Did Boing Boing, Digg and Engadget bloggers get paid to appear in Virgin America's ads? Who cares! Bloggers don't believe in the complicated conflict-of-interest rules of traditional news reporters, any more than rappers care about classic rock's stance against "selling out." Virgin, Microsoft and other household names don't need to pay famous-for-the-Internet people to appear in their marketing campaigns. Bloggers do it for the far more valuable quid pro quo of being associated with a bigger brand. Be honest: You would, too.
After wooing San Francisco at its hub airport, Virgin America has enlisted seven Internet heroes to pitch the new airline. Seen here are Xeni Jardin, Cory Doctorow, David Pescovitz, and Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing; Peter Rojas of Engadget; and Alex Albrecht and Kevin Rose of Diggnation. You can see them in these Virgin cartoon spots, which are like C-minus episodes of Sealab 2021.
Gadget blogs like Engadget and Gizmodo pride themselves on getting photos of new cell phones and MP3 players before anyone else — even the lightning-fast wire services. And to protect their scoops, they've taken to watermarking their photos. A wise practice. Reuters has apparently run, uncredited, a composite image, above, incorporating three watermarked photos from a post that ran last week on Engadget detailing Verizon Wireless's new holiday line. Product photos are generally seen as fair game by gadget bloggers, of course — but for Reuters to carry Engadget's watermark but not acknowledge the blog in any fashion seems not just ungracious but clueless. (Photos by Engadget, not Reuters)
Gawker Media publisher Nick Denton, the owner of this site and my worthy predecessor as its editor, has weighed in triumphantly on the battle of the gadget blogs, declaring his Gizmodo site the winner in its heated competition with Engadget, the rival site started by founding Gizmodo editor Peter Rojas and now owned by AOL. The last time I covered this fight, I was working at Business 2.0, and an ostensibly neutral party. And so I got a fusillade from all sides. Scarred from that experience, and hardly neutral now, I'm not going to comment, save to observe that in the days to come, you're sure to hear an elaborate, exhausting point-counterpoint from Gizmodo and Engadget about international licensees, traffic-counting methodologies, and so on and so forth. Trust me, you won't want to hear it. And anyway, I'm more interested in my boss's obvious, embarrassing gaffe.
Chastened by the $4 billion loss it inflicted on Apple shares in May, Engadget has started more rigorous factchecking. Of other blogs. Our sister site Gizmodo was taken in by a fraudulent tipster — a 16-year-old Australian with the same name as a Google product manager, which lent his email just enough credibility for a Gizmodo writer to run it. Editor Brian Lam, embarrassed, issued a complete retraction. Boy, do I know how that feels. Of course, Gizmodo's item ran on a Sunday, when it couldn't affect the public markets — and the minor Apple hardware updates promised in the faux tip were unlikely to move the stock, in any event. Memo to my Gizmodo colleagues: Next time you screw up, try to make it matter a bit more, will you?
So that's how Engadget gets its exclusives! When Engadget managing editor Ryan Block showed up five minutes late to a multi-outlet press event with Microsoft Xbox exec Peter Moore, he must have seen blogger Andru Edwards filming the interview. But when Andru later posted the video on Engadget competitor Gear Live, Ryan sent Andru a little note. Andru quotes on his blog:
AOL gizmo blog Engadget ain't no small-town outlet, and managing editor Ryan Block don't wanna share his subjects. That's why, when Block and crew walk into an in-conference press event with Microsoft XBox exec Peter Moore (five minutes late) and see other bloggers (including tech heavyweight Chris Pirillo), Block mumbles, "Oh, this isn't an exclusive." You can hear him five minutes into this video on tech blog Gear Live.