Are Bloggers Being Bullied by PR?

A few months ago, Chris Pirillo and I sat down and talked about a disappointing trend in the tech industry. Many tech reviewers are expected to give a glowing report of each and every product they write about, regardless of the reality of the quality. Not only did we discuss how this waters down the industry, but dishonest reviews leaves consumers with no metrics to measure against. If every product is “perfect!” and “works great!”, then what do we say about products that actually stand out against the pack? PR agencies across the industry expect bloggers to write about everything in a positive light. I noted, during our conversation, that an exception to this rule are bloggers in the food industry; these critics are actually expected to be harsh.

But what happens when tech cultures collide and meet Hollywood? Though tabloids have been snarky for decades, bloggers apparently face the same expectations as other tech analysts in the industry. PR is quick to invite press and media, who now live in the 2.0 world, tweeting and blogging about celebrity buzz nearly in real-time. But just as quick as marketers in tech are quick to ask bloggers to say nice things about a truly crappy product, PR for celebrities are also quick to ask bloggers to take a post down if does not place the person, or their movie or book, in the best light. After the launch party for the new Jake Gyllenhaal movie, the Source Code, Alexia Tsotsis of TechCrunch posted an article about the social game layered above the movie. Immediately following the publication of her post on TechCrunch, Alexia received an email from Moviefone/AOL Television asking her to tone her “snark” down after Summit complained about the tone and content of her article. Moviefone, of course, made the request to stay on good terms with the movie studios. And of course, Alexia refused.

Today, The Atlantic also yanked an article that featured an excerpt of Jay-Z’s new book, “Empire State of Mind,” which admittedly portrays the rapper in an unflattering light. The Atlantic’s Twitter says they are “making some follow-up edits. The article will be back up shortly.” But that was yesterday. How long do “edits” take? Did Jay-Z’s people pressure the Atlantic to remove an excerpt that was taken out of context and could make Jay-Z look bad? And did the Atlantic do so to stay on good terms with Jay-Z’s “people,” who could make or break other juicy material?

It’s unfortunate that some media outlets can be bullied by PR, whether from Hollywood, tech, or otherwise. Consumers should know if a social media game or a book is a waste of time. Like Chris and I talked about before during our conversation that was focused on tech reviewers – if we are asked for it, we as bloggers owe it to our audience to give our honest opinion.

PR, from any industry, should not not get to pick and choose what opinion we have by bullying the media.

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  • http://ridethetempo.com Tiana Feng

    As a music blogger, I get tons of PR e-mails and things and I have a disclaimer on my blog that says if you submit something for review it is subject to criticism. Rarely do I actually get asked to take something down because of criticism. Maybe it’s different for music though, I guess any mention is a good mention.

    However, there are times when a PR person of a company I didn’t want to lose touch to have approached me and I didn’t want to lose them for writing a bad review, so I just didn’t post it.

  • http://ridethetempo.com Tiana Feng

    As a music blogger, I get tons of PR e-mails and things and I have a disclaimer on my blog that says if you submit something for review it is subject to criticism. Rarely do I actually get asked to take something down because of criticism. Maybe it’s different for music though, I guess any mention is a good mention.

    However, there are times when a PR person of a company I didn’t want to lose touch to have approached me and I didn’t want to lose them for writing a bad review, so I just didn’t post it.

  • Andrew

    Crazily i’m in this situation with comments, on Quora and TechCrunch. I’m a top commenter so my comments rise to the top of TechCrunch. Everytime I say anything negative about a product I get a reply or email trying to convince me round, not asking me to change it but still i’d rather not receive a long reply from someone at RIM when I comment on TechCrunch and with Quora I get people emailing me.

  • Andrew

    Crazily i’m in this situation with comments, on Quora and TechCrunch. I’m a top commenter so my comments rise to the top of TechCrunch. Everytime I say anything negative about a product I get a reply or email trying to convince me round, not asking me to change it but still i’d rather not receive a long reply from someone at RIM when I comment on TechCrunch and with Quora I get people emailing me.