Blogola? If this is all it is, bring it on

From today’s Wall Street Journal comes this item, “To Create Buzz, TV Networks Try A Little ‘Blogola’.”


“Trying to tap into the burgeoning power of blogs as promotional tools and fed up with the jaded attitudes of professional critics and TV feature writers, studios and networks are flooding bloggers with free stuff in hopes the flattered recipients will reward them with positive coverage. Flowing into the trough is everything from fancy gym bags and toasters to video iPods and free trips. Some networks — in the spotlight this week as they unveil their fall schedules to advertisers — have even borrowed a term from the technology industry to describe the strategy: blogola.”


For the record, on July 25, 20082005, I said the following: “Podcasting won’t officially be mainstream until it has its first payola scandal.”

However, I don’t consider schwag and junkets that are disclosed by the participants to be “blogola” anymore than I consider disclosed press-passes or review-copies to be payola — especially if that largesse is not accompanied by a specific set of requirements and explicit instructions for positive coverage.

Payola — the word from which the term is derived — implies a discreet, direct payment for a specific outcome. For example, there are companies that will pay bloggers to make posts about specific products and services. I consider that practice to be more worthy of the term “blogola” and consider it worthy of scandal. However, the WSJ story today — that promotional and public relations pros are treating bloggers the way they’ve treated TV critics and reporters for eons — is nothing scandalous — except, perhaps, why it took them so long to figure it out.

Disclosure: I’ve received no schwag from any entertainment companies, however once a Hammock company sent me a hammock (that I never reviewed) and I am currently participating in a blogger-focused PR effort that I will fully disclose the first time I mention the product. I always identify any gifts over $25 — I just never get any.