Friday, July 10, 2009

Brian Stelter, TV Reporter, Is Now Shilling For HBO On Twitter -- Re-Tweeting, Without Comment, A Corporate Ad For "Entourage."

This post just appeared an hour or so ago on the Twitter feed of NYT television reporter Brian Stelter:

RT @twxcorp -- The boys are back in town! Catch vinny chase + crew in the entourage season premiere, 10:30pm sun on HBO.

Why, exactly, is a NYT reporter re-tweeting, word-for-word, an advertisement from the Time Warner twitter feed? The link in the Time Warner tweet takes readers not to a NYT review or article, but to the HBO "Entourage" website. With no comment or context from Stelter, the tweet serves only to spread advertising for the product of a company he's paid to cover to his 10,787 followers.

We asked Stelter for a comment. His reply included a long list of his tweets that promoted other television shows, which we've cut because they weren't -- like this one -- re-tweets of corporate announcements.

Here's Stelter's relevant comment:

Because I write about television in the newspaper, my Twitter followers can expect that I'll be including references to television shows. I do not believe that a reference to a television show indicates an endorsement.

I found the Time Warner tweet notable for its form (a media conglomerate's Twitter feed exclaiming "The boys are back in town!") and for its function (linking to HBO's site). As an interesting example of Twitter marketing and as a reminder to viewers about the show's premiere, I retweeted it.

In addition, it is my impression that Twitter users understand that a re-tweet is not an endorsement. One of my colleagues, Patrick Laforge [sic], includes the following text in the bio section of his Twitter page: "I tweet and retweet links from all over. A link is not an endorsement." In light of your inquiry, I'll consider adding the same text to my page.

Perhaps most importantly, I did not include my own endorsement in the tweet. Even though I have screened the first two episodes of the new season, I did not offer an opinion about them. Perhaps if I had, then it would have qualified as an "endorsement" under New York Times guidelines.

We agree that a Twitter mention of a television show doesn't automatically constitute an endorsement.

But Stelter's tweet wasn't an objective mention of "Entourage," or the analysis of its marketing strategy he suggests it was meant to be. It was, pure and simple, a re-tweet of a corporate advertisement, without comment. It served as nothing more than a re-distribution of that ad to an additional group of readers -- the 10,757 followers of Brian Stelter.

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