My funny valentine

Microsoft’s kept blogger, Robert Scoble, wonders why some bloggers (like myself) covered yesterday’s launch of Google’s private-domain Gmail service but ignored the earlier launch of a similar service by Microsoft last November. It’s a good question – personally, I was unaware of the Microsoft launch (though when it was brought to my attention I updated my post on Google’s service to note it) – but the answer he suggests seems like the fevered dream of a guilty conscience.

Scoble asks:

Why didn’t anyone write a headline like “MSN goes after Outlook?” Hmmmm? A little Google love going on in the blogosphere? What’s behind that love?

He suggests that the bloggers covering the Google announcement are somehow in bed with Google because we run AdSense ads on our blogs:

Oh, maybe we should talk about blogger ethics again? Remember those Google ads on Paul [Kedrosky]’s blog? How do we know they haven’t colored his judgment? Some of my blogging friends make more money off of Google ads than I am paid by Microsoft (you’ll note that lots of people in my comment regularly question my ability to report honestly about things Microsoft related, why don’t these same people raise heck when employees of Google — and that’s what you are when you put a Google ad on your blog — give Google better PR than it deserves?). I notice that the press loves to go into a tizzy everytime a company sends out a free product, or takes bloggers on a free trip, or signs them up for a director or advisory role. Why isn’t anyone looking into the effect of on-blog advertising on our belief systems and reporting quality?

Here’s a question: if Microsoft had announced that, wouldn’t everyone have also reported on what every other company in the marketplace is doing without just reprinting the Microsoft press release? (Every single blogger on that Memeorandum entry is sponsored by Google ads. Except one, which is the official Google blog.)

As I’m one of the bloggers in that Memeorandum entry, let me say that, first, I earn less than 50 cents a day from AdSense ads, which I assume is a tad less than Scoble is paid by Microsoft; the only reason I have an AdSense account, in fact, is to keep tabs on what Google is doing. Second, and more important, to say that putting AdSense ads on your blog makes you a Google employee is bizarre and ludicrous. How does it make you a Google employee? What effect does covering a Google announcement have on AdSense revenues? How is running AdSense ads akin to being a paid advisor or being treated to a free trip? Please explain.

If people like Paul Kedrosky and myself are suffering from Google love, we sure have an odd way of showing it.

16 thoughts on “My funny valentine

  1. vinnie mirchandani

    Let’s do the math. Microsoft spent $ 8.7 billion in sales and marketing last year. That is more than Google’s revenues.

    How much does Microsoft spend on advertising with WSJ and InformationWeek? With Gartner and Forrester? With Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs? Should we not ask if their reporters, industry and financial analysts are magnitude more biased towards Microsoft than some blogger who earns pennies from Google ads?

    This week has been full of “conflict of interest” discussions. The WSJ on bloggers. InformationWeek on industry analysts. But as I wrote on my blog – The buyer is in charge, has been in charge, will be in charge. That is why most well structured procurements take input from a number of sources and have various steps in the process, and minimize any bias any single influencer may have.

    And larger vendors still have more bucks to spend on the traditional influencers. So the question to ask is – Microsoft, why did you not publicize the MSN announcement yourself – spend a bit of the $ 8+b budget? Could it be because you really do not want to cannibalize your enterprise Outlook revenues?

  2. Jim Mathies


    I don’t think Microsoft is cannibalizing their core Office market which, I believe is largely corporate. Think about it, if you ran a large corporation would you give control of your company’s email to Google or MSN? I doubt it. Besides the corporate market already has web based email access through remote Outlook. I think the market these services are primarily targeted at are home users with domains, small organizations and the educational market. (Note that Scoble points out Live currently provides email services to 20 schools) These organizations have a tough time spending large amount of money on desktop software. By offering up Live Domains, Microsoft keeps it’s business in this area and simply swaps the Office revenue for ad revenue generated on the Live site, so they’re really just trading one income source for another.

  3. vinnie mirchandani

    Jim, you are correct Outlook does have web access but it is maintained by each corporation IT along with the Exchange server and the client side foot print and related virus, spam s/w since mail is the prime gateway for that malicious stuff. Moving to a “utility” model is what is attractive. You are right not any time soon, but large companies are looking at SaaS like…why not email? If you see the price points around SaaS v/s traditional license it is pretty significant so MS, if it retained the customer, would suffer cannibalization. More importantly from a CIO’s perspective the cost of outsourced or internal email support could be much lower…

  4. Jeff Carr

    Obviously Scoble has touched a nerve, Nick. Why else would you resort to calling him “Microsoft’s-kept Blogger”? He raised an ethical question which deserves some constructive debate. The fact is that there are people who count on AdSense, and therefore Google, for their revenue. How you want to label them is up for grabs, but let’s not get lost in that semantical red herring. The point isn’t whether or not they’re “Google employees”. It’s whether or not they can write without bias in spite of their reliance on Google.

  5. Nick


    AdSense isn’t even an advertiser. It’s an automated ad-placement mechanism based on an algorithm. The content of what I or any blogger writes has no bearing on how much we’re paid through AdSense. Praise Google: no influence on payment. Criticize Google: no influence on payment. So where’s the potential conflict of interest? I sincerely don’t see it, even if I squint really hard.


  6. Jeff Carr

    First, I should say that while we share the last name of “Carr”, we’re not related, and while both Scoble and I work at the Redmond campus, I’m not a Microsoft employee, but the perception could be otherwise – in both cases!

    In this case, you create the perception that Scoble hit a nerve with your opening insult calling him “Microsoft’s Kept Blogger”? A lot of people, and companies, rely on AdSense income. It’s not unreasonable to point to it as a possible ethical issue when posting about Google. Your points about the mechanics of AdSense, albeit good ones, are weakend by your use of name-calling, Nick. In my opinion, your argument would have been stronger without it.

  7. Dennis Howlett

    Bias in media – it’s an argument as old as the hills and just as tired. There is no such thing as objectivity. Everyone who writes has an agenda. Scoble and Nick are, I’m sure on the same page as far as that argument goes. Heck – I have an agenda.

    Nick’s argument goes to the nonsense that Scoble trots out from time to time. Which, I have to say, is a bit rich, coming as it does from the guy with the biggest megaphone in the blog business. The same guy who believes ‘the world is following me’ – sure – on Tech me-me- orandum.

  8. Phil

    Employee or not, squinting hard or not, the question remains. Why run ads at all? Just because everybody else does? Because it’s easy and came for free in a template isn’t good enough. If it’s because you might make money, then say so. Nothing wrong with making money … but there can definitely be something wrong or questionable with how you make money. No matter how little it is.

    What if one of those random ads was in fact a link to something that you were ethically or morally against? What if a site that does use backdoor pages but Google hasn’t caught them yet ends up being the click-thru that you enable? That then installs garbage on an unsuspecting user or uses an exploit (regardless of your browser or OS — please let’s not get into that).

    Personally, I’ll never run AdSense or any other ad placement technology.

    And, yes, ironically, I love Google’s RSS reader and do have a gmail account. But the day it [the reader] starts showing me ads is the day that I’ll switch to one that doesn’t.

    With regard to print and “traditional media” ads, I understand the distinction. And I also understand that most media is ad-driven and why. But with other media I’ve got the ability to simply shift my eyes. I’ve run into one to many a site recently (blogs included) that require a positive action because of some clever javascript programmer who knows how to make popups work around the various popup blocking strategies attempted by the top 4 browsers. Even worse, I’ve run into blogs recently where the Adsense stuff has been placed into an upper “layer” that completely obscures the underlying content. What can I conclude about that? Only that “false positive” click-thru’s are the goal as the hapless viewer attempts to get rid of the ads in the first place. Hardly ethical … and finally, thankfully this site adopts that simple adsense template doesn’t do what I described.

  9. DoRealTime

    More on G-Mail vs Outlook

    I read Scobleizer this morning and was happy to see that Robert Scoble addressed the same post by Paul Kedrosky that I did. Scoble pointed out something that I didn’t know, which is that MSN has been offering the same…

  10. Alfred Essa

    Microsoft’s service is also not what one might think it is. See the footnote below for their “Microsoft Windows Live @ edu” program for higher education. Note that it requires installing Microsoft’s identity management infrastructure and, of course, purchasing client licenses:

    “1 The hosted e-mail is free for institutions willing to accept standard display advertising within the Hotmail interface. For those institutions that require MSN to remove the display advertising, MSN will charge a small affordable fee. Display advertising in Hotmail is subject to strict standards to help filter out potentially offensive materials. To implement the Windows Live™ @ edu Program, institutions will need to deploy Microsoft Identity Integration Server (MIIS), which needs to be purchased separately along with its required components. For more information on MIIS System Requirements, please click here.”

  11. Daniel Ciruli

    Nick – I have to agree that taking AdSense revenue does not make a blogger biased toward Google.

    But I do agree with Scoble that Google gets a “free ride” from many bloggers (yourself excluded for the most part–I think you provide some of the best content in the blogosphere). I think Apple gets the same treatment. Can you imagine the reaction of the blogosphere if Microsoft were indexing hard drives and storing the indices on their servers (ala Google) or selling music in a propietary format with their own DRM? Bloggers would go apoplectic.

    I think Scoble reacted as strongly as he did because he’s tired of the perception that Google can do no wrong and Microsoft can do no right.

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