Saturday, 10 October 2009

Technorati and Amazon: WTF?

A few weeks back I got an email from the folks at Technorati and in it they mentioned that they were looking for new writers for a new and improved Technorati Blog.

Remembering the first time I ever wrote a politics column for a fanzine (an ad in the back of Scanner – I applied on a whim and, whadda ya know: I got the post!  Suddenly, I panicked, I actually have to do this: what the hell am I going to write!?! …but maybe that’s a story for another time, on another blog…) I thought: “why not!”, and sent off an application to be a UK Politics writer.  I was doing stuff about politics anyway on my old blog, and was already thinking about starting up this new politics-only blog, so I figured – why not get a little more exposure and work with Technorati too?

Well – here’s why not.

Yesterday, I received an email from the Technorati folk: “The Time Has Come To Write for Technorati”, it told me.

How exciting, I thought, I’m really going to get to do this!

But then I read the small-print.

At first it all seemed fine and dandy – apply for a special new account, send an email to the executive editor explaining who you are and what you do, fill in your online bio stuff and then blog away….

But it was the “blog away” stuff that caught my attention, because the following little gem lay waiting for me in the new Technorati “Posting Instructions”:

“4. Please LINK TO AT LEAST ONE AMAZON PRODUCT in every post.

“a) To get the code (ASIN) for your item(s), go to (U.S. Amazon), do a search for the product or topic using the search box. Click on the appropriate item(s), which will take you to the product page. On the product page, scroll down to the "Product Details" section and find the ASIN. (Speed hint: this ASIN is always in the URL of the product.) Some books in Amazon don't have an ASIN, use the ISBN.

“b) Type or paste the ASIN code into the Amazon ASINs and/or Review ASINs fields. The ASIN/ISBN is always 10 digits long -- please do not include any additional code.

“c) You can list up to 10 ASINs on any given post. Separate them with a COMMA: no space, no line break, and please make sure there are NO EMPTY SPACES OR LINE BREAKS after your final ASIN. “

Later on in the list of instructions for new writers, alongside no-brainer things like: “Read Technorati regularly, participate in the conversation by commenting on stories…respond to comments on your own posts, and link to individual Technorati stories that catch your eye from your own site as often as possible”, another Amazon-friendly instruction awaited:

“Purchase Amazon items through Technorati. We get credit for any Amazon item you purchase if you access Amazon via Technorati: just click on an Amazon product at the top or bottom of any story, or use the Amazon links on the sidebars. This helps cover our ever-growing expenses. Thanks. “

Now maybe I’m over-reacting here, but I signed up under the impression that I would be writing about UK Politics for a well-known blogging engine, not becoming a salesman for!

Needless to say, I will not be taking this thing any further.

Exposure might be nice, but not when it means imbedding forced advertising all around my chosen article.

I know that the Technorati guys have to pay their bills – but it is one thing to have ads on your site, and another to get individual bloggers to include Amazon-only links in every single one of their posts – by executive order.

Here, on my own blog, I may not get the traffic Technorati hopes to achieve, but at least I know that I can link to what I like, and don’t have to work as an unofficial marketing-man for an ethically dubious company like Amazon.  It may not be much, but it is something…and as this blog is as easy for anyone in the world to plug into as Technorati, I just don’t see why I’d want to sacrifice that integrity just to take a short-cut to numerical popularity?

Advertising is everywhere in this godforsaken world – can’t we just have a few decent spaces where we can read some stuff in peace – without having something someone wants us to buy forced down our throats?

Well, here on The Tone of Our Oppression you can.

I am assuming on the new Technorati, however, you cannot.

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