TechMeme, Bitchmeme, Watercooler
My initial thought when reading this article at Geek New Central was: here we go again with the A-list blogging thing. The article claims that there’s an SEO strategy of releasing press releases to several of the A-list bloggers in order to get buzz and eventually link juice when Google indexes TechMeme. Paid links might be involved.
This situation is inevitable – PR firms are paid to get the word out, and seek to find the places people gather to share information. But blogging still feels different than traditional media, because there is a huge check and balance in comments and the blogosphere itself. If it was found out that an A-lister was writing about certain subjects for cash, the word would spread quickly. The hit to reputation would surely not be worth the “payola”. Second, many have publicly voiced their skepticism of companies like PayPerPost, or believe strongly in disclosure.
Personally, I’d be more concerned by the potential B, C, D, and below bloggers that would be more wooed by “payola” because they feel they have no reputation to squander, or this annoying splog situation that attempts to gain link juice by brute force.
Ultimately, I feel that whether or not to run paid links or listen to PR firms is ultimately a disclosure / policy issue that is particular to that blog. As far as Webomatica is concerned:
- I myself have received press releases from PR firms – not very many, but enough to establish a policy that I generally ignore them (my one lapse was writing about a Battlestar Galactica interview).
- The ads I run are Google AdSense, Amazon, and sometimes iTunes, but the money provided by those sources doesn’t influence the specific media I review.
- I haven’t sold any links, and display no advertising other than the above affiliates.
- The only “pay to blog” relationship I have is at the Blog Herald – but I choose the topics of those posts, and they don’t appear here.
- I’ve gotten some free stuff but feel I’ve remained objective.
- When in doubt, disclose.
If you disagree with my behavior in regards to any of this stuff, please let me know.
But TechMeme Can Be Very Echoey
Still, TechMeme does foster an “echo effect.” This post is a case in point. It’s like one sees a bunch of people yapping about a television show you’re watching, prodding you to run over there and add your two cents – even if sometimes, it’s just “I saw that show!”. If I link to the headline TechMeme story in the body of the post, sometimes I get a TechMeme link and a little bit of attention.
It’s freaking addicting. And I’m not sure if it’s good or bad for this blog.
- Maybe I should just subscribe to TechMeme in Google Reader and try to avoid going to the site itself for a while. Most of the bloggers who I really like who appear in the TechMeme discussions; I already am subscribed to. And if something was really worth reading, it would appear as a headline.
- Maybe we do need a “Bitchmeme” to filter out genuinely interesting posts from the pile-ons.
- Maybe I don’t completely understand the “discussion” area beneath Techmeme headlines. Is it ordered by the number of clicks from Techmeme to that blog? There could be an implied ranking of how “worthy” that link is that isn’t obvious.
So in conclusion, I don’t think tech blogging is broken by any means, but recent observations lead me to conclude that aggregators like TechMeme do nothing to bust the stereotype that the blogosphere is still just one huge echo chamber. TechMeme may be the blogosphere equivalent of a watercooler. It serves a purpose but it’s ultimately not the place where actual work is being done.