11 Sep2008

This is a RANT. So don’t read it if you don’t like my rants, which have been almost nonexistent this year. In fact, I am not sure if I wrote a SINGLE full blown rant since January.

Many of the regular readers of this blog, and there are a few thousand of them if my statistics are to be believed, know that I have frequently and CATEGORICALLY stated that this is a NON-COMMERCIAL blog. That I don’t make any money from it. I have no advertising. That I have RARELY, if EVER, accepted invitations to restaurant openings, product launches, groceries, food stores, markets, etc. I have never written a post on a restaurant or a product unless I have used it or purchased it myself. I even wrote a post on “Why I don’t write for (Local) Newspapers/Magazines and Refuse to Accept Freebies” which got comments from at least two prominent food/lifestyle writers, who took some exception to issues I raised regarding intellectual property rights, journalistic ethics, etc.

And in one of my response comments on that post I wrote this:

Here are some interesting internet links on ethics in journalism… I think any serious journalist, food writers and editors included, (AND BLOG OWNERS AS WELL) should read the relevant parts of at least the first link to the NY Times with respect to gifts, freebies, travel, accomodations, free tickets, being “incognito” to experience as any other citizen would, etc…

The New York Times Company Policy on Ethics and Journalism
Journalism Ethics: Gift and Meal Ethics (covering excerpts from the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, + 4 other papers
You are what you eat : a commentary specifically on food journalism ethics
Statement of Journalistic Ethics by the Daily Press, Inc.

Basically, what they say is that journalists, including food writers, SHOULD NOT ACCEPT FREEBIES. And don’t write me to tell me we are different because we are a poorer country. Please. Read and learn.

So what has Marketman so hot and bothered today? Let me first say that I receive dozens, sometimes over a hundred comments and emails a day. I try to answer many of them, but I have started ignoring others when they are pointless (in my opinion), ask me to do their homework (2-3 a day from highschool and college students who cannot even politely ask me to do their homework!), are obviously addressed to someone else (e.g., a store I wrote about), or ask for things like a reservation for 8 people at 8 pm and why am I such an asshole that I don’t return emails confirming their table (seriously, I get these 1-2x a month!). Almost daily, I field requests for me to feature some restaurant, food business, stall, food product, etc. and I almost always answer with a short email letting them know that I don’t do things like that. Sometimes people are just thick. So I let it go if it’s a one off request. I might bite my fingers on the second attempt. I rarely suffer a third. And after that, you are well and truly asking for a RANT of Marketman proportions…

1. THE FIRST EMAIL FROM MAD CROWD MEDIA, June 6, 2008 – verbatim (bold highlight mine):

Re: Business proposal
Hi,
I was surfing and came across your blog.
I\’m Aisha, an associate of Mad Crowd Media.
Please visit our website for more information about us.

http://www.madcrowdmedia.com

Our Client Nestle is interested in getting you to blog about one of their new products.
You will be compensated per blog entry.
This request is quite urgent.
If you could contact me as soon as possible if you are interested, that would be great.

Kind Regards,
Aisha
——-
Aisha Sofia L. Abubakr
Mad Crowd Media

216 FRDC Building
106 E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave
Ugong, Pasig City, MM
Philippines

aisha_abubakr@madcrowdmedia.com
Yahoo ID: aisha_sofia_15
Mobile: +63 (917) 502-7494

Aisha Abubakr

http://www.madcrowdmedia.com

Despite the completely offensive nature of this email, I looked the other way. Why? Because it was the first contact from Mad Crowd Media, because I know some people at Nestle, because I know some of my readers are working at Nestle and I hoped that this was just a young person’s error in judgment that if I turned the other cheek I could stomach it. I know I must have answered this email, stating something like “This is a non-commercial blog, if you have read several posts, you would know that I do not write positive reviews in exchange for being paid” or if totally nonplussed, I just simply did not answer it. But why does this bother me so? Does the President of Nestle Philippines KNOW that his/her marketing department uses outfits such as MAD CROWD MEDIA to effectively BUY IT GOOD EXPOSURE on blogs? Doesn’t a post such as this one, that will be read by several thousand if not tens of thousands of PRECISELY the target market of Nestle food products, simply confirm that one cannot TRUST what a blogger writes unless they have built up a reputation of credibility and now, in my opinion, OUTRIGHT STATES THAT THEY HAVE NOT BEEN PAID TO WRITE A GLOWING REVIEW OF A PRODUCT/SERVICE? Are ETHICAL considerations completely a non-issue for situations such as this??? And now where oh where are all of those people who were offended when I stated many months back that this kind of thing was fairly common in Philippine media??? MAD CROWD MEDIA didn’t even bother to mask the name of the CLIENT, duhhh.

2. THE SECOND EMAIL FROM MAD CROWD MEDIA, August 12, 2008 – verbatim (bold highlight mine):

Blog advertorial
Hi,
I\’m Aisha an associate from Mad Crowd Media. One of our clients are very interested in getting your blog Market Manila for an advertorial. We will compensate you for the one post.
Please let me know if you are interested.
Much thanks.

———————
Aisha Sofia L. Abubakr
Mad Crowd Media
216 FRDC Building
106 E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave
Ugong, Pasig City, MM
Philippines

aisha_abubakr@madcrowdmedia.com
Yahoo ID: aisha_sofia_15
Mobile: +63 (917) 502-7494

——-
This communication contains information which is confidential and may
also be privileged. It is for the exclusive use of the addressee. If
you are not the addressee please note that any distribution,
reproduction, copying, publication or use of this communication or the
information in it is prohibited. If you have received this
communication in error, please contact us immediately and also delete
the communication from your computer.

Aisha Abubakr
www.madcrowdmedia.com

This is the second email I got from Mad Crowd Media, and at least they clearly disclose it is a paid advertorial, which if they researched their target, me, they would know I don’t do. In this email, at least they do not disclose the name of the client. And unlike the first email, this one now carries a “confidential paragraph…” Good grief… how can this possibly be confidential? Shouldn’t the consumers know that MAD CROWD MEDIA PAYS OUTRIGHT FOR PEOPLE TO SAY GOOD THINGS ABOUT THEIR CLIENT’S PRODUCTS??? They have some nerve telling me to keep this offensive type of email confidential when I didn’t do any business with them, never asked them to contact me in any way, shape or form? And as a paid advertorial, even local newspapers put fine print that say “Paid Advertorial” – what are the chances that bloggers who wrote about this specific product wrote “Paid Advertorial”???

3. THE THIRD EMAIL FROM MAD CROWD MEDIA, August 29, 2008 – verbatim (bold highlight mine):

Re: Exclusive Blogger Event \”7,100 Flavors\”
Good day!
You are cordially invited to a specially exclusive blogger event in cooperation with Mad Crowd Media. The theme is ╲7,100 Flavors╡.

There will be three of the BEST chefs in Manila in an intimate dinner sponsored by Orbit Gum with Xylitol.

You will experience a variety of different masterpiece dishes with the chefs sitting at the table and describing the idea behind each dish/course.

Tentatively we are booked at Bistro Filipino on September 15,2008 at 7PM.

The Client actually browsed through and specifically requested for you.
We hope you can make it. If there are any conflicts with the said schedule please let me know, because we might be able to work something out.

Of course you will be compensated to create an editorial about your experience.
How much would you guys be able to do the editorial for? Usually, we base compensation on the blogstats of a particular blog.

Please send me a confirmation email if ever insuring your attendance and name on the guest list.

Please also feel free to contact me for any questions and/or concerns.

Much Thanks.

———————
> Aisha Sofia L. Abubakr
> Director for Advertising
>
> (Same contact details as first email deleted for brevity)

This third email starts off in a similar vein, and it sounds like a dinner in exchange for my munching on gum to remove the presumably offensive post dining tastes in one’s mouth. But then, WHAM, they say, “Of course you will be compensated to create an editorial about your experience. How much would you guys be able to do the editorial for? Usually, we base compensation on the blogstats of a particular blog.” Need I say more? And this time, they put the client’s name again!

4. THE FOURTH EMAIL FROM MAD CROWD MEDIA, September 10, 2008 – verbatim (bold highlight mine):

Re: Exclusive Blogger Event \”7,100 Flavors\”
Good day!
You are cordially invited to a specially exclusive blogger event in
cooperation with Mad Crowd Media. The theme is ╲7,100 Flavors╡.

There will be three of the BEST chefs in Manila in an intimate dinner
sponsored by Orbit Gum with Xylitol.

You will experience a variety of different masterpiece dishes with the
chefs sitting at the table and describing the idea behind each
dish/course.

Tentatively we are booked at Bistro Filipino on September 15,2008 at 7PM.

The Client specifically requested for you.
We hope you can make it. If there are any conflicts with the said schedule
please let me know, because we might be able to work something out.

Of course you will be compensated to create an editorial about your
experience.How much would you guys charge for this type of editorial?

Please send me a confirmation email if ever insuring your attendance and
name on the guest list.

Please also feel free to contact me for any questions and/or concerns.

Much Thanks.
——————-
> ———————
> Aisha Sofia L. Abubakr
> Director for Advertising
>
> (Same contact details as first email deleted for brevity.)

This is the fourth email that I have copies of (there may have been more that I deleted). It is a repeat invite to the same event as the third email.

WELL, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Thank you MAD CROWD MEDIA for confirming with your repeated emails over the past three months that YOU BUY GOOD EDITORIALS OR POSTS on blogs for well-known multinational and consumer goods companies. Thank you for confirming for my many thousands of readers that this practice isn’t shrouded in mystery, complete with unmarked brown envelopes changing hands, and that instead, you appear to see nothing wrong with it at all, going as far as to name the companies that pay you good money to do this. And thank you for sending me the emails that are now the crux of this post so that readers of blogs can see for themselves just how discerning they should be when they read about one product or another on a blog. I DO NOT WRITE POSITIVE REVIEWS IN EXCHANGE FOR MONEY. IS THAT CLEAR NOW MAD CROWD MEDIA? AND I PROBABLY WOULD NOT READ A BLOG THAT ACCEPTED OFFERS SUCH AS YOURS. I hope you will stop sending me any more of these offensive emails. GOT IT?

And here is the final nuclear missile, click on this link to MADCROWDMEDIA to see all of their 94(!) partner “publishers,” who while not defined, have apparently cooperated/partnered with MADCROWDMEDIA, whether compensated/paid/given some benefit, or NOT. One CANNOT conclude that just because they are a partner, that they have been paid to write a positive editorial on behalf of a MADCROWDMEDIA client. The list of blogs reads like the ultimate who’s who in blogging in the Philippines. Obviously, Marketmanila is not on that list. And not surprisingly, the 3-4 other blogs I regularly read aren’t on that list either. Marketman asks readers to reach their own conclusions…

P.S., It is a week later, and both companies mentioned in the emails have sent responses, you can read the follow up posts here, and here. Thanks.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Raine says:

    MM, keber lang nila talaga ano? I know that the advertising business is cut-throuat etc. but at some point, when you email someone and solicit their ‘services’ and they don’t reply, you got to take that as a no. No means no, Mad Crowd!

    Sep 11, 2008 | 3:42 pm

     
  2. Grayzo says:

    Way to go, MarketMan! Thank you for keeping your blog advertisement-free… that’s why I keep coming back every day. (That, plus your frankness and sarcasm sounds just like me!) I’m a first-time poster. =)

    Sep 11, 2008 | 3:43 pm

     
  3. Mangaranon says:

    Unbelievable! Bravo MM! They want to turn you like the run-of-the mill corrupt “journalists” in the Philippines. Accepting a freebie here in the First World means the end of one’s career.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 3:58 pm

     
  4. MrsS says:

    Thank you so much for this rant MM! I have recently been skeptical about some “reviews” that some blogs feature. This just confirmed my suspicion.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 4:04 pm

     
  5. Emily says:

    Sigh. When I think that Ruth Reichl went out of her way to wear all sorts of disguises when she was eating at restaurants so that she wouldn’t get special treatment, it looks as though the integrity of our food journalists have a long long way to go. If Mad Crowd Media acts like it’s perfectly normal to do this, it’s because a lot of food writers and bloggers think it is too. Lots of plagiarism as well, even among well-known food writers, according to my very reliable source who shall remain unnamed.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 4:06 pm

     
  6. Homebuddy says:

    Good for you Mad Crowd! Go MM Go!!!!!

    Sep 11, 2008 | 4:32 pm

     
  7. drew says:

    Hi Marketman. You make a very valid point. But let it be known to your readers that most of the 94 blogs, including mine, were put into their partner page without our permission. I didn’t sign any contract with them. Zilch. Nada. We are NOT partners.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 4:33 pm

     
  8. Marketman says:

    drew, I am so glad to get this comment from you.! I hope others who are on that list but not “partners” also learn about this and get their names off that list!! How horrible to have your blog mentioned without your knowledge or permission. And how much better for the blogging community overall, if in fact it turns out that the folks that succumb to these types of offers from MADCROWMEDIA are fewer than it seemed! Thanks for leaving a comment here.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 4:50 pm

     
  9. dementia says:

    Kudos to you for having the integrity to turn down such invites. I’m surprised that some bloggers out there didn’t find MCM’s offers insulting. Just goes to show how some blogs can be bought.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 5:00 pm

     
  10. Benito Sj Vergara says:

    Hi, Marketmanila,

    Thanks for taking the time out to post — I say that without a lick of facetiousness.

    I think Aisha, who has done a good job helping bloggers find and build relationships with marketers and advertisers, was well within her bounds to offer you, as with anyone, opportunities as they arise. The fact that you read the email, and had not simply ignored it, means something.

    It has always been our goal to help bloggers make something out of their content. So, your post, while in my opinion could use some of the civility and discretion Aisha has consistently approached you with, exemplifies the difficulty among marketers in traversing to new media from the old: do we really play by different rules now?

    You blog is the exception, rather than the rule, and that I personally tip my hat to. Still, the large majority of content in new media is not only supported by advertising, it is often specifically designed to attract it. Those that are ad-free are instead often supported by subscriptions, if not private or public funding. All in all, nothing new there.

    Your blog attracts not only your readers, but would-be sponsors as well. We take the same candid spirit to all our transactions: they come to us to look for a blog and we make an offer on their behalf. We’ll tell them, simply “no, he’s not interested” if such is the case. More often than not those words would suffice.

    And, more often than not, we help bloggers pay bills from publishing honest information about products and services they already use or are happy to experience.

    Many thanks for bringing this to light.

    All good things,

    Benito

    Sep 11, 2008 | 5:01 pm

     
  11. Marketman says:

    By the way, I think there is a clear distinction between an ADVERTISEMENT, which people are fully aware is an ADVERTISEMENT, and a “paid editorial” or a blog post that apparently sings the praises of a specific product/service, without the writer EXPLICITLY STATING that he/she has been paid to write the editorial… It is the latter that the emails above of Ms. Abubakr seem to be pointing to, not outright ad placements. I simply ignore or turn away folks who email me and want to buy advertising space on marketmanila.com with an easy answer – “I don’t have any advertisements.”

    Sep 11, 2008 | 5:04 pm

     
  12. Marketman says:

    Benito,

    Thanks for your quick response to the post.

    1. I read almost all of my emails. Don’t you? It doesn’t mean something, it just means I read my emails.

    2. Aisha and your firm is offering to effectively buy a positive editorial, not ad space, so if that doesn’t strike you as odd, I don’t know what would.

    3. I post Aisha’s emails to me exactly as I received them, except for repetitive contact details for the sake of brevity, that’s all.

    4. I let this go for 3 months and several emails before I even thought to write the post above… so the pestering is on your firm’s and staff’s part, not mine. If I never responded in any way expressing interest, you shouldn’t have continued to send the emails.

    5. You are concerned about my CIVILITY an DISCRETION, when Aisha didn’t even have the discretion to keep your multinational and other client’s identities unnamed, so that now Nestle and Orbit Gum may have to deal with any issues that arise from this frank discussion of how MCM tries to solicit favorable editorials, not ADVERTISEMENTS on blogs? Hello? I am sure most readers will be interested to HAVE this issue fully exposed to the public, that you tried to buy POSITIVE editorials or posts, rather than be discreet and quiet about it.

    6. Read my earlier comment re: the difference between ads and paid editorials.

    7. What about the comment from the reader above, of ALLEBA, that categorically states that he was NOT a partner of MCM, but you have placed him as one on your site? Now I wonder how many blogs out of the 94 listed on your webpage are there without the permission or knowledge of their owners?

    8. You DO NOT ADDRESS in any way the key issue at hand — is it ethical or even appropriate to buy positive editorials where the blogs do NOT explicitly state that the editorial was purchased?

    Offer me opportunities, you say? Is that a euphemism? I would have said something closer to a bribe… but the strict definition of the word bribe would not apply. Read Aisha’s emails for yourself. If they don’t bother you, nothing I write would help clarify your views on this matter.

    And I quote from your comment, above: “And, more often than not, we help bloggers pay bills from publishing honest information about products and services they already use or are happy to experience.” Yeah, right. I thought orbit was to spaceship as gum was to breath freshener… I have NEVER chewed Orbit before, so why would you send me two emails to ask me to write positively about Orbit, and ask me how much I would charge to do that???

    Stick with placing advertisements, that is something that is an acceptable business, but buying favorable editorials that aren’t explicitly disclosed by the writer, THAT is offensive. If not unethical according to several takes on journalistic ethics.

    These are most definitely not good things…

    Marketman

    Sep 11, 2008 | 5:19 pm

     
  13. Olie says:

    Way to go Market Man! Serves them right.. Then again I guess that’s why their name is like that.. MAD CROWD… They’re really mad (and I don’t mean “angry”…) Cheers!

    Sep 11, 2008 | 5:20 pm

     
  14. Fabian says:

    Some thoughts:

    Is getting paid for an advertisement bad? Surely not, and nobody thinks so.

    Is getting paid for a presumably objective review/editorial bad? My gut instinct is to say: of course it’s unethical. I have to consider though if there are situations where getting paid for it would be perfectly okay. Perhaps, if one were going to write something positive anyway? Also: doesn’t one get the punishment of lost credibility (and blog hits) if one positively reviews crappy places?

    My thoughts are that it would be good if reviews were not paid for by the provider of the products/service. I can’t fault people thought for taking money in all situations.

    For those who do take money, it may be helpful to add at the end of the article full disclosure a la what Slate.com does, e.g. “Full Disclosure: the writer of this column didn’t pay for the meal” or “Full Disclosure: the writer of this column is the nephew of the editor-in-chief of this publication who also put together this fashion event”. If said, full disclosures are too embarrassing to apend, then there’s a good chance that something un-ethical is at play.

    2 cents.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 5:33 pm

     
  15. Glecy says:

    While I was reading your rant,I was wondering what was this all about. So I went back to your Sept.20,2007 blog and read the whole story on Why I Don’t Write for Magazine and Newspaper. I am proud of your integrity ,passion and belief.I believe that being yourself ,having control on what you do is freedom in itself.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 5:54 pm

     
  16. Marketman says:

    Fabian, I agree with you about the disclosure. That would make it better. But if folks said “Disclosure: I received a PHPXXX fee, from ZZZ on behalf of company DDD to write this post” then you might as well take out an advertisement, right? That’s why I suggest that advertisements are far more transparent, whereas undisclosed editorials are very iffy… I do not take advertisements on this blog, but I certainly have NEVER criticized anyone else for having ads. Its when the ads affect the content of the posts that it gets complicated. For me, if I had banner advertisements from Hotel ABC, then had a horrible stay there and decided not to write about it because they advertised on my site, that would be personally unacceptable… but that is me…

    Sep 11, 2008 | 6:19 pm

     
  17. James says:

    Good for you for posting this.

    Personally, I’m in the Full Disclosure Crowd. If Company X provides a blogger with a free sample/copy for review purposes … I don’t have a problem with this as long as three conditions apply:

    1. The writer discloses this fact.

    2. The writer is free to write whatever they choose (within the bounds of libel, slander, etc.) about the product. Positive, negative, otherwise. No strings attached.

    3. The company providing the product has no input to the review process besides providing the product and answering questions. Obviously, this condition precludes restaurant reviewers because said reviews could be unduly influenced if the reviewee knows they are being reviewed.

    If all three conditions cannot be easily met … then forget it.

    Advertorial? Please. Let’s call that what it is: a paid positive review. If disclosed as such, while I don’t like it, that’s fine. The problem with these is that they are almost never labeled. They are presented as if they are honest reviews.

    And that is dishonest.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 6:36 pm

     
  18. risa says:

    I envy other countries who observe and enforce ethics in journalism within their ranks. Our company has a business relationship with a US news company whose internal ethics policy states that if we send their employees so much as a greeting card, we could lose their business. One. Small. Greeting. Card.

    Also, like MM, I take issue with “we help bloggers pay bills from publishing honest information about products and services they already use or are happy to experience”. Take this analogy: Paying/favoring/giving gifts to government officials by reason of their position IS graft and corruption EVEN IF THERE IS NO WRONGDOING INVOLVED AND EVEN IF THEY DO THEIR JOB WELL. The reason: BECAUSE IT IS UNETHICAL. And because there is a law, it has become ILLEGAL.

    For example, I post a comment here defending MCM. My arguments may be sound and I may really REALLY personally believe that MCM did the right thing. If I disclose that I have been paid by MCM, it puts a shadow of doubt on the veracity of the comment. If I do not disclose that I have been paid, then I have withheld information from readers that may influence how my message is received/believed by the reader. It is this conflict of interest that brings forth the question of ethics.

    I have to admit, MM, the emails did irritate me. The MCM commenter said that your post “exemplifies the difficulty of traversing to new media from the old.” Let’s not even get to the traversing aspect. Media, whether old or new must demonstrate good communication. These emails were not examples of that. It’s not even grammar or choice of words. Where is the subtlety? Where is the style? This is like a driver who whips out his checkbook and says to the traffic enforcer, “Magkano?” when you can actually say, “Ser, baka pwede natin pag usapan to.” Nonetheless, whichever style it is, it’s still bribery.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 7:05 pm

     
  19. Apicio says:

    Does a judge taint his judgment when he receives a gift from a litigant even if his decision does not benefit the litigant?

    Sep 11, 2008 | 7:10 pm

     
  20. risa says:

    Apicio, it may or may not. Judges are humans and they may treat the situation differently. Some may have a clear conscience about it, some may not. However, the danger that is sought to be avoided is present. All the more so for judges whose ethics require them to be “above and beyond reproach”. This ethical standard is so high that judges should not even be seen drinking with lawyers or other parties involved in cases presently before him.

    The law on graft and corruption also does not distinguish. As long as the gift is given by reason of the public position, it is illegal.

    It’s just funny how these standards are observed as the exception rather than the rule.

    As to the judge, if, however, the case has long ended and a former litigant decides to give gift to the judge, then it can be argued that it was not given by reason of the judge’s public position. :)

    Sorry po sa mahabang tirade. MM’s post just stirred a lot of frustration with these issues that involve society and country. Nakakapagod na.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 7:21 pm

     
  21. FoodJunkie says:

    Marketman,
    Although I understand your being upset, because you are definitely and truly against advertising in your blog, it really doesn’t strike me as as surprise what MCM has done. In Greece most of the restaurant reviews we read in magazines are paid editorials. The journalists are invited by the restaurant owner to a dinner and then write their review, usually a good one, since the restauranteur has made every possible effort to accomodate them. This was one of the primary reasons I started blogging. But, since blogging has become so trendy the last couple of years and people, fed up with paid editorials, have turned to bloggers to learn the truth, the infilrtation of blogs with paid posts was inevitable. I don’t agree with this practice and I want to believe that my favourite blogs don’t do it. But money makes the world go round. Unfortunately.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 7:24 pm

     
  22. Apicio says:

    Risa, exactly, gifts whether in propitiation or appreciation always blemish judgment. It sways with the former and blemishes with the latter. The adverse decision only gives the judge a defense, and a weak one too in my estimation.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 7:39 pm

     
  23. chinky says:

    MM, no ads in your blog is precisely why i check your site daily. No clutter and we know your reviews and thoughts are all your own and not influenced in anyway. Way to go! Keep it up.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 8:15 pm

     
  24. Arlene says:

    Way to go, MM. My mentor told me integrity always consists of 2 things — actual/real & perceived, and they must go together. So few people have it nowadays. Rare commodity na talaga.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 8:24 pm

     
  25. Vanessa says:

    I’m for full disclosure, all the way!

    Claiming to be “new media” doesn’t excuse from professionalism and discretion, which I would argue, the associate failed to use at every turn. At the end of the day, it boils down to just manners, really.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 8:46 pm

     
  26. zena says:

    I am in a position wherein I did not realize that the people whom I inspect/monitor consider it SOP to give me an envelope. Accepting it does not change my evaluation in anyway but it still smacks of corruption because it sends the message that I can perhaps be swayed, especially if the result is favorable to them. So I always return the envelope and politely say “no, thank you .” Just recently, I did not discover an envelope till I got home as it was taped to a box of bibingka. I drove all the way back just to return it.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 9:02 pm

     
  27. corrrine_p says:

    Well, to those companies who try so hard, blog readers know when a blog is sponsored or not or when a blogger writes a paid one or not. They don’t sit well with us foodies.

    The future of advertisement is hazy…with all these pay per view and sooo many channels to flip when an ad is shown and when you chance upon a blogger like MM….advertising can really be very, very challenging. What to do , what to do?

    Sep 11, 2008 | 9:30 pm

     
  28. sister says:

    Nestle and its advertising agencies spread corruption all over the world. It is a very insiduous company. for example, the huge marketing campaign over many years to push bottle feeding even in third world countries, causing many babies to be malnurished since the families could not afford to buy the correct amounts of product and watered down the formula.
    Should Nestle be blamed for this, you can argue it both ways, but presenting bottle feeding as the preferred method of feeding infants is deceptive, specially to underinformed populations. Feed the mther so she can breasfeed the infant.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 10:11 pm

     
  29. jayvee f. says:

    i don’t do “pay per post.”

    Sep 11, 2008 | 10:52 pm

     
  30. nunosapunso says:

    the late dean armando malay had said in one of his journalism classes that unless you paid for the coffeee yourself, one shouldn’t accept it from anybody while doing interviews or covering an event.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 11:18 pm

     
  31. mikelinparis says:

    frankly, there are many bloggers & newspaper/magazine writers whose columns looks and sounds like advertorials. obviously, if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck….so it does seem to be a given that THEY’ve been compensated. some i suspect do it to ingratiate themselves to their subjects. all i can say is that it’s pretty obvious.

    on the other hand, i used to host editors/writers of major u.s. & european media such as conde nast, hearst, fairchild etc and they did accept freebies. but in no way did i control the content. the only exception were major TV networks who never accepted anything in return. i guess their ethical standards, as a rule, were stricter? while a laud your principles MM, am afraid freebies are more common than we would like to think.

    Sep 11, 2008 | 11:38 pm

     
  32. m says:

    just as an fyi — you do in fact link to some blogs that do insiduous product placement. three of them in fact. you should go through the other food blogs that you have in your links section. some of them are so ridiculously NOT suave in their fumbling approach to subtlety. i agree with your sentiment, though at the same time — everyone is still working through the ethics and kinks behind advertising and blogging. while that is no excuse, i know that most NYC PR and advertising firms, as well as larger savvy companies, such as Google and Timewarner, are in the process of creating entire departments of young professionals whose sole job it is to send mass emails to specialty blogs, as well as to promote various events germane to said blogospheres. from the generic form letter structure, despite the phrasing that ‘the client specifically requested you’ — it does look like the emails from Aisha were probably mass in nature… just my opinion.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 12:11 am

     
  33. Trish says:

    Quite beside the point of the issue at hand but I just have to express that I am absolutely mortified with the lack of finesse and communication ethics of MCM!!! I don’t know if I am just too “old-school” about these things but I do find how they handled the matter as quite unprofessional and distasteful. They could have requested for an appointment to discuss their proposal with you or at the very least, come up with a written proposal detailing their program and politely request for your support esp that you do not have any form of partnership with them. Hindi yung pinamumukha sa iyo na they are ready to bribe este pay for your services. They definitely burned the bridge even before crossing it. Tsk, tsk, tsk!!!

    Sep 12, 2008 | 1:09 am

     
  34. chrisb says:

    “Of course you will be compensated to create an editorial about your experience. How much would you guys be able to do the editorial for? Usually, we base compensation on the blogstats of a particular blog.”

    This lady is, indeed, quite a paragon of civility and discretion! And I say that with heavy irony, facetiousness intended.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 1:41 am

     
  35. mikelinparis says:

    oops sorry. i was talking freebies while MM was ranting against paid edits. pero, is there a diff?

    Sep 12, 2008 | 1:52 am

     
  36. marilen says:

    dear MM

    have always enjoyed your postings because i said to myself – ‘here is a young man so full of life, curiosity about the world and people and cultures and food and fun and honest. Integrity shines through in his postings’ – i have admired your generosity and passion with sharing all that you experience and are interested about – and bringing together people with similar dispositions and interests. keep up the interesting and honest and fun and serious learning that happens here in your blog. God bless you, the wife and the child.

    so I see from your ‘rant’ there are a lot of crocodilos out there. keep them at bay!

    marilen

    Sep 12, 2008 | 2:10 am

     
  37. sylvia says:

    It is scandalous how Mad Cow Media is so upfront about offering to pay bloggers for a positive editorial. And then to defend their action by saying “we help bloggers pay bills”??? UGH! Where do these people come from that they have no concept of ethics in journalism?

    Sep 12, 2008 | 2:29 am

     
  38. xsaltire says:

    Bravo, Marketman. I totally support your call for more ethics in food blogging. I, too, am turned off by food bloggers who cloak themselves in the veneer of independence when they accept money or freebies on the side.

    I say accepting money or freebies while claiming independence is unethical– with or without disclosure. While disclosure mitigates the situation, it does not make it ethical.

    Our country has a very active food blogging community– it’s about time we raised our standards. Thanks for taking such a strong stand. Being amateurs and having to pay the bills are no excuses for unethical behaviour.

    Btw, I’m one of the regular readers who increase your hit count but never leave a comment (until now). More power!

    Sep 12, 2008 | 2:31 am

     
  39. ria says:

    i think if you simply emailed them “i’m not interested, but thanks anyway”, it would have ended there. that simple. since you didn’t respond, i’d understand why they would continue to email you thinking you probably never read it or was too busy to reply.

    as for advertorials, press releases, press con (rolls eyes) uhhmmm, it’s the norm. from ny times to inquirer to philstar. they get invited to an opening/junkets, and in return, the writers write about the products. that simple. so i dont know why suddenly everyone’s taking the high horse and moral ground on this one. now, if marketman is against this, well and good.

    as for putting the blogs on madcrowd’s site stating that they support the blogs. what’s wrong with that? why the sudden, beware bloggers and don’t let them write your sites just because marketman has beef with the company? whats the diff when wysgal posted in rogue magazine that she frequents your blog? marketman seem to go out of his way to RAVE about rogue magazine since he was in it. i don’t see the difference with mad crowd media saying they support the blogs. if any, your post about rogue was self serving…then again, as you would repeatedly say…this is not a commercial blog. (you can write anything you want, put yourself on a pedestal, after all, it is your blog and if people can’t stand it, they shouldn’t read it at all. yada yada)

    last, people can agree with you or not, but i highly doubt this “negative” post about nestle and orbitz would bring the company down and would make people not support their products or that nestle and other brands would stop using mad crowd media.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 3:10 am

     
  40. pixeldose says:

    MM, does your ISP host provide spam-filtering? Unsolicited and annoying emails can be blocked this way so you may want to look into it.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 3:44 am

     
  41. estella says:

    that’s what i like about your blog, mm. you write with sincerity about your travels and culinary expertise without thinking of using a blog advertisement. it’s good that you’ve given mcm a piece of your mind…

    Sep 12, 2008 | 3:57 am

     
  42. T.Greentree says:

    I love your site because of the principles you stand by, and of course your market finds. If it happened to change (I am pretty sure it wont) I would not frequent your site daily. The web for me is freedom from ads and commercial evils.

    Blogging is not racketeering IMHO.

    MM nice work, I love your site and especially this post!

    Sep 12, 2008 | 4:24 am

     
  43. sonia says:

    aisha is totally insensitive — why did she keep on e-mailing you when it was clear you were not interested?

    also, she could have done a little homework about your blog before even making you an offer! and let us not even talk about her grammar . . .

    Sep 12, 2008 | 4:48 am

     
  44. Marketman says:

    ria, I probably did send the email you describe, it’s just that I don’t have a copy of it as I empty out my sent box, but I don’t totally empty out my inbox… so I cannot categorically say that I sent such a response. Advertorials may be commonplace here, but I would read the link to the New York Times Policy on Ethics and Journalism up top, it is quite complete, so I would be prepared to believe, after reading them that the practice is NOT as common as you suggest in the NYT. And this isn’t even about a reception which you can choose to write about or not, this is about a PAY per POST, a different level for sure. Blogs who choose to join MCM are folks who take advertising… there is NOTHING WRONG with that aspect at all… but I do point out that PAY for POST editorials are not something I CAN ETHICALLY AGREE WITH. There wouldn’t have been a problem with the emails from MCM if they simply talked about advertising, but pay per post as outlined in the emails IS OFFENSIVE. I get emails soliciting advertising at least once a day and you don’t see me doing a rant on them, do you? Madrowdmedia supporting the 94 blogs? Where does it say that, I missed that. I got the impression rather that the 94 blogs voluntarily joined the largest network of “independent publishers” — and again, I reiterate, just because they are there does NOT MEAN they ALL accept PAY per POST offers. And drew, of ALLEBA categorically states that he never partnered with MCM and that they used his blog’s name without permission… and he suggests others were done in a similar fashion but I wouldn’t know that as a fact… As for rogue, I mentioned it because I did appear in it. But I bought my own copy, as I have purchased other copies of the magazine, and I WASN’T PAID for that post. I wasn’t PAID for my post on Town & Country, Yummy, Gourmet, and other magazines that I also featured. I have featured restaurants, stores, products before… and NONE OF WHICH WERE PAID PER POST… that is the precise critical DISTINCTION. It is not my intention at all to do anything to Nestle or Orbit, simply to point out that they may be a willing or unwilling participants in the “BUYING OF POSITIVE EDITORIALS” and that’s all. It’s for the readers to decide if that is offensive to them or not.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 6:34 am

     
  45. Marketman says:

    m, yes I do link to blogs with advertising and perhaps even some pay per post, but I don’t object to blogs with advertising, I simply don’t do it myself. Now as for pay for post, I have never really read a blog entry that categorically discloses that they were paid for the post, and if I did, I would probably STOP reading that blog. There are a few blogs in my links list that frankly I frequent much less now than I did when they made the list. They are there for readers to hop onto other blogs which may be of interest to you. Again, I will repeat that I don’t have a problem with other blogs taking advertising, I do have a problem with paid editorials and folks who don’t disclose the fact that they do them. Since I cannot confirm the latter, I must assume the best until proven otherwise… Oh and if you are specifically referring to Asia Hotels link (the only purely commercial link) in my links page, I have used them several times to book my hotel rooms on various trips and found them very useful and economical in the past. They were also one of the FIRST sites to link to marketmanila.com and I was more than happy to mention them in my preferred links page…

    Sep 12, 2008 | 6:42 am

     
  46. pdic says:

    ATTA BOY!
    “Co-founder and Director of Advertisers Lisa Rossiter, who thinks bus drivers need better moms, is busy wooing other publications and advertisers.”
    Got this from their website. Looks like Ms Rossiter could be Ms. Abubakr.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 6:44 am

     
  47. Marketman says:

    pdic, I think Ms. Abubakr may have been promoted into the job, if email titles are to be used as the guide… But really, this isn’t about a person, it is about the ethics of PAY FOR POST, and I would focus less on individuals than on the practice being promoted by the emails…

    Sep 12, 2008 | 6:49 am

     
  48. lysandrad says:

    Bravo! this is what keeps me/us coming back every day!

    Sep 12, 2008 | 6:51 am

     
  49. Nina says:

    Hi MM,
    Have you considered reporting this madcrowdmedia email as spam? It will save you the irritation.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 7:00 am

     
  50. Marketman says:

    Nina and others, emails with viagra, body parts, etc. are what automatically get caught in my spam folder; which btw, I still review quickly to try and ensure no reader emails gets caught there. But emails like this, I do read. And when shocking enough, I do not delete. So when I get enough of them and they are offensive, I can write about them. But yes, generally, one-off requests of this sort are simply deleted or ignored, as I stated. In this case, there are four emails, I may have deleted others in-between…

    Sep 12, 2008 | 7:07 am

     
  51. tnm says:

    Benito Vergara are you for real? Even defending Aisha’s actions? My God, the moral fiber of our country’s media has gone to the dogs, I swear. Yeah, I read Chuvaness, Awesome Planet, and Jessica Zafra. I will still read them but there will forever be that doubt about their integrity and sincerity. Man, what a bummer!!!

    Marketman, I am glad that you posted this. It’s very brave of you.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 7:41 am

     
  52. cb says:

    We’ve worked with Mad Crowd before to invite their network of bloggers to our event. They were very upfront about their bloggers needing to get paid even to attend but they never guaranteed a post. We understand that we cannot expect a post that’s why we went through so much pain in making sure the event is worth attending and that the experience is worth writing about. It’s upsetting to read that they actually advice blogger that they will compensate for a post since it taints our efforts. We pay because Mad Crowd said it was required for bloggers to attend but never for an assurance of a post. Plus, we actually didn’t get posts from some the bloggers in their network that we invited. Again, that’s fine since we know we can’t expect it. Thank you MarketMan for making this entry since we now know how Mad Crowd operates.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 8:43 am

     
  53. Marketman says:

    cb, thank you for that extremely enlightening comment. As with many readers above, I have no problem with companies, restaurants, etc. inviting journalists, bloggers or guests to their product/service launch events… and yes, folks such as these can or cannot write about it if they please. It is the payment/compensation/gift issue that really stings. And even asking for payment for attendance is questionable… What is really interesting to me in this post and all the comments is that there is some feeling that there is nothing wrong at all with the content of the emails I received from MCM, as if it was standard, acceptable, normal practice… If that is normal practice, I would really feel sad for the state of our collective integrity… Thankfully, many readers have chimed in that it IS an offensive set of emails… only a few, and new commenters at that, have sent below the belt and hence since deleted comments, in addition to the thoughtful folks who clearly articulate why they dissent with my view on this issue… Good discussions are always welcome on this site…

    Sep 12, 2008 | 9:22 am

     
  54. lyna says:

    Any review that is paid has no integrity for it has, at the onset, already defeated the purpose of a “review”. Call it an advertisment then.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 9:39 am

     
  55. lyna says:

    as for the Mad Cow…. oops wrong spelling… Mad Crowd emails, for a media company, I would have expected better email content.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 9:44 am

     
  56. sister says:

    I’ve never heard of an advertorial before. Is this a Filipino invention? Sad to say, this post only exposes the sorry state of ethics in the Philippines. I can’t imagine the NYTimes or the Washington Post offering compensation for a review.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 10:06 am

     
  57. Acid says:

    the only word to describe the pay per post practice is “whoring”

    Sep 12, 2008 | 10:11 am

     
  58. Lee says:

    i regularly read jessica zafra’s blog and i don’t think she will write a paid review in favor of anything.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 10:34 am

     
  59. Marketman says:

    Lee, I suspect a LOT of blogs out of the 94 in the MCM site do NOT accept pay for post, but we won’t know unless they specifically state this on their own blogs. As for Ms. Zafra, I like her pieces as well, but she is one of the five principals of the MCM group, if their site is accurate in its disclosure…

    Sep 12, 2008 | 10:39 am

     
  60. gie says:

    MM, I read your blog everyday to get inspiration on what recipe to try out for dinner or lunch or simply to vicariously live through your experiences. Although I do not often leave a comment, I enjoy and learn a lot.

    What is obvious from the people of MAD CROWD MEDIA is they do not bother about sensibilities: as an avid fan, I say, GO…, RAVE AND RANT!

    Sep 12, 2008 | 10:53 am

     
  61. millet says:

    “you guys”? you guys???!! *&$# i will not comment on the paid advertoria issue since it has been discussed etensively.

    but i can’t believe the audacity of these people claiming to be professionals and yet not knowing the basic thing about addressing every other person who is NOT their barkada. “FC” (feeling close) kaayo! textmates ba kayo? i don’t think it’s due to poor communication skills; i think it’s absence of GMRC (Good Manners and Right Conduct).

    Sep 12, 2008 | 11:32 am

     
  62. Rob says:

    HA! HA! HA! You all should read what Robin Goldstein (a wine author & blogger) did when he created a fake Italian Restaurant that won an “Award of Excellence” from WINE SPECTATOR magazine. He went so far as to create a website for this non-exisitant restaurant and obtain a phone & fax number in Milan for the establishment. He exposed this at a meeting of the American Association of Wine Economists in Portland, Oregon just last month (Aug. 15). Does Wine Spectator magazine have a Filipino editorial staff?!?!

    Here’s his blog entry regarding this ruse:

    http://osterialintrepido.wordpress.com/2008/08/15/what-does-it-take-to-get-a-wine-spectator-award-of-excellence/

    It would be hilarios if a similar situation occurred in Manila.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 12:11 pm

     
  63. MarketFan says:

    I’ve stopped reading one of the blogs mentioned as MCM partner because I could already sense that the author was getting some sort of “payment” for his blogs. This just confirms my fear. To the trash bin…

    Sep 12, 2008 | 12:29 pm

     
  64. jayvee f. says:

    @rob – interesting social experiment!

    Sep 12, 2008 | 12:59 pm

     
  65. hk boy says:

    What about giant companies asking people to SHUT DOWN their blog sites, only because these bloggers ranted about a bad experience in an event? This is the reverse of paid blogs… this time, companies getting all nervous about bad reviews (and arrogant as they most are), think they can simply ask private people to SHUT DOWN their blog sites!

    It’s quite sad when you pair up arrogance and ignorance. Some of these corporate marketing people just don’t understand it. Right here in the web, we have the freedom to express our thoughts.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 1:21 pm

     
  66. Marketman says:

    Freedom with responsibility. I think the blogging community needs to police itself as well… Rob, I LOVE the link, thanks!

    Sep 12, 2008 | 1:23 pm

     
  67. lee says:

    I think we should all look back to the father of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee, who could have been ultramega-rich but…

    You’d think he would have at least got rich; he had plenty of opportunities. But at every juncture, Berners-Lee chose the nonprofit road, both for himself and his creation. Marc Andreessen, who helped write the first popular Web browser, Mosaic — which, unlike the master’s browser, put images and text in the same place, like pages in a magazine — went on to co-found Netscape and become one of the Web’s first millionaires. Berners-Lee, by contrast, headed off in 1994 to an administrative and academic life at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. From a sparse office at M.I.T., he directs the W3 Consortium, the standard-setting body that helps Netscape, Microsoft and anyone else agree on openly published protocols rather than hold one another back with proprietary technology. The rest of the world may be trying to cash in on the Web’s phenomenal growth, but Berners-Lee is content to labor quietly in the background, ensuring that all of us can continue, well into the next century, to Enquire Within Upon Anything. Complete Text Here

    He’s a Lee.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 2:51 pm

     
  68. arpee lazaro says:

    i’m a food blogger and i’m not as big as marketman. i am on the mad crowd media group but i explicitly told aisha that i blog for free. all i want in return are invites to some really good events, which help me in generating content. if no one has apologized to you for the trouble, may i humbly ask that you find it on your heart to forgive them? the attention has already caused a stir with mad crowd, and mr. benito vergara has already gotten more than a slap on the wrist for offending you. i can see how some readers have acted with hate and contempt for mr. vergara, aisha and the rest of mad crowd and this has definitely dented the company’s reputation that took a long time for them to build. a mistake that they probably were not planning to do, but has already been done. the ethics of some may be questionable to you but not all can afford to blog and maintain a web presence without the assistance of ad companies who help us finance our hosting fees. personally, my time is already uncompensated. i blog because i am happy to blog and without invites from such companies, i would have nothing much to blog about because i cannot afford to dine in expensive restaurants.

    to marketman’s readers: hwag po natin husgahan yung ibang blogs kasi AKALA ninyo binabayaran sila. if you enjoyed reading their post, well and good. no payment is needed from you because it is our joy to tell you about the good stuff. please don’t forget to browse all the other blogs, including market man’s, which i read regularly.

    kudos to you market man! mabuhay ka.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 3:25 pm

     
  69. arpee lazaro says:

    please note that i am not friends with mr. benito vergara, or aisha. i have not met any of them personally, and though some of their emails have been annoying, i still prefer to be in their group because my friends are there too, and they take care of me when i am in an event.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 3:27 pm

     
  70. mikel says:

    this issue has put in to words what i think many of us have suspected all along, that some popular blogs are on the payroll. the practice is prevalent in traditional media, not only in manila. so yeah, it is a disservice to the readers who may rely on their critique to make choices.

    it’s so rare to find a disclaimer that writers/bloggers have received complimentary service/meals/gifts/pay for a story.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 4:49 pm

     
  71. ntgerald says:

    I think if a blogger cannot generate blog content within his or her own means then he or she should stop blogging.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 5:56 pm

     
  72. JE says:

    Awesome, awesome rant.

    Even if this doesn’t result in establishing a consistent set of ethical standards for bloggers, then at least we know that what we’re reading from you is 100% personal and straight from the gut. Which makes your writing stand out among the riffraff.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 6:22 pm

     
  73. Karl says:

    Is it ethical to point to the bloggers affiliated with MCM without knowing if they accepted paid reviews or not? And if indeed they accepted one, how did they express it?

    Sep 12, 2008 | 6:37 pm

     
  74. Marketman says:

    Hi Karl, I think it IS ethical to point out who the firm lists as its partners, as they do so openly on their website, very proudly, I might add.

    As for associating these “partners” with paid editorials, I was extremely careful to say that by their appearing on that list that I quote “One CANNOT conclude that just because they are a partner, that they have been paid to write a positive editorial on behalf of a MCM client.”

    And soon after the post was published, the comment of Drew, the owner of the popular ALLEBA blog, categorically denies that he was even a partner and that his blog was placed there without his permission, to which I responded:

    “… I hope others who are on that list but not “partners” also learn about this and get their names off that list!! How horrible to have your blog mentioned without your knowledge or permission. And how much better for the blogging community overall, if in fact it turns out that the folks that succumb to these types of offers from MADCROWMEDIA are fewer than it seemed! …”

    And if you read comments carefully, I also say, in answer to Ria’s comment:

    “Blogs who choose to join MCM are folks who take advertising… there is NOTHING WRONG with that aspect at all… but I do point out that PAY for POST editorials are not something I CAN ETHICALLY AGREE WITH. There wouldn’t have been a problem with the emails from MCM if they simply talked about advertising, but pay per post as outlined in the emails IS OFFENSIVE. I get emails soliciting advertising at least once a day and you don’t see me doing a rant on them, do you? Madrowdmedia supporting the 94 blogs? Where does it say that, I missed that. I got the impression rather that the 94 blogs voluntarily joined the largest network of “independent publishers” — and again, I reiterate, just because they are there does NOT MEAN they ALL accept PAY per POST offers.”

    And another comment, in answer to Lee’s comment:

    “Lee, I suspect a LOT of blogs out of the 94 in the MCM site do NOT accept pay for post, but we won’t know unless they specifically state this on their own blogs…..”

    And one final thought, if even the suggestion that other blogs DID take pay for post arrangements was completely wrong and i happened to be the ONLY one approached by MCM with such an offer, then don’t you agree that Mr. Vergara, who responded in a comment soon after this post was published, and he is one of the principals of MCM, would have immediately dispelled any hint of that by saying that NONE or only a FEW of the 94 partners have ever agreed to do a PAY for POST arrangement?

    I think to be clear, each blog should choose to decide whether to explicitly disclose if they have ever accepted a PAY for POST arrangement, so that readers would have some assurance. In fact, readers should go the extra step and ask their favorite blogs the question outright and see how they respond. If all 94 of those blogs confirm that THEY DO NOT ACCEPT PAY FOR POST ARRANGEMENTS, then this would be a non-issue EXCEPT THAT MCM OFFERED it to Marketmanila.com on FOUR separate occasions in the emails reprinted above… And by the way, I don’t only apply this standard to blogs, I think all journalists or people in a position of influence should be fortright enough to do this and that includes magazines, newspapers, etc. I am as dogged about this issue as I was about the stolen photographs or plagiarism issues that occurred a while back in National Broadsheets…

    I think what is sensitive here is that we don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that one is “guilty by association.” However, as with the comment of CB, I think people should be wary of their associations if some of the actions of their partners may strike you as distasteful, improper or unethical.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 7:35 pm

     
  75. Marketman says:

    From reviewing the comments, so FAR:

    1. ALLEBA – by Drew, categorically denies he is a PARTNER of MCM, and I take that he should never have been included in their list of 94 partners..

    2. A BUGGED LIFE – by Jayvee f. – categorically denies he takes pay for post arrangements.

    3. PINOY LIFE AT LARGE – by Arpee – clearly states she blogs for free, and does not therefor participate in pay for post arrangements.

    4. OUR AWESOME PLANET – by Anton – does not accept any pay for post arrangements. “No freebies in any way, shape or form.”

    If readers help out and ask their other frequently visited blogs if they have accepted any pay for post arrangements, we can build a list of who does and who doesn’t… that would be the best way to really get a solid understanding of this pay for post practice. As for clients such as CB, it would be good to know if they paid a flat fee to MCM for bloggers to attend events, and if some bloggers refuse payment does that mean that MCM keeps that portion of the fee for themselves? See how interesting the nuances of related issues will grow on themselves??? The CB example is a “pay for attendance” arrangement, without any guaranty of a post, positive or otherwise…

    Sep 12, 2008 | 7:56 pm

     
  76. arpee lazaro says:

    to ntgerald, there are bloggers who cannot come out with content of their own. iba naman ang tawag sa kanila, because they “fleece” content from other sites, but the decent ones do it with the original blog author’s permission. the internet is a crazy world and there are no clear cut lines as to what is good and what is not. even lawmakers and law enforcers are unsure of a lot of things. if a person chooses to blog with or without “sound” content, then leave him/her be. as long as no toes are stepped on, and no laws are broken. it’s still a free country.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 9:16 pm

     
  77. Marketman says:

    For those that are interested, please read this VERY CLEAR and RELEVANT link to the Code of Ethics of the Association of Food Journalists (U.S.) to understand why being paid for a favorable editorial is clearly UNETHICAL in their view. I understand we are not American, but I think similar standards could and should apply to countries around the world, richer or poorer, in food journalism or other areas of journalism as well… After all, right or wrong is usually similar in first world or third world settings…

    Sep 12, 2008 | 9:46 pm

     
  78. smiles4angels says:

    2 comments from Ria that is of the same note….

    1. “why the sudden, beware bloggers and don’t let them write your sites just because marketman has beef with the company?”
    2. “but i highly doubt this “negative” post about nestle and orbitz would bring the company down and would make people not support their products or that nestle and other brands would stop using mad crowd media.”

    There is not a thought/idea in this post that he wants his readers not to support the products/services of the aforementioned companies. He simply said that the readers to reach their own conclusion… and what the readers are to do with their conclusions are of their own.

    It is sad in a way that, the cut throat industry has delegated their work to people who love to sit and simply send e-mails, apparently poorly constructed e-mails at that. Rarely do I hear of people ever having to get off their sits and talk their minds out to convince people to support their products/services. I wouldn’t say that Aisha should’ve done this or done that, but what I would probably do if I were in her place is to have research or do a background on MM then approached him the most appropriate way. I’m not going to delve into ethical issues anymore.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 9:52 pm

     
  79. Emily says:

    , but what I would probably do if I were in her place is to have research or do a background on MM then approached him the most appropriate way.

    This raises a very important point as well – that of intellectual laziness. It is patently obvious that the email was sent without any prior research. The fact that the blog is ad-free despite its high traffic is already an indicator that should have prompted them to dig further. The same intellectual laziness is manifest in the initial response of “we’re helping them make ends meet!” because the writer was not looking at the larger implications of paying for a positive write-up. (hint: it’s called corruption, look it up.)

    Sep 12, 2008 | 11:23 pm

     
  80. Raneli says:

    I think a lot of young guns in the marketing biz have lost their sence of ethics becuase its such a mad dog eat dog world out there..well its about time..that they have to understand and get into their heads..”No means No”. No to corrupt media practices.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 11:32 pm

     
  81. inday hami says:

    Wow! i’m learning a lot from all this discussion. Thanks from a fledgling food blogger.

    Sep 12, 2008 | 11:47 pm

     
  82. Katrina says:

    Whoa! I just read this now, and already there are over 80 comments! I relish these discussions, MM! I’m afraid I don’t have the time to comment at length on the issue right now, but then nearly everything I’d like to say has already been said by others, so I won’t bother repeating their points.

    Just one thing — a reply for Sister: I’m not sure if “advertorial” as a term is a Filipino invention, but the actual format is definitely not. I’ve seen advertorials in foreign magazines such as Vogue, etc., often. It’s basically a print ad that’s written like an article. Advertorials do state that they’re paid advertisements. Granted, especially in foreign magazines, the disclosure is in fine print; nevertheless, it is there. As for local advertorials, there is usually little doubt that they are paid ads, mostly because most local clients want prominent branding, a product shot, and use of their brand colors. Obviously, the distinction isn’t quite as clear in blogs, and therein lies the problem.

    Sep 13, 2008 | 2:38 am

     
  83. Ipat says:

    Thank you for this post, Marketman. As a reader, I would also consider it my right to know if what I am reading was paid for, or even just if the writer got a freebie. As a consumer, I try to stay away from products and companies that engage in unethical practices as those ethics also affect what they do with what they sell. Aisha mentioning her clients is as bad a call as offering to pay for your post but what else does it reveal other than Nestle knows this to be happening and condone it? And why are blogs to important to companies these days? Not only because they get a lot of engaged readers, but also because it is under the radar in terms of prohibited advertising (like those of infant formula, which Nestle produces) or cigarettes. Remember the viral and highly successful Ehaeds concert promotion? Public relations coup even though the concert didn’t get the illegal sponsorship anyway. But the internet IS covered by advertising prohibitions for these products as well so these companies (PR and their clients) should also beware.

    Sep 13, 2008 | 6:15 am

     
  84. anton says:

    Hi Marketman,

    Thanks for standing up and ranting about these ” advertorial ” requests. Similarly, I received a lot of requests like these and simply ignore them or say NO.

    Our Awesome Planet does not support pay per post. It is OAP’s Policy not to accept any freebies in any shape or form (including paid ads) from restaurants, hotels or lifestyle establishments.

    OAP supports Blog Advertising. As you noted, it is a bit different since they are box ads you would see on the right side. The key to blog advertising is you need to have a third party like Blog Bank, Google Adsense or Six Apart Media to provide a firewall between the blogger and the advertisers to remove conflict of interests.

    I admire the fact that MM don’t have ads and hopefully in 2009, will follow your lead on this. Thanks for leading the way!

    On Mad Crowd Media, it was the first local ad network in the Phil and most agreed to join it for the advertising potential. “Advertorials” or paying for posts are frowned upon by bloggers and why would you destroy the credibility of your blog on one paid post?

    For the record, I got the same emails you received email #3 and #4. I did not receive Email #1 and #2. (I guess you are special that is why you receive them :) My tendency is just to ignore them since in essence it is a bribe but thank you for ranting about it publicly the MarketManila way. Given this, I don’t think I’ll be part of their network any longer.

    Thanks again, Marketman!

    Sep 13, 2008 | 6:53 am

     
  85. corrine says:

    Trish, I don’t think it’s old school thinking. Am too is horrified by how lax the process of inviting writers is nowadays. Not even the email is professionally written. The internet is just a tool. It shouldn’t change the rules of writing or professional dealings.

    And by the way, I read somewhere that the fee given to bloggers or genuine writers is actually small. Who gets the chunk of what advertisers pay? The agency I suppose?

    Sep 13, 2008 | 7:37 am

     
  86. kulasa says:

    I love it when you rant.

    Sep 13, 2008 | 10:13 am

     
  87. Trish says:

    Hi Corinne. So glad someone agrees with me on this. Its a shame that some professionals do not adhere to basic communication ethics in dealing with their correspondences.
    I am blessed to have been trained by people who are very particular with correspondences and proper negotiation ethics with clients.
    Maybe, MCM can take its cue and be less brazen with their correspondence and negotiating strategies.

    Sep 13, 2008 | 10:41 am

     
  88. BM says:

    MM, it’s great that people like you keep the food blogosphere from further sliding down into what our print magazines largely are– a collection of sponsored articles, advertorials, recipes, etc.

    I’d rather read sporadic reports from someone who has to work and blog on the side, than read a blog by a person who gets to stop work because they are in the advertorial “circle”.

    Sep 13, 2008 | 12:41 pm

     
  89. fran says:

    I totally agree with your points as I’m a non-supporter of paid blog entries too. I guess this is a good case where media/pr agencies should take into consideration that there’s a fine line between building a relationship with bloggers and using them to advertise their products at the risk of destroying their “editorial” credibility.

    Sep 13, 2008 | 1:53 pm

     
  90. BD says:

    I rarely blog but love to surf between coffee sips and it amazes me to see how people still struggle with ethics issue. I had 2 cups this morning and still craving for the 3rd. Yeah, this blog made a life of its own. Talaga naman.

    It struck me because I recently reminded a relative (actually, my wife’s) to factor in reviews when making intelligent purchases. Guess I was remiss by not qualifying the reviews as objectivity and credibility matter a lot, and quite naive too to assume that they generally are.

    Aisha’s e-mails were certainly out of bounds but Benito’s characterization of them were despicable! Calling it thick doesn’t give justice to the word. A simple apology could have closed the subject but if one finds ethics a struggle, what more can you expect?

    Oh, you really have to rant (and readers cascading the sense of it down the food chain) if we are to make progress. A reliable reviews environment is an effective catalyst for a change we all wanted to see.

    Sep 13, 2008 | 11:06 pm

     
  91. peanutbeanma says:

    i hate blogs with ads. i also hate bloggers who participate in “corporate events” or those who go to recently opened restaurants – because it makes me highly suspicious that it is a paid gig. (i worked in pr for a bit – and one really gets jaded. you’d be surprised who in media *any form) will accpet payments / freebies to publicize anything – these losers expect it.)
    I like bloggers who wait til the hoopla over a new resto has died down before they go and review it. and i like clean blogs – literally clean – no annoying ads on the side, no 800 links to other blogs, no photos of the blogger’s personal life etc – or if ever – highly “masked” – which is why i love love love your blog mm – because at the end of the day, its really about the food. and awesome ranting skills!! =D

    Sep 14, 2008 | 6:37 am

     
  92. jayvee f. says:

    i think food bloggers should return to restos at least 3x (this is the stand of the NYT) and chronicle each event. coming up with one article that defines the restaurant isn’t really fair. on the other hand, it is only a review and food, like other tastes, vary from person to person.

    there are some reviews of bloggers with food that i dont agree with, but it is no reason to rant. hey, its their opinion and their taste. who’s to dictate our “degustatory” needs? :D

    Sep 14, 2008 | 4:56 pm

     
  93. corrine says:

    Whoa, Emily! I like that… intellectual laziness…or just plain laziness to me. To think that young people these days are so attracted to events management, so called marketing,etc…which they think is fun, fun, fun. But, hey, it’s the responsibility of the bosses to train their people to be professional…research their subject, discuss the proper way to invite resource persons, research the kind of people who read the blog, professional way of writing a letter, etc. So much to teach, so much to learn. Again, the internet is just a tool and it’s being abused.

    Sep 14, 2008 | 5:39 pm

     
  94. Marketman says:

    corrine, I have to agree there is some degree of command responsibility at play here, particularly since the writer’s boss defends that the writer “was well within her bounds to offer you, as with anyone, opportunities, as they arise…” and did not seem to think there was anything wrong with the emails at all… jayvee, I completely agree that food bloggers should return to restos several times before writing a review, or at least have tasted many different dishes before writing a review. In the print press, Margaux Salcedo now makes it a point to say that she visited establishments twice or thrice before she writes about them. I actually do very few restaurant reviews on this blog, preferring to cook most of our own meals… :) But there will be a wrap up post on this matter, as I have heard from some interesting parties lately… Up in a day or two…so stay tuned.

    Sep 14, 2008 | 6:17 pm

     
  95. Acid says:

    Hey, here’s a scary thought…

    Outfits like Mad Crowd Media gets hired by politicians or their supporters to “influence” certain influential bloggers.

    I don’t think that’s far-fetched at all.

    Sep 15, 2008 | 9:03 am

     
  96. pb says:

    What do you think about independent online publishers who introduce themselves to the restaurant manager prior to dining which results to getting a free meal? Isn’t this guaranteeing an editorial post as well. Some of the people that commented earlier are so guilty of this. The late Doreen Fernandez always paid for every restaurant she reviewed. Her policy was if she didn’t like it she didn’t write about it. I’m sure she would turn in her grave if she read some posts due to atrocious grammar.

    Sep 15, 2008 | 10:41 am

     
  97. Marketman says:

    pb, I think that is just as bad as getting paid for a review. One should try to experience the restaurant as any other customer would. And I personally believe that one should not accept a free meal, particularly if they are planning to write about the place or have a food blog that reviews restaurants. I don’t think a free meal guarantees a post, but it certainly compromises one… I can see why Ms. Fernandez focused on the positive experiences, but I sure wish there was a reviewer who told it like it is… so that people wouldn’t have to waste money on mediocre meals if they trusted the reviewer to be doing a reasonably good job… And if the reviewer had similar tastes to the reader taking their advice… Acid, scary thought indeed!

    Sep 15, 2008 | 10:52 am

     
  98. mona says:

    MM,
    Kudos to you! Honesty and integrity in any part of journalism is indeed hard to find these days. While I see the point of people needing to work, writing an advertorial on the food/restaurant/business would be more honest than posting a pseudo-review on your blog that says wonders just because you got paid for it.
    I respect bloggers, who are just writers using a public medium, in my opinion, when they are honest about where they get their material. If they are asked to write about a certain product (remember that there are commercial writers, too) then they should say so and everything be damned. Be honest! Writers that are full of pretense are no better than plagiarists.
    BTW, MM, I did know Doreen Fernandez personally. The reason why I think her policy was such was she was a firm believer in “if you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all.” Not strictly food critic material, but a personal ethos on her part.
    Go, MM, continue writing and critiquing and give us your true, unadulterated and UNPAID for thoughts and opinions!

    Sep 15, 2008 | 4:16 pm

     
  99. Em Dy says:

    I blog about food too and pay for all my meals. When I notice that a certain restaurant is getting a lot of exposure in blogs or had a blogger’s event, I suspect some marketing thing going and do not blog about them at all.

    Sep 15, 2008 | 8:12 pm

     
  100. glenville says:

    your rant is justified – that was really in bad taste. ugh.

    Sep 15, 2008 | 10:56 pm

     
  101. The Knittymommy says:

    It’s unfortunate to see that the state of PR in Manila is still the same from 10 years ago. While working for one of the country’s main department stores and later on for one of the gourmet burger outlets, gift giving and actual exchanges of cash/gift certificates were the norm with the journalists both on print and tv media. No bloggers then yet. This was the job of the PR agent. It used to infuriate me so, when a great product would not get any press if you didn’t have the appropriate press “gift” that went along with it. I remember recieving word through our PR agent that a certain society writer would not write about the party we hosted because he did not recieve his usual “gift” of PXXXX.00.

    Kudos to the bloggers, the “new publishers/media” for having the balls to say that they won’t accept payment for their own editorial content. However, the PR agents are still the same old time breed. MCM is obviously of the old breed.

    Sep 16, 2008 | 1:02 am

     
  102. gomz24 says:

    Hi MM,

    ‘Twas very nice of you to do that action. I believe that blogging, be it food, travel or gadgets is a personal passion and should be free from external incentives. I think external incentives such as fees or other stuff negates the credibility of the blog.

    thanks for the heads-up regarding this modus operandi in the blogging community! ‘Twas very nice of you! :)

    Cheers,

    gomz24

    Sep 16, 2008 | 4:29 pm

     
  103. MarketFan says:

    Bloggers have to realize also that list or no list, readers can sense if they are being less than honest. Becoming associated with unscrupulous media outfits just reinforce the impression.

    Sep 16, 2008 | 8:34 pm

     
  104. Wyatt says:

    Thanks for bringing it up Marketman. I’ve received the same email from Mad Crowd. Indeed, it was disturbing.

    Sep 17, 2008 | 7:33 am

     
  105. BrianB says:

    Great and you still won the bloggers’ choice award. What do you think that means?

    Sep 21, 2008 | 10:00 pm

     
  106. Marketman says:

    BrianB, I won the Blogger’s Choice Award last year, 2007, BEFORE I wrote this post…hahaha. I sincerely doubt I would win it this year… :)

    Sep 22, 2008 | 5:20 am

     
  107. doy says:

    Guys, guys, let’s get over ourselves!

    I have been looking for decent young writers in ages. And believe you me, looking for decent young writers is just like looking for a decent young domestic helper.

    Judging by the essay tests I give to new graduates, some of them don’t even know how to string coherent sentences. So you try to get the best from the worst. That’s the reality of it.

    Sep 23, 2008 | 11:02 pm

     
  108. doy says:

    Why do I have a feeling that most of you don’t write for a living?

    Sep 23, 2008 | 11:17 pm

     
  109. Chula says:

    Well put, Marketman.

    Truth is, a lot of people assume that media people are paid hacks. The sad truth is, most are. How do I know? Let’s just say I’ve spent several years in media. Still am in media. But let me just say, not all of us are paid hacks. It’s difficult, it’s not glamorous, we’re not popular, but we love what we do for a living. You want another sad truth? Most lifestyle bloggers resent that. We’re living their dream and they want a piece of it without putting in the hours as proofreaders, going to verify facts, interviewing people, and generally presenting thoughts and ideas that are not their own (meaning reporting on something other than one’s opinion).
    Okay, I’ve said my piece. Now let the stoning begin – as it predictably and invevitably will.

    Sep 24, 2008 | 12:16 pm

     
  110. peyups_ako says:

    marketman, i think you’re a jerk and you’re overreacting. you could’ve just taken the situation as a compliment, because client requested for your blog because of your good content. you could’ve just politely said no because your blog is not ad-supported and you have no plans of accepting ‘freebies’ as you call it. end of story.

    Oct 1, 2008 | 4:45 pm

     
  111. Marketman says:

    peyups_ako, I guess I could have, but I didn’t. The email was unethical and not condoned by the clients themselves, if you bothered to read the follow up emails. In this case, what MCM did was wrong, and they used their client’s names without their client’s approval, apparently. and even their clients admit wanting no part of it. And obviously, you don’t see the difference between ethical and unethical practices either. And why the hell should I take what is tantamount to an offer to bribe as a compliment? Is that a dumb comment on its own or what? At least, I DON’T HAVE to call you names, or worse, since your comment makes it plainly clear doing so would be a waste of a perfectly good expletive. :)

    Oct 1, 2008 | 5:02 pm

     
  112. Fey says:

    I’ve been a victim of advertorials lots of times as I love to eat and try out new restaurants and products. You know how it goes, you read an article about how wonderful so-and-so cafe is…I been to 5 restaurants purely based on a blog/article I’ve read and I have been disappointed in all of them. This is why I’m in constant search of bolggers who remain true to themselves. I understand Marketman perfectly. “Professionals” offering some form of compensation (monetary or otherwise) in exchange for a positive review IS disturbing. And to offer someone who has been very clear from the start is very insulting. Thanks, Marketman, for the head’s up. More power!

    Oct 20, 2008 | 1:23 pm

     
  113. HD says:

    Peyups_ako, well, peyups din ako. Anyway, MM could have done that, but by doing so, these unethical practices will still remain to be hidden. Although most of us have reasons to believe that these thigs do happen, we don’t have proofs of it. Now we do, thanks to MM’s expose.

    MM: this is why i always visit your site, because i know that what you write about is from your own true experiences. It doesn’t guarantee that i would have the same experiences as you, but at least it guarantees that the experiences are genuine.

    Oct 29, 2008 | 2:00 pm

     
  114. Franco says:

    I decided to back read and I stumbled on your rant. I’m glad to read that there are still people with integrity that still exist out there. Good on you and more power!

    May 25, 2009 | 4:16 pm

     
  115. emsy says:

    This is a thorny issue, really. First, it is common practice for advertisers (and advertising agencies) all over to give their journalists “press kits” which may contain freebies of different sorts, with hopes to get a good review. However, it is NOT a given for you to actually give them a GOOD one, should you decide to attend their events. If they’re a good ad agency, they will still give you whatever compensation they were supposed to give you even if you write them a bad review. After all, a bad review can be considered constructive criticism if viewed from a different angle. Selling a good review or allowing advertisers to pay you to give them some blog-love is different from just accepting the freebies. It doesn’t mean that your policy of not accepting gifts is wrong, mind you.

    Just to share, we once had a press launch for a digital camera (I was intern then) and we invited a lot of photography enthusiasts. Part of their press kit was a digital camera. ALL 50 of them. But because the product itself wasn’t very good, we ended up getting only ~15 positive reviews. Did we get back the cameras from those who gave bad reviews? No. Did we compensate the positive reviewers more than the negative reviewers? No. Freebies are just part of the whole thing.

    So anyway, you definitely have the right to rant about Mad Crowd’s emails, especially since you have continually posted that you are non-commercial and this blog is personal all throughout. However, I think it would have saved you a whole lot of grief if you just replied in an equally curt way right from the first email that 1. You are not interested 2. You are not writing/blogging for money 3. (and this is important) You want to OPT OUT. Opting out will take you out of their target list forever and if they are any self respecting agency, they will make sure that all their advertising people will be informed that you and your blog are to be left alone in terms of invitation.

    But in all honesty, I don’t think that Aisha is trying to insult you or anything with her emails. I’m thinking this is really a standard letter sent out to bloggers who may be interested in blogging for money (and you have to admit there are legions of them). I know it’s a bit of an assumption on their part to think that you are blogging for money, but I think the principle is the wider the net you cast, the more fish you might be able to catch. Some bloggers will be happy to do this, and some like you will hold on to their own personal blogging policies. I think that bit where she said “how much do you guys charge…?” is just an innocent assumption that you are one of those who blog for money. Again, assumption is bad. But it doesn’t mean that she really wanted to insult you.

    I like your blog, primarily because of the posts and also because you are ad-free (makes the site look cleaner and easier to load), but I guess I’m speaking here for the agencies trying to do their work, as I was once part of an advertising agency as well. An advertorial is not uncommon…even broadsheets have advertorials. When radio and tv commercials can have testimonials of celebrities squealing how good a product is, print media would have advertorials.

    Maybe it’s just that you took “compensation” as paying for good reviews. That’s not really the case. It’s like talent fee…for the time you spent to type down the article, for the effort you took in actually going to the event, your pamasahe and stuff like that. Ultimately, it’s like giving away giveaways (since I cannot think of any other word, hehe) or pabaon or “balot” to people who attended your parties. Is it right away assumed that the people who received a gift from the host would think that the party was such a blast? Not necessarily, but that’s the idea. Still, in the end, it will depend on the guest if he/she will declare that the party is good or not.

    Lastly, I will venture to say, but just a totally educated guess, that whichever agency Nestle and Orbit (?) chose to continue working with after Mad Crowd, the agency will still offer compensation (whether cash, gift cert or goodies and products) for the attendees and the bloggers.

    So there. Just my view on this matter. :)

    Nov 10, 2009 | 4:19 pm

     
  116. Marketman says:

    emsy, as far as I am concerned, a journalist or blogger who accepts any freebies is not to be trusted. Period. And the new laws in the U.S. support this strict view. And I think it should apply across the globe. It is a dspicable practice, whether or not it is common or rampant.

    Nov 10, 2009 | 4:33 pm

     
 

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