January 16, 2005

Blogola.

Is it fair for me to get traffic from links to posts of mine where I note a term coined by someone who emailed me? Thanks to Jeff Jarvis for linking to this December 20th post of mine, where I offer the word "blogola" for money secretly paid to bloggers for positive postings. My emailer originally suggested "payblogga" as the word, then added:
That's a horrible name for it, no flow at all. "Blogola" sounds better, but it loses the derivation of the term. It could just be left as "payola", but today's buzzword/catchphrase world would desperately want to have "blog" in there somewhere.

I preferred "blogola," because it does flow better. There are other examples of coinages that misuse the root term. Consider the way the "-0holic" ending of "alcoholic" is used in words like "workaholic" and "chocoholic." Really, only the "-ic" should be needed, as that's all that's been added to "alcohol" to produce "alcoholic." The problem is that "-ic" won't be recognized for what it's supposed to be unless more of "alcoholic" is brought along. It just doesn't work to say "workic" and "chocolatic." The "Watergate" ending "-gate" is a similar example. Nothing about "-gate" meant scandal in the original word, but it's a distinctive ending, and we know what it means. I think "-ola" is like that. The loss of "pay-" might seem wrong, because that was where the original meaning was, but I think we need a suffix, not a prefix, and somehow "-ola" has come to signify the corruptness of under-the-table payments.

Anyway, it was interesting to go back to that December 20th post of mine, which predicts something that came true awfully quickly:
[D]oesn't it seem inevitable that there will be a blogger payola scandal at some point? We bloggers build up our credibility with readers over the months and years of writing. You assume if a blogger you trust says that a TV show or a movie or a book is good it's because he thinks so for purely independent and un-self-interested reasons unless he says otherwise. I don't think free review copies of things undermine this independence. MSM reviewers get free copies of the CDs, DVDs, and books they write about. A blogger has such a strong interest in maintaining credibility that he's likely to make a point of saying he's received a free copy.

But don't you think the day will come when we will hear that a trusted, seemingly independent blogger is being paid to express an opinion about a product or even a politician or important policy? Will we be horrified? Will we just stop caring what the blogger has to say? Or will we accept it, the way we accepted it when we found out about paid product placements in movies? I made my local car dealer look quite posh in this post, just because I had nothing better to do than observe my immediate surroundings (and also because I wanted to get in on the big new tire-blogging craze). But what if it were the case -- it's not! -- and you found out, that Zimbrick gives me free oil changes in exchange for disguised ads? Small potatoes, you might think. Who cares? Imagine something bigger then: a high-traffic blogger paid big bucks to back the privatization of Social Security.
(By the way, it was also one of my emailers who offered the term "tire-blogging." I think it's apt that traffic came to the blog because of tires.)

Is the blogger's interest in his own credibility much of a safeguard? You might think that all a blogger has is his credibility, and anyone who's built up his traffic to the point where someone wants to buy his influence won't want to squander his credibility. But people cave in to temptation all the time when things they care a lot about are at risk, and bloggers are especially vulnerable. For one thing, the blogger -- writing without pay -- is more likely to need the money and to feel frustrated about having done so much work without getting paid. Add to this the fact that writing multiple posts day after day can burn a person out. A blogger might be thinking: look at all of this work, but how can I walk away from all of this traffic? One strategy for ending one's grueling blog project might be to sell it off, by taking money during the next campaign season. If the blogger is discovered looting his blog's credibility: well, he needed to quit anyway.

I tend to think advertising is the best safeguard against blogola. It is the high traffic blogger who is able to make the most money with advertising. Back when Kos took the money from the Dean campaign, what was the ad revenue? If, back then, Kos had had the ad money he has now, the importance of maintaining his independence and high standards would have overshadowed the money the Dean campaign was offering, which would have looked like a piddling amount.

UPDATE: An emailer writes: "Regarding suffixes a la "-holic" and "-gate" and "-ola," an earlier example is 'burger,' from Hamburger, which was originally a kind of sausage patty from Hamburg."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Another emailer writes: "I am reminded of Homer Simpson, who, as a rageoholic, stated, 'I'm addicted to rageohol!'"

3 comments:

Wendi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ashhar said...

Thank you for the wonderful effort

إني تذكـرت والذكرى مؤرقـة * مجـداً تلـيدا بأيـدينا أضعـناه
أنَّى اتجهتَ للإسـلام في بـلـدٍ * تجْده كالطيرِ مقصـوصًا جناحـاه
كـم صرفتنا يـدٌ كنـا نـصرفها * وبات يـملكنا شعب مـلكناه
بالله سل خلف
بحر الروم عن عرب *

بالأمس كانوا هنا واليوم قد تاهوا
وانزل دمشق وسائل صخر مسجدها * عمن بناه لعل الـصخر ينعـاه
هذى معـالم خرس كـل واحـدة * منهن قامت خطيبـا فاغرا فـاه
الله يعلم ما قلبت سـيرتهم يومـا * وأخطـأ دمـع الـعين مـجراه
يا من يرى عمـراتكسوه بردته * الزيت أدمٌ لـه والكـوخ مـأواه
يهتز كسـرى على كرسيه فرقـا * من خوفه ، وملوك الروم تخشـاه
يا رب فابعث لنا من مثلهم نفـرا * يشـيدون لـنا مـجدا أضعنـاه

ashhar said...

Thank you for the wonderful effort

إني تذكـرت والذكرى مؤرقـة * مجـداً تلـيدا بأيـدينا أضعـناه
أنَّى اتجهتَ للإسـلام في بـلـدٍ * تجْده كالطيرِ مقصـوصًا جناحـاه
كـم صرفتنا يـدٌ كنـا نـصرفها * وبات يـملكنا شعب مـلكناه
بالله سل خلف بحر الروم عن عرب * بالأمس كانوا هنا واليوم قد تاهوا
وانزل دمشق وسائل صخر مسجدها * عمن بناه لعل الـصخر ينعـاه
هذى معـالم خرس كـل واحـدة * منهن قامت خطيبـا فاغرا فـاه
الله يعلم ما قلبت سـيرتهم يومـا
* وأخطـأ دمـع الـعين

مـجراه

يا من يرى عمـراتكسوه بردته *

الزيت أدمٌ لـه والكـوخ مـأواه

يهتز كسـرى على كرسيه فرقـا * من خوفه ،

وملوك الروم تخشـاه

يا رب فابعث لنا من مثلهم نفـرا * يشـيدون لـنا مـجدا أضعنـاه