some visibility can be rather a good idea.

Or, alternatively, think of it differently: it is paid, but not in cash. Bloggers obviously already write (work) for something other than money - you and I do it for free, after all. We started off writing for personal satisfaction, but it's more than that. It's a way of building social and cultural capital.

I think that the bloggers are working in return for visibility - at regular intervals, the best recent posts from each of the theme blogs appears on the front page of Dagbladet. They're also writing in return for links. Links from Dagbladet are worth a lot in terms of PageRank, and they gain credibility by being in the Dagbladet blog. Not least, they gain credibility to a different audience than the one that already reads their blogs. Their grandfathers, who might not get blogs, will be proud of them for writing in Dagbladet. So will their future employees. The Dagbladet brand is pretty valuable in Norway.

So I don't think they're blogging for nothing.

I still think they should be paid money as well.

Torill said...

I agree with this logic to a certain extent. Dagbladet has stopped paying for "kronikker" as well, as academics are willing to produce great content for nothing, because of the readership and the Dagbladet brand.

I can see why it can be a good way to increase visibility, and I suggest voluntair work for my students as well. But I'd never suggest they work for free for such an extremely commercial agent of Norwegian media.

thomas said...

Isn't this whole thing pretty, I would say, scary for the blogosphere? That the independent voices of bloggers get incorporated into such an established (and thus probably powerfull) medium as one of Norway's two largest papers (online)?

Torill said...

Not really thomas, because this is a fairly predictable response from the papers. I have tried to get the department interested in blogging since 2001, exactly because I realised things like this would have to happen. It is more dangerous for journalists, as THIS is what they should worry about, not independent bloggers criticising them, but people with a secondary reason willing to write (and produce good material) for recognition, fame, exposure and future opportunities, rather than for an honest fee.

Newspapers today have stopped hiring people for steady jobs, and use only free-lancers and short-term contracts. This further undermines the individual journalists job security. As Jill points out: exposure has become a commodity, and now papers have started paying their writers in it, not just the sources.

Hjorthen said...

Blogging sells and blogging sells out. These things will be more and more common i reckon, and I don't really think it has to mean anything negative for the blogosphere as a whole?

For my part, being one of the chosen ones, I said yes when Dagbladet contacted me, mainly because I was flattered to be asked. Later I regretted it and don't feel too comfortable about this.

I'll stick with it for a while too see how it works out though, but my own blog is my main priority.

And we'll be posting something on this on bloggblogg pretty soon so keep an eye on us:-)

Torill said...

Hjorten, I understand the feeling (both versions) and the reason. I am trying not to attack the individuals who agreed to do this, but rather question the practice of Dagbladet and highlight a pretty dramatic change in their policy.

thomas said...

Hm, I'm trying to get this straight. The fact that Dagbladet hires popular Norwegian bloggers (without paying them in other means than merely the exposure) is a) mainly bad for the journalists, b) brilliant for the future of these few bloggers, and c) undoubtedly a nice way for Dagbladet to be 'in the lead' with a the blog medium (and make money if they get more site-views over this).

Now, I agree with Jill that we speak of social and cultural capital here through exposure as a commodity. However, I can't see the difference between getting paid in cash and getting paid in exposure. And that can't be good for these bloggers when they wright in their own blogs. As you said in 'Promotional blogging':

"Making money from your blog changes the model you work within. Getting paid to blog changes the blog. It isn't personal publication any more, your blog has become a one-person business."

I know that these bloggers still maintain their own, personal blogs, but how easy can it be to see the two blogs (the Dagbladet one and the personal one) apart from each other? And what will their readers make of this?

Bjoern said...

I don't recognize the image Torill paints of bloggers who have a "large audience in their own right", and "names that attract readers". I have maybe 5-600 readers a day, and that's pretty good for a blog, but not much compared to Dagbladet.no, and besides few of them are Norwegians.

To Dagbladet, this is about getting free quality content, (I doubt the reputation of the writers enters into it). To me, it's about letting people know there's a lot of interesting writing being done on the web. Get noticed, not just as individuals but as an idea ("you can do this too"). Create a bridge between the world of blogs and the mainstream media.

Eventually, people will start thinking: Why read some of Hjorthen's posts at Dagbladet when you can read all of them at his own site? Why have another of your letters to the editor rejected when you can say anything you like in a blog comment or a blog of your own? Why go to the newspapers at all for serious discussions when you know there's a community than does it better and wants to hear what you think?

But before that can happen, we need to let the rest of Norway know that we exist. This is a good way to do that.

- Bjørn Stærk

Thomas said...

Bjørn has a very good point. There is a great upheaval in the media where blogging is in the process of finding its place. BUT! Dagbladet has a practice that I personally find distasteful. If you recognize people for their quality and the content they produce, why should they not pay? If bottom line is all that counts, then Dagbladet will probably be short of writers pretty soon as the good writers will find better pastures elsewhere. The practise that Dagbladet has today will only work against them in the future when hiring bloggers will be like hiring journalists. You have to pay for quality, and in the long run those who are known to pay for quality will get quality. Dagblade will be shunned as soon as somebody else starts paying (and I'll bet that happens soon!)

Torill said...

Bjørn, I think you underestimate your readers. You are after all one of the Norwegian bloggers who gets quoted internationally, and if you only have 5-600 hits a day, that doesn't mean you have only 5-600 readers. The mention you get indicates that some of your readers are quite visible and influental, quality, not quantity! I also think you and the others are great writers , and you deserve a large audience.

And as I have tried to say: I am not after the individuals. I am certain that your reason for doing it is quite valid for you. But what the writers on the newspaper blogs are doing is also selling ads for Dagbladet and VG, and they are doing it for free.

Thomas M, yes, I think it will change their blogging. Since the ultimate reward is a mention on the front portal page of Dagbladet.no, and successively a larger stream of readers, yes, we can expect them to write towards pleasing Dagbladet's editors rather than pleasing themselves. But you can also say putting in a counter in your blog changes your writing, as that indicates which posts generate the most traffic.

When it comes to the connection between promotional blogging, blogging for free in Dagbladet (but getting paid in cultural capital) and for instance writing to get the maximum numbers of readers, this deserves a post of its own.

Bjoern said...

Torill: You are after all one of the Norwegian bloggers who gets quoted internationally, and if you only have 5-600 hits a day, that doesn't mean you have only 5-600 readers.

Yeah, but what I want is to reach a Norwegian audience as well, help create a Norwegian counterpart to the American blogosphere. I've been trying to do that for years, by letting people know when I write about them. That works too, but slowly.

Since the ultimate reward is a mention on the front portal page of Dagbladet.no, and successively a larger stream of readers, yes, we can expect them to write towards pleasing Dagbladet's editors rather than pleasing themselves.

At the moment, those editors seem most interested in creating debate. And then there's the confidence you get from having your own blog, your own readers, and a larger community behind you. I don't care if Dagbladet eventually decides they want a blog profile more in line with their own politics - just writing there for a while is enough to get the idea out there.

Thomas: If bottom line is all that counts, then Dagbladet will probably be short of writers pretty soon as the good writers will find better pastures elsewhere.

Yes. But again, before that can happen, this needs to happen.

Lars said...

Torill said:
"Newspapers today have stopped hiring people for steady jobs, and use only free-lancers and short-term contracts."
I'm sorry if I sound rude, but this is just not true, and as a media researcher, you should know better. There are, after all, more than two hundred other Norwegian newspapers than Dagbladet.
You do have a point, though. Editors always look for people willing to work for free or for peanuts, either because they want to build reputation (bad idea) or because they don't really need the money (like lawyers, doctors, vets or psychologists writing advice columns).
Journalists should and do worry about this, because journalism should be about independence, and if you can't make a living off your writing (or reporting), you've got to please someone in order to pay the rent.

Torill said...

Lars, as a media researcher and a teacher at a college for journalists, I know that not just newspapers, but also radio and television avoid hiring people in steady jobs if they can. This is, of course, not so absolute that nobody get a job anywhere, but the job market is changing and getting increasingly tighter. And this started other places than in Dagbladet long before it became obvious there.

I think you and I agree, even if I made a rhetoric exaggeration :)