Dane, Anita, Clay and I are being paid by American Express to blog about this Richard Branson speech tonight, and continue this conversation about small business and entrepreneurship over the next few days. It's an interesting deal, and not something that has been done before, to my knowledge. The most interesting thing is that there are no parameters.
What am I supposed to blog about? Whatever I think. Whatever I find interesting. Answers to questions that are asked. How can they be so… non-controlling? Because they get it. They understand blogging. They want to see what happens. They want people to comment. They don't want to tell everyone what to say, because that's inauthentic. Press releases already fill that role.
How can they trust these bloggers to say what they want to say? Well, if they have done their research, they have picked people that already like to talk about the things they want to say.
Contrast that with… The Wall Street Journal. WSJ has made progress, but isn't quite there yet. They send out emails to bloggers, hoping that it is something we like and will link to. I read the paper version of WSJ every day, and there is almost always something I want to link to, but it's rarely one of the free content pieces. Why not open it up and let bloggers link to whatever they want? Because they want people to pay for their content. But tell me this – if bloggers are linking daily to all kinds of cool things in the WSJ, won't more people subscribe/read/visit their site?
Companies that want to work with bloggers have to let go of the control. Yes, it is risky. But without risk, there is no reward. Kudos to American Express for taking a chance. Yes, they are paying me, but they didn't ask me to write this, which is exactly why I am. Weird. Counterintuitive. But it's like dating. When you finally stop trying so hard to manage impressions and put up a front, that's when you get in a relationship that really works out.