Is TiVo Trying to Buy the Media?

Is TiVo Trying to Buy the Media?: Well journalist/blogger/television pundit Phillip Swann is always one to stir the pot and TiVo probably should have known better than to try and offer a journalist only discount, but Swann is reporting that through an email from the PR department TiVo is offering a “media accomodation program” of $200 discounts on the new TiVos.

When asked if the program was meant to influence the media’s coverage of the company, according to Swann, TiVo responded, “That’s far-fetched,” David Shane, the TiVo spokesman, said in an e-mail. According to Swann, at press time, Shane had not responded to Swann’s e-mail requests to elaborate on that explanation or return TV Prediction’s phone calls.

As the blogosphere takes on more and more significance with product marketing, the issue that TiVo’s offer raises bears a deeper thrashing out and examination. For instance. If I write a positive review and let’s say that in addition to it gets picked up by Engadget or Slashdot or Gizmodo (I’ve had stuff posted at all three) what is the value of that in PR for a company? I got to believe that it would count for something and I’ve got to believe that smart marketing departments are right now trying to harness the power of the blogosphere to promote their products amongst influencers.

Personally I’ve never received a free product or a discount on a product for writing about it. Maybe I should be offended though that TiVo didn’t offer me this offer. I mean, hey I write quite a bit about them (just kidding of course).

Every product that I’ve written about has either been something I purchased myself or something that someone loaned me on a review basis which was returned. It’s my policy not to accept free things or discounts from vendors that I cover in the world of digital media. I also don’t have advertising on my blog but that’s more of a personal thing.

I do have to say though that I have received preferential treatment from companies offering technical assistance when I’ve had problems. A bad blog post can be as bad for a company as a good blog post can be good and I’ve had companies respond to me in the past and offer an extra level of assistance then I’d suspect they’d offer the average guy on a tech support line.

And then there are the gray areas. What about getting comped to a conference or asked to visit a company where they pick up travel and expenses? Is this buying influence with me? Even if I can say that I can remain objective and not let it influence me does it have a subjective influence that I might not even be aware of that creeps into something I might write? We are only human after all.

Swann elaborates on the dilema, “most publications instruct their reporters not to accept discounts or free products or services from the companies they cover. The Society Of Professional Journalists, a trade group for reporters and editors, says on its web site that journalists should “refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment…if they compromise journalistic integrity.”

But the definition of “journalistic integrity” can be difficult to pin down. Some journalists, such as travel writers, often argue that free gifts or trips do not influence their coverage. And, “for-profit” publications, including this one, accept advertising fees from related companies.”

Is TiVo alone on this one or do other companies also have “media accomation programs” that are just marketed a little more quietly and under the radar?

It will be interesting to see if/how the company responds to this one and it will be interesting to see if the blogosphere thinks that this is an important story or not.

Update: CNET reports on the article and kind of sees it as no big deal.