Brooklyn Blogfest Sells Out

absolut-signage-061010.jpgOver on Atlantic Yards Report this morning, in a post called Blogfest Meets Shillfest, Norman Oder reports on last night’s Brooklyn Blogfest at the Brooklyn Lyceum, an event we were boycotting on principle. In its first couple of years, though rather disorganized, the motley gathering had some charm to it. Based on Oder’s report, though, it sounds like it’s run its course. We decided weeks ago not to attend, because it was becoming clear to us that that the event’s organizer and some of the other participating bloggers had completely sold out to the evening’s sponsor, Absolut, which was using the blogfest to launch its new Spike Lee-branded line of vodka. (From AYR: “I’m not going to get into gentrification, but goddamn,” [Lee] said, musing about “white linen tables” on Lafayette and DeKalb avenues. Then he corrected himself: “This is to celebrate Absolut, so we’re not going to get into gentrification tonight. Sorry, Absolut.”) An email we received a few weeks ago (posted in full on the jump) described a program whereby bloggers would be given a Flip video camera and some other Absolut swag in return for blogging and tweeting about the new brand of vodka. A number have done so and we’ve yet to see a single instance of disclosure; nor has the event’s organizer, Louise Crawford of Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn, been forthcoming about the backroom deals. (Here‘s where she should have mentioned the payola deal.) This wasn’t just a matter of a company donating some booze and getting to hang their banner in return; there’s nothing underhanded about that. It was a full-fledged sell-out with paid-for but undisclosed editorial pimping. We’re certainly in favor of bloggers finding innovative ways to get compensated for all the hard work it takes to maintain a blog, but in order to maintain any credibility they need to be transparent about who’s buttering their bread; readers can be a pretty understanding bunch as long as they believe you’re being straight with them. Based on the play-by-play on Atlantic Yards Report, the night ended up being much more about promoting Absolut than about blogging. Here’s how Sunset Park Chronicle described it in a tweet: “brooklyn blogfest–the creative unite…or become captive audience for spike lee’s absolute vodka fest. Weird.” And here’s another disgusted tweet. Norman Oder has posted a question to Crawford on the New York Times, where’s she’s featured this week in a piece called “Ask The Brooklyn Blogger.” It’ll be interesting to see how she responds. Update: Louise Crawford has published a post addressing the Absolut sponsorship issue. Like a few others in this thread, she is either misconstruing or purposefully obfuscating the core of our criticism: We’re not against sponsorship or advertising (obviously, given that it’s how we make our living), but we are against promotional blog posts and tweets for remuneration that are not identified as such.

Email, May 5, 2010

Invite to Collaborate with ABSOLUT + Spike Lee

As you sit at your desk blogging about the latest and greatest in Brooklyn lifestyle and real estate, we’d like to offer you inspiration of the liquid kind. As the world’s most iconic vodka, ABSOLUT has built itself on the philosophy that creativity inspires excellence evidenced in everything from the brand’s place in modern day mixology to the history of collaborations with artists dating back to Andy Warhol and Keith Haring. As we enter into a new artist collaboration with Spike Lee, we are reaching out to you as the creative forces behind Brownstoner with what we believe is an interesting proposition.

Over the last several months, we have been collaborating with famed director and Brooklyn beloved Spike Lee, on a one-of-a-kind project that serves a veritable love letter to Brooklyn. As a creative visionary and voice of your community, we’d like to let you in on the secret by asking you to join us in a viral, underground effort. By agreeing to participate, you will sign on to celebrate Brooklyn in a manner befitting of this beloved borough, and will receive exclusive access to product, information and events before anyone else. In addition, we will ensure that your name and your blog are a very special part of all the big news.

We have also recently been working with Louise Crawford of Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn on her Fifth Annual Brooklyn Blogfest and are hoping you will help us reveal the announcement there, on June 8.

More specifically, we would be offering you:

· A feature as our Blogger of the Week on ABSOLUT VODKA’s Facebook page (reaching half a million fans!)

· VIP access to a celebrity event in Brooklyn we are planning for early June

· Special call-out as a key collaborator during the Fifth Annual Brooklyn Blogfest on June 8

· Gift of a Flip camera to capture all the action this summer

· Gift of product that has yet to hit store shelves

And in turn, we want to leverage your creativity through:

· Your participation at the Fifth Annual Brooklyn Blogfest on June 8

· Three dedicated blog posts throughout the summer

o One story that we will unveil at Blogfest on June 8

o Two other posts inspired by the project

o Agreement to carry an ABSOLUT blogger badge on your first post

· Tweets, Facebook posts & Four Square activity when appropriate, to promote the blog posts/program throughout the summer

· And most importantly…

We want your thoughts, ideas, feedback and excitement towards the program. ABSOLUT collaborations are wholeheartedly just that a collaboration. If you are interested in joining us for the celebration, please let us know by May 12. We will be bringing all collaborators together on May 13 or 14 to share all the details. More to follow!


0 Comment

  • If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck….

  • HAAAAAAAAAA. i was wondering what that giant tard line was when i got off the subway on union street yesterday.


  • Speaking of ABSOLUT – I tried that ABSOLUT Brooklyn stuff and it is disgusting.

  • Spike Lee lives in a $5 million townhouse on the upper east side, and he’s complaining about gentrification?

  • what’s Spike doing in a US National Soccer jacket?

  • “o Agreement to carry an ABSOLUT blogger badge on your first post”

    WTF are they talking about? This whole thing seems really weird.

  • It’s also known as Louise, give it up. It’s now officially over. Absolut-ly over.

  • The World Cup starts on saturday and I believe Absolut is a sponsor. Wait ’till things erupt in South Africa and riots break out because the government blacks out the rest of the country so the games can have lights!!!!!

  • Is it supposed to taste like the Gowanus???

  • Frankly I’ve always thought blogfest was ridiculous. Who needs some sort conference for what is essentially an online journal. Folks have been doing it long before Louise. Anyone can do it, its not rocket science.

  • wow – that’s ugly. Keep it real Stoner!

  • Zzzzzzzzz…

    ***Bid half off peak comps***

  • funny how this story is now linked to by absolut’s facebook page…

  • Spike Lee’s townhouse in the UPPER EAST SIDE cost 7 MILLION back in 1999. Now it would be on the market in the over 20 million-25 million range, so I love too that he has complaints about gentrification.

  • As a lawyer (shark) at heart and a current unemployed broke-ass, my advice to you (had I known earlier) would have been to:

    1. Accept the invitation to attend the blogfest.

    2. Fulfill the requirement to post about the blogfest.

    3. WRT Absolut, put up their banner, etc.

    4. In the aformentioned posts carrying Absolut’s banner and link, be sure to pan the product and state in BIG ASS BOLD PRINT that you find the vodka to taste like bath water.

    5. Collect your free bag-o-swag, including the free flip camera.

    6. Sell said flip camera on Ebay/Craigslist.

    7. Use the proceeds gained from step #6 to take your wee ones to Great Adventure this summer.



  • “”I’m not going to get into gentrification, but goddamn,” [Lee] said, musing about “white linen tables” on Lafayette and DeKalb avenues. Then he corrected himself: “This is to celebrate Absolut, so we’re not going to get into gentrification tonight. Sorry, Absolut.”)”

    Hypocrite. You sell out to a vodka company to create a vanity product and you complain about gentrification?

    “It was a full-fledged sell-out with paid-for but undisclosed editorial pimping.”

    No kidding. Wow…even the blogosphere has a price. Who knew?

  • ENY — it appears the blogosphere’s price is relatively low.

  • Mr. B.;

    I’ve been critical of you a few times in the past, so in the spirit of fair play, let me say: well done!

  • absolut, one of the reasons I switched to gin.

  • Good job, Brownstoner!

  • As a book I stayed up way too late reading last night put it, journalists are only noble in movies written by journalists.

  • Indeed, bklynite…quite low.

    Unfortunately, this kind of pay-for-play happens regularly in the print arena. It’s interesting to see Absolut successfully apply it among locally based blogs, which (until now I guess) enjoyed the “credible non-journalist” mantle often applied to the blogosphere.

    I think it’s great the Mr. B outed these guys, including Spike “Where’s my check?” Lee. I’m with Benson – well done!

  • Kudos to Mr. B for this.

    I’ll take a Brownstoner gathering presented by CobbleSnaps Productions, LLC anytime over a commercialized Absolut sponsored snoozefest.

  • “including Spike “Where’s my check?” Lee.”


    Seriously though, everyone, whether they like to admit it, has a price. Some very high, some very low (flip cameras and vodka).

  • Oh please. Spike needs to stop. You lose all credibility in ragging on the establishment when you’ve become the establishment. Be a shill for Absolut if you want, more power to you, but don’t try to “keep it real” like you are still making films with three friends and a credit card, and living in a cold water flat.

  • Biff, thank you for fulfilling your duties of pimping CobbleSnaps Productions, LLC. Your bag-o-glitter swag, which includes a free beer, will be mailed to you shortly.


  • I bet Spike ended up selling his Ft Greene home to gentrifiers.

  • Hear hear. Seeing all that shilling on all the other blogs was disgusting — and virtually none of them disclosed that they were sponsored posts.

    Someone needs to take back the blogfest next year — and maybe it should be you. At this point OTBKB can’t be trusted — she didn’t even disclose what she was paid for coopting a dozen plus brooklyn blogs for a giant marketing campaign.

  • Everything in Amerika gets co-opted by big capital eventually — and like someone else said, everyone has their price. But this one doesn’t even make sense. Kudos, Mr. B., on maintaining you integrity and opting out of this one.

    And I’ve never understood how Louise Crawford gets so much attention. I stopped reading OTBKB a long time ago, even though I can enjoy the hyper-local/ family /neighborhood / daily life orientation of her stories. But have you ever noticed that she gets virtually NO comments? One wonders what kind of readership she really has.

  • So, here’s thing. I went to the event last night and blogged about it this morning, not knowing anything about the swag. Would I have preferred vodka and a Flip camera over free blogging? Sure, I’m not proud! I went, as I do every year, to meet other bloggers. I had a good time.

    Seriously, to me it looks like that AYR is an Absolut ad.

  • Well done Mr. B!

  • WTF is Spike talking about? LUV his movies but he lives in a townhouse or fancy apt. in the East Sixties btw Park and Lex. where does he get off talking about gentrification when he moved there and has office space in DUMBO?

  • Actually, I give Spike credit for his current digs. He became rich, and moved to the (then) wealthiest neighborhood. (If it was happening today I guess he might move to Tribeca, but maybe not.)

    He’s not trying to pretend that he is still in the neighborhood, but rather enjoying the fruits of his success. Nevertheless, he can still profess to care for the old neighborhood, and do so genuinely. It’s no different that those who left the LES continuing to support immigrants’ aid groups back in the tenements.

    (Whether shilling for Absolut is cool is another thing.)

  • When I used to live on the UES, I would occasionally see Spike out in front of his $20MM+ home cleaning the leaves or shovelling the snow, rather than have someone do it for him. I guess that’s how he keeps it real these days.

    But I still love his movies.

  • Good points, Boerumresident.

    “(If it was happening today I guess he might move to Tribeca, but maybe not.)”

    Channeling Jay-Z

  • “But have you ever noticed that she gets virtually NO comments?”

    Yep and she generally deletes any comment she doesn’t agree with.

  • Spike moved to the UES because his wife wanted to leave Ft Greene. People knew where they lived and they used to ring their bell all times of night…and no he did not sell his Ft Greene townhouse to gentrifiers…he sold it to a crazy ass young black couple, who later sold it to gentrifiers.

  • crap… i don’t really want to be on this side of the fence ideologically.

    but every single event promoter(and every blog that promotes anything) in this boro recruits “partners” who stump an event on their blogs or sites in exchange for something be it an icon on a poster or a discounted table or priority placement or some other such “inducement.” and they never say it publicly. add a big corporation and it is evil.

    BFD. you, dear readers, never get to see the details banded about publicly. and, seeing it in the open once, act like philosophical lunatics.

    this is no different except she was able to bring in a cleanup hitter after having done this thing five years in a row. if any of us stuck at anything five years in a row we could do the same.

    might not be your cup of tea, but then say that. don’t run off at the mouth about a non-existent high-ground.

    god i need to get my prescriptions refilled 😉

  • I guess that’s why the FTC wants to start regulating blogging that involves product promotional gimmes.

  • In my estimation, “She’s Gotta Have It” played a significant role in attracting the gentry to Fort Greene in the first place.

  • I agree with bkn4life…I think whole “holier than thou” thing is funny. Just say I didn’t want to be a part of the branding. If Brownstowner wants to be the NY Times then that’s how it is. Therefore, you don’t accept swag. But to use words like “backroom deals”…that’s just cross-marketing and advertising via new media.

  • “Yep and she generally deletes any comment she doesn’t agree with.”

    Wow, sounds like the Brooklyn Heights Blog.

    “I guess that’s why the FTC wants to start regulating blogging that involves product promotional gimmes.”

    I hope that doesn’t happen. FTC involvement is not usually a good thing. I think the people can obtain information and draw conclusions for themselves on stuff like this.

    “In my estimation, “She’s Gotta Have It” played a significant role in attracting the gentry to Fort Greene in the first place.”

    Ooh, that could make for a very interesting discussion in itself.

  • I’m disappointed in Louise Crawford but I’ve queried her judgment in the past vis a vis things she’s written about in her Brooklyn Paper column so it’s not out of character. But kudos to Mr. B for cluing us in to what seems to me to be a pretty seamy campaign.

  • Interesting that Ms. Crawford has nothing on this today.

  • oh, please, MAKE ME SICK, Spike. Can anyone tell me just how pathetic can that jackass be? The great Spike Lee? Pushing vodka. I had great hopes for him once. I thought he could be a great filmmaker. But his character and his nasty-assed, sour, chip on the shoulder got in the way of making art. Somewhere just after Mo Better Blues, he decided he liked permanently standing on a soap box. Look at the soap box he is on NOW!!!!!

    What a pathetic loser. And that doesn´t get him into the PLUSA club either.


  • Completely annoying that Spike Lee is complaining about the gentrification of Fort Greene 12 years after he decamped to a townhouse on the UES. He’s probably eaten more meals off white linen tablecloths than most people see in a lifetime. Fine. Whatever. But now he’s implying that what’s good enough for him is apparently too good for Fort Greeners? Get lost.

  • Hey Brownstoner, shame your principles don’t extend to getting permission from bloggers to use their copyrighted images.

  • “Hey Brownstoner, shame your principles don’t extend to getting permission from bloggers to use their copyrighted images.”


    Mr. B?

  • BIB, which images were misappropriated?

  • As Letterman said of Spitzer: ‘WHORES! Who knew?!”

    I gave the Blogfest a pass this year without reading any of this, and I’ve gotta say: yuck, glad I bagged it. My 2 blogs are rigorously ad-free (and shill-free, except for stuff I flog cause I LIKE it), because I spent decades in the consumer magazine industry getting my ethics squoze by advertising to pimp out editorial. Why would I go back to whoring with nasty clients for a hobby? And I love the “3 posts” requirement. “On this July day, as I sipped my Brooklynicious Absolute Spikester, I sat down at the computer…” “Here we are in August, a vodka stinger of a month, if ya know what I mean, wink wink?!” Then I guess you’re off the hook. What if you fail to shill–do they take their crappy lil phone back?

    (Plus…what the hell is “Brooklyn” vodka supposed to taste like, anyhow? I like the Gowanus water suggestion above.)

    Best comment on Spike: Montrose (“Be a shill for Absolut if you want, more power to you, but don’t try to “keep it real” like you are still making films with three friends and a credit card, and living in a cold water flat). Owned!
    Tip of hat to Mr B for this soundly reasoned piece.

  • “Plus…what the hell is “Brooklyn” vodka supposed to taste like, anyhow?”

    That’s what I want to know. Sorry, but “Brooklyn vodka” does not suggest a pleasurable drinking experience. And I’m FROM Brooklyn!

  • “”Plus…what the hell is “Brooklyn” vodka supposed to taste like, anyhow?”

    It’s super nasty – it’s green apple/ginger flavored. i ordered some at a bar in the burg, and after being warned 15 times by the bartender how nasty it was, had some mixed with some cran and soda. It tasted like something a 13 year old girl would bring to a jr high party.

  • Good for you, Mr. B.

    And kudos to Biff for shilling for Cobblesnaps Productions, LLC. unbidden!

    “It’s super nasty – it’s green apple/ginger flavored”

    Sounds nauseating.

  • Thanks for contacting me via em. to sort out image issue Mr. B.

  • Wait… so if it had been a locally sourced vodka (by the way, a college friend of mine makes an excellent one in Oregon), it would have been okay that they sponsor the blogfest? Or is the idea of sponsorship in general you don’t like? Right, because unlike advertising, it’s…

    Okay, not really following you, Mr. B. Is it me?

  • “Brooklyn vodka” should be served in an old mason jar from an undisclosed location somewhere near Brighton Beach.

  • Sponsorship, advertising, etc. are all totally fine but requiring bloggers to write editorial puff posts and tweets that have been bought and paid for with gifts without disclosure undermines the entire medium of blogging. It’s all about disclosure and calling a spade a spade.

    As for photo usage, most bloggers in Brooklyn have an understanding among themselves that a modest amount of photo usage as long as its with proper attribution is fine. The one commenter above, evidently, is not on board with that approach so we removed his photo from this post.

  • One, I like the vodka…it mixes nicely with ginger ale and cranberry, also with ginger ale by itself. My favorite bartender and I came up with a shot and called it a Jolly Rancher, I wont tell you haters what’s in it…cause I’m like that. Hmpf.
    Secondly, who decides what disclosure one should offer about their business? Clearly, it wasn’t that “secret” if they sent out invites with the information regarding the “backroom deal” on it. This is where one person can skew an argument and seem “better than the other”. Kinda how the past due invoice from an advertiser was outed last year on this blog. That’s not cool. That doesn’t make on person doing their business better than another.
    Everyone makes their business work the best way they know how. That’s how people get boxed into bullshit that like writing on their hand instead using a teleprompter when needed.

  • I’m with snappy though, you should have gone and called the spade a garden trowel. But thanks for clarifying!

    I do think you do a good job of running a commercial site with advertising without being a shill for your sponsors. And I don’t know that it is always an easy thing to do. But… really, isn’t this blogfest sponsorship thing something dreamed up by some Brooklyn-living media professionals, who could just as easily be working for the Chip Shop or Kelso Ale as Absolut?

  • @BIB — wow. I’m assuming you mean your photo above? Brownstoner didn’t ask you to use it and doesn’t link back at all to your site?! Just wow.

    BTW, your photo montage last night was tops. Really lovely.

  • “One, I like the vodka…it mixes nicely with ginger ale and cranberry”

    Yeah, that’s what I had. It’s called a ‘brooklyn stoop party’ or something. i won’t say any more except we have way different palates.

  • Great post. Asking bloggers to write about your product seems to be a big trend at the moment among corporations who are trying to make a splash in social media. Ann Taylor was recently criticized for doing something similar when it demanded bloggers write favorably about the company in exchange for gift cards. The companies are probably well intentioned in trying to reach out to a wider audience online, but then the whole thing backfires because it comes off as controlling and inauthentic.

  • It’s not controlling, it’s called marketing. When you go to the grocery store…do you think Bubbalicious just happens to be at the checkout line…they pay to be there. It’s called product placement.

  • Wrong, jillysp. It was fully credited. Other bloggers use our photos all the time and as long as they give attribution it’s fine.

  • Let’s not read any Dr. Evil tendencies into the photo thing. My god. Web 2.0 can be so so petty.

  • Speaking of swag, when you were advertising the Brooklyn Flea was gonna be on the Martha Stewart show…didn’t she give away a free bag that day? Or, did you not participate based on principle. See, mmm.

  • @Brownstoner: I saw the original attribution, which was a text-based mention (“Photo by Adrian Kinloch”) near the end of the post with no hyperlink back to original source (that I saw, after purposely looking for it). Is it not standard etiquette to link to original source when one uses a photo? You guys even do that for amateur photogs who contribute via your Flickr pool, and Adrian/BIB’s a pro. Plus, the image gallery from which the photo of Lee was culled states pretty clearly at the top, “No reproduction without prior permission”…

    Like infinitejester quipped, I’m not reading anything big into this; I’m glad you worked it out with BIB. I actually thought the initial exchange in the comments was amusing. Guess the ‘just wow’ came across as shocked instead of amused, which I really was. :)

  • It’s too bad. The blog was once interesting. Now it is just the recorded thoughts of another so-called entitled trustafarian. If you read her shrill screed defending herself, you’ll see why. Is Crawford and what she does so important?

  • i’m just really glad i forgot all about the blogfest and am getting the pleasure of reading this thread instead.

  • How much is cillmylandlord_again to say the drink tasted good? I smell a sockpuppet.

  • Louise Crawford is so 1999. For years, she has fancied herself as some kind of arbiter of taste in Park Slope (witness her “Park Slope 100”). She also fancies herself some kind of unique blogger/writer. Few care about her pseudonymous family and, if I were her child or husband, I would grow up badly in need of psychotherapy for all she discusses in her column. She has snooped in the windows of private residences and stores under construction in search of a rumor, scoop or news. She is overly enthralled with minor celebrities. So, it comes as no surprise that she accepted money from Absolut and the former Spike Lee, who moved out of Brooklyn years ago, yet fancies himself as a spokesperson for the Borough. Would really like to see what a Marty Markowitz Absolut bottle would look like.

  • Eye roll – when did the blogosphere become about being so holier-than-thou? Is this really that big a deal? Or an attempt by B’Stoner to bring more attention to himself and cut others down? Just seems a little self-righteous from someone who’s been able to build his own business out of this and really has very little in common with most other blogs anymore. Stick to real estate, instead of using your energy to act like the internet police.