Snowjobs- FCC and Microsoft’s Zune

[17 September 2006]

By Jason Gross

New quiz.  Is it worse for the FCC to deceive the public it’s supposed to serve or for blogs to deceive their readership?  Time for the obvious joke- since we expect it from both, maybe it isn’t that much of a shock.

Let’s start with the federal agency which is supposed to regulate the airwaves in the public interest: Officials Ordered FCC Report Destroyed, Says Ex-Staffer.  Not that the agency has a track record for fighting for the public good, it’s bent over backwards to give greedy companies like Clear Channel as much of the airwaves as they’d like.  Saying that the local stations aren’t serving the public good helps bolster such a case so it’s not surprising that the FCC would back such a conclusion.  What is surprising is that they’d go as far as tampering with reports to bolster their false claims.  Then again, this administration has a track record with pruning reports, thus EPA reports on global warming and intelligence reports on WMD’s that had a flimsy relation to reality.  Hey, it’s par for the course!

And then there’s Microsoft and their favorite blogs, as we see here: Music Player From Microsoft Offers Wireless Song-Sharing.  “Last week, Microsoft flew the writers of several popular music blogs to Seattle and showed them the Zune, in what it said was an effort to help spread the word among music fans and prove that music lovers like to communicate.”  OK, so that’s not the first time that’s been done to promote a product and granted that the blogs did admit that they got a round-trip ticket.  The problem is when the corresponding reviews look suspiciously like all the info that MS was supplying them with about their product, as witnessed here: Stereogum’s Sneak Peek at Zune.  And what did their readership thing of this?  Well, some of their comments were…

“you accepted a free plane ride? nice journalistic integrity”

“what the fuck is this post?? when did stereogum become so….sponsored?”

“Wow! such a great ad! Stereogum has lost it”

“Idolator launched today. They already mentioned you in their Zune article.”

“You whore. I expected better of Stereogum.”

“i wouldn’t have a problem if with the coverage but it seems like microsoft pr veiled as a post.  yes microsoft flew them out because if they just emailed a press release it wouldn’t have been posted.”

“BLOG FOR HIRE - Price: 1 roundtrip flight (first class?), 1 night of lodging, drinks with bloggers Sold your blog to microsoft. WEAK.  Take this post down and admit you made a mistake. “

Well, you get the idea.  And their reply?

“Yeah Microsoft paid for the flight and the hotel, but they didn’t give us a Zune.  I have a 4 GB Nano, a Dell DJ (given as a gift), and no brand loyalty. I wanted to see if this thing was worth a damn, so I went out to there to see… Anyway it’s news, especially in Stereogum’s and my site’s genre, that’s why we all went and that’s why three (Coolfer too) of us reported on it and that’s also why you’re talking about it.”

... which is pretty weak.  Even if they’re not MS shills, regurgitating what MS passed off on them as news isn’t exactly admirable.  Couldn’t they be a LITTLE skeptical, like reporting about how Zune will add DRM protection on some songs that shouldn’t have it?  You see, this is what the dreaded mainstream media means when they tell people they should be skeptical of blogs.  This kind of thing just gives us a bad name.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/snowjobs-fcc-and-microsofts-zune/