Addicted to novelty since 2001

Promoting The Tyee’s Election Central and Blog Relations

The Tyee is a left-wing, upstart online news journal here in BC. Though I’ve found the quality of their reportage and writing uneven, I’ve been generally impressed and have mentioned them on several occasions.

I just received an email from them, asking me to promote their Election Central, a bloggy sub-site for all things related to the BC election. From a public relations perspective, I give them 7/10 on the email: [more]

  • It’s friendly in tone and content.
  • It gets to the point quickly.
  • It incentivizes me to mention the product–they’re offering prizes.
  • It gives clear advice on how I can help (including graphics I can use to promote the site).

On the other hand:

  • The email isn’t personal. It’s clearly a group email, and gives no indication that the sender has read my blog or knows how I feel about the Tyee. This makes it feel like spam. They claim they lack the capacity to “reach us all individually”, but that’s not good enough. If they value my support, they can at least add a personalized sentence at the start of the email. Besides, they ought to be able to determine who the top 25 bloggers in the province are, and start with them. The resulting trickle-down effect will give them more than enough play in the long tail of BC blogs.
  • Though the email is signed by a member of the Tyee staff, the From address is somebody at this tax accountancy. What’s up with that?
  • It’s pretty clear to me that The Tyee is madly left-leaning. There’s nothing wrong with that, but they ought to be up-front about their bias. They merely describe themselves as “BC’s independent online newspaper”.
  • If they’re really on top of ye olde blog relations, they’ll reply to this posting.

Clearly their email had the desired effect, because I mentioned them. And I suspect that their online election coverage will be as in-depth and more thoughtful than the mainstream media. A more carefully-worded email, though, and my story would’ve been much shorter.

6 Responses to “Promoting The Tyee’s Election Central and Blog Relations”

  1. Aaron Brazell

    So whatcha gonna do? Capaign for them or remain an objective observer?

    By the way, a little minor annoyance. I don’t know if this is new but I’ve never noticed it until just now. When tabbing from the Name field to the Email address field, the focus goes all the way back to the top of the page to the “Contact” link and not the email field…

  2. Blaine Cook

    The Tyee is definitely not “madly left-leaning”. I think our society is madly right-leaning, and you are exposing that bias in your post. I don’t see why you, as a self-identified uber-blogger, are coming down on independent media for having a political bias.

    I don’t see the Vancouver Sun or The Province or any of the new dailies making any effort at all to communicate with bloggers (partially because bloggers, believe it or not, are still “independent media” – that is, tiny and insignficant), nor do I see them stating up-front their infuriating right-leaning bias. Most relevant, though, is that you are not criticizing the emails that aren’t being sent from their media departments, nor that bias itself.

    As for the top 25 bloggers in Vancouver? Please elaborate. I’m interested. No, really. I’m not a prolific blogger, but I have a very good idea of what’s going on, and I would be extremely hard pressed to name the top 25 bloggers. On what criteria? Actually, I’d decline the offer, thank you very much, so I personally wouldn’t ask the Tyee to do so, either. If you think they could do it so easily, please share.

    Sorry for the snippy comment, but it’s in response to a fairly snippy post, imho.

    Full disclosure: I did a short contract for the “wegroup” you mention, helping them take the Tyee site live. There are actually four organizations at wegroup (hence the “group”), and one of them deals with web stuff – I don’t really understand the organizational composition, but you can stop the conspiracy engine.

    Full disclosure++: I help run resist.ca, whose newswire (to which I do not contribute) is far more left leaning than the Tyee, to be sure. So a lot of the grumpiness contained above is out of frustration that right-wing assholes have someone inserted themselves into our collective minds as “centrist”. Go George Bush, eh!?

  3. Darren

    Thanks for your reply. Here are my thoughts:

    * A discussion of left-right politics depends upon us agreeing where the centre is. It sounds like that’s not going to happen. However, if I go to the Tyee front page right now I find a stories on Carole James, Corky Evans, fish farming
    and reference to a comic entitled “Liberal dirty tricks”. The second sentence of the Tyee’s About statement reads “independent and not owned by any big corporation”. They also target a youth demographic. All of these facts suggest that they’re left of centre. My anecdotal reading of them suggests they’re well left-of-centre.

    * I criticize the Vancouver Sun all the time. I criticize mainstream media all the time. I’m sorry that I don’t criticize them for not emailing me, but that’s because they do. I’ve appeared on the CBC several times, and been in the Sun–so have lots of other bloggers. Besides, they commit plenty of other, far worse crimes that merit criticism–not contacting bloggers is hardly on the radar.

    * Regardless, they have clued in to some degree. CBC is podcasting, and the Vancouver Sun has blogs for all the major parties in the BC election.

    * Let’s not put too fine a point on the email the Tyee sent me: it’s marketing. They, like any company, want to expand their brand, and recognize that bloggers can help them. There’s nothing wrong with that–I help companies do this all the time. But there’s also nothing altruistic about that, either.

    * The reason I’m discussing this email is because that’s what I do for a living: marketing and PR, with a particular emphasis on blogs. In fact, just yesterday I gave a talk in which I outlined how you should pitch bloggers, which is what the Tyee is doing here.

    * It’s pretty easy to determine the top twenty-five bloggers in BC. You could do it in under an hour, if you knew what you were doing. I’d start with something like BlogsCanada or blogger meetup groups in the province, run a short-list through Technorati and Google to determine popularity, and there’s your list. It should be easier than it is (and I trust that it will be), but it’s hardly rocket science.

    * Where did I imply a conspiracy? I found the ‘wegroup’ domain confusing, and its use unprofessional.

    * On your final point about “right-wing assholes”, I’d direct you to a recent posting I wrote about why I dislike most political blogs.

  4. Blaine Cook

    I’m not so interested in the market-worthiness or not of that email. I’m interested in your attack of a perfectly reasonable independent media source. It could have been a critique of the email itself, with pointers that relate to your talks, but it wasn’t.

    Really, I’m more interested in the second-to-last point. You criticize The Sun, but not once do you mention its right-wing bias. You do mention the Tyee’s bias twice in this post, and suggest that it’s a sin not for them to do the same. I’m interested in this – big media might toy with blogs, but they don’t get it, and they don’t care – they have several magnitudes more readers than you do, and they’re not really interested in synergy. Here’s the Tyee, which is much more blog-like than any of the other traditional news sources, making an effort, and all you can muster is “they’re okay, but they’re left-wing and unprofessional. Did I mention they’re left-wing?”. Media doesn’t need to be neutral. It’s not. Now let’s move on and talk about something interesting…

    Now, that’s the bit I cared about to start – the “top blogs” thing is a bit of an issue for me, so I’ll try to address it here.

    I don’t care at all about blog-marketing. For me it’s a matter of building new kinds of communities and methods of communication – I find your comments about finding the “top BC bloggers” a bit offensive. I think you need to be a bit more clear – do you mean the “most popular”, or “most engaged in marketing”, or “bloggers who do it for a living”, or do mean the individuals or sites with the most interesting, worthwhile content? I took you up on your offer. Here’s the list, based on the blogs listed on the Tyee’s own “BC Blogs” page (the BlogsCanada list is totally useless for extracting useful data):

    mezzoblue.com/
    blogscanada.ca/
    rolandtanglao.com/
    darrenbarefoot.com/
    crofsblogs.typepad.com/
    soapboxgirls.com/
    chriscorrigan.com/parkinglot/
    eroticalee2.blogspot.com
    sylloge.com/personal/
    ihath.com/
    thealders.net/blogs/
    penmachine.com/
    vaneats.com/
    urbanvancouver.com/
    breebop.toastmedia.com/
    seen.blogspot.com/
    vanramblings.com/
    pistonhips.blogspot.com/
    scribbler.ca/
    ianking.ca/
    pacificgazette.blogspot.com/
    mossesfromanoldmanse2.blogspot.com/
    davidmattison.ca/wordpress
    chriscorrigan.com/miscellany/bijournal/blogger.html

    (notably missing is Tim Bray, but I guess he wasn’t listed on the Tyee’s site)

    I know that these blogs are not by any estimation the most relevant, most intelligent, or most sympathetic to the Tyee’s goals. I can generate the list, but it’s irrelevant. I seriously hope you’re not actively advising companies to start calling up bloggers, for that personal touch.

    Are you telling me that a tiny independent online news source is supposed to have someone (1) find the telephone contact information for each of these blogs, (2) try to get ahold of each of these people, (3) explain why they’re calling (I’m sure Dave over at mezzoblue has better things to do than field calls at his work or home, asking for free advertising), and (4) generate the list in the first place? Do you know what budgets of small lefty organizations look like?

    As for the wegroup thing, it’s a minor issue, and there are an infinite number of issues with an infinite number of things that could be nitpicked. I can assure you that there are more important things out there…

    As for the “assholes” comment, mea culpa. If you think that said individuals are not “assholes”, though, tell that to those most affected by their policies. Heh. I should rant on my blog more often; these comments wouldn’t be nearly as charged if I did. ;-)

  5. Darren

    Thanks for your reply…my retort:

    * It wasn’t “a critique of the email itself”? Don’t all of the bullet points refer to the contents of the email? If not, what could I have been referring to with lines like “friendly in tone and content” or “though the email is signed”?

    * First off, I didn’t call the Tyee unprofessional. I called the use of a strange email address unprofessional. How have you drawn a different conclusion?

    * Let me repeat–we’re not going to agree on the given bias of a news agency. You may be shocked to learn that I don’t think the Sun is particularly biased to the right. If you can convince me otherwise, I’m all ears, but drop me an email on that, because it’s not germaine to this conversation.

    * Your argument is baseless, anyway. Why, if I criticize one characteristic of thing A, must I criticize the same characteristic in things B through Z? When I review movies, I don’t comment on the art direction or plotting pace of each film–must I (because all the other reviewers don’t, do they?)? When I write about new software applications, must I comment on, say, the quality of the HTML in the help system in every case, if I mention it once?

    * This is a marketing effort. If they don’t personalize the emails (which was my original point), it’s spam, pure and simple.

    * I’d think my point was clear that by “top 25” I meant most popular. After all, I referred to the “trickle down” effect that happens in highly networked environments like the blogosphere. I’d bypass any really conservative blogs, or any that were subject matter-specific, like VanEats, but just go with the most popular. What other criteria would you possibly want to use? In a marketing effort like this, you want the biggest bang for your buck–start at the top and work your way down.

    * When did I say that the Tyee should call anyone? What I said was “If they value my support, they can at least add a personalized sentence at the start of the email. Besides, they ought to be able to determine who the top 25 bloggers in the province are, and start with them.” That clearly indicates that I expect them to email the top 25 bloggers, with a personalized message. At the risk of repeating myself, if they don’t, it’s spam. If you don’t believe me, go look it up.

    * If the Tyee’s got time to make up a list of x bloggers to email, they’ve got time to identify the top 25. If they don’t know how, they could ask me (or 50 or 100 other local bloggers).

    * So now I’m supposed to give a “small lefty organization” the benefit of the doubt? I did, because I wrote about them in the first place. They accomplished their goal. If I’m running this campaign, I put a check mark in the darrenbarefoot.com row and move on.

  6. Joe skrlac

    WE all must get word out before it is too late because of election on tuesday.

    Campbell’s 2.5Cent carbon tax hurt every school disistrct with school buses, Yes Campbell carbon taxes school buss..In prince geogelast september they had $8,000 added just carrbon taxes for 25 + school buses THISmust stop us taxpayers pay for education scholls teachers busses too.

    It is so sad he would stoop so low to carbontax old pensioners or fixed income folks on heating fuels.. $25.00 on a $1,000 fuel bi could buy much need groceries

    shame on you liberals and premier campbell

    yours truly,
    Joe skrlac
    port mcneill, bc

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