Top tech bloggers Robert Scoble
and Michael Arrington
got a little testy this week, reflecting some of the pressures that “A” list bloggers have come to bear. Michael, owner of the TechCrunch site, was reacting to criticism that his writings about start-up companies and industry gossip might be too self-serving. Robert complained about being overwhelmed with a flood of email pitches from tech PR people who are trying to get him to write about their companies. The common thread revealed here is the segmentation of the blogosphere which has created a very small elite class of bloggers who, whether they like it or not, are being treated more like mainstream media pundits. A major problem for these guys, and for the PR folks who are now diligently tracking and targeting them, is that they don’t have the infrastructure and staff resources of mainstream media to support them or act as a buffer between them and marketers. A Wall Street Journal profile
of Arrington described the dilemma of the elite tech blogger. Even though he reports news and does product reviews, as a part-time journalist who is also an entrepreneur, there is no traditional (albeit usually mythical) “Chinese Wall” between editorial and marketing to fall back on. You get the impression that these guys are enjoying the spotlight (which they undoubtedly deserve) but they don't quite know how to deal with the responsibilities that go with it.
This phenomenon is just another example of how much PR professionals still have to figure out about social media. Like generals who are always fighting the last war, most PR pros are acting like the old rules are still in effect – assuming that most of the influence is still wielded by an elite few, and that the “wisdom of the crowd” is primarily the voice of just a few of its members. With the heavy influencers themselves saying, “Back off,” effective PR in the Web 2.0 world is going to require a lot more imagination than that.