There was a time when I loved getting the Sunday Inquirer Magazine (SIM) and that was way back when it was an engrossing read.
That was about a decade ago.
On most Sunday afternoons, the SIM usually gets chucked into the wastebasket.
However, yesterday's SIM was different because it was hard to ignore.
I became immediately aware of just how interesting it was when my wife practically shoved it in my face and said, "Hey! Its all about bloggers and blogging. Margaux Salcedo has an article about some blogger who asks for money to write good reviews."
And right there and then, I had a feeling that Ousted President Joseph Estrada's 2010 Presidential Campaign spokeswoman, had perhaps single handedly boosted the online readership of Sunday Inquirer Magazine with her article.
Congratulations Ms. Salcedo! It seems you're the new Tim Yap and Yolly Ong. Or maybe not.
"Please don't give blogging a bad name" seemingly presented itself as a cautionary tale about unscrupulous Public Relations firms and an unnamed blogger who was in their keep.
Here's an excerpt from Margaux' article:
The Firm called Georgia again. “Have you seen Big Bad Blogger’s post?” they asked. Of course she had. “He works with us. We have an arrangement with him. We can make sure that more bloggers write about your restaurant the same way if you hire us.”
How much? Georgia asked. The price demanded: P120,000 a month for a year. “What?!” Georgia thought. “These guys are crazy.” And again she gently declined. They lowered the offer to P80,000. (That’s P80,000 per month x 12 months or P960,000; almost a million bucks.) Georgia still declined.
Cut to a year later when Georgia opened another restaurant. Big Bad Blogger visits. Again, he smiled, ate like a regular blogger, took pictures with his ginormous SLR, and paid for his meal. This time, though, he wrote a scathing review. A few days after that, The Firm called Georgia again. “Have you seen Big Bad Blogger’s post?” they asked. Of course she had. “He works with us. We can make sure he retracts his comments and clarifies that your restaurant is not bad but really good after all.” For the same price.
Now, Ms. Salcedo has some reason to give out cautionary tales about people who hire themselves out to publish good or bad articles. One reason may be that she is in a visible part of PR that deals with the public and the press. Another reason, perhaps, is this article which I found in Ellen Tordesilla's blog.
Vicious Erap rumor
There are vicious email and text messages being passed around about former President Joseph Estrada alleged sexual relationship with his spokesperson, Margaux Salcedo.
It’s not true.
The ugly message was sent to me by a certain “Natividad Balete”. The blog which was opened only less than two weeks ago is titled “Filipina ako so what.”
The writer says he was formerly an Erap fan but is disgusted by what the former president did to his wife, Dr. Loi Estrada. The story is that Loi caught Erap in a compromising situation with his young and pretty spokesperson. It even alleges that Margaux is pregnant and that, just like with other Erap mistresses, he is building her a house.
The writer says that according to the Estrada household help, Loi went to the United States in a huff and when she came back, she did not stay in the Estrada house in Polk street. She is reportedly staying with her daughter, Jackie Lopez.
San Juan Mayor JV Ejercito, who was the one who recommended Margaux for the position as Estrada spokesperson, belies the rumor. “Kawawa naman ang bata,” he says of the young, aspiring lawyer who was formerly “Flash Report” anchor in GMA-7.
JV said he knew of Margaux during the 2007 mid-term election because she was the candidate of Partido ng Masa for Congress in Mindoro. When she didn’t make it, she suggested her to his father to replace Rufus Rodriguez, who won as representative of the second district of Cagayan de Oro.
“She is hardworking and a loyal PMP member,” JV said.
Of course, writing about her own experience with a virtually anonymous blogger would have been self serving and was actually a good idea that she instead wrote about someone else's experience.
I mean, she couldn't be accused of bias as far as her article was concerned. She was talking about someone else's negative experience with a PR Firm and a blogger. Right? @-(
Anyway, her article sparked a conversation on twitter and it went on till the wee hours of morning.
Some were obviously offended by the piece. There was even one tweet that seemed to suggest that a war between bloggers and journalists was brewing -- but I just found that a bit too melodramatic, if not improbable.
The more reasonable and thoughtful bloggers urged Ms. Salcedo to name who the Big Bad Blogger was. I for one tweeted that her not naming who the Big Bad Blogger basically makes everyone with a blog a suspect and then I remembered... I didn't regularly review restaurants.
Well, so, it's not everyone with a blog.
I write mostly about politics and government. I have one article about Sabroso Lechon and I am pretty sure Charlie Gaw (the owner) didn't give me anything to write a favorable review about it. (And I still recommend that you try his lechon because it is simply nyum-nyum-nyum.)
The thing is, for a while, bloggers have been self-professed dispensers of more credible articles on just about anything. Purportedly because, as some claim, the articles are written by people who don't have any agenda other than just honestly telling other people about their experiences in the hopes that it would be helpful.
Of course, even in the US, this self-professed altruism has been revealed to be somewhat of a myth and at the core of the evolving dogma of social media marketing is the idea that "self promotion as yet another NEW MORE EFFECTIVE way to market stuff."
This has led people in the US to compel bloggers to disclose if they are receiving any remuneration for the reviews they come out with. Apparently, this would prevent their readers from being misled.
The thread of this particular discussion on blogger disclosure goes back to about two years and goes into a lot of ethical issues.
But really, compared to what was being suggested in the article of Ms. Salcedo, blogger disclosure has a more decent atmosphere around it.
What Ms. Salcedo was actually describing was the PR INFILTRATED NEWS MEDIA VERSION of the protection racket.
Among street gangs, the racket is played out by offering a business owner protection from other gangs who may rob them or bust up their establishment. If the business owner refuses to sign up for protection, their establishment gets robbed or busted up -- by the same gang that offered them protection.
The PR INFILTRATED NEWS MEDIA VERSION of the protection racket involves approaching the prospect with an offer of protection and even promotion in the form of a rave review. If the prospect turns down the proposal, the prospect gets roughed up with a negative review.
Having been in the media herself for quite some time, having been a candidate herself, and having been a Spokesperson in a campaign, I guess she'd be quite familiar with this racket. Just considering how Erap himself, being a former movie star and a patron of some entertainment reporters, one would also have surmised that even if Ms. Salcedo didn't know about the racket -- she would eventually encounter it.
Her friend, whom she identifies as the source of her story, may also be similarly aware or conditioned by familiarity with the NEWS MEDIA PROTECTION RACKET.
The point is, sometimes one comes up with descriptions of new experiences by using terms associated with past experiences that may be a familiar to a large number of people. This is perhaps why a person seeing a Tarsier for the first time may describe it like a squirrel with huge eyes -- assuming that the person comes from a country where squirrels are a familiar sight.
So, what I am saying is that perhaps being steeped in the milieu where one encounters the 'NEWS MEDIA PROTECTION RACKET', Ms. Salcedo and her friend may have described it as such.
I am not saying that this IS the case, I'm just suggesting that people can misconstrue how a blog or blogger becomes influential enough to employed in such a racket.
A blogger isn't influential by himself or by virtue of his blog alone.
Unless you are talking about an established authority or celebrity, most people wouldn't give a rats ass about who the blogger is and most bloggers aren't established authorities or celebrities. Moreover, unless you are talking about an information or news website that gets millions of visitors or pageviews a day, a blog post from an unknown blogger may be easily disregarded or ignored by readers who are accustomed to articles found in news or information websites.
Without getting into the nitty gritty of how a blog become influential, let me just point out that it involves a continuous process of vetting and endorsement by ordinary people who come across their blog and authorities or celebrities who are recognized for their authority on relevant subject matters.
The quality and substance of a blogger's blog would be of little value if it can't be discovered either through Google search or referral links spread through social networking sites.
Here's the thing about Ms. Salcedo's story and about bloggers: If Big Bad Blogger did write a good review first and then followed it up with a bad review, wouldn't this sudden reversal have already tipped his readers that he was inconsistent in the least and therefore not a very reliable reviewer? If he was in the employ or strongly influenced by the PR firm as claimed, wouldn't it be highly probable that the Big Bad Blogger had done this racket several times in the past? If so, wouldn't the Big Bad Blogger have gained a bad reputation and thereby lose his following's trust, and with that, his influence?
Bloggers aren't like columnists, who inspite of already being proven and widely acclaimed to be either a sycophant or extortionist with by-line, continue on being published.
Bloggers lose their readers and their following quite easily when they're exposed for misleading their readers.