Bloggers don't have to be a pain in the behind, as Apple seems to think. Microsoft this week at WinHEC showed that there is a better approach to take to bloggers: treat them like royalty. Spoil them. Bribe them. And then let them loose.
The company flew a dozen of bloggers from all over the world to Seattle for the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) and put them up in hotels, labelled them as 64 bit enthusiasts and handed them a press pass.. When they left, the bloggers had brand new Intel processors and video cards stacked in their bags.
I can't help but wonder: does this breed complacency?
Of course not, the bloggers will say. On the contrary. But the truth lies in the eyes of the beholder: if it breeds the appearance of complacency, you as a blogger have lost your credibility.
Microsoft put up a list of WinHEC bloggers. Consider it the wall of shame. Not all the bloggers on there accepted free travel, but many of the "External bloggers" have put their reputations at stake. (I want to emphasise that Mary Jo Foley goes free - she is a professional journalist with eWeek).
Silicon Valley Sleuth attended WinHEC, but paid for his own travel and hotel (with a little help from my corporate sponsor vnunet.com).
Media in the US don't accept travel or housing arrangements around events. Accepting gifts is prohibited, or subject to monetary limits (typically $25). When reputable US media cover a Microsoft sponsored event like WinHEC, the only perk they get is a free press pass that gives them access to the keynotes and sessions. Oh, and a lunch of soggy sandwiches in the pressroom.
In the rest of the world things are a little more complicated. Historically technology companies fly in press from Asia and Europe for major events.
So did Microsoft at WinHEC.
The companies certainly won't stop doing it: a few thousand dollars in hotel and airfare gets them far more exposure than they would be able to buy through advertising.
For many money strapped publications accepting travel is the only way to attend shows like WinHEC, JavaOne or RSA Security. At least they don't bring back home hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars worth in hardware. And here too goes: if they even create the illusion of complacency, they lose their credibility.
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