The one where we all start pimpin’ for the man

This post is going to seem sort of insufferably inside blog baseball, but there’s no way to avoid that now I’ve already written the subject line out. Essentially over the last few months a number of Vancouver based bloggers, including myself, have suddenly started blogging from new Nokia cellular telephones.

A marketing company called Matchstick [ms] approached a number of bloggers, and told them to approach their blogging friends. Ryan Cousineau [rc] let all of the Metrobloggers know about that the company was giving out new Nokia 6682 [nok] phones A lot of Metrobloggers have gotten them, and a number of other bloggers such as Darren Barefoot [db] were approached but said no and actually complained about the company’s constant spamming of them as have other local bloggers [bmc].

I took them up on their offer [jks] and I actually echo the line taken by fellow Metroblogger Travis when he says that we should all “chill out” [uv]. If spam comanpies only sent me three emails then I’d be happy, in reality I get well over 40 spam a day at any one of my public email addresses. Having been in the cellular industry for over ten years, and a tech journalist for the last four I can’t imagine why anyone would complain about being asked to use a and very good phone. It’s a word of mouth campaign and a way to get people other than the usual suspects [ign] talking about a phone and the potentials of mobile blogging.

That sometimes their representatives are a tad overzelous and several have contacted the same bloggers, not knowing that they’d already been contacted, then that’s unfortunate but hardly a war crime. My interaction with them so far has been very pleasant, and after about twenty minutes answering questions on the phone I got the cell in the mail a week later. It’s also given me the next topic for my weekly article at eVent! magazine [evm].

18 Comments so far

  1. Rebecca (unregistered) on July 29th, 2006 @ 5:58 pm

    We’ve definitely done our share (so far) of promoting matchstick and their free nokia goodies. John [radiozoom] is still posting pics taken with his phone and mine is in the mail. We found the process painless (although we had some reservations) but to quote Ryan on the podcast [meetuppodcast] – anytime marketers want to send us $500 of free merchandise, please do so :p


  2. Jeffery Simpson (unregistered) on July 29th, 2006 @ 6:50 pm

    Yeah, I agree. I mean the amount of free stuff that was included makes it hard for me to complain about it. Is it my dream phone? No, but I’ll use it, blog about it and then go back to my BlackBerry.


  3. Ghosty (unregistered) on July 30th, 2006 @ 1:26 am

    Mine was even easier. I think 10 mins of “survey”. Half a week later voila new phone. I ain’t complaining, certainly got more freebies with this phone than I did when I was actually employed by Rogers Wireless lol.


  4. Darren (unregistered) on July 30th, 2006 @ 9:06 am

    I said “I’m certainly not saying they shouldn’t be pitching bloggers-they should. They should just be doing it with a little more care.” I’m not sure I’d characterize that as describing a war crime.

    The spam discussion has already transpired elsewhere, but the other fact is I just couldn’t be arsed to acquire and configure a new phone.


  5. John Trenouth (unregistered) on July 30th, 2006 @ 9:10 am

    No phone for me. Matchstick answered my first email saying I was I could take part since I wasn’t an existing Roger’s customer, and then ignored my follow up email.

    Yes you read that correctly–I was ignored by a marketing company. Now that’s just insulting :)


  6. Jeffery Simpson (unregistered) on July 30th, 2006 @ 10:04 am

    Darren: I’m not saying you had to take it. There’s a lot of reasons you wouldn’t. As you pointed out it can be a hassle to set up a phone. Not everyone is comfortable with the product of coverage trade off and its moral concerns (do they expect good coverage, what if the phone is crap and so on). Plus as John points out if you’re not on Rogers they won’t send it to you, and even if they did it won’t work on Telus or Bell and it’s a hassle to get it unlocked to work with Fido.

    John: What can I say, I guess they’re just not pimping any CDMA or Fido phones right now. Which is odd because if you’re on Fido (which I have no idea if you are) the Sidekick is the perfect blogging phone and the data plan is cheap.


  7. Darren (unregistered) on July 30th, 2006 @ 5:22 pm

    One additional fact, which my phone-nerd friends pointed out, is that the phone was in fact released 9 months ago. It’s a bit crap that Matchstick pitched it as a ‘new phone’.


  8. Jeffery Simpson (unregistered) on July 30th, 2006 @ 5:36 pm

    Not quite sure if it was nine months ago. Remember the Canadian release date and the international release date is often different. I think it’s been out in Canada closer to two or three months though it has been availble as an import for awhile longer.


  9. Jon (unregistered) on July 30th, 2006 @ 8:00 pm

    Nobody even seems to have considered what seems to me fairly obviously the major problem here. Spam or no spam, weren’t bloggers meant to be different? Citizen journalists and all that. Not in the pay of “the man.”

    OK, so some regular journalists take freebies almost as eagerly as most of the bloggers here seem to want to do. But not all of ’em.

    And again, isn’t the idea that bloggers have some kind of higher standard?

    Evidently not.

    And granted, perhaps it’d be asking too much for them to be different. Metroblogging probably long ago abandoned any such ideals.

    But even so. There’s something a little sad about such somewhat grubby mainstreaming. For the sake of a goddamn phone, after all.


  10. Jeffery Simpson (unregistered) on July 30th, 2006 @ 9:30 pm

    “Spam or no spam, weren’t bloggers meant to be different? Citizen journalists and all that. Not in the pay of ‘the man.'”

    Ummm… well sadly we can’t draw pictures of gazelles on the walls of our caves any more. So we all had to go out and get jobs because internet electricity costs more than mushing up berries and finger painting.

    “And again, isn’t the idea that bloggers have some kind of higher standard?”

    Sure if that’s what you’re looking for. To describe blogs or bloggers as all belonging to one standard is a little like saying “all women are” or “all natives are” or something similiarly broad and sweeping. I guess you could say all bloggers have access to computers, and all bloggers are not in a coma, but other than that I think all further statements are useless.

    “And granted, perhaps it’d be asking too much for them to be different.”

    Different then what? I’ve met bloggers who work for Can-West Global. I’ve met bloggers who worked at Maxim. I’ve met bloggers who have tattoos on their arms and are strict Buddists and others who are as Christian as the Pope.

    Bloggers are all different, they’re different from other bloggers.

    “Metroblogging probably long ago abandoned any such ideals.”

    Again that’s like subscribing moral characteristics to a lemon tree. I’m not Metroblogging. I’m one author at one site on Metroblogging. To think that because I think one way means that everyone at every MB site does is like me saying that everyone who works at UBC likes crap Cheech Marin movies and uses a Lego avatar on their blog.

    Not only that Matchstick didn’t seem to even know about Metroblogging Vancouver, everyone was approached on the basis of their personal sites. I’ve not written about the phone at this site, because this is a city site not a technology or personal site. I only wrote about it as a note that a lot of Vancouver bloggers were getting them and using them in a way that relates to Vancouver and blogging.

    “There’s something a little sad about such somewhat grubby mainstreaming. For the sake of a goddamn phone, after all.”

    Well I suppose everyone is entitled to their opinion. I didn’t kill any babies, pee in anyone’s pool or vote in Congress to invade Iraq. I got a free cell phone which I’ll use, write my honest opinion on and then probably sell it.

    I think it’s important to note that I tend to lose about $100 a year on my own personal blog, largely because other than Google Adsense I haven’t really made any effort to monetize it. I subsidize it via my freelancing and my day job. Metroblogging doesn’t pay me anything either I do it because I enjoy it.

    If I can make most of that money back selling a phone that someone gave me to try out and give my honest opinion about it then I’m not going to argue with them.

    If neting -$100 a year for the last three or so years is sellling out then so be it.


  11. Ryan Cousineau (unregistered) on July 31st, 2006 @ 10:37 am

    If anyone wants my personal opinion on selling out this way (it’s not pretty) please listen to the Radiozoom podcast from our last Meetup.

    I start yammering about the phone at the 27:24 mark, more or less.

    Regarding the nature of blogging, I agree with pretty much everything Jeffery says. There is certainly room for an entirely non-commercial blog out there, but just to pick on someone at non-random, has no paid ads on his blog. I daresay that the traffic and attention he drives to his non-blog projects is quite valuable.

    I see, Jon, that your own blog is resolutely non-commercial, though I might just suggest that it’s not entirely unrelated to your book project.

    As these things go, I tend to prefer aggressive disclosure (eg “Matchstick gave me a phone”) to purity (“I won’t take that phone”), especially when I think I can squeeze some blogular juice out of the payback in question. But I can see the case for a more “Consumer Reports” approach, or even a blog that never mentions commercial products at all.


  12. Jon (unregistered) on July 31st, 2006 @ 11:42 am

    Jeffrey, you protest too much. I don’t think it’s a huge deal. Nobody’s accusing you of killing babies or the like. And nobody’s saying that bloggers have some common identity. There are different kinds of blogs. As Ryan points out, mine doesn’t have ads. But I don’t have anything against other blogs having ads. Other blogs are different from mine. Fine.

    Nor do I want to claim that my blog (or anyone’s blog) is some altruistic public service. Of course not. We blog for us. Because we like it. Because we get something out of it. And that “something” is different for different people, for different blogs.

    But mine’s just a pretty obvious point. Jeffrey, again, I’m surprised you’ve over-reacted to it so. There was (and still is) much hype about how blogging and blogs are, I dunno, in some vague way different from the so-called mainstream media. Don’t tell me you missed all that hype. And I’d have thought that this whole phone business might have generated some reflection more about that, than about whether or not Matchstick are spammers.

    So I feel much happier with what Ryan says. Or rather, what Ryan’s starting to say: how should bloggers deal with such approaches? What kind of responsibilities might they have? And some bloggers may decide that aggressive disclosure is the way to go. Others might feel less comfortable even with that. What rather disappoints me is that in what I’ve seen (and no, I haven’t read everything around on this), there have been only two camps: either “spammers, ugh!” or “shiny, shiny freebie, yay!”


  13. Ryan Cousineau (unregistered) on July 31st, 2006 @ 12:56 pm

    Jon: when people want to give me desireable goods (and in my case, I had specific personal and professional reasons for being interested in this phone or similar phones) with virtually no strings attached, they make me happy. I feel no need to express any sort of nuance about that.

    Well, not that most of the people who know me would accuse me of nuance or similar diseases.

    I prefer to let others judge, but I think my discussion of the phone has not only been framed by full disclosure, but also fair and balanced.

    Back to my point: bloggers have no responsibilities except to themselves and their own goals. However, depending on how they compromise themselves, their readership or reputation might suffer.

    At one extreme, I want personal tools that suppress outright spam-blogs (ie, I want them out of google, and out of my light cone), but their existence outside of those spheres affects me very little. At the other end, I want to trust that the blogs I read most closely present me with useful, novel insights. You know, shiny things for my brain to play with :).

    The point Jeffery made (and rather well) above was that one can as sensibly talk about the collective responsibilities of bloggers as one can talk about the collective responsibilities of printing press operators. Some presses print ad flyers, some print Nabokov. At various times, I have need for both.

    Were bloggers meant to be citizen journalists, not in the pay of the man? No. Blogging software is a tool for simplifying web publication in a timewise-organized fashion. The model here is broadly of the newspaper columnist, but it has spiraled into many wondrous forms from that basic idea.

    This phone project has been the epitome of that citizen-journalist model: rather than give one phone to the tech-guy at The Province, and another to Hub magazine, they’ve tossed out a whole bunch to whatever bloggers they could find. You may now read a dozen reviews of this phone, and trust the one that is most rational and articulate. To paraphrase Richard Nixon, we’re all Aristotelians now.


  14. Darren (unregistered) on July 31st, 2006 @ 1:59 pm

    Er, hi, just wandered by and wanted to correct an inaccuracy. While Ryan is quite right to say that “I daresay that the traffic and attention he drives to his non-blog projects is quite valuable”, I do have paid ads on my site. They’re just not on the home page–they’re on all the archive pages.

    Let me quote myself:

    “I try not to expose regular readers to ads, as you’re the lovely people I really value. There aren’t any ads on the front page or in the RSS. If you click the comments link, you won’t even see the square ads, because the page jumps passed them.

    The searchers, on the other hand, are my advertising marks. There are lots of them, they’re typically only hitting one random page, and they’re not staying long. They’re also likelier to click on ads because of their disposition-they’re searching for something, as opposed to scanning or reading this site.”


  15. Jeffery Simpson (unregistered) on July 31st, 2006 @ 3:24 pm

    See and I have no problem with ads on blogs, I just happen to be crap at getting my readers to click on mine. I try to click on any ads that interest me on blogs I read, because I know how little compensation bloggers get for what they do.

    But to be accused of selling out for a bauble when I will still most likely lose money on blogging this year is just sort of grating. It’s obvious that few of us are in it for the money, so why claim otherwise on the basis of zero facts?


  16. Ryan Cousineau (unregistered) on July 31st, 2006 @ 3:36 pm

    Well Jeffery, it’s fairly reasonable to assume that at least for those of us who do have ads on our blogs, we might just be BAD at monetization.

    Uh, yeah.

    Personal to Darren: I should have remembered that. I guess I’m not a mark. :)

    As long as nobody checks the verity of the Nixon quote, I should be golden on the rest of my comment.


  17. Jon (unregistered) on July 31st, 2006 @ 4:30 pm

    Jeffrey, you continue to misread and over-react. I never said that you, or anyone else for that matter, were in this for the money. (Some are, some aren’t.)

    Ryan, perhaps I’m naive to recall the hype about the blogosphere being different in some way. (Though the hype’s still out there in all sorts of places.) Which has of course nothing to do with Jeffrey’s canard that bloggers are all the same, or constitute a single identity.

    Oh, and I think you’re paraphrasing Edward VII: “We’re all socialists now.” Though in checking, I see some attribute that quotation to George Bernard Shaw, others to George V, still others to Sir William Harcourt; I’ve also seen it ascribed to George VI, which actually makes rather more sense.


  18. Jeffery Simpson (unregistered) on July 31st, 2006 @ 6:03 pm

    Jon:

    “But even so. There’s something a little sad about such somewhat grubby mainstreaming. For the sake of a goddamn phone, after all.”

    You’re right I should have read that as a positive comment.

    “weren’t bloggers meant to be different?”
    “bloggers have some kind of higher standard”

    You’re right, it was silly of me to think you were lumping all bloggers into a single unified group.

    The point is we all have different moral and ethical guidelines. If yours are more strident than mine then that’s your business. If you want to come out and publically accuse us of failing some sort of blogging manifesto that all bloggers apparently sign when they first launch their websites then that’s fine to, it’s a free internet.

    But come on please stick by a position. Either bloggers were supposed to be “Citizen journalists and all that. Not in the pay of ‘the man'” and have a higher standard and thus be some kind of unified body or we’re not.

    Either we’re breaking these high standards of blog by taking a cell phone in exchange for honestly blogging about it, or we’re not.

    At the end of the day this is something that has gone on for as long as there has been media and people who want to sell things or ideas. Movie critics don’t pay to go see movies. I don’t pay to use a phone when I’m reviewing it for other publications. Tech journalists don’t buy the computers they review. Podcasters trade bandwidth for publicity of CashFly or domain hosting services.

    Heck Kevin and Alex at Dignation got new laptops from companies (Apple, IBM?) just so people would see them using it onscreen.

    Which I think is probably closer to the intent of this marketing scheme than to have us all write glowing (or not so) reviews on the phone. They want other people to see us using them, either when we’re out on the town or on our personal blogs. The theory, from what I figured from the conversations I had with them, was that they just wanted people to see the pictures and video taken with the phone on our blogs so they’d be amazed and go check the phone out for themselves.

    Is it a perfect phone? Hell no. It’s too big for what it does feature-wise. It needs a full keyboard to be a really good phone for blogging and I gave up trying to load music on it because with the exception of contact and calander syncing it’s very Mac unfriendly.

    Still I’m going to use it for awhile longer because I promised I would, and then probably go back to switching back and forth between my W810 Sony Ericsson and my BlackBerry.



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