Monday, February 22, 2010

Thanks but no thanks

I got an email today from PokerStars that was so weird that at first I thought it was a prank or fishing expedition of some sort. But after a while I realized that it was legit.

Here's the offer: I write a series of five blog posts, and they'll give me a $22 entry into one of the upcoming SCOOP tournaments. Each blog post has to contain a specific sentence, embedded in which will be a link to--guess where?--PokerStars. The first required sentence was included in this email, and then four subsequent emails will say what sentence and link must be included in the subsequent blog posts. There are some additional prizes (more tournament entries, of course) for being especially clever about incorporating the requisite words.

I won't be doing that. At first I thought about writing a mud-slinging post about how sleazy the whole thing is and how I'm repulsed that Stars would sink so low. But on reflection I thought better of it. I like PokerStars. I genuinely do, and they don't have to pay me to say so. Furthermore, they have been very generous with freerolls for us lowly bloggers for only the minimal shilling work of putting up their logo in one post.

There's an old joke about a man and woman at a dinner party, and they get to discussing whether she would have sex with a stranger for a million dollars. She allows as how she might. He then asks if she would do it for $10. She gets all huffy and says, "What kind of woman do you think I am?" He replies, "We've already established that. Now we're just dickering over the price."

Well, it's kind of like that. I'm willing to do one post with the logo as the price of my admission ticket, but even though it's only a difference in degree rather than kind, I'm not willing to do five posts with specified sentences and embedded links. That's probably logically inconsistent, but it's how I feel about it. I have been offered a lot more money than the Stars offer represents to write posts on particular subjects with embedded links to the sponsor's site. Some places will even offer to write the whole post. I just have to put it up, pretend that I wrote it, and collect the money. I have always turned down such things. I want this blog to be my voice, and I'm uncomfortable with mixing the content and the sponsorship. The ads are the ads, the copy is the copy, and unless I clearly tell you otherwise, there is neither spillover of content nor influence on what I have to say.

(To their credit, nothing in the email from Stars says that I couldn't be entirely open about the fact that the post is to gain a tourney entry, etc. The other offers I mentioned all come with the caveat that I can't tell readers it's a paid thing. That's what makes me feel that I'd be sullied by accepting them.)

So, PokerStars, I am sincerely grateful for how you've dealt with poker bloggers in the past, and I hope such generosity will be repeated in the future. I don't think the current offer is as ethically problematic as those advertisers that want to, in effect, silently buy a post. But it's still just a little much for my taste.


I now see that Bastin received the same offer and already beat me to posting about it--see here. I'm sure if you follow many poker blogs you'll be hearing about it. And if you see the same sentences suddenly showing up in several places, now you'll know why.


JK said...

I got the same offer today and had exactly the same reaction. Thanks, but no thanks.

My blog, for all its faults, is my blog. My voice. My thoughts and content.

There are some who call me... Tim said...

That is one of the reasons I like reading Poker Grump - I know that what is written is (without getting too smarmy) straight-forward and true.

It is one thing to admit to the realities of life and accept advertising - even if that means a logo on the side for some freerolls. But to embed specific sentences with links means that a post was generated, not created.

bastinptc said...

You were a lot kinder than I.

I am also grateful for the blogger freerolls as they have given quite a few of us an opportunity to establish bonds with each other that may not have happened otherwise. In that case, I happily posted the little Stars emblem to let folks know I would be participating.

Stars is now trying to implement Phase II, and I'm sure their marketing folks thought they had a winner with this one. What they failed to consider is that those of us who write for an income can do better with the crap job offers on Craig's List.

With 25 years of experience writing direct marketing copy, I would gladly write for Stars as a paid contract employee. Hell, I'd count chips at tournaments and report back to Star's live bloggers because, when all is said and done, I love all things poker. But I'm not going to shill for some tokens.

Big-O said...

Please get with Stars and see if they can make me an offer for posting a linked comment! I need the free plays!

OhCaptain said...

I pretty much felt the same way about the email. It's just text links they are looking for, but geez, 5 posts? With the SEO sentence to boot? Thanks, but no thanks.

NT said...

Yeah, I got that too.

I think drawing the line at altering CONTENT is a reasonable place to take a stand.

gadzooks64 said...

Snuffy and I both received that same email.

My first reaction was, oh cool. Then I saw that it was a total of 6 posts!

All for a measly $22 ticket.

I think not.

Philly said...

Interesting. Glad you shared this info.

The Blue Knave said...

I think there is a fundamental difference in kind between posting a graphic advertisement and "product placement" in the blog content; so the old joke about $1M v $10 doesn't quite apply.

The whole reason people generally find product placement sleazy is that it compromises the integrity of the source. We may not love advertising, but when there is a clear demarcation between content and advertising we do not consider it to be sleazy, just annoying. (Or sometimes entertaining, or even informative, but that depends on the ad.)

The phase I salvo, dropping in the ad in exchange for the tournament entry was smart: it's advertising (and link generation for SEO), the bloggers will talk about it, and then about the tournament, and all-in-all: positive buzz.

This phase II salvo... not so much.

(And I'm not just saying that because I didn't get an offer :) )

The Blue Knave said...

Oh... and in reading the email as Bastin published, this is not about advertising, it is about search engine optimization. By scattering links to their site around the internet in which poker links to pokerstars, they boost the chances that someone searching 'poker' on google will get pokerstars as the number 1 result.

Trying to game google is a dangerous business, and if google catches on they'll get banished to page 10.

diverjoules said...

Got it. Won't be doing it either.

HighOnPoker said...

For what its worth, I've boycotted the PokerStars blogger tourney for three years because the value of what they offer in the freeroll is actually quite small when you break it down, and in exchange, they get tons of SEO links from tons of bloggers. It seems like the same concept to me as the current offer, except, I suppose, the amount of posts to be done.

From what I can tell, the offer was only sent to participants in the Blogger Freeroll, so its not so crazy that they think they can get even more from bloggers by offering a small freebie. Incidentally, I'm sure that the people who post the SEO links will more likely than not have smaller blogs, which would mean that PokerStars will probably get what they pay for (i.e., lesser offer for lesser blogs).

BTW, I am not against making money from a blog, but I think it has to be clearly marked or otherwise not affect content. And, I think everyone should set their own price, so I don't knock anyone who agreed to the Freeroll or this most recent offer.

MicroRoller said...

I think they crossed the line here.

I might do it for the scoop tickets. I'm a whore, what can I say.

Plus, it's more likely to hurt them than me.

Greylocks said...

I also passed on this one. As I said in my own post, my time is worth more than this. But I was obviously wrong in thinking I would be the only one or only one of a few poker bloggers who would tell PS to stick it. I should stop underestimating poker bloggers.