I have followed the saga of the White Moose Café and a 22-year old vlogger who goes by the name Elle Darby with amusement as it evolved and snowballed. It has been good entertainment for me, as I believe it has been for lots of other people.
If you have not heard the story, Elle Darby approached The White Moose Café, a hotel in Dublin, Ireland, for free accomodation in exchange for “coverage” (which sorts of remind me of the word “exposure” used by brands when they come knocking on the doors of creative people. The hotelier, Paul Stenson, took the vlogger (YouTuber, to be more specific) to the cleaners and the story went south from there.
Let’s cut to the chase. The blame for starting this “free” nonsense falls squarely on brands. Brands started this trend and have been a major force behind it till date. Brands will approach a content creator and ask them to work for free in exchange for exposure. As if exposure pays server bills or internet subscription, or fuels the car.
Eventually, bloggers and influencers caught on too and decided to play ball based on the popular saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them”. And we are all here today.
I do not judge the bloggers who go about knocking on brands’ doors. In my opinion, they have been pushed to the wall. Brands often ask them to work for free, so it is a case of what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Having said that…..
I stand with Paul Stenson
Paul Stenson of The White Moose Café is petty to the bone. But I will ignore the pettiness. I am in agreement with him in principle. The coverage that Elle offered his hotel in exchange for free accomodation will not pay the hotel’s bills, just as exposure will not pay Elle’s bills.
You cannot be wrong if you offer value and insist on being paid for it. You may not always get the deal, but you cannot be wrong operating that way. It is a solid business model. Free is not a business model.
Everyone should pay for whatever they want, except when it is freely extended to them by the other party. A gift is a gift.
Brands should pay for whatever publicity/PR they want from bloggers, vloggers and influencers. And should influencers want a product or service that a brand offers, they need to go place their orders just like everyone else does.
Except where a mutually beneficial barter relationship has been officially sealed between involved parties, every one should pay for their needs
When I say mutually beneficial, I mean a deal in which both parties sat down and tabled their needs and arrived at a fair arrangement, not one in which the brand (usually) has unilaterally spelt out what it wants and what the bloggers and influencers must accept or take a walk.
Back To the Beginning
Because of a certain relationship that MobilityArena has developed over the years with certain mobile brands, we have had the liberty to buzz them up to ask if we could get review units when new devices are launched. I have not ever been quite comfortable with the practice. I prefer for brands to reach out to us at their own discretion. But other members of the team have been favourable towards it and I have generally let them have their way.
Towards the end of 2017, I finally made a decision to buck the trend and put an end to the practice. Whatever smartphones we cannot get our hands on by ourselves, or are not sent to us by brands of their own initiative, shall simply not be reviewed on MobilityArena. Nobody will die.
I think that this concept of knocking on brands’ doors borders on begging. That is what I have always believed and that is what I believe till date. So I put an end to it. Some of my people think I am doing the wrong thing taking this route, but then when have I ever had sense to follow the crowd?
If a brand is convinced that MobilityArena is a fit platform for their smartphone to get reviewed on and they contact us to put the device in our hands – which was how it all started years ago and how things ran for several years – that is great. If the brand does not think we are worthy, that is great too.
This bullshit has gone on for too long. And yes, if a brand puts their smartphones in our hands to review, we will continue to tell the good, the bad, and the ugly of those devices. Reviews are reviews; they are primarily for the benefit of consumers, in this case our readers.
Product promotion and marketing is what benefits brands. If a brand wants us to market their products, that is a different conversation and we are always open to having it.