Blogger Offers To Pimp Restaurants If They Feed Her And Her Family Food And Drinks

from the gratuity-included? dept

As the online world continues to mature, and often push out previous dead-tree players, reputation is going to be of paramount importance. I recently discussed one aspect of this with regards to some companies that try to pay online reporters and bloggers to include links to their client companies. This type of thing should be viewed as an obviously unethical practice. But perhaps you thought that story was a tad too complicated. Perhaps you'd like this kind of behavior boiled down to its most scummy, dishonest, and greedy base.

Meet Sarah Lockard. Sarah runs the site www.aroundmainline.com, which covers the Philidelphia area. According to their website, this is their mission:

AML is privileged to welcome you to a reliable, socially responsible and culturally rich online magazine that speaks to the Philadelphia region. That's right, we don't believe in wasting paper and your valuable money to bring you the best of Philadelphia's Main Line region, the surrounding areas and vibrant western suburbs. So, we are publishing our magazine digitally respective of the earth's resources and your valuable resources. We consider each and every visitor to AroundMainLine.com a new member of our family and an equal participant in the AML experience.
Awww, how cute, Sarah! We're all your family? Does that get us included in this email you sent around to Philidelphia restaurants?
Good Evening!!!

Every Christmas Eve my family enjoys an amazing night dining out and this year I am offering you the exciting opportunity to be our restaurant that hosts us! The host restaurant will receive approximately $1,000 in PR with AML:

1) 2 Facebook posts on AML’s Facebook page promoting the respective restaurant as the restaurant of choice for AML’s family for Christmas Eve

2) 5 instagram photos during the dining experience

3) 2 AML enewsletter ads in Jan and Feb 2014 (reaches over 3,000 unique individuals)

4) listed in our Christmas Eve dining guide published Dec 10th, 2013 on AML.

We are asking for the following in turn: Dinner for 5 drinks and food compensated, we will tip according to the value to the server. This is a VERY innovative and effective way to promote your restaurant on this very competitive evening and reach tens of thousands of local foodies through AML’s channels. Please note this is first come, first serve.

Your friend,

Sarah
Interesting. Now, if I'm reading this correctly, and I can't see how I'm not, if a local Philly food joint that calls itself Bob's Maggots And Stale Waffles is the first to agree to this gifted holiday dinner for your family, they'll be pimped in your digital magazine, blog, and related social media sites to your trusting readers who you consider parts of your family? Congrats, Sarah, that's the most fully distilled bucket of scumbag I've seen to date.

And now that this story is spreading, how valuable is all of that paid-by-food PR fluff and advertising in your online rag going to be now that any member of the public who knows about this wouldn't trust your writing and recommendations any further than they could throw a 600 pound gorilla with an unpleasant disposition? You've zeroed out your credibility for the chance, the chance, at a free meal. You've nuked yourself. One can only hope that next you try to suppress these types of stories, because all I know is that a self-torpedo is a dish best served Streisand.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Dec 16th, 2013 @ 8:17pm

    Oh, Timmy! You're just hoping for your own chance to cash in.

    Say you were offered to be paid to promote Call of Duty Seven, Robot Rockers, including a year of free Stavros Special Ale, and appearances with Hermione Gingold (is that a real name? seems familiar but I've no idea) -- anyway, suppose the offer was high enough to meet your price. -- So, having established that you're a sell-out, then this looks like the usual hypocrisy and jealousy.

    The world is being dumbed-down in ways most people are already too stupid to grasp.

    16:16:28[r-257-1]

     

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  2.  
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    Atkray (profile), Dec 16th, 2013 @ 8:23pm

    Blue isn't it past your bed time?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    S. T. Stone, Dec 16th, 2013 @ 8:34pm

    Re: Oh, Timmy! You're just hoping for your own chance to cash in.

    There's a difference between a company asking a blogger to promote products while giving said blogger free swag and a blogger asking the company to give said blogger free swag to facilitate promotion.

    The former is everyday business. The latter is bullshit.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2013 @ 9:06pm

    Bitches be crazy

    Yup lol

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2013 @ 9:06pm

    Re: Oh, Timmy! You're just hoping for your own chance to cash in.

    just think, one day, in the distant future, you may actually get an analogy right.

    Who am I kidding, that is not really going to happen.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2013 @ 9:11pm

    In Sarah's defense...

    She never said anything about treating her family with respect.

     

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  7.  
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    Arioch (profile), Dec 16th, 2013 @ 9:57pm

    Hello From Sarah

    I am a Nigerian Princess residing in the Philadelphia region.
    I run a website http://aroundmainline.com/
    My uncle was unfortunately killed in a car accident and left me a large sum as an inheritance.
    I am looking for a restaurant that will allow me and four friends to take a meal and drinks in exchange for
    1. A good review
    2. 30% of the $15000000 legacy of my uncle

     

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  8.  
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    CK20XX (profile), Dec 16th, 2013 @ 10:02pm

    Is there a less sensationalist example than "Bob's Maggots And Stale Waffles"? Surely there's got to be some incident that actually happened where this system was abused in exactly the way one would expect it to be.

     

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  9.  
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    vilain (profile), Dec 16th, 2013 @ 10:45pm

    Gone in 5 minutes.

    According to Warren Buffet, whatever reputation she may have had is now gone. Yet her site still seems to be plugging away. Guess I should tweet this article to her.

    http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/takes-20-years-build-reputation-and-5-minutes-rui n-warren-buffett.html

     

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  10.  
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    Jim, Dec 16th, 2013 @ 10:53pm

    Re: Oh, Timmy! You're just hoping for your own chance to cash in.

    So you're saying that given a great enough incentive a person will do anything you ask of them.

    So lets say I offer you a chance to never have to pay out any of your sanctions, you get to live in an idyllic wonderland where everything is catered to you, and everyone agrees you are right all the time with you having the final word, no downsides.

    (I'm not super creative, so I'll let you add some more bonuses if you care to respond.)

    Now... I have these bags of dicks lying around. Not a lot, but enough to tide me over for these moments.

    So given that you are a person, and given a large enough incentive you would lose all your willpower. How many bags of dicks are you willing to suck for this trade? Is it like maybe one or two, or should I go back to my wholesaler and order a few more?

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2013 @ 11:40pm

    Re: Re:

    Given his intelligence level blue would probably pay you for the privilege of fellatio en masse.

     

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  12.  
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    Chris Meadows (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 12:44am

    Not sure what the problem is

    I'm not really seeing the problem here. If any restaurant did take her up on this offer, she'd be pretty much required to state up front she was compensated for her plugging it. If she didn't, she'd be in big trouble with the FTC, who recently issued very specific rules that if you got comped in return for a plug on your blog, you have to say so.

    As far as I know, it's a pretty common practice for blogs to approach companies with products they want to review offering a review in return for a complimentary product. This blogger seems a bit audacious, but then her offer is couched in PR-speak, to which average consumers these days tend to have a poor response.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 1:23am

    This restaurant offers the most disgusting food I've ever eaten - 8.8 out of 10

    Will visit again soon.

     

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  14.  
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    ethorad (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 1:26am

    to play devil's advocate

    What she's offering in exchange for a meal is:
    - 2 facebook posts stating where they ate
    - 5 instagram photos during the meal
    - 2 newsletter adverts
    - 1 listing in dining guide

    The first two are factual - basically "if we eat at your restaurant, we'll say that we did". The next two are normal business transactions, the restaurant could shell out $ to buy an advert and a mention in the listing, or they could pay by providing the blogger with a meal

    She hasn't stated that she will provide a good review, just that she will make some factual statements, and will take a meal as payment for advertising space.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 1:26am

    If my multimeter lied to me because it was paid by Samsung to only show certain values, I wouldn't it trust it.

     

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  16.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 1:49am

    Re: to play devil's advocate

    ...I don't know how you could have read that list and missed this very important part
    "promoting the respective restaurant as the restaurant of choice for AMLís family for Christmas Eve "

    She's not stating that she'll merely mention she at at this restaurant on Facebook. She's saying that in return for the meal, she'll promote the restaurant as her choice for a go-to Christmas Eve dinner.

     

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  17.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 4:14am

    Re: Oh, Timmy! You're just hoping for your own chance to cash in.

    I seriously have no idea what you're talking about, but this string of words you've put together is pretty entertaining. That said, I sadly don't believe this is the real Blue....

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 5:05am

    Re: Gone in 5 minutes.

    > Guess I should tweet this article to her.
    Unnecessary - I used the contact form on her site to send her the URL of this article. We can only pray she reads the inbound submissions...let the hilariously wacky hijinks ensue.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 5:12am

    You must not be from Philly. This is how things work there. We mainly work outside the Philly area, but complete 3 or 4 sizable constructions projects there a year. As soon as you get to within 30 miles of the City, everyone has their hand out. You think it is bad dealing with an individual like Sarah, try dealing with the local governments.

     

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  20.  
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    Jon Renaut (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 6:11am

    Hello, pot?

    How is this different from the "Sponsored Posts" on Techdirt? They're usually unreadable crap, a marketing flyer thinly-disguised as a blog post. It's nice that you make it really clear that they're sponsored so I can skip over them and save the six seconds of reading time it would otherwise take me to realize they were garbage.

    Her email maybe could have been worded a with a little less slime, but for how many marketing emails is that NOT true?

    It is generally obvious when someone is being paid vs honestly cares about the products. Like when Mike talks about batteries - he might be getting free ones, I don't know, but he's built up a level of trust so that I believe him when he says they're great.

     

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  21.  
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    dr evil, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 7:43am

    please, someone do this....

    I look forward to some company (preferably one that recieved a less than ideal review before) in the area taking her up on the offer but intentionally making the experience bad... then they ( the dining establishment) can point out the hypocracy of the blogger and discount all of her previous reviews....

    idea floated

    my work here is done.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 7:48am

    I'm pretty sure I've actually eaten at Bob's Maggots and Stale Waffles, but I decided to live dangerously and order the Limp Half Rotten Salad with Watered-Down Dressing. It was right near Rittenhouse Square.

     

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  23.  
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    madasahatter (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 8:06am

    Re: Not sure what the problem is

    If she is soliciting restaurants I doubt she would note that she was comped regardless of the rules.

     

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  24.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 8:19am

    Re: Not sure what the problem is

    As far as I know, it's a pretty common practice for blogs to approach companies with products they want to review offering a review in return for a complimentary product.


    This scummy practice is common? I'd like to know what blogs do this so I can avoid them.

     

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  25.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 8:22am

    Re: Hello, pot?

    Sponsored posts are overtly marketing. Reviews shouldn't be.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 8:24am

    Re: Re: Hello, pot?

    Exactly.

    The fact that we know there are sponsored posts and which ones are sponsored shows the difference.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 8:35am

    Re: Re: Hello, pot?

    Do we know she won't state that the meal was paid for?

    I kinda don't get why everyone is so uppity about this. I see shit on sites all the time saying 'Advertise with us'

    I get magazines that have multi-page paid-for product review sections that are barely discernible from regular articles.

    As a website owner, I get emails all the time from people wanting to promote me for cash.

    If there is no indication that it was a promotion, then yeah, she's a scumbag. But why the assumption?

    Did anyone look to see if there was anything from last year, and how it was presented?

    I guess if you are new to the world of marketing, this is terrible sounding, but to me it seems about par for the course. Suddenly though, it's ON COMPUTERS and so it's 10 times worse...? Where have I heard that sort of thing before...? hmm...

     

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  28.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 8:54am

    Re: Hello, pot?

    How is this different from the "Sponsored Posts" on Techdirt?

    Sponsored posts are situations where a company is interested in engaging with people here. We don't reach out to them with an entitled attitude saying "give us free shit and we'll mention you on the blog."

    Separately, I take offense to the idea that they're crap -- some of our most popular posts of the year have been sponsored ones. For example, this one: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130501/09000922908/when-startups-need-more-lawyers-than-employee s.shtml

    We work hard to make sure that our sponsored posts are as relevant and on topic as possible -- and I think we do a hell of a lot better than nearly every other site.

     

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  29.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 9:29am

    Re: Hello, pot?

    ...when was the last time Mike talked about batteries? There have been a couple of dailydirt articles and then there was an article about Renault car batteries not coming with the car but having to be obtained through a rental contract, but other than that...?

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 9:34am

    Re: Re: Re: Hello, pot?

    Do we know she won't state that the meal was paid for?


    No, we don't know that. I suppose it's possible that she would have put disclaimers on both Facebook posts and all 5 Instagram photos. But what exactly is the value of a Facebook post that says "this restaurant gave me free food in exchange for this post"? Or an Instagram post that says that?

    And I suppose it's also possible that she was planning to claim the value of the meal on her taxes as income. But do you really think so?

    I kinda don't get why everyone is so uppity about this. I see shit on sites all the time saying 'Advertise with us'


    Advertising with someone is not the same as having them endorse you. Ideally everyone would vet their advertisers, but that does not seem to be the way the world works.

    It is one thing to approach a specific company and say "I like your food, how about an endorsement deal". It is another to ask for free food on Christmas Eve for your entire family from whatever restaurant contacts you first.

    I get magazines that have multi-page paid-for product review sections that are barely discernible from regular articles.


    This is also scummy. But a small disclaimer is better than none. And yes, I'm sure some unethical magazine and newspaper reviewers fail to disclose this sort of thing too. If this article was about one of those instead, you'd pretty much see the same comments condemning it.

    4) listed in our Christmas Eve dining guide published Dec 10th, 2013 on AML

    From: Sarah Lockard
    Date: December 9, 2013 at 9:17:32 PM EST
    To: undisclosed-recipients:;


    Yes, that's right, she sent an email out at 9:17 PM offering publication in a newsletter to be published the following day. With the implication that anyone who is NOT the first to respond will NOT be listed in her guide, even though she obviously thinks they are quality establishments worthy of being put in there. And it's not like this is a matter of her having to taste the food first - she won't eat there until two weeks after the guide is published.

    Did anyone look to see if there was anything from last year, and how it was presented?


    I looked at a random dining guide on that website and never saw a disclaimer that any particular listing was paid for with free food. Maybe none of them were paid for in the guide I randomly looked at, or maybe there's a disclaimer elsewhere on the site. I didn't look that hard. But neither would anyone else trying to find a place to eat.

     

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  31.  
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    Jon Renaut (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 9:54am

    Re: Re: Hello, pot?

    So the real difference is the blogger is the one asking, while in the case of sponsored posts it's the company coming to the blog? I don't see that as a really meaningful distinction.

    I used to read every article here. Now as soon as I see "sponsored", I move on. I have not yet read one that I enjoyed or found interesting. The one you linked is better than average, but I still would have skipped it.

    And I won't argue that you don't do a better job of this than other sites. But is that really the goal? To do something better than all the people who do it really badly?

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 10:01am

    Every week 60mins enjoys an amazing night on the internet and TV and this year I am offering you the exciting opportunity to be the Meta Data Collector that hosts us! The National Security Agency will receive approximately $10,000,000 in PR with 60mins:

    1) 2 Facebook posts on 60mins Facebook page promoting the NSA as the defender of freedoms of choice for 60mins family forever

    2) 5 instagram photos during the data collection experience

    3) ads featured on CBS/60Mins (reaches over 30,000,000 unique individuals)

    We are asking for the following in turn: Destruction of our Constitutional Freedoms.,. This is a VERY innovative and effective way to promote the National Security Agency during this pivotal year and reach tens of millions of Americans through CBS and 60mins broadcast channels. Please note this is first come, first server.

    Your friend,

    CBS/60 mins

     

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  33.  
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    Jon Renaut (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 10:02am

    Re: Re: Hello, pot?

    Don't remember a specific post. It's normally not a post about batteries, just thrown in along the way. Something along the lines of "I depend on batteries for my laptop/phone/whatever, and these are really good and relatively inexpensive".

     

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  34.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 10:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Hello, pot?

    So the real difference is the blogger is the one asking, while in the case of sponsored posts it's the company coming to the blog? I don't see that as a really meaningful distinction.

    Uh, that's not what I said at all. I said the difference is feeling entitled to stuff.

    I used to read every article here. Now as soon as I see "sponsored", I move on. I have not yet read one that I enjoyed or found interesting. The one you linked is better than average, but I still would have skipped it.

    Ok. Your choice. That was, I believe, the most popular article we've had here this year, so it appears that pretty much everyone thinks you're wrong with your assessment of it.

    We work pretty fucking hard to make sure that the sponsorships and other things we do here don't annoy people. Just yesterday we shit canned one of our advertising partners for breaking our ad policies. We basically guaranteed that we'll now lose money to keep you guys happy, and we still get shit for it.

    Great.

    And I won't argue that you don't do a better job of this than other sites. But is that really the goal? To do something better than all the people who do it really badly?

    No, our goal is to provide good and useful info, and I'd argue that we do that in our sponsored posts as well, despite your hating of them for no reason other than they're sponsored. It's your choice to not like them and to express your displeasure, but disliking them because they're sponsored? That's just silly.

     

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  35.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 10:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Hello, pot?

    Don't remember a specific post. It's normally not a post about batteries, just thrown in along the way. Something along the lines of "I depend on batteries for my laptop/phone/whatever, and these are really good and relatively inexpensive".

    And just because you're being like this, I'll make it clear: I've never received a free battery in my life. The two times I believe I've mentioned batteries, I'm talking about ones I bought.

     

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  36.  
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    Jon Renaut (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 11:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Hello, pot?

    I didn't read her email as entitled. A bit slimy, and undoubtedly exaggerating how good her offer is, but that's pretty standard marketing. She said, "I'll give you X in exchange for Y". It may be a good deal, it may not be, but she sent it to multiple restaurants when only one could take the offer, so clearly she expected some to turn her down. That doesn't seem entitled, that seems like she was covering her bases.

    I really do appreciate the work you do towards sustainable business models on the internet, both for other industries and yourselves. It's one of the main things that's made me a regular reader for five plus years, and why I continue to be a regular reader. Techdirt was a huge inspiration for me in trying to start my own business.

    And I don't dislike them for no other reason than they're sponsored. After reading some number of sponsored posts and noticing that I didn't like any of them, I came to the conclusion that it was not worth my time to read any more of them.

     

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  37.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 12:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Hello, pot?

    I've received tons of them, from back when Radio Shack used to give you one per week (do they still do that?)

    But I'll never encourage anyone to go to Radio Shack, unless they're into overpaying for stuff and being treated poorly in the process.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 12:36pm

    Re: Not sure what the problem is

    No, it's common practice for restaurants to offer complementary service in order to get a respected critic with a sizeable following to come to their establishment and then write a review of the experience. In those cases the critic is under no obligation whatsoever to write a favorable review and if the food and/or service sucks they will usually say so, even if it was complementary. It's a completely different matter altogether for a critic to offer a favorable review up front in return for a complementary meal.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 12:52pm

    its like the government lobbying the lobby

     

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  40.  
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    nonanymous, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 1:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Hello, pot?

    Renaut, your logic is as good as your grand-father's cars. Do something else.

     

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  41.  
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    ethorad (profile), Dec 18th, 2013 @ 1:13am

    Re: Re: to play devil's advocate

    Yes, so she will say that she chose to go there for Christmas Eve dinner.

    She doesn't say that she will promote it as a fantastic place to eat, having good food, etc. She doesn't say that she will promote it as the restaurant of choice for anyone else's Christmas dinner.

    I agree that she will probably give it a good review, so if I read AML would become very sceptical of her reviews. However strictly speaking I don't think she has said that.

     

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  42.  
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    jcvillar (profile), Dec 21st, 2013 @ 10:51am

    Is she planning on bringing four friends or is she doing all five entrees & drinks herself?

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 10:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Hello, pot?

    Just yesterday we shit canned one of our advertising partners for breaking our ad policies.


    And thank you for that. I don't know if that was in response to my complaint in particular, but the ads were starting to get bad (multiple ads trying to play sound on top of each other, for example - annoying for users AND self-defeating for the ads since you can't understand any of them) and now it's much better. Less money? Perhaps. If you required people to listen to a 2 hour unskippable ad before proceeding to the site you could probably get a ton of revenue from that ad per user. Except you also wouldn't have any users. There's a balancing act there. (Of course, you already understand this.)

    As far as the sponsored posts go, I pretty much treat them like guest posts. I'll read them if I find them interesting. I'll agree that it's silly to dislike them just because they're sponsored, but hey, that's up to the reader, and by labeling them you let us make that choice, which is a good thing even if the result is silly.

     

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