Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bloggers in the Crosshairs

There are lots of things we can accept as not particularly good for your health. Smoking comes to mind. Loading up on salt in your diet isn’t so smart either. And for me, playing basketball against guys who are typically 10 years younger produces a healthy revenue stream for my orthopedist.

Blogging should not be an activity that falls into the high-risk category. Yet, for a number of profile, influential bloggers this appears to be the case.

Consider GigaOm’s Om Malik. He is a true innovator and helped craft a viable Web-based publishing model. Yet, at about this time last year he suffered a heart attack at a relatively young age.

Om is still banging away on the keyboard, but much of the content for the blog now comes from his cadre of supporting writers.

Even scarier is today’s announcement from TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington that he plans to “take some time off and get a better perspective on what I’m spending my life doing.”

The impetus for Arrington’s decision was a recent encounter with a scorned entrepreneur at the DLD Conference in Germany. This knucklehead crossed paths with Arrington in a crowd and spat in his face before slinking away.

Oh yeah…there was also the death threat Arrington and his family received last summer from a nut case with a felony record and a gun. Arrington was forced to hide out at his parents’ house because the police can only intervene once a person acts on the threat.

Erick Schonfeld wrote an excellent post about Data Privacy Day in which he pointed out:

“The more of our lives that we put online, the less privacy we have. It is as simple as that. And this is a problem that will just get worse over time. You cannot be fully engaged on social networks, blogs, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, FriendFeed, and all the rest without opening yourself up to phishers, scammers, and identity thieves.”

Bloggers put a whole lot of themselves out there for public consumption and the risks that come with that are real. I know. I get lots of nefarious Email solicitations for investment scams and business opportunities.

Plus, I even warranted my own threat last year after writing a post on crisis communications. It was vague, so I gave it little attention. But, in light of Arrington’s dilemma a threat might register a bit more.

This is a real issue and something an executive should carefully consider prior to engaging in social media. My take is that the value delivered -- increased visibility, thought leadership, lead generation and search engine optimization – far outweighs the risk.

Hopefully, TechCrunch’s Arrington will reach the same conclusion. His contribution to the technology community is incredibly valuable.


Alesa said...

Interesting story, Marc. Not that you asked, but here's a rhetorical question:

Do most bloggers not continually seek the status and credibility that the mantle of "journalist" (print/broadcast) has traditionally afforded? If so, should they not expect to receive the same scrutiny, the occasional oddball/stalker and even death threats that journalists reporting on/from the edge unfortunately have to content with?

C'mon, "serious" bloggers. You can't have it both ways. Seems that some are just waking up to the double-edged sword of "journalism," and they can't take the heat. You can't hide behind your computer forever and expect to enjoy the credibility level of Christiane Amanpour.


Marc Hausman said...

Hi Alesa -- that's an excellent point and your comment got me thinking.

It is somewhat similar to the actor who begs for coverage through outlandish behavior and then is "shocked" that photographers are there to capture their every move.

Ultimately, I think a blogger who builds a level of audience and reputation should expect a higher level of scrutiny. Death threat though? That is beyond what is acceptable.

Maggie said...

Great post and great comment, Alesa. I think/post a lot about citizen journalism and I honestly never considered the backlash "traditional" journalists have to endure. It definitely stands to reason that anyone engaging in citizen journalism might be subject to the same negatives "real" journalists deal with.

Marc--I agree with you--if you put it out there you have to expect that at any point in time someone may bash you.

Maybe there's something to be said for having only a handful of readers after all!

Alesa said...

Hi, Mark. I didn't mean to imply that death threats are acceptable. But they do come with the territory. I guess bloggers must be prepared to defend themselves, whereas maybe journalists get some kind of corporate protection (physical?).

Again, if you're gonna' put it out there, better think of the potential consequences. For the record, I'm not threatening you. LOL.

Have a great one!