I don't like it when I'm cynical, but I'm really seeing the relationship between blogs, newspapers, and the businesses who advertise in either one in a new light.
If I'm a business, I need to let people know about my business - or I'm not in business. So I advertise, and to advertise, I look for venues that receive a great deal of traffic where lots of people will chance upon my ad and notice my business. Of course - nothing new there...
And if I manage one of those venues - let's go with blogs or newspapers at the moment - my job is to create as much traffic as I can so that I can attract more advertisers. Of course - nothing new here either...
I'm reading around on the net this morning and I stumble upon this: a horrid political cartoon that equates America with al Qaeda in terms of torture. I read on this guy's site that this generated an uproar in Atlanta and that talk radio is abuzz with this.
This is an attention economy: you make money if people pay attention to you. And so lots of people are paying attention to the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) because of its cartoonist's despicable viewpoint.
Traffic. He's generating traffic for his employer. Lots of people are paying attention to this.
So one of the long-time advertisers in the AJC, a Mercedes dealer, decides to buy a full page ad on the page before the editorial section, protesting the cartoon. They don't sever their advertising relationship with the AJC. No, instead they set up their ad right where the traffic is going and howl at the moon and look patriotic.
See the full circle?
- The cartoonist created traffic that prompted an advertiser, who intends to continue the relationship, to buy a full page ad. Good for the AJC.
- The car dealer gets to look good before its buying public in the midst of scandal. Good for the car dealer.
- And bloggers and talk radio folks get more readship and listenership through those incensed by the whole thing, which drives up their traffic.
I remember when Bono used to be somewhat high-minded and he decried the star aspects of rock and roll. That changed about the time that their Achtung Baby album came out. He decided that he was better off just emracing the whole thing and running with it. His "The Fly" image - big glasses, leather jacket - was a response to this. Today, he uses the attention he gets in his embrace of stardom to advance causes important to him. Smart.
Eric Lichtblau, the New York Times "journalist" who broke the story about SWIFT, is essentially a useful idiot, just as the AJC's cartoonist. The AJC and the NYT use these sideshow acts to drive the curious into the big tent. And Mercedes dealers and bloggers and talk radio folks set up shop around the whole thing to ride the coattails of it all.
This is all just mutual backscratching. I don't know if I should be deeply upset or amused by it all. At the moment, I'm pretty irked about it. I might feel inclined to jump in the fray if it weren't for the fact that people's lives are threatened by it.