I’ve headed Corporate Communications for years and I know how expensive one print insert is. But does this mean that every insert must necessarily lead to purchase decisions? No. Every print media insert costing lakhs or av bytes on the av media will not necessarily make the sales charts sing with joy. The ad-campaign decisions for corporates are based entirely on creating a positive media buzz with a sustained emphasis throughout the year… the sensible strategies, that is. Of course there are many strategists who work or aim for short-term and immediate results.

The other conclusion that became obvious during my years as a marketing professional was the emergence of online promotion that is actually the least stressful on an organisation’s budget. So I was one of those who literally had to sell the idea of online banners to the senior echelons of the corporates I worked for. And then emerged the bloggers who popped up as a boon to both the people wanting a positive buzz as well as the millions of readers who were confused with all the buzz that we keep hearing about edit space being available for sale. Yes, there are newspapers that sell space… there are TV channels where the tilt is so obvious that the viewer cannot possible think of their editorial programs as anything but blatant ads. But bloggers did present a good and healthy unbiased platform.

So bloggers entered our lives as people who used words and ideas to express opinions that flowed through them without being guided or moulded. Readers finally heaved a sigh of relief and whispered, ‘These opinions are more important to me than those ratty edits in the daily newspapers. And anyway, the online horizon is literally full of innumerable such suns.’ Freshly baked opinions floated all over the internet and people grabbed them at will or just happened to stumble upon them. Let me just say that from political commentary to the reviews of the arts, books, films, plays, and technology the bloggers were everywhere. And readers believed and loved them.

And finally, as usual, the marketers and the profiteers entered and became the dreaded middlemen attempting to make the free-spirited bloggers toe their line. They did have interesting baits. No, not just books or luncheons and dinners… the baits at times were bigger and more lucrative. Brand Ambassadorships were thrown in, travel incentives offered, prizes worth lakhs were lined up, and contests propped up. We have reached a stage when some middlemen, agents, writers, publishers, corporates, restaurants, and producers of goods and services think they can buy their way through the blogosphere.

They’re all wrong.

Yes, the online space will always have tech bloggers who churn out reviews that are nothing but specs, book reviewers who will upload reviews that are nothing but a few disjointed sentences, food bloggers who don’t know their greens from their browns, travel bloggers who think a couple of pictures and names of places of interest are enough, and photo-bloggers who keep uploading pictures that are irrelevant to everyone. These are the sort of bloggers who are always looking for freebies and gifts. But no one except their own brethren read them… yes, they are so professional that they can display an array of mesmerizing statistical data, hits, views, and comments that will make a real blogger bite his nail in nervous wonder. I have bitten my nails often. (Read this post that wrote a few months back: Tech blogging and the cult of copying!)

But wait… let me not digress from the point I had ventured out to make. The conventional media and the new media (this includes the blogger and the micro-blogger) are slowly dissolving the boundaries between them and learning from each other. For instance, I have a column of my own in a newspaper and am also blogging. Then there are bloggers who are respected for their opinion by the traditional press. But hey, this isn’t the point I want to make.

What I want to say upfront is that bloggers, who are the new online chefs, so to say, have a rather harried life. Those who are out to promote their products (and this isn’t always crappy authors sending their books to a few bloggers and expecting some heavenly reviews from them… there are political parties too who are out to promote or bring to the front some shehzada or butcher or a darn muffler-lover) also think they have a natural right over the time and line of opinion of a blogger. This is something that has gained so much ground that everyone other than the blogger is all over the social media hanging bloggers upside down. So my advice to these self-righteous fools is to lay-off. You are nothing but ephemeral salesmen out to rob more than you ever intend to give.

I have often heard my blogger friends complain in disgust and tell me some real horror stories like… 

‘Hey, just because I was called for a party to that restaurant, the promoter is after me to write a glowing review.’ 

‘Well, I just got this book by post and this someone kept pestering me to accept the parcel. Now that I have it, I am hounded day in and day out for the book review. This noise is making me irritable now.’

And do I tell my blogger friends let all the pestering and nagging go to hell? No. I tell him to write the review and be brutally honest. This is the only responsibility of a blogger.

So this explains quite a bit of the position of a blogger today. And a blogger is indeed the online chef today… a chef who cooks a real dish out of real ingredients and some real thoughts and love sprinkled into it. (Psst: Even a bad review from a good chef is to be applauded. It probably gets you more attention than a good review from a bad cook.)

Blogger - the online chef

 

 

Arvind Passey
02 February 2014