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Another blog on. . . blogging
Dubai has an enormous amount of blogs – ranging from fashion and food to technology and events. Still, the subject of bloggers being journalists is a heated and never-ending one . . .
February 18, 2013 6:40 by Muhammad Aldalou
Whether or not you choose to accept that the digital realm has taken the world by storm is irrelevant, because it’s happening. And with that swift take-over, comes an army of bloggers. The old question of whether bloggers are journalists can initially be misleading – precisely because the answer is one that overlaps. You can’t ask whether golfers are chefs or vice versa because some chefs enjoy the occasional round of golf and some love to cook.
In 2009, both PRWeek and PRNewswire teamed up on a study and discovered that one third of bloggers considered themselves to be journalists – and in essence felt entitled to everything that came with the package. A year later, that number hit the 52 percent mark. Now Kipp hasn’t seen any results of a more recent survey, but we can only imagine that percentage has risen. As the founder of Child’s Play Communications, Stephanie Azzarone, once put it: “unfortunately, too many bloggers feel a sense of entitlement. ‘I am, therefore you need me, therefore I can pretty much do whatever I want and, oh, by the way, I expect to be paid for it’.”
It’s undeniable that they’re gaining more influence, at least enough for brands and PR agencies to consider them as valid names on an invitation list. But what happens when the feeling of entitlement becomes too bloated? Who draws the line and whose job is it to make them toe it?
What does Dubai think?
Dubai has an enormous amount of blogs – ranging from fashion and food to technology and events. Still, the subject is a heated and never-ending one. How accurate is the information? Is it biased? Do they maintain their blog out of passion or ulterior motives? The ultimate question that remains to be answered isn’t only whether bloggers should be entitled to the same industry ‘respect’ (if you will), press accessibility or exclusive invitations, but also whether they should expect them.
The subject of ‘unethical approaches to blogging’ had erupted on Twitter recently (not the first time) and after hours of seeping through countless opinions, Kipp can only conclude the general sentiment as being this: ‘Everyone is entitled to their opinion and voice, but demanding free products, services or luxury trips in exchange for positive reviews is certainly crossing the line’. The discussion was evoked by a Dubai-based blogger who – in a nutshell – wrote a blog about bloggers in Dubai; giving them a piece of her mind. A few PR professionals, bloggers and digital by-passers have echoed their dismay and shock at the practice of bloggers using the threat of a negative review to extort companies or brands.
“I see a rise in the number of bloggers who ‘review’ restaurants or fashion brands, and when I say review I mean they’re either offered invitations or freebies or they demand them,” says Surena Chande, a Dubai-based journalist and blogger. “If you’re going to be reviewing a restaurant it should be the same practice as a mystery shopper. They shouldn’t have any influence on your review. I do hope more PR companies and bloggers start realising that this simply isn’t on.”
“They’re free to write what they want to write about, but demanding for free invites and freebies just goes to show that it’s not about voicing your opinion, but true blackmail and extortion,” says Tariq Sanad, MD of Lime & Tonic in Dubai. “Professional bloggers who try to generate an income on the site need to have a code of ethics to be really taken seriously and be true to the followers.”
“I think it’s a brilliant outlet for citizen journalism. What I have a real problem with is people emailing companies to ask for free products in exchange for a positive review or worse, blackmailing companies by threatening a bad one,” says Daniel in Dubai. “That practice is absolutely abominable, in my opinion, and completely discredits the people who love writing their blogs.”
Sarah Walton, a food blogger in Dubai, tells Kipp it’s impossible to reject all ‘freebies’ and that every blogger will normally have their own principle on the matter. The downside of this unethical practice though, is that when a few bloggers become infamous for it, the entire group gets a bad rep. “Blogging is a something we don’t need to be thanked for,” she says. “I dont advertise, I have no sponsorship. I get paid in comments and the occasional free feed. I would never ask for a free experience – that’s just greedy – but I’ll take what’s on offer, if its relevant.”