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Samsung flew bloggers to Berlin, then threatened to leave them there (thenextweb.com)
337 points by rounak on Sept 2, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 116 comments

The only winner out of this is Nokia who paid for the hotels and flights home of those bloggers. http://twitter.com/clintonjeff/status/242358009249026049

Wow, that is brilliant PR.

This is greatness.

Nicely done there by Nokia, even if they only did for PR at least it was still a damn nice thing to do.

I will buy one of their Android phones instead of a Samsung one. Oh wait ...

Nokia is awesome ++

In 2008 Nokia's joint-venture with Siemens, Nokia-Siemens-Networks, developed and built "monitoring centres", on-site deep-packet-inspection and Internet filtering infrastructure for Iran and later also for Egypt and Iran. This wasn't just selling custom routers or something, but a large engineering project where they knowingly agreed to aid oppressive regimes in controlling their citizens and abusing human rights. We all know what role these packet filtering systems played in the Arab Spring, etc.

So, Nokia is not very awesome++ at all, in my opinion, and in fact even though what Samsung did was very shitty, it kind of pales in comparison.

In all fairness, two and a half year later, a human rights lawyer contacted them and told them this was not okay, and they stopped doing it. Or, to quote someone on Metafilter: "Big company does something any sane, thinking person would automatically know is immoral. Film at 11."



http://www.nokiasiemensnetworks.com/news-events/press-room/c... (this is their mea culpa, it almost sounds like they learned a lesson, except that it took over 2 years and a human rights lawyer before they stopped helping oppressive regimes with human rights abuse)


Many big companies out there has links with this sort of thing.

IBM - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_and_the_Holocaust#IBM_busin... Apple — FoxConn Disney - The allegations of Walt Disney's pedophillia. And so on.

I got down voted so thought I'd explain better.

My point is, it can be very hard to avoid all companies on ethics alone.

For the record, that downvote wasn't mine.

And your point is fair, both the first one, the clarification and shinratdr's rewording :) (except I'd kinda steer clear of things that are merely "alleged"--but I don't know anything about the Disney case)

And indeed I don't really know about avoiding all of them, however I do believe it's important to spread word about it, so that people know, and corporations know they can't get away with everything, and hopefully cause at least some corporations to do right.

Well I guess is everyone is doing it we just shouldn't care.

You can care, just don't get delusions of grandeur over boycotting one company for those reasons when you most likely are using the infrastructure of another company that does the exact same thing.

Thank you for explaining it more eloquently than I was.

This is a human trafficking story.

Clearly this is not remotely as horrific as the usual connotations, but the structure of bait-and-switch coercion is very similar.

I don't get this story. They were asked to wear a samsung t-shirt. That's not how shills typically work, isn't it typically, pretend you're independent, give good review, rather than, pretend you're part of our PR team?

Why would it benefit Samsung to have random Indians bloggers demoing devices in Berlin?

Something about this story doesn't make any sense.

I'm almost certain this must have been a communication issue within Samsung. Someone got it in their head that this group was hired to promote their product and told subordinates to deal with the group.

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

There's no way that threatening someone to leave them stranded in a foreign country is the result of "miscommunication". This behaviour on Samsung's part is simply despicable.

Even if the bloggers had agreed to work for Samsung, and then changed their mind, holding return tickets ransom would not have been an acceptable course of action.

There is no way that this is explained by stupidity, this is malice in its purest form.

Mmmm, how about stupidity followed by malice? Pure malice doesn't make sense. What's so valuable about using foreign bloggers to stand around with phones instead locals?

I'd say Negitivefrags's guess is good. Something like that might have happened, and then when the bloggers didn't co-operate with the misinformed boss, the nasty stuff started.

Just speculating, but someone probably thought

"If they're not going to help us promote the brand, why should we pay for their plane ticket? They can just buy their own"

...without considering that the bloggers might not be as flush with cash as they are in their corporate world with expense accounts.

I'm quite a fan of the expression "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

But I'm sorry, threatening to leave a blogger (and then carrying this out!) with little money stranded in Germany is most certainly malicious!

Yup, miscommunication and possibly also cultural issues. A nice way of assembling an ad-hoc multi-lingual promotional team, though, if done properly.

Sounds like Samsung wanted to hire some freelance product publicists on the cheap covering only room and board but they made it sound like they were sponsoring the bloggers. I guess they were trying to skew the labor & tax laws. It backfired when the bloggers didn't want to play along with the wink-wink game.

Perhaps to prevent them seeing demos of anything else and reviewing them too?

If they wanted to do that they could've just sent samsung devices to the bloggers at home instead of bringing them out to a show. I think that's what most tech sites typically get.

Good point. Still very strange.

I'm guessing that program is a way to get some free workforce (at the price of hotel/tickets) to demo Samsung products - like independent - but carefully selected and instructed by Samsung, of course - fans of the product instead of regular (and probably more expensive) marketing people. Just like ads where "regular people" read the script instead of professional actors - supposedly it makes the message so much more authentic.

Unfortunately, the bloggers were not told about the nature of the program and thought it is entirely different thing where the company invites independent journalists to write about their product. It totally makes sense to me that two branches of marketing don't communicate properly and get vastly different ideas about what the program is and then poor bloggers left at the whim of erratic and not very smart petty manager that threatens them when things not go as planned. For me, this madness totally makes sense in a general way things don't make sense in big companies.

Samsung told them that, over the course of the event, they’d “have to be in uniform, in the Samsung booths, every day. Showing the products to members of the press.”

That's not just "wearing samsung t-shirt". That's not what bloggers do.

P. S. I think that if you chose to piss off some people, then bloggers, whose main visible activity is conveying their thoughts to general public, is one of the least smart targets available.

This ain't new for Samsung, they did the same during the olympics.

Officially they were invited to live the games from the inside but in the end they worked as Samsung publicist for free.


Interesting, from the comments:

> As a Cheil member, I want to express my deeply sorry to make you feel that way. We’ll try to do our best not to make any inconvenience around this matter. And I promise that your comments will be reflected to upgrade and elaborate our Moilers program. I hope you to keep in touch with us and show your opinion at any time. Whatever it is, it will be welcomed

From Wikipedia:

>Cheil Worldwide Inc., is a global marketing and communications company headquartered in Seoul, South Korea.[1] It is South Korea's largest advertising agency and was ranked 16th in the world by Advertising Age in 2006... Internationally, Cheil has carried out communications campaigns for Samsung Electronics, including the “Imagine” branding campaign spanning 80 countries. It also provides marketing support for Samsung’s role as a Worldwide Olympic Partner

Overaggressive third party marketing company? I wonder how Samsung will respond to this article and other feedback.

Funny how their name is even a homonym for "shill" :-)

Pretty sure that had they gone to the German authorities and explained how Samsung "trafficked" them into the country with an expectation of being provided a ticket home, Samsung Berlin would get a call from German immigration - and promptly pay for the tickets.

You have a lot of faith in the German authorities. The Indian embassy and the Indian consulate would be probably of more help.

The German authorities generally don't take kindly to companies trying to skirt around labor and immigration laws.

No guarantee that they would deal with the issue promptly, of course, but some kind of threat or formal inquiry to whoever was in charge at Samsung probably would have made them back down.

I'm part of the Samsung Mobilers program which is very similar to what they did.

I've never experienced as much pressure as described here, but i guess the Indian Samsung subsidiary is managed by different minded people.

It was clearly just a communication problem. Samsung expects you to do things at these events and you get your trip and stay for free in return, sometimes a little cash on top.

Noone wants to use the word work, for all the red tape this would create...

> Samsung expects you to do things at these events and you get your trip and stay for free in return, sometimes a little cash on top. Noone wants to use the word work, for all the red tape this would create...

Legal? - possibly. Ethical? - not to me. How is this not evasion of labor laws? That this is par-for-the-course is pretty dismaying.

It's not as bad as it sounds. It's targeted toward students that are tech-savvy. You get a free trip to an international destination that you otherwise most likely wouldn't have a chance to travel to with people that share your passion.

It can be a lot of fun if you know what you're signing up for.

Yes, work can be a lot of fun if you know what you're signing up for. But let's call a spade a spade.

If it's anything like this woman's experience (http://int13.net/france/blog/i-won-a-contest-to-go-to-the-lo...), I don't think they would have had much fun. Especially if they knew what they were signing up for.

I know her and have talked over FB to her personally. Her experience was terrible and can only be attributed to the pressure Samsung was putting on their PR people. Being one of the main sponsors of the olympics is expensive, so they were most likely throwing a lot of pressure around and people weren't able to think things through... too bad.

I'd love to know what labour and Visa laws they violated if they were forced to work in a stand. It's very clear that they were going to report on the products, not work for Samsung for absolutely nothing!

you know what you're signing up for

This should be EXPLICIT from the beginning

"It's targeted toward students that are tech-savvy"

Newsflash Samsung, Bloggers != 'tech-savvy students'. It may overlap, but don't count on it

> Legal? - possibly. Ethical? - not to me. How is this not evasion of labor laws? That this is par-for-the-course is pretty dismaying.

Surely Samsung aren't doing this for the work -- there have to be cheaper ways to get people to demo your product than flying folks from India to Germany, getting them uniforms, keeping close watch on their activities, daily update emails in the beginning, etc.?

Why not just have their own employees do it? Or just pay native German bloggers?

It sounds to me like Samsung was trying to buy enthusiasm, but failed to adequately communicate the work involved and then massively overreacted when it went wrong for them. With decent management, it could have been better the alternatives -- the 'booth-babe and slimy salesman' or 'bored employee droning through a script' approaches.

I still prefer Apple's approaches to product demonstration -- either a big on-stage demo followed by relatively unsupervised hands-on time for a large number of reporters at once, or a personal demo by a senior executive for certain lucky individuals.

I don't see a problem if somebody voluntarily agrees to tell how he likes Samsung phone (especially if he genuinely does like it - why not?) in exchange for free ticket to the trade show. It may be not the best marketing trick ever, but certainly by far not the worst either. The fact however that people were misled into this and then threatened was really bad. If they knew it from the start I would have no problem with it whatsoever.

From the start, the offers that Samsung made seemed ethically questionable. Yes, they may be common, especially where review device access is limited, but they seem very much like bribes.

I like The Verge's ethics statement, which they post publicly, for this reason.


"We do not allow trips or any portions of trips (including but not limited to airfare, hotel, or car rentals) to be paid for by third parties (these are known in the industry as 'junkets')."

They make expectations for readers and device-makers crystal clear.

That's a nice sentiment if you're making serious money or are otherwise well funded. Maybe their writers ought to take a vow of celibacy too, just in case.

Or if you think it might be wrong to lie to strangers for money.

Is that reductio ad absurdum in action?

Maybe, but with the endless number of reporters sleeping with the people they're reporting on or sleeping around in the industries they're reporting in, I think a degree of celibacy may not be such a absurd idea.

Every third establishment licking journalist is sleeping with some high level Democratic or Republican functionary or a Goldman VP. I wouldn't be surprised if tech turned out to be similar.

If it is, then it's a major fail because all it would take would be for the bloggers to state that Samsung paid for their travel and accomodation when they went to the event, but they are independent reviews. That should be sufficient for people to make up their mind.

>Samsung paid for their travel and accomodation when they went to the event, but they are independent reviews

Only if the word "independent" has decided to become a synonym for 'sassy' and leave behind the boring 'disentangled.'

No, this is not a nice sentiment. This is absolutely required if you want to have any claim on being 'independent' or a 'reporter'.

That is a simplistic point of view that fails to take into account the reality of operating media organisations that are not very profitable or well funded. While readers aren't paying for what they consume, someone else has to.

There can be a big gap between a handy freebie and a conflict of interest, and the trick is to operate in that space without stepping over the lines. It's just another part of the professional journalist's job and skillset.

Edited to add: That gap I spoke about above; that's nothing to do with this ongoing Samsung thing, which certainly falls well outside the lines any pro journalist would draw. But then I don't think Samsung's programme is intended for pro journalists...

Sorry, but I disagree. It's not about being trustworthy, it's about incentives and avoiding the appearance of bias.

"Professional journalist" means you get paid enough money to conduct independent journalism without compensation from the subject of your research. It also means that even relationships which could appear to be conflicts of interest (such as receiving early samples, letting them buy you lunch) are fully disclosed to avoid even the appearance of such.

Another Indian blogger - Amit Bhawani, who was also there at the event has a different version of the story. http://www.amitbhawani.com/blog/samsung-mobilers-ifa-2012/ According to him, Samsung had always billed CJ as a promoter and not as a reporter. This seems to be a case of miscommunication. However, even in that situation, what Samsung did was extremely immoral. If they believed CJ was not playing his part they should have flown him back to India, had a discussion, and ejected him from the program. Not leave him stranded in a foreign country.

Exactly. The miscommunication is not the issue here. It's obvious that there was one. The scandal is how Samsung handled it.

This is typical of Korean companies. I worked in Korea for years and some of my naïve colleagues would even have their passports held hostage for the duration of the employment contract. This was in the education industry, but these kinds of extortions are pretty standard in Korea.

I love Korea, but I avoid doing business in Korea because of this type of tomfoolery.

I keep hearing about this "passport kept hostage" problem. What keeps you from going to your embassy and reporting the passport missing or stolen? As the passport is not your property but is actually the property of the issuing country, a company or even another country's government cannot hold the passport without causing trouble.

That hostage-passport can only hold if there is something else going on, like working without a permit (when the workers know their status and fear the punishment if they go to the embassy).

You can't get punished by your embassy for working in another country illegally. As far as getting a replacement passport, that's no problem. The passport hostage taking will prevent you from staying in the country or being able to get another job in the country because while you can get a new passport, you can't easily get a new visa. It's actually against Korean labor law to withhold a passport however a foreigner has little chance of winning that fight because they delay the process effectively leaving you without a job and the ability to get a new work visa from another employer while the process drags along.

In the old days (a few years ago,) you couldn't even leave the country unless your employer released you from your visa. Trying to exit without a visa can get you detained an heavily fined. So keeping your passport has the practical effect of keeping you stranded because you can't get a replacement visa for the new passport without the employer's permission. Korean immigration is a mess.

You haven't explained why someone in this bizarre scenario where they have given their passport to their employer can't simply go to their embassy and have the matter straightened out in a day.

You obviously haven't traveled internationally very much or you are being deliberately obtuse (or both).

I'll explain anyway: Many countries have some sort of passport control both when you enter and when you leave the country. The reasons for this are varied, but a common one is to make sure you didn't overstay your visa. As a result, you need to have a valid visa attached to your passport to pass through passportcontrol to exit the country. It is almost never sufficient to have been issued a visa to pass through passport control. You almost always need the one physical piece of paper that is the physical manifestation of the visa.

If your employer has your passport, they also have the visa which was stapled to it. Your embassy can easily get you a replacement passport, but a replacement visa is up to the host country.

Your two options to leave are: 1) Ask your former employer for your passport and visa. 2) Go through some (or a lot, to judge from the other comments) bureaucracy to get a new visa.

While this is all true - stolen passports are a very real problem, and when I had mine stolen, and got a replacement, it clearly said on one of the first pages "This passport replaces passport #XXXXXXX reported stolen on DATE".

Yes, I lost all my visa/entry stamps.... and yes, that can be a problem - but the fact is, a nation is unlikely to hold you hostage and create a diplomatic incident because your passport has been stolen.

Wait, so the process to discourage you from overstaying your Visa is to hold you in the country longer?

You might not be close to your local Embassy, and in many countries you need your passport to fly domestically and even stay in hotels. So just getting to your embassy without a passport might be non-trivial.

Also you might actually want to stay and work in the country, and kicking up a fuss over a 'stolen' passport is a sure fire way to get your visa canceled.

I'm sorry, how and why did your colleagues surrender their passports to a foreign company? Beyond that bizarre plot twist, why didn't your colleagues go to their native country's embassy?

If you're going to invoke racism and judge an entire nation's business practices, you could at least take the care to put together an argument that almost makes sense.

The article makes it clear that these bloggers dealt with Samsung's India subsidiary.

How could this scenario have gone well for Samsung? Did they think the bloggers would suddenly change their moral stance and do a complete 180 on what they had been insisting for weeks?

It seems it would be much easier to find people who are willing to be brand ambassadors and be up front about it if that's what you are looking for.

This story seems very strange to me. As you say, why would Samsung do this? In what universe do the events described in the article sound like the actions of a rational company?

The whole story is entirely one-sided and to be honest if it sounds too crazy to be true, I suspect it probably is too crazy to be true.

> rational company

If you're a tiny startup, your internal communication lines and org chart are small and simple enough that everybody is usually on the same page.

But if you're a huge company like Samsung, it's very easy to have situations where the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. That may well be what happened here.

Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.

> In what universe do the events described in the article sound like the actions of a rational company?


Having been forced to use this monstrosity to get files onto a Galaxy Tab, I don't see _where_ you get the idea that you're talking about a rational company.

You don't need Kies to transfer files to your tab, in fact you don't need Kies at all since they "leaked" ODIN (which has been independently re-implemented as "Heimdall", not to be confused with Heimdal).

Agreed. The one-sidedness and irrationality of the story caught my attention immediately.

Wow. Samsung really needs to clean up its act.

To be fair to Samsung, I do not think this is a Samsung specific issue. It raises larger concerns about well known companies also like TNW, TheVerge, Engagdget etc. FWIW these websites directly affect consumer choices.

Wait a sec, a blogger goes to great pains to state that he won't shill for a company that's paying for his trip to a trade show. He verifies that this is okay with the company several times, and states categorically that he will cover other products and be impartial about Samsung's, repeatedly.

How does this "raise larger concerns" about these blogs? It seems like the blogger here has gone out of his way to ensure that his impartiality isn't challenged.

This sort of behavior - from Samsung or otherwise - is despicable. They need to be held to full account for this sort of fraud.

A lot of people have grossly misunderstood my statement. Please take a moment to think that in this specific instance the blogger refused to dance to Samsung's tunes and hence, got reported. If the blogger would have sgreed all this may have been swept under the carpet. Therefore, it raises "larger concerns" about bloggers who give product reviews.

I am in no sane mind defending Samsung or any of it's actions. I just want to take this incident to pause & introspect over the ongoings in the technology review industry.

Compare with the sort-of ethics statement The Register used to produce.


"Integrity — we've heard of it."

"With our Diamond Plus account you can have any Reg staffer's vital organs dispatched to you overnight."

I think we can safely say that that document is somewhat tongue in cheek.

"Use your left/right keys to browse stories" - seriously? A single click of the left or right arrow moves to a completely different page?

It's the next innovation after Blogger's "touch your phone's screen to randomly flip to the next or previous story."

Blogsite owners probably think "well, if it works for pornsites and pirate movie streamers..."

Of course, I only know the behavior of aforementioned services from my 'friends'.

I also find this really annoying

This is the ugly side of "new media"--the big companies are able to push around the little people who lack the support of their own big companies.

Samsung statement -

Samsung Mob!lers is a voluntary community of active Samsung mobile device users, who are offered the opportunity to participate in our marketing events across the world. At these events, all activities they undertake are on a voluntary basis. No activities are forced upon them.

We regret there was a misunderstanding between the Samsung Mob!lers coordinators and the relevant blogger, as we understand he was not sufficiently briefed on the nature of Samsung Mob!lers’ activities at IFA 2012. We have been attempting to get in touch with him.

We respect the independence of bloggers to publish their own stories.

via - http://asia.cnet.com/should-samsung-have-stranded-a-blogger-...

Huh? If you threaten to strand them in a foreign country, how is that not forcing them to undertake these activities?

That's not a "misunderstanding between the coordinator and the blogger", that is your coordinator fucking up.

I can't believe that a company still thinks that "we regret there was a misunderstanding" is any sort of apology when you should have said "we regret we made this mistake and apologize", trying to pin it on the blogger, damn...

Don't feed the underpaid troll.

Actually not sure if that was a troll? They were just quoting Samsung's statement (which is relevant info ITT), I'm not sure if they agreed with it or considered it a sufficient apology.

(actually, given that it's three days without a reply, that pretty much rules out "troll", by the definition that I've come to know and love)

In retrospect I think you could be right on both counts. First, I should have called the guy an astroturfer instead of a troll to use more correct terminology. Second, yes, the guy may not be a Samsung forum shill after all, but I'm basing this possibility solely on the fact that he took the time to add some profile information about [himself | some real person]. The reason why I didn't believe this account is real still exists though: it was created and used solely for the purpose of commenting on the Samsung thread.

While this may or may not be a coincidence, my reaction is so negative by default because recently there have been a lot of single-purpose accounts that seem to exist only for one thread before they're being abandoned. They are usually employed to troll, to attack someone personally, to post or promote blog spam, or to shill for something. In fact, it has gotten so bad I can usually tell by the post's content and style whether this person is engaging in a quick hit-and-run or if they intent to stay around. I believe we're still putting too much weight on "green" accounts. Maybe their posts should be gray by default.

I might have come up with a false positive in this case, but there is no evidence to support that yet.

Samsung India seems to be full of morons. First they deny payment to ppk http://www.quirksmode.org/blog/archives/2012/03/never_ever_d... Now they are threatening bloggers.

Raises quite a few issues about conflict of interests. Should there be a rule for such declarations by writers who are paid to promote brands ?

The FTC does have governance over endorsements and testimonials. Not sure that it applies completely here. The trouble comes when you start talking about people and companies outside of the US. International law for bloggers or journalists seems like a difficult situation to say the least.


Now check this - Samsung Mobilers IFA 2012 – Agenda & Facts / Emails Sent to Bloggers - http://www.amitbhawani.com/blog/samsung-mobilers-ifa-2012/

It sounds like the blogger is question had balked those requirements, asked for an exemption and (thought that they'd) gotten one.

It may come as a surprise, but based on the various anecdotes "Nokia India" is actually among the few that gets how to handle the new media.

Samsung will travel in Nokia way in India.

The extended quotes, and TNW's reputation, makes me think that this may be blogspam, but I can't find an original post.

Being stranded in Berlin is certainly not the worst that could happen to you.

That said, this is exactly what happens when, as a journalist, you start to blur the lines. As a reader it's hard to feel any sympathy when reading paragraphs that try just a bit too hard to rationalize the behavior:

Again, a reminder – Behavior such as Samsung’s is not uncommon in the world of tech coverage. It’s perhaps considered more normal in some parts of the world

Yes, blame the victim.

Not to mention your remark about being stranded in Berlin not being so bad.

I believe in incentives. In this case, more potential free all expenses covered trips are stacked against "I'm a professional, theres a way for me to do this and stay neutral".

I don't think that ever really worked out.

It's fairly common for companies to pay for journalists to attend events that are important to the company and the brand, just that for the vast majority of ethical journalists it's well understood by both parties that it does not imply favourable coverage. Some, like The Verge, refuse to accept any payments for junkets whatsoever because of potential ethics issues, but that doesn't mean that all journos who do accept those invitations accept to be paid shills.

Ethical companies understand that and accept the risk anyway, because getting good journalists with reach to even think of your brand and see your devices in the metal in the right circumstances is much more difficult than you'd think. So they put aside a relatively minuscule part of their marketing budget to wine, dine & sometimes fly journalists to these events.

If you look for it, you can often see this being disclosed by the relevant journalist at the end of their article, depending on their publication's ethics rules. For instance NYT journalists like Mossberg and Pogue will mention when a new Apple gizmo they're reviewing was shown to them personally by Apple before the public unveiling.

I have insight into this because a number of my friends are journalists across a few different industries. One in particular (not in the tech industry) was just recently flown to an event in Europe along similar lines, with the only requirement being that he was asked to attend all the particular company's press briefings there in return.

Samsung's behaviour in this case is unethical, to blame the bloggers for any of this when it's clear that they did their best to clarify the arrangement is unfair.

Of course no journalist would ever put in writing "yes, I will promote these things for you in exchange for that free tour" or even suggest as much. It's an obvious career ender.

Thats not the modus operandi nowadays. Good old prussian censors have proven ineffective; they cause too much political fallout and instability for what they can offer. Instead, you hire PR people to spin a story. You stop inviting journalists that write critically of you to events. You stop giving them interviews. You don't give them leads on stories that could benefit you when published. You don't give them the infamous "well informed insider" quotes.

But a journalists' livelihood is directly connected to his ability to write interesting news and reports. In some places where politics and journalism are (physically) so close and dense, like Berlin, you eventually realize that you have to keep a healthy social relationship with the very people you are supposed to investigate, simply to keep, to do your job.

How do some papers get a reputation for being left leaning (or right, or environmental, or..)? No one puts bias in writing. Journalists just already know what is expected of them. Self-censorship.

(Sorry, this has slipped into some kind of rant. I'm just not very interested in the "look what Samsung did" brouhaha, but the forces at work here)

I have to agree with you. While it is possible to accept gift airfare and hotel worth thousands of dollars and remain neutral, it certainly looks dodgy. Especially if you're a broke blogger.

If the allegations are true, Samsung acted reprehensibly but these guys were naive.

There's a very big difference between:

on the one hand, being subtly 'encouraged' to write favorable blog posts or reviews via enjoyable junkets, and

on the other hand, being expected to act as a real part of the PR team, wear company-branded clothing, and film promotional videos.

One is normal practice in tech journalism. The other is something quite different, and more aggressive. It seems like the bloggers expected the former - not especially naively - and got the latter via pressure and bait-and-switch.

Well, the latter is far more honest.

It's more blunt and heavy handed, anyway.

How, exactly, is it more honest?

Because it makes it obvious that you're being paid to claim to like things, likely in proportion to how convincing you are.

What's worse, naive bloggers accepting accomodation and travel for free after making it clear they are independent, and then are forced under duress to cowtow to someone who threatens to leave then stranded in a foreign country; or a a large multinational company that takes advantage of naive bloggers?

well, some responsibility has to lie with the 'victim' here, I think that much is obvious.

And Berlin is a fabulous city to get stranded in. It's not like it was Slough (UK) or Detroit (USA) or Grozny (RU)...

That is, if you have the money to eat and a place to sleep.

Oh wonderful - have you seen the difference in cost of living between India and Germany? Sounds like a fantastic place to starve and sleep rough while seeing the sights. I'm sure the bloggers would have appreciated that enormously!

Kids today! Whine whine whine

How is it "blurring the lines" to state clearly and repeatedly that you wish to attend as a reporter and not a promoter?

Because 'reporter' isn't the proper term for people who are paid by the people they are writing about; it's 'copywriter.'

> Being stranded in Berlin is certainly not the worst that could happen to you.

Right. I suppose Samsung could have dropped them off in the middle of the Atlantic during a major storm without even a liferaft.

In other words: Is that really the conversational tactic you want to apply here?

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