Ad Agencies, PR Firms Try to Co-Opt Bloggers

In light of the Gawker story on blogger payola, I thought I would share my own story and response. Earlier this month I received this email:

I’ve been reading and have a story idea that might interest your followers:

“One of the fundamental arguments for a European Union was the ability for companies to easily move across borders. An increasing number of European-based companies are moving a portion of their staff to other countries within Europe and more commonly to Asia – it simply makes sense in a global economy. Expanding facilities in different countries allows companies to take advantage of lower operating costs and taxes or simply to serve a new territory – and they often need proven managers to run these operations. Moving is a hassle for everyone, but utilizing relocation resources such as specialized agencies, realtors that have a national or global presence and proven courier services companies can make the transition smoother. In this article, I will discuss some potential resources for businesses and their employees.”

Would you be interested in having me write a guest post for your blog? Alternatively I could just supply you with some great trend information that you can use to write a post yourself.

Let me know if you’re interested – I think this topic will be of great interest to your readers.

Thanks for your time and best regards,
Margot M
Blog Content Guild
(Please let me know if you don’t want to receive any more emails from me! Thanks!)

So I wrote back:

Dear Margot,

I am very familiar with that process you describe which is known as neo-liberalism and has nothing to do with “liberal” politics; and which has caused horrific financial consequences to economies across the globe, both in the counties which have lost business and in the countries which have been the recipients of new businesses (think about the Special Economic Zones on the coast of China).

If you have been reading my site as you claim, you will notice that I cover pop culture, LGBT rights, religion, film, tv and other matters and have a progressive political slant. I wonder why you think a progressive political site would be interested in encouraging economic ruin and subhuman working conditions. Have you looked into the working conditions in the countries where some of these companies relocate? “Lower taxes” in another country only serves to benefit the company/shareholders, not the workers; and when companies relocate en masse, the finances of the mother country are eroded. With the loss of tax dollars comes the loss of funds for roads, schools, care for the elderly and ill. Those tax savings do not trickle down, and such practices are one of the root of the current Occupy protests. Seriously, you promote and thus would like to see more businesses leave your homeland, creating unemployment and social turmoil at home while exploiting workers and the environment elsewhere? Um, gross.

While I appreciate your entrepreneurship in trying to pitch me such an inappropriate and venal story idea, I can read between the lines of your email: You wish to promote certain companies with which you have a relationship. Remember this well: Writer and whore share many of the same letters, and it is wise to know who your trick is before you lift your skirts.

Needless to say, I haven’t heard back from her.

39 Responses to "Ad Agencies, PR Firms Try to Co-Opt Bloggers"
Elliott | Saturday October 29, 2011 06:28 pm 1

Remember this well: Writer and whore share many of the same letters, and it is wise to know who your trick is before you lift your skirts.

what a great line!

Twain | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:23 am 2

Wow, Lisa, you really smacked her around. Good for you.

Margaret | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:25 am 3

Wonderful response. Especially the last line:

Writer and whore share many of the same letters, and it is wise to know who your trick is before you lift your skirts.

But what the fuck is the “Blog Content Guild”? Sounds like some self appointed corporate pimp to me.

eCAHNomics | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:26 am 4

How much do these ad agencies get paid to write such dreck. It’s agenda is so funnily transparent.

And they obviously never looked at LaFiga or anything else on FDL.

Sorta kinda like the really awful trolls that show up on threads.

allan | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:28 am 5

Margot M has clearly earned a place on the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

jo6pac | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:29 am 6

Well Lisa that was Mean, but Right On:)

eCAHNomics | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:30 am 7
In response to Margaret @ 3

Here’s what you get if you google them. There doesn’t seem to be a wiki for them yet. I won’t link to any particular site, esp their own. But if you read what they do, it’s pretty damn funny.

Margaret | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:31 am 8
In response to eCAHNomics @ 4

And they obviously never looked at LaFiga or anything else on FDL

I agree, in which case I see no hope for her “Blog Content Guild”. They are doomed to fail with such colossal, epic miscalculations as suggesting Lisa give her column space for that screed.

Knox | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:32 am 9
In response to allan @ 5

Just as Jason Rosenbaum earned his place as the Director of Online Communications and New Media at the DSCC.

Margaret | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:35 am 10
In response to eCAHNomics @ 7

Ah, just so. I remember seeing ads for “blog writers” all over the place during my job search. So when they aren’t exploiting aspiring writers they’re trying to get successful blogs, (with actual, you know, traffic), to pimp for clients who pay the BCG? How loathsome.

Margaret | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:36 am 11
In response to allan @ 5

Immelt will adore her…

eCAHNomics | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:40 am 12
In response to Margaret @ 10

So which are the blogs that actually are customers? That would be good to know, dontcha think? Might be able to get someone to hack their email. Like being a fly on the wall.

judybrowni | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:42 am 13

But why so coy with Margot M’s last name?

realitychecker | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:43 am 14

Good on you, Lisa. There is a huge class of professional mindfuckers out there, and they never rest. Mindfuckery is a growth industry, PR trumps common sense and decency.. Globalization was always inevitable, as the world got smaller and overseas markets became more viable. But the low cost of labor overseas drives the corporate bottom line like nothing else. While the overall trend just reflects rational business strategy, that trend should always have been balanced out by insisting on better working conditions for the overseas workers, which would have diluted the immediate harm to domestic workers by lessening the competitive price disadvantage. Failing to do so only created a situation that is all-good for the transnational corporations, delivering them an immediate and outsized benefit, and all-bad for the workers here in America, where those same corporation try to keep preending that they are good American citizens.

eCAHNomics | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:46 am 15

Oh, this also reminds me of another question. Does anyone know of any cheap OTC computer programs that can do key word/word combo searches on large swathes of the internet? Related to this post in trying to figure out where these PR firms are placing their propaganda. But would be useful in general to figure out, for example, where posts about OWS show up, or other topics of interest to FDL. That, I would presume is how trolls end up at FDL. So the opposition is already using such programs to be sure.

eCAHNomics | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:47 am 16
In response to judybrowni @ 13

Really! Name names already. Margot M should be outed fully.

Margaret | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:49 am 17
In response to eCAHNomics @ 12

So which are the blogs that actually are customers?

No idea but after reading this at Kos, I think they might be.

techno | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:50 am 18

You know Lisa, that’s an awfully thoughtful letter to respond to an email that was probably mostly computer-generated. There’s a person in there somewhere but they aren’t exactly churning out original stuff.

But that you for letting US read it.

I had someone volunteer to write on the subject of debt collection for my blog based on the fact that I often cover debt issues. Of course, I write about debt repudiation, jubilees, and so on but he wanted to write about how debt collectors are really good guys doing an honest day’s work. I wanted to explain the difference but it was probably some kid glad to have any job.

Be glad you can write with integrity.

rmacdonald | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:50 am 19

Writer and whore share many of the same letters, and it is wise to know who your trick is before you lift your skirts.

Ya know, I just hate it when someones holds back!

eCAHNomics | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:51 am 20
In response to Margaret @ 17

There have been some diaries here that sound like PR pieces. I don’t spend enough time on them to remember any, but I’ll be more alert to their presence in the future.

mhender | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:53 am 21

Take a look at this link to see how this blog infiltration is happening across many topics. Really kind of scary to see how little you can track where this is really coming from….


xyno | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:54 am 22

So, judging by their extremely sparse website they claim to be a service connecting writers wishing to write blog entries (presumably for pay) with established blog owners needing content.

But based on their pitch to you, it appears there’s more to it – they’re also pitching content, presumably for paying customers.

Margaret | Sunday October 30, 2011 08:55 am 23
In response to realitychecker @ 14

While the overall trend just reflects rational business strategy,…

True but the danger lies in people accepting that what’s good for business is what’s good for everybody as an axiom. Usually it’s just the opposite. What’s good for a business’ bottom line is almost always bad for labor, the environment, surrounding communities, etc.

Margaret | Sunday October 30, 2011 09:01 am 24
In response to eCAHNomics @ 20

Yep and there are a few regular diarists who are almost certainly paid hacks. And they are easy to pick out. Prolific but writing oddly inappropriate things at times, always seem to be bent toward selling a specific meme/idea, etc. But I don;t know if they are paid to write or paying them to be published. I stayed away from those ads though. They are almost always a scam designed to fleece the gullible. I don’t/didn’t have time or the resources to waste working away with the carrot of possibly being paid someday as an incentive.

Bluetoe2 | Sunday October 30, 2011 09:03 am 25

Occupy Wall Street AND Occupy Madison Avenue.

onitgoes | Sunday October 30, 2011 09:33 am 26

Thanks for providing the info on THAT. How very interesting. Good response, too! I don’t see your response as “mean.” Rather I think it’s factual. Caveat emptor.

It does give further credence (albeit not with absolute certainty) that some of what we call “trolls” here are paid for their services. We had a bit of a discussion the other day about the difference between some who post here regularly who have somewhat contrarian viewpoints but tend, mostly, to blog with some degree of intelligence and thoughtfulness. Versus the said “trolls” who swing by regularly – tending to comment mainly on posts of certain topics – to spout out rightwing talking points, hurl unattributed accusations, and generally be worthless pains in the butt.


Larue | Sunday October 30, 2011 09:41 am 27
In response to Knox @ 9


Heh heh heh heh twue dat . . . ;-)

Larue | Sunday October 30, 2011 09:48 am 28
In response to mhender @ 21

Good stuff thanks for sharing that . . . . phishing is rampant on the web, as much as any 3 card monty table in any city. ;-)

Larue | Sunday October 30, 2011 09:49 am 29

Writer and whore share many of the same letters, and it is wise to know who your trick is before you lift your skirts.

Snarf Fu Of The Month!

Great read Mz. Derrick, and great comments, also.

Thanks to all for shedding light on this issue!

I love this town.

realitychecker | Sunday October 30, 2011 09:59 am 30
In response to Margaret @ 23

Oh, that is absolutely true. I have touted the concept of “interest analysis” here, originally a strictly legal concept to determine the rights and interests of each state to have their laws enforced in cases where there is a conflict of state laws that might be applicable to resolve the case, but the concept is useful for determining the legitimate and illegitimate interests and desires of any actors in any situation. Clearly, the interests of transnational corporations are markedly different from the interests of regular people.

PJEvans | Sunday October 30, 2011 10:07 am 31
In response to Margaret @ 17

That’s by one of the long-time posters, so I really doubt it. The front-pagers are pretty much not going to be bought. It’s the little guys (like the libertarians infesting MyFDL) that are more likely to take corp-rat money. Also, they’re easy to spot, because they never quite fit. (At dKos, they may get banned.)

stellacorso | Sunday October 30, 2011 10:18 am 32

The common denominator so far is food. (figa, eattheroses, and one food blog that has used the guild. The links in the guild blog suggest Scripps or AmEx subsidiaries (, HGTV and DIY networks, Food & Wine magazine) could be the paying clients.

JohnJ | Sunday October 30, 2011 10:20 am 33
In response to Margaret @ 24

I have been seeing more and more sophisticated trolls here lately. They are very articulate and always on point. They NEVER back down on point or admit to another commentor’s good point. They NEVER agree with any blog post, (then what are they doing here?)

Just hit their name for a history of comments and you can see. (Just be sure to read a ways back because sometimes good commentors just get stuck on a point! Me included about this very subject).

TimWhite | Sunday October 30, 2011 10:38 am 34

I’m thinking it could be kinda funny to post some material from paid hacks. Watching’em get torn apart by FDL could make for an enjoyable afternoon!

manys | Sunday October 30, 2011 11:20 am 35
In response to Margaret @ 3

The more generic the organization name, the more insidious their charter.

joelmael | Sunday October 30, 2011 12:29 pm 36
In response to Elliott @ 1

At first glance a clever line, but… it is disparaging to use those actual sex workers who for one circumstance or another feel they have no other choice, to make a point.

Surely there are less oppressive possible comparisons.

mzchief | Sunday October 30, 2011 02:41 pm 37
In response to Margaret @ 3

A ChineseG front company! Your Best Shoring destination guide to slaves in the metropolitan areas of Asia, South America, Africa and– coming soon– express access to slaves in Canada and the USA. If you think I’m kidding, I’m not and it’s based upon another recent data point in the form of a sweatshop revealed to me and in place that it shouldn’t exist. Hella yes, General Strike.

UnEasyOne | Sunday October 30, 2011 02:51 pm 38

I guess I am more devious than you. Were I in your position, I would have contacted Jane before I replied, with an eye to finding out if they were willing to pay to corrupt you, how much and what they wanted you to say.

Contacting Jane, of course, would be key to protecting yourself from any charge that you actually intended to sell out.

It would have been interesting to see the follow up on that.

Lisa Derrick | Sunday October 30, 2011 05:02 pm 39

Margot M never gave me her last name, just the initial, so that’s why only a letter.

UnEasy, she never mentioned paying me, just wanted me to use her article or write one using her sources. I was disinclined to string her out because I was pretty disgusted.

Sorry but the comments are closed on this post