Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: My Food Bag: is it any good?

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  • Kate Hannah, in reply to Andre Alessi,

    I think it's likely too pricey for us too, but would be keen to try to see how it works, and how I like or dislike the lack of flexibility. I menu plan (this month a month ahead, using Cuisines as inspiration) and try my best to shop only weekly, via countdown online, plus the fruit and vege. I also have many quick healthy things ready in the freezer. But I can see how this would be good especially as a way of getting other family members involved in the cooking iekids and or husband who is great cook but has less tolerance for the full on planning that I do, and fewer recipes in his head. Having the ingredients on hand and the recipe means I could just hand over to Miss 15, for example.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2010 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Paul Brislen,

    As a note – we used to ensure we put a “Brislen travelled to Fantasy Land courtesy of Giant Conglomerate Corporation” disclaimers on every such story – that’s should go without saying but not all newspapers or TV networks are so up front about it

    And that does tend to imply that some sort of editorial influence may have been exerted or that your opinions may be coloured. I think it's better without that to be honest. Assuming that the person in question has integrity.

    A while ago Canon NZ spent a fair bit of money bringing video camera demigod Philip Bloom to NZ to demo their new high-end video camera to a room full of local TV and video types. He basically started off by focusing on the negatives of the product, it was pretty clear he was being honest in his assessment and it reflected really well on him and Canon, at least in my opinion.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    Given that there was no specific obligation to Tweet at all, or in any specific way, I can’t see it as being ‘paid’.

    The reciprocal obligation is a very strong one, hardwired into human brain circuitry (according to Kahneman and others). It's very well known in psychology, and it's certainly very well known to the PR industry. You give something to someone, the obligation to give back in is very strong. It's actually painful not to.

    You're being paid for the potential.

    Potential. But it's a potential that is realised with enough consistency that it can be counted on as real.

    The expectation is that a percentage will make some noise, and that most of that will be positive. If you get just 20% giving it coverage, and most of that is positive or neutral, you've more than paid for the cost of the advertising, because the product now has the positive associations that the trusted correspondents have in the minds of consumers.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Paul Brislen,

    As an IT reporter I got to travel all over the world to numerous events. Generally speaking these were described as junkets and I can hear your heart bleeding from here at the deprivation of having to go to Sydney, Stockholm or Disney World (actually that last one was particularly strange) in order to attend some event or other.

    Oh fuck. I went to the Lotus conference at that same Disney World venue, the awful Disney Swan & Dolphin. Most of it was really not fun at all. And there was bugger-all interesting about the conference either. I think the story I filed was very short.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Kebabette,

    Thanks Russell for explaining the ins & outs. There was something about the campaign I found a bit creepy - it gave off the feeling of being an in-group all chirping about something that us plebs knew nowt about. I think that is the risk inherent in that sort of PR - you will get people who want to get in amongst it, but others who find in-group chatter slightly cringey. Maybe I am predisposed to be in the second group, as the very idea of "social media influencers" raises my hackles. I ain't going to be doing something because Jay-Jay Feeney or suchlike is.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 221 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    One other point. Audiences aren't dumb. Was there anyone on Kerry McIvor's Twitter list who couldn't work out she'd been given a week's My Food Bag to try, even if she didn't disclose it?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Kebabette,

    There was something about the campaign I found a bit creepy – it gave off the feeling of being an in-group all chirping about something that us plebs knew nowt about. I think that is the risk inherent in that sort of PR – you will get people who want to get in amongst it, but others who find in-group chatter slightly cringey.

    Yes. And I think that's a good illustration of the risks of that sort of campaign.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to George Darroch,

    You’re being paid for the potential.

    Potential. But it’s a potential that is realised with enough consistency that it can be counted on as real.

    But you don’t control it. If you’re not careful it can backfire. Pick the right product for the right people. Like Paul said it’s their attention and time you’re ‘paying’ for, not specifically the end result.

    I got invited to many movie previews when I was writing a widely circulated newsletter thingy – I liked going, and I appreciated the invites, but I still gave poor reviews to the shitty films. If they hadn’t invited me I’d have written nothing, but by inviting me they also risked that I’d write something that they didn’t like.

    This could have gone a similar way I guess – if the recipes had been too complex or some of the ingredients not up to scratch then we’d be seeing disappointed tweets instead. The only control PR have over that is matching product to people well, and ensuring product is top quality.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Robby Hickman,

    Damian Christie's duck made me furious with envy - how do people get food on to a plate looking that good? Has Damian thought of entering MasterChef and braving the withering eye of Ray McVinnie?

    Auckland • Since Feb 2012 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Brislen, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    snip:
    And that does tend to imply that some sort of editorial influence may have been exerted or that your opinions may be coloured. I think it’s better without that to be honest. Assuming that the person in question has integrity.
    snip

    Oh I disagree. It’s worse to hide that. If Publication A gets sent to LA biz class, wined and dined and given access to a CEO on an exclusive basis then that needs to be disclaimed and all too often is not.

    I got treated exceptionally well on almost all my trips overseas and that certainly coloured my view of the things that went on. I felt uncomfortable enough accepting these things with the disclaimer – if I’d hidden that from readers then I’d have had no choice but to turn down the trips and so miss out on the good bits (the access to people who don’t generally front up to Kiwi IT journos) as well as the buttering up.

    The audience needs to know if you’ve been influenced – I trust them to make up their minds as to whether or not they can trust my copy.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    A while ago Canon NZ spent a fair bit of money bringing video camera demigod Philip Bloom to NZ to demo their new high-end video camera to a room full of local TV and video types. He basically started off by focusing on the negatives of the product, it was pretty clear he was being honest in his assessment and it reflected really well on him and Canon, at least in my opinion.

    Interesting!

    Of course, that's another kind of marketing spend: paying thousands of dollars to bring over someone you hope will get media coverage for the product. If I wasn't making a TV show, I'd have tried to wangle my way into the Sky channel launch being presented tomorrow night by William Shatner. And I'd have jolly well blogged about it afterwards too.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Eric Rowe,

    This issue isn't so much that Pead did anything wrong in providing free product to influencers, the real issue is that naive influencers can degrade the trust of their followers by not mentioning when they get something free (and it is later found out they did as in this case). Good article on social media influence from SXSW here: http://storify.com/tonia_ries/influence

    The conclusion from everyone one the expert panel seems to have been that everyone tweeting about #myfoodbag should have mentioned they got it free, but they don't have to put #ad.

    Cheers,

    Eric

    New Zealand • Since Mar 2013 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • BlairMacca,

    God knows i'm not a journalist, but the whole advertorial thing seems to be getting murkier and murkier. Between this, Sky city, the 'Iron Maidens' etc etc Thats not a slight on the PR thats their job, its more of a slight on the journalists involved.

    Even if it isn't part of their story, they are essentially being paid in food to talk about a product. I realise this isn't Hanover finance, but it certainly leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth for me (sorry for the pun) on journalistic integrity.

    Mediawatch did a good wrap on it yesterday http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/mediawatch/audio/2549345/mediawatch-for-17-march-2013.asx

    Wellington • Since Apr 2007 • 208 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Audiences aren’t dumb.

    Only when they seek to be. I hoped that my tweet "I'm trialling #myfoodbag for a week" was about all I needed by way of disclaimer (on my personal twitter, about a product I'm not being paid to endorse), but of course if someone chooses to wilfully misinterpret something, they can. And as I've found with almost any Twitter argument I find myself involved in, they will.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Brislen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    That's the place! The Swan and Dolphin... really quite hideous. Surreal from memory (mostly blacked out now).

    It was always entirely up to us as reporters to find a good story. There was never any pressure on me to come back with something friendly about the company who paid - quite the opposite. I suspect several editors (myself included when it was my turn) took great delight in finding serious dirt on a company that had shelled out in that respect.

    One particularly awful trip included flying halfway round the planet for an announcement about a major contract that, it turned out, hadn't actually been signed. We all (roughly 400 journos from around the world) sat in the auditorium and asked awkward questions of the CEO about the deal he couldn't announce and his recently woeful quarterly figures. He resigned not long after.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to George Darroch,

    The reciprocal obligation is a very strong one, hardwired into human brain circuitry (according to Kahneman and others). It’s very well known in psychology, and it’s certainly very well known to the PR industry. You give something to someone, the obligation to give back in is very strong. It’s actually painful not to.

    This is true. I’m certainly more inclined to give some time to someone calling from Pead because I’ve done business with them over the years, and because I’m pretty confident they won’t waste my time.

    Otoh, I was horrified by the “starkish” stunt (which was pitched to me) and astonished at how the likes of Mark Sainsbury included the “word” in their actual professional work because they might win a trip to New York. I think it was a bit of a learning experience for Pead, too, frankly.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It sounds like it would be fun for a week, but could start feeling like a job. I'm presuming a big part of the point is that everyone is simultaneously making the same stuff so there's a social element to it, where you all develop a shared experience, send tips around, post brag-shots (and fail shots). They want to build a community as much as a customer base.

    It doesn't sound like bad value to me. That family meal is 5 adults, right? Or at least adults and teenagers. For me, that would end up meaning that around half of it got eaten as leftovers, so it's basically dinner and lunch for most of a week.

    Just for comparison, though, I shopped last night for the family for all meals for a week, and the bill came in under $100. It's not the complete bill, some of the ingredients will be purchased fresh on the day, and the plan included hoovering up a bunch of stuff in the fridge into the crockpot for today (slow cooker is still my favourite time-poor method), and at the moment I've got capsicums, tomatoes, basil, chives, spring onions, chillis, beans, peas, 6 kinds of lettuce, coriander, marjoram, rosemary, sage, thyme, parsley, brussel sprouts, mustard, all for the taking in the garden.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Russell Brown,

    If that’s pay, what about journalists who get free tech toys worth much more and write and tweet about them?

    I was being a picky bugger I admit.
    I was once given a media player to review, (back in '99) a 32meg device that would store two or three songs on the space that was left after the OS. It was a cheap plasticky looking thing with confusing buttons that seemed to have a mind of their own and the sound was awful.
    I wrote the review, it was not, I must add, full of praise. I returned the device as I was asked to, it was not a gift.
    To my surprise a few days later I received an invoice for $325 stating that the product was not returned with packaging intact and undamaged and that there was a cigarette burn on the packaging.
    It took me a while before I accepted such a commission again. Needless to say that invoice remains unpaid.
    Did you return the food after use?.
    ;-)

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Surely it's naive to think journos don't get free samples to review? Book reviewers don't buy the books.
    A free sample is not pay. And remember that anybody trying out MyFoodBag also had to spend the hours making the fancy meals. So they had to want to.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Paul Brislen,

    That’s the place! The Swan and Dolphin… really quite hideous. Surreal from memory (mostly blacked out now).

    I arrived very late on a Saturday night after flying for half my life and tottered down to one of the restaurants in the morning to find it being haunted by people in Disney character costumes. It was not as much fun as that sounds. And the fact that there were doors everywhere marked "cast members only" was indeed quite surreal.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to BlairMacca,

    Even if it isn’t part of their story, they are essentially being paid in food to talk about a product.

    There's a HUGE difference between being paid by the Casino and casually mentioning how much you like certain restaurants there while on TV; and getting sent a product to review.

    I was only half being flippant when I suggested to Drinnan (via Twitter) that anyone who thinks media can be bought with $140 worth of produce must work in newspapers. But of course, it's a sliding scale, and a student journo might find themselves hopelessly compromised by a couple of duck breasts. Or the free glasses of wine or beer that are pretty standard at any media launch, and no-one ever seems to question.

    The question that seems pertinent to me is whether the compromise/conflict is one which interferes with one's ability to do one's paid job - and as Dylan points out, I wouldn't do a One News story about My Food Bag. But a couple of months back, despite stuffing my pockets with their croissants and sweet treats, I still managed to do a decent story about Sky City's questionable 'outside' gaming room. Obviously if I was receiving tens of thousands of dollars a year from them, it would've been a different story.

    All of which is to say, it's a valid concern, the influence of free shit, but it needs to be kept in perspective, and in the perspective of the people whose influence is apparently being bought.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Robby Hickman,

    It was not as much fun as that sounds.

    I'm picturing the scene in Zombieland where the hero confronts a zombie-clown (and he's terrified of clowns).

    Edit: Oh shit, that just gave me a Saturday night flashback.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Damian Christie,

    There’s a HUGE difference between being paid by the Casino and casually mentioning how much you like certain restaurants there while on TV; and getting sent a product to review.

    Quite. Hosking was pocketing $60,000 a year to say good things as a SkyCity "ambassador" and didn't disclose that until he was forced to.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    But you don’t control it. If you’re not careful it can backfire. Pick the right product for the right people. Like Paul said it’s their attention and time you’re ‘paying’ for, not specifically the end result.

    I have no skin in this game, but the one thing that I think makes this situation slightly different to the other analogies mentioned is that the value of the service is a large part of what most people would consider when deciding if it's worthwhile. By getting the service for free, you're not reacting to the service as it would be for someone who was paying for it, but the free stuff you got instead.

    That makes for different reactions/reviews/whatever because very little emphasis will be put on whether My Food Bag is value for money (which is honestly what most potential customers will care about.) There has been some discussion about this aspect, but it's hardly been given the emphasis it would if everyone reviewing the service had paid for it.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Edit: Oh shit, that just gave me a Saturday night flashback.

    Breathe slowly and deeply.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

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