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?

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