Friday, February 24, 2012

The absurdity of paid tweeters

Over the past few weeks, we have seen a slew of allegations related to paid tweeters. Ironically, they come from those who make a living out of “delivering news”. And they accuse tweeters for whom twitter is at best a hobby. The accusers are usually journo-tycoons and worth more than the average tweeter, by an exponential margin. So, coming from journo-tycoons who make their crores out of delivering news to some random tweeters who dont agree with their views, this is a bit too much.

 But let us try and examine this in a little more detail. Check out the Alexa ranking for the top sites visited out of India. Meanwhile, the list of the top 100 tweeters from India is here.

In general if you see, media sites corner a bulk of the page views on the net (well, they should, they have all the news) apart from the usual junk on the net. And on twitter, some of their leading lights have a huge number of followers - much more than the average hobbyist tweeter.

A few years ago, one of the biggest media houses in India came up with an idea known as Private Treaty – where they took a stake in a company and paid for that by news and advertisements. Now that was a unique idea in itself – we wont go into the good and bad aspects of it – we leave it for you, intelligent reader to decide. But the fact that they saw a market there and were able to tap into it is a testament to the fact that people are willing to pay for positive coverage.

So, if you are a politician or a business house or somebody who wants a nice mention in the media – who would you go to? Tweeters or the big swinging dick media guys? Obviously, the latter. And with good reason. Thats where you get more bang for your buck. And do remember Page 3 – a "feature" in most newspapers and surely there is an equivalent on TV as well.

If you go to an individual tweeter – how many followers will he or she have? About a handful? A few hundreds, a few thousands? And why are these guys tweeting? Because they make money tweeting? Or because they tweet what they are passionate about? Collectively, they are a force, but individually not worth too much.

Therefore, the so called “paymaster” of tweeter is fighting a losing battle by "paying" tweeters and how much will they pay? Influential tweeters wont accept money and non influential tweeters wont be paid. Yes, please, do a sting operation by asking some of them if they will tweet for money. If they don’t expose you on twitter the very same minute, consider yourself lucky.  (Last heard a prominent media baron did ask a prominent senior Bollywood star to tweet about their programs and the star blogged their exchange- so much for paid tweeter abuses from journo tycoons.)

So, why are journo tycoons pissed off with tweeters? Because they ask questions and our mike pointing, finger wagging journo tycoons aint used to that! They are not used to being questioned at all. Over the last 40 odd years, media has been feeding us, the viewers their view. Tweeters stand in their way by putting their pov which may be diametrically opposite to what the media wants to tell you and twitter being an open platform, the celebrity is equal to the man on the street with a twitter connection. Tweeters point out the hypocrisy of our media that changes colours faster than a disco chameleon. Tweeters have also made media apologise (while media threatens to sue in return) for faking tweets and being abusive or ignorant among other things. They also, at times, point to the hand in glove association that is the liberal leftist politician-media complex in India which make our media barons very insecure on the internet - which threatens to end their dominance of news and influence. Hence this latest attempt to malign tweeters. But then, like other social media and the internet in general, twitter is something that cannot be controlled - unless there is a censor board kind of thing (which our dear uncorrupt angelic government is planning, btw).

 The next time you hear about paid tweeters and paid media do ask them who takes sponsorships and ads and who does not and there might lie your answer on who is "paid" and who is not.

(A truncated version of this was X-posted on CRI)

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