The blogosphere is no garden of Eden. We can try to self-regulate, but in so doing we’re only exposing our own naïveté.
In the beginning, there was the web. It was beautiful. It was perceived – and conceived – as a nirvana, a democracy of thought, in which money held no sway.
Then, money woke up. Banner ads became commonplace. So much, in fact, that people stopped clicking them. Our reaction at Sharepages? Flip everything around. Put the banner ads at the bottom, then people won’t realise that’s what they are.
On the day of relaunch, our stats skyrocketed, and stayed up. We even had someone call us telling we’d ‘got our web page the wrong way up’.
That was some time ago. Sharepages has since changed back to a more traditional layout, under more traditional advertising thinking.
Fast forward to today. It’s not about sites and surfing: it’s blogs and browsing, or social sites and, well, socialising. And so it’s natural that, given we expect the people – yes, people – we interact with, we have certain expectations of them. We want to believe them.
Who do you believe? What do you believe? Do you really think that the columns in trade magazines are really written by CEOs? Do you really think that documentaries are made by the people who appear in them? Do you think Kathy Sykes had an overwhelming need to understand alternative medicine?
No. That CEO had his or her thoughts organised and rationalised by a copywriter. Those people in documentaries were sourced because they fitted the demographic. Someone somewhere had an idea for a documentary that would appeal. They had a list of candidates that would be good to front it. Kathy Sykes was perfect. A sexy physicist with a fairly open mind.
Media is built around demographics. The web and now the social-media-sphere will follow suit. So the nirvana - the belief, the expectation – that we have of social media is about to change. Everyone is chasing the big advertising dollar.
When you read so-called ‘soft’ news, you’re probably reading something ghost-written. That is, something interpreted and publicised and syndicated through an agent, or agency. Virtually everything in Metro, for example. So it follows that, more and more, what you read online will follow suit.
There will be a time, a year or two or three hence, in which we look back at the arguments against ghost blogging, and laugh. It lacks transparency. It lacks integrity. It lacks authenticity. Gimme a break.
In a year or two or three hence, the big money will be savvy. It will be pushing messages out in every digital channel available. The people you think are saying things, will not be saying them. Other people will.
The beautiful thing, in a way, is that consumers will become more sophisticated in their consumption. And the dynamic therefore follows that the ghosts – the PR people – will have to up their game in putting across their message.
I used to argue against ghost blogging. I used to think it was heinous. But that belief is changing. I’m coming to realise that the blogosphere – the beliefosphere – needs to step out from the garden. Big bucks are on their way, and we all need to understand and recognise this.
Is this a bad thing? No, not really. The web is a massive force for good. Advertising and PR are massive forces for communication. Is communication good? Comments please.