I'll get around to "Wolfing Alfalfa" sometime, but I actually might do more real-world good today with my tiny audience of readers by discussing search expert Danny Sullivan's recent post, prompted by recent Google/newspapers issues:
I want online journalists to get organized. Yes, there's the Online News Association, but that seems an extension of "traditional" journalists working in mainstream organizations with digital outlets. I think we need an "Online Journalists Association," or a "United Bloggers" or whatever catchy name you come up with. As for its mission? I'm not certain, but some thoughts:
* Ensure the news blogs get an equal seat at any table where news and journalism is being discussed
* Help promote deeper reporting and recognition of work that already happens
* Perhaps share correspondents and photos
Danny, this has already been attempted. It was called the "Media Bloggers Association". You might want to talk to Robert Cox, who created it. And to Rogers Cadenhead, about the MBA's role defending him in the AP / Drudge Retort dispute.
There are many lessons to be learned there, some of them quite unpleasant.
One big problem is that any such organization is likely to have a substantial contingent of the destroy-traditional-journalism-replace-it-with-BLOGS!!! crowd, both sincere and insincere, for many dubious motives. This faction will interact badly with those who are more moderate, and want to work with the dreaded mainstream media. Note I donít simply speculate here, it already happened (students of group psychology will recognize a standard radicals vs reformers split).
And then, there's the eternal question - where's the money? Who is going to pay for it?
Regrettably, this is basically a case of "We tried your idea, and it didn't work".
A long time ago (especially in Internet time), I managed to become a member of the "Media Bloggers Association". Nothing much ever came of it for me, though I judged it was a sincere attempt to do whatever it was trying to do for media bloggers (which wasn't clear in the first place). Now it's trying again, and that seems worthwhile.
Perhaps the most significant is a legal advisory and liability insurance program, which is a very good and practical thing. Looking over the details, I doubt it would be sufficient for the censored censorware research I had to write-off because of attacks and lack of support. But I suppose I should be realistic.
I imagine they'll be some flack from the paranoid and/or knee-jerk attention-mongers about nefarious plans to control bloggers. I find that sort of stuff laughable, given how I've seen the MBA struggle to do anything at all, much less rule the (blog) world.
I don't have much to say about the Media Bloggers Association / AP controversy, except that the surrounding circus was an incredibly demagogic and corrupt affair that drove home again - if yet another proof were needed - how much pandering to the mob is the key to blog success (and hence how much I've wasted my time).
Read Shelley Powers:
What's particularly sad about this recent variation of the AP fooflah, isn't so much that the MBA is representing "all" bloggers so much, but that people like [A-listers], seem to be offended that Robert Cox is getting attention, which we assume, should be directed at [those A-listers]. This following digging up an old AP form, set up for businesses who want to incorporate AP content into their material, and making a breathless and astonishing leap of judgment that this is what the AP's answer to webloggers is going to be. Talk about manufacturing facts out of whole cloth - this, this is our newest form of journalism?
It just mystifies me how most bloggers are reacting to the AP spin and then attacking Robert Cox when it should be the opposite.
NOTE: Amazingly there are now stories out there conflating two entirely false stories, linking them to the Drudge Retort story and then going way beyond the edges of reality. The latest story is that AP's icopyright service shows that the Drudge Retort case is all part of a sinister plot by the AP to charge bloggers several dollars per word to quote an AP story.
Why is the Media Bloggers Association getting its ass kicked all over the Internet for attempting to have a dialogue with AP about the Drudge Retort's DMCA takedown dispute?
Because the name of the game is GET ATTENTION!, truth be damned. And this post is an exercise in futility.
Big win for the Media Bloggers Association, as the lawsuit against the Maine blogger is withdrawn. Good job by everyone involved.
Though all the Usual Suspects are doing their set-pieces about Blog-Power, a few days ago, MBA President Robert Cox had a very interesting detailed blog post describing the strategy used:
The real story behind the "Maine Blogger" story is that this blogstorm did not just "happen". I personally spent several weeks developing a media strategy which we launched last Thursday morning. The original goal was to get the story in front of 3-5 mm people by Friday night. We easily surpassed that figure and the number continues to grow.
Once we were ready to drop the story, I reached out to the membership of the Media Bloggers Association with an "MBA Legal Alert" and they responded in force. Hundreds of bloggers responded to the MBA's request to post on this story and make their readership aware of what was happening in Maine. We also sent out a traditional press release to our "press list" and added in about 100 Maine/Travel media outlets - that's how the Globe got the story. Once the ball was rolling lots of other folks got behind the effort and Lance was a full-fledged bloglebrity.
This kind of blog/MSM media strategy is part of the two-pronged approach we take as part of our Legal Defense Initiative. I think the real story is that this strategy can be - and has been - so effective.
And I agree - it can be, and has been, so effective. But ... it's important to realize just how old-school top-down this is structurally. In fact, scarily so. Work with people who have big megaphones, get them to echo the story, then go up the media pyramid. It's extremely traditional. Now, the powers here were used for good instead of evil. But, still, what if it were the reverse?
It's a good thing if lawsuit-filers have to take into account that their target may become a cause célèbre, and get the support necessary to fight back. But note also that it's mathematically impossible for *all* bloggers to become cause célèbre. There's only so much support to go around. So nobody in particular can count on being supported beforehand.
Ultimately, I think the lesson is that media organization is (still) media organization.
Tom McCartin, president of WKPA, is most concerned about Mr. Dutson's public posts because if potential clients search for the agency online, they will likely see Mr. Dutson's critique-filled blog before the agency's own Web site. As a result, Mr. McCartin says his business, which sees capitalized billings in the $40 million range, has been hurt. And he wants to protect his reputation.
I'm dubious about the likelihood about appearing "before the agency's own Web site". Maybe that would be true for an A-list blogger. But for anyone else, that would be rare. Now, appearing on the first page, that would be possible in many cases.
The article cites a mainewebreport.com blog post from Feb 28 which I'll quote further:
I noticed in Maine Web Report's stats that someone found the site through a Google search for "Paino Advertising" ... this can't be good for the company's reputation. Sure enough, searching Google for Paino advertising brings up this site on page 2 (not great, I know! But we're moving up gradually). Not good at all for an ad firm.
Did an ad agency really sue over this (or at least have it be a major factor)? It would be notable if true.
Proof of the flawed judgment of machine algorithm "news" :-).
Some key issues of the dispute appear to revolve around actions of the Maine Office of Tourism, and its Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Google advertising campaign. Lance Dutson has been criticizing this campaign on various grounds, and agency Warren Kremer Paino Advertising has sued him for "copyright infringement ... defamation and trade libel/injurious falsehood".
Here's one aspect of the case I've dug though. When a search is done for words such as [Camden Maine Bad Lawyers], the Google advertising display algorithm might match on the keywords "Camden Maine", and display the ad for that. This would not mean that the person who was buying the keywords had any particular interest in targeting "Bad Lawyers". Or the algorithm might match on the words "Bad Lawyers", which would not imply that the buyer had any interest in "Camden, Maine". There are some very broad choices as to the extent of matching which can be made by the ad-buyer. This is the background to Lance Dutson's post:
Maine Office of Tourism Corners Smut Market
Well the ads aren't down, wishful thinking on my part.
But it appears the MOT is diversifying it's target audience, maybe to make sure more good folks come to see our state. These are screenshots from Google this morning:
Then he displayed screenshots of Google searches for [camden maine child pornography], [camden maine escort], [camden maine xxx], [camden maine swingers]. These matched the "camden maine" keywords, and hence had ads for the Maine Office of Tourism ("MOT")
In a later comment (April 28) to the post, he explained:
You are completely correct, these ads were a result of broad matching. That's what I'm trying to illustrate, the folly of broad matching, because the ads end up in stupid places, like I've shown here.
However, the Maine Office of Tourism seems to have taken that post as a literal accusation that they were intentionally advertising to pedophile tourists. From the lawsuit:
11. Dutson also claimed, falsely, that WKPA expended state tourism funds for the purpose of returning internet search results for non-tourism activity, such as pornography and pedophilia.
I am not a lawyer, so I won't comment on the legal merits of such a charge. Though socially, given the relative power of the parties involved, it strikes me as an extreme overreaction.
Many months ago, I applied to be a member of the Media Bloggers Association. There's been some delays in processing applications, but the organization looks like it's becoming more active now. Friday, I was informed "Your Application to the Media Bloggers Association has been approved".
In a strange planetary alignment, I had specified on my application that "my grasp of the internals of how Google works might be a solid asset given the ongoing connections between Google, country-specific censorship, and the impact of search on journalism.". And a big project being done right now is defending a lawsuit against a blogger, Maine Web Report, where apparently major aspects of the legal dispute involve Google advertisements and associated Google algorithms. I assume this wasn't cause and effect. But rather, it might become an amusing small example of right place, right time.
So, once more to the blog, as I write about this case's Google aspects, and see how that works out.
Disclosures: Part of the membership letter reads: "As a member you are expected to read these ALERTS and give serious consideration to blogging about the alert (we don't REQUIRE members to post but this IS a key part of being a member)". Nobody's offered me any money, or even said anything to me personally about the case. Writing about Google, however, tends to be positive to me in many ways (and Google doesn't sue!).