Two great stories this week that illustrate how the influence of bloggers equals and sometimes eclipses mainstream media:
TechCrunch reports on an erroneous Engadget story that shaved $4 billion off the value of Apple. The story, based on a fake email sent from Apple servers, said the iPhone was delayed.
Brooke Barnes of the WSJ writes about the lengths that networks are going to to woo “mommy bloggers” (subscription required):
Trying to tap into the burgeoning power of blogs as promotional tools and fed up with the jaded attitudes of professional critics and TV feature writers, studios and networks are flooding bloggers with free stuff in hopes the flattered recipients will reward them with positive coverage.
Fox News Channel says it recently thought about trying to flatter a New York Times writer with an invitation to an industry dinner hosted by President Bush. Instead, Fox says it sent invites to several New York media blogs — outlets it considered to be of more strategic importance.
Warner Bros. recently flew seven bloggers to British Columbia to promote its teen drama “Supernatural.” The bloggers got to stay free of charge at Vancouver’s Sutton Place Hotel, where rooms start at $162 a night, and spend a day hanging out on the show’s Canadian set.
The studio emphasizes that the budget was minimal. “There were no luxury spa visits or lobster dinners,” says Sharan Magnuson, senior vice president of world-wide publicity. (Perks of that level, say PR executives at other studios, are reserved for writers from foreign publications who vote on the Golden Globe awards.)
The declining newspaper business has already made TV critics an endangered species at many mid-market papers. The Star Tribune in Minneapolis recently nixed its TV critic column. (A role held by my good friend Neal Justin.) The story quotes one Disney executive considering changes to the TV Critics Association’s semi-annual press tours, where critics meet with network executives and stars of upcoming shows. If the critics lose that access, the jobs will be tougher for those that remain.
From everything I’ve read about the Engadget story, this could have just as easily happened to CNBC or any mainstream outlet.
The blogola story is a little different. Many news outlets (including the Star Tribune) have tight gift policies that restrict the kind of favors lavished on the bloggers in the story. Many (though certainly not all) outlets pay the expenses of critics attending such junkets.
Does such payola influence what’s written? Almost certainly.
Disclosure: I’ve been to several TCA events with Neal and I previously worked at startribune.com.