Apparently I am a liar

I’d like to reproduce for you here a post written by Dave Balter, founder of BzzAgents, on ths BzzAgents blog, which is in response to my post expressing unhappiness at Creative Common’s new pro bono relationship with BzzAgents.

Bloggers as Liars

Saturday, April 30 2005 @ 10:57 AM CDT

Contributed by: Dave Balter

I really wonder.

Whenever I talk to people about BzzAgent, give a speech or work with clients, they invariably ask us about Blogs. They want to know how BzzAgents can influence bloggers. How much of a role blogging has in word-of-mouth.

Let’s get this straight: Over 80% of word of mouth occurs OFFLINE. Blogs are a tool for word-of-mouth interaction, but just because there’s plenty of them out there, it doesn’t mean it’s the best place for distributing an honest opinion.

Which brings me to point two. Bloggers are destroying their own medium.

How? By being more critics and pundits than journalists. The problem is that there are no editors and no fact checkers, so plenty of what you read on blogs is just plain untrue. Check out Suw Charman’s Corante post on BzzAgent’s Partnership with Creative Commons, where she misstates nearly a dozen facts. And much of what she says is also pulled from other blogs. Guess what? Her informants are providing false information, too. A vicious cycle of lies.

With this type of reporting (whining?), it’s no wonder many consumers are going back to reading fact-checked business magazines.

How long until consumers hold bloggers up to the same standards of truth as they’d expect from word-of-mouth interactions?


It seems Dave has a few misconceptions.

Firstly, this is a metablog – I blog about blogging. That’s why I talk about BzzAgent bloggers. But Dave’s assertion that 80% of word of mouth happens offline doesn’t change a thing – BzzAgent are still rewarding people for saying stuff that perhaps they wouldn’t say otherwise, good or bad. Regardless of medium, this is still dressing up advertising as conversation.

Bloggers vs. journalists. I’ve been through that one so many times. The truth is that some bloggers have very good journalistic habits and indeed some bloggers are journalists. Some journalists have very bad journalistic habits and are a disgrace to their profession. Bloggers are not killing their medium through punditry at all – there’s plenty of room for pundits and journalists in the blogosphere, and each find their own audience.

Fact checking and editors. Bloggers have their own fact-checking mechanism which in more formal publishing environs is called ‘peer review’. We link to our sources, we are transparent, we disclose our interests, and if we don’t, someone else will. Not everyone is as diligent as we would like, but in general the blogosphere has a self-righting mechanism which will at the very least point out who’s being an idiot.

Truth. Not everything you read in the mainstream media is true. Not everything you read in the blogosphere is true. This is not news.

My sources: Actually, my sources were the Creative Commons blog and the BzzAgent site, which I went through and read to make sure that I had understood what they do, and I quoted verbatim from their own material. I didn’t pull anything from any other blogs, primarily because I couldn’t find any other blogs which had written about this at that time. I also quoted a friend of mine who, when I mentioned BzzAgent, called them ‘fuckwit liars’. Whether you agree with that opinion is a moot point – it illustrates the way that BzzAgents are perceived and that is important when discussing how BzzAgent’s reputation could rub off on Creative Commons.

I don’t have ‘informants’, as Dave puts it, and I’d like to see a simple, bulletpoint list of my 12 ‘misstated facts’. I’m also not sure where this ‘vicious cycle of lies’ comes from either, so I’d like to see that elaborated.

I am not sure why Dave thinks that word of mouth interactions are somehow inherently more truthful than any other sort of interaction, particularly when he’s encouraging people to alter the nature of their word of mouth interactions in order to earn rewards. Blogs are a non-ephemeral medium, and bloggers can be held to account in public for what they write. How this makes blogs less truthful than any other medium I am not sure.

So, Dave, when are you going to begin holding yourself to the same standards of truthfulness that you are claiming I flout?

8 thoughts on “Apparently I am a liar

  1. Blogs, for better or worse, make it hard for Dave Balter to sell his word of mouth campaigns. If you google the products bzzagent is promoting you’ll find bloggers criticizing bzzagent, not praising the products. No wonder he wants to discredit them.

  2. My suspicion is that Bzz offered their services to CC and CC was too polite to refuse.

    They should have.

    It was a big lapse in judgement to say yes.

  3. You know there’s nothing better than shoving the truth in someone’s face and getting an ignorant, angry rant in return. Well done, Suw!


    By the way: spliffin’ new pic 😉

  4. Suw –

    I’ve woken this morning feeling that I’ve treated your initial post somewhat unfairly. Much of what we see on the web isn’t fully accurate to our model and it’s a shame. Frankly, your post came on the heels of a number of others that had similar tone and content, and I ended up projecting my anger to you.

    So, first, I’d like to apologize for labeling you as a liar (which wasn’t the original intent – rather to out blogs as a mechanism that has no editorial review, but I certainly understand why it was taken as such). So, I hope you’re willing to accept.

    Secondly, much of our frustration has to do with the perception people have of BzzAgent, without consideration for how we really work. We are as upset as everyone with the current state of marketing. We’re frustrated by companies who feed us taglines and overwhelm us with advertising; by receiving dozens of direct mail pieces a day; by organizations that hire actors to pretend their real consumers; by spam, etc.

    I would urge individuals who question our system to get a little further under the hood. While on the surface it may appear that we are just another marketing intrustion, with deeper digging you’ll find that our concept is about consumer’s taking control of marketing. We stress honesty in communications and ensure that individuals are open and transparent about their role. The goal is to ensure that the future of marketing is about a two-way dialogue. About listening and engaging with the consumer, instead of targeting and capturing them.

    In any event, my regrets to how this has spun out of control. Again, I sincerely hope we are able to help CC get their message to communities who may not have heard about it yet.


  5. “We stress honesty in communications”

    How do you enforce it?

  6. Hi, i´m writing from Brazil just to say that i like bolggers as much as i like Bzz iniciatives.
    Both are a wonderful way of dialogue between consumers and his favorite brands or subjects.
    So why don´t you guys cut the crap and go back to you both brilliant works???
    There´s room for everibody, folks!!!

  7. Authenticity, believability, trust. On these most important points of the intersection of online/offline relating, bzzagent’s business model seems flawed.

    Good on all of you for making things right.

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