The first big story for Rizznites today is Holy Cowbells! Yesterday’s article about the Christopher Walken Hoax was picked up by a number of bloggers, including the National Review Online, and traffic spiked incredibly! The residual traffic is still well above my average daily traffic.  I can only hope I amuse the viewers enough to keep up this trend.  <capitalism> While you’re here, folks, buy a cd! </capitalism>

I do take particular satisfaction in having the story right a full 24 hours before the mainstream media had it right, although Paul Brewer has a good point: “I would advise skepticism about Buxbaum’s denial. After all, presidential contenders are notoriously coy at this stage of the process.”

One blogger actually picked up (and later disagreed with) my commentary a little later in the post where I said: “most of us bloggers imitiate Mainstream Media most of the time to get past the gatekeepers.”

Au contraire, mi amor! Whenever I’ve called a government office or any other entity (including the Crawford newspaper that published the endorsement of John Kerry), I always say I’m a blogger. And you know what, I always have been given the same access to press briefings or answers to questions as any other media person, for what it’s worth.

I guess I’ve been doing the sneaking into press briefings and restricted areas a little longer than blogging has been chic, because my early experience in independent journalism from a young age (around fourteen or fifteen) taught me that you’ve got to social engineer your way into the places you want to get the story.  This still strongly applies to entertainment gigs, in my opinion, although political gigs are pretty open to allowing indymedia in, as they have other ways of keeping the little guy down beside simply denying access (and most of the time, they don’t want process stories).

I’m still working on the big BlipMedia update.  I wanted to keep my users abreast of what’s going on with that, so here’s the dirt: I’m doing a three part upgrade, and it’s taking a bit longer than I thought.  The first major hurdle is that there are some minor memory leaks in the system I’ve got to track down.  I’ve not done a serious code review since I started the system six months ago, so it’s taking a bit to comb through the code and root out all the inefficiencies.  Once that’s done, our directory service will become available, which will increase everyone’s podcast popularity by quite a lot.  The next step is to finally finish statistics.  Statistics are vital to the overall project’s potential, and must be completed, but they cannot be done until the memory leaks have been plugged.

Lastly, I begin work on revenue system.  Blip is finally garnering the right amount of attention that we have a regular stream of people wishing to advertise on your podcasts.  That’s right, my dear users, people want to hawk their goods and services using your voices as product placement.  Last week we began the discussion on what that does to our journalistic integrity, and we’re going to continue that discussion here today.  I’ve had a lot of feedback from interested parties on that, so we’ll begin with that.

A lot of it started right here on the blog in the comments section. Elisa Camhort, the lady I cited from the BlogHer convention, chimed in with her personal policy on problogging:

“I have a sponsored blog. The title of the blog indicates it is sponsored, and I run their two ads under a banner that say “Our Exclusive Sponsor.” If I mention them in a post I always preface it with a “my sponsor xxx.” That’s the easy part really.”

But she comes back with the obvious question:

“How about affiliate links when I review a book I just read? Am I really supposed to disclose I could make $.50 if you actually buy a book from the Amazon link (which I was providing anyway before I ever signed up for the affiliate program, just as a convenience?) That seems like overkill.”

Good point.  I think it’s a fairly obvious distinction to make between the two types of sponsorship. One should be disclaimed, and the other is probably so obvious that it doesn’t need it.  This, however, isn’t really the type of sponsorship I am puzzling over.

Elisa continues:

“What I do know is I rankle at the idea of a “blog ethics committee” or some such. Blogs are just tools for some form of expression. I believe there is already a code of ethics for journalists. Same for PR practitioners. Your ethics should be guided by what you’re using the blog for.”

I don’t believe there necessarily should be an ethics committee for blogging – that just smacks of the kind of bureacracy that blogs are good at circumventing.

On the other hand, I think the “blogging ethics committee” is the same group of people that serve on the “mainstream media ethics committee” – the same people that called out Dan Rather for Memogate called out Mr. Daily Kos for taking Howard Deans money and being really quiet about it. The blog-o-sphere is a fickle lover, you cross those invisible lines, and you’re dogmeat, regardless of which side you came from.  Don’t believe me?  Witness this response I recieved from the Yahoo Group “Podcasting Innovations”:

Rizzn Do’Urden, you are scum.  Your suggestion is not advertising.  You are suggesting that people take bribes to endorse products. 

Do you have a personal system of ethics?

If you wish to sell your name to hawk merchandise fine.  It definitely shows your character.

Scum.

Of course, I’m well versed in the art of the forum, and I know not to take such bile personally, however, it is indicitive of a feeling in some bloggers and indy journalists (the ones I try to appeal to, honestly). In response to such sentiment, I think Matthew Wayne Selznick had the best response:

As for “paid placement” reviews… get the money up front, and have the product in question agree that you get paid no matter what you write, whether it positively or negatively views the product.

How else can you maintain your independence and integrity? How else can people trust your opinion?

You might find you get many fewer offers from companies to review their products. But the ones who are willing to do it probably have a level of integrity that approaches your own, and that’s good.

This is probably the closest thing to a policy I had in mind for this type of endeavor.  As a broker for such deals, it would entail me disclaiming myself to potential advertisers in saying that “I cannot promise you a certain kind of review, however, if your product/service/site is good, your product will speak for itself, and they will simply help to spread its good word.”  Additionally, as a broker, I can help the client cherry-pick their reviewers by feeling out the blogger/podcaster by feeling them out before hand. “Have you ever had a bad experience with with such and such company?” 

As much as I hate to admit it, a broker has a responsibility to both parties, the client and the blogger/podcaster, not just the medium of journalism.

On a larger scale, viewing the Blip community as a whole, I’ve decided to adopt a stance similar to Google on this, as their gimmick of blind keyword bidding seems to be the most fair and least bias-inducing method of advertising.  Let me propose this to you, the user base of r.Podcaster, and get your responses on it.

This system would incorporate thirty or sixty second audio spots in the podcast feeds from advertisers hand-picked by BlipMedia.  Participation in the advertising program would be completely voluntary and opt-in (this means I’m not going to automatically assume you want ads in your feed, you have to go into the system and turn that option on yourself). Ads will be assigned by keyword and category… meaning the categories your podcast falls into (and designated by you in the options) as well as keywords you define in your ID3 and RSS tags will help determine which advertisers show up in your feed.

From the advertiser’s perspective, the system will work a lot like Google’s AdSense.  Advertisers will be responsible for creating their own spots, and they will bid on keywords.  They will be charged based on a budget they set for themselves (how many times the ad will run), and how much the particular keywords they are bidding are fetch at the moment.

On the whole, the bulk of the revenue will go back to the individual podcasters, and Blip will keep a portion of the take for providing the service.  I think it’s a fair trade on everything, all things considered.  It protects the interests of keeping things bias free, as a podcaster has little control over which ads show up in their stream, and with Blip acting as a buffer, we fairly divvy out the rewards of being a content provider.

As always, I’m keenly interested in your thoughts on this.  Comment here, or send your mail to me.

/rizzn

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