Bloggers 1-0 The Sun

After we posted here yesterday on the Sun’s dubious World Cup bloggers sweepstake contest, citing Chris Taylor’s statement that his blog had been included in it without his permission, we had an inkling a shitstorm might break out as comments from numerous other bloggers came in that they, too, had not asked to have their logos or websites attached to the promotion by the newspaper.

The Guardian has just reported that the Sun have dropped the contest while they look into the matter. “We are investigating it [bloggers' claims of not giving permission] and contacting all the bloggers individually,” said a spokeswoman for the Sun. “We will make a decision [on whether to relaunch the promotion] once we have the full facts available.”

I can save the Sun some time: all the ones we listed as not giving permission, well, they didn’t give permission.

A couple of other perspectives on this worth reading. Firstly, Gary Andrew sums up that the whole approach of the Sun to this was patronising to bloggers, at best:

The sweepstake isn’t just a bit of fun. It’s being used to promote an iPhone app. The implication here is that these bloggers, by taking part in the feature, endorse the application.

This leads to the third point. Several of the blogs The Sun’s included have built their reputation on independent, thoughtful analysis and have positioned themselves very much as an alternative viewpoint to the tabloid football frenzy, often criticising these writers. They are a world away from The Sun and often don’t take advertising and will very rarely, if ever, accept PR pitches, especially for something like an iPhone application.

In short, it affects their reputation. Especially if, in Chris Taylor’s case, they have serious ideological differences with The Sun and are critical of their coverage.

Finally, aside from the above, the whole thing is massively patronising to the blogs involved, especially those whose analysis and writing regularly outdoes the national press.

The “aren’t you lucky to be taking part” attitude sticks in the craw, the taking logos without permission then expecting an uncritical link back is sheer chutzpah and the prize for winning this sweepstake – an interview with The Sun’s chief sports writer – is a piece of condescending bone-tossing from old media to new media, to remind bloggers of their place in the hierarchy.

Secondly, Ashley Norris points out that pissing off a bunch of bloggers, some of whom hate the Sun with quite some venom, is not a wise move, and mentions that the promised “traffic” the promotion would bring has been minimal:

Personally I think it is pretty low of The Sun really to do this and would like Pies removed from the chart asap. Also The Sun ought to know better. There are several bloggers on the list whose instant word association with The Sun is Hillsborough, followed by Apology. It isn’t a clever thing to do to annoy those guys.

If they don’t remove us then we will be setting up our own World Cup sweepstake and The Sun will get the plum team of Slovakia (by far the weakest team so far) or maybe it should be France (because like The Sun they are not adverse to bending a rule or two).

From my perspective the most interesting part is that The Sun promised to drive shed loads of traffic to the site. So far I am pleased to say that of the 60,000 people on whoateallthepies. tv in the last 24 hours only two have come from The Sun. Cheers guys.

Gary and Ashley’s comments bring up an interesting point: bloggers with any half-popular soccer/football blog have spent the last month deleting the dozens of sloppy PR email pitches that have come in inviting us to do promotional work for, well, nothing much in return except the odd link (if that). The lazy assumption that we’d all be doing ourselves a favour by promoting their products, for free, doesn’t exactly surprise me, but maybe there’s a lesson in here that the idea we’re all in this to get a few hits or to post blatantly promotional filler content is a bit off.  Someone call Adbusters, or something.

There was also some interesting discussion of all this in the comments to our post yesterday. Thanks to everyone for chiming in and making the Sun take notice. I’m glad they have recognised their error and taken the contest down, pending their “review”. Maybe an apology to the bloggers involved will follow?

14 thoughts on “Bloggers 1-0 The Sun

  1. James T

    What’s amusing is that I’ve received more emails about the competition since the Guardian picked up your initial blog post than I did in the entire 3-month run-up to this competition going live on the Sun’s site.

  2. James T

    Me too. Still no explanation as to how the whole thing was completely mishandled, but like you said Chris, that’ll do.

  3. Ben Greenwood

    It’s interesting that The Sun would feel that including blogs without permission would be reward in itself to the writers.

    Taking the shallow view that more coverage = more readers = good, you could see why they’d think that. What The Sun has failed to take into account is that we consider ourselves just as much, if not more, legitimate as the (as you say) ‘old’ media.

    I would be delighted to have my blog appear in a national newspaper – IF it was done with my permission and for a real reason.

    To be honest, I’d also quite like to have some PR pitches tossed my way so I could turn them down, but that’s just wishful thinking!

    What this does display, I think, is a growing fear from the traditional media that they will be cast aside in favour of bloggers by the general public. So let’s get them onside by giving them some free advertising and get them to push our product at the same time.

    Yeah, we’re not that stupid. Something The Sun looks like it’s just learned to its (hopefully) huge cost.

  4. arseblogger

    For me the biggest insult was the grand prize of an interview with Shaun Custis – which I assume meant we’d have the pleasure of asking him questions.

    When you look at the range of talented writers on the blogs they featured it was hugely patronising.

  5. SpanglyPrincess

    The ‘prize’ was one of the most insulting parts of the whole ill-conceived thing. Though I would be interested to see Brian Phillips interviewing Shaun Custis, it might be quite amusing.

  6. Fredorrarci

    I don’t know about about anyone else, but the email I received from the PR company today contained an explanation of events as they see it (essentially, that by not replying to the original contact, they inferred that permission had been granted) and notice that the contest had been removed and that they had “ended any association between your blog and our competition”. It did not contain an apology.

  7. Tom Dunmore Post author

    Fredorrarci — man, even though this has been a giant mess already, it’s pretty remarkable to learn they’d actually write to you that they had brazenly inferred permission through non-response. You’ve almost got to admire it.

  8. Tom Dunmore Post author

    Richard from The Football Blog has been added to the list – it’s worth citing his comment on our original post here, as it shows he actively asked not to be part of the contest, and yet was still included:

    Hello, Richard from The Football Blog here … sorry to get in late on the act, I just came home to find this had all kicked out and the news story was featured on The Guardian website!

    Anyway, I was contacted about taking part in this sweepstake and replied to them saying I wanted no part of it. So not only did they incorrectly take what seems like a number of bloggers’ silence as a thumbs up to go ahead and include them in the sweepstake, they actually went against my request and included me anyway. Were they really that desperate to promote their app?

    I’m sure those involved have now received the e-mail confirming the termination of the competition, although I don’t remember seeing the word ’sorry’ anywhere in it.

    Which is really fucking disgraceful, obviously.

  9. arseblogger

    This is the email I just got.

    Dear Arseblog,

    Some time ago, we invited you to enter a World Cup bloggers sweepstake competition. Since we did not hear back from you, we assumed you were happy for your blog to be included in this activity.

    This included The Sun mentioning your blog on its website as part of the World Cup bloggers sweepstake.

    However, we have received some negative feedback from some of the bloggers involved, we’ve taken this onboard and as a result we have now removed the activity from our website and ended any association between your blog and our competition.

    Should you still wish to be included in this activity or you have any further comments please reply to this email to let us know.

    Many thanks

    It’s odd the the way they’ve ‘removed the activity from our website’ yet still ask me to get in touch if I still wish to be involved. It’s either over or it isn’t.

    I suspect some serious lessons are being learned by the folks involved. I still don’t think they did anything particularly bad, it was just horribly misjudged.

  10. Elliott

    I find this almost too amusing and am inviting everyone who has commented on this particular post to participate in a future contest. If you comment or do not comment or say no or say yes, I will assume you want to participate. The winner will get a phone call from a Nigerian king that will need your bank account info and birth dates so that you can inherit a small fortune.

  11. Fredorrarci

    I got the same email as Arseblogger. Curious how others seem to have got different ones. Jam, the PR company in question, screwed up through laziness and/or stupidity and/or whatever, and compounded it with a half-arsed response sent with the same belief that the recipient is a bit of a div. All in all, this is a faultless display of incompetence. I almost feel like I want to give them a hug.

    @Elliott: With an offer like that, how could I refuse? Literally, how could I refuse?