Update October 21 2010: This post was originally written from certain conversations. Events after this post put the following content into question and whether the full story was told here. Hence the strikethoughs. I’m sure the real story will come out sometime…
From its inception, BlogCatalog has been a resource for bloggers to both submit their own blogs and find new ones.
In their own words, BlogCatalog is “the largest user submitted blog directory the world has ever seen.”
It’s helped lesser-known blogs garner more traction; offered advertising spots at a fraction of the cost of other directories; and tied itself to some cool blog campaigns like Bloggers Unite.
Simply put, BlogCatalog has been a great resource for bloggers and blog readers alike.
So it’s been surprising and more than a little disappointing (from a blogger’s angle) to see what’s been happening with BlogCatalog the last few days and weeks.
The IMHO Fiasco
In late 2009, Blog Catalog partnered with Selina Eckersall to create a new platform called IMHO. The program would connect bloggers and brands together to review and promote the brand’s products and/or services.
The difference with IMHO would be that the bloggers would have free rein to really say how the product was – no positive review if it wasn’t deserved, and no pressure from brands on bloggers to be positive or else lose future review opportunities.
Had IMHO come to fruition, it could have been the leading resource for honest reviews, and taken away much of the mistrust when it comes to brands and bloggers.
I say had, because earlier this month, everything went belly up.
Partnerships, Promises and Brand IP’s
Having created the intellectual property (IP) for the IMHO brand, Selina’s part in the IMHO program was to provide the advertising and marketing expertise, with BlogCatalog providing the bloggers from their directory as well as the resources to get the site developed and the back-end engine in place to handle the members.
Due to BlogCatalog’s ongoing revamp, these resources couldn’t be provided. Selina suggested that she then take on majority ownership of the company so she could begin outsourcing work to get the program up-and-running. BlogCatalog would still be recognized as a key partner and any revenue from the program would reflect that.
And that’s where the fun began, and where BlogCatalog’s positioning seems to go off the rails a little.
Several phone calls and emails later, BlogCatalog’s position is that the IP and all other parts of IMHO belongs to them, and that all copyright and resources, designs, etc, should be returned to BlogCatalog, otherwise legal action will be taken.
Next up, BlogCatalog registers a new domain and starts diverting members of the existing IMHO site to the new one. They also forbid Selina from contacting the members she’s helped to keep informed (again under legal restrictions), and delete her account at BlogCatalog itself.
Which brings us to the current situation.
The acronym IMHO can stand for two things – either In My Honest Opinion, or In My Humble Opinion. As a blogger/brand platform, the acronym would have been perfect. As it stands in its current form and legal crapshoot, neither seem to fit.
For her part, Selina decided to walk away completely and give up her IP, brand recognition and future revenue as opposed to being involved in something that had become so tainted. Her open resignation letter to the IMHO members explains this in fuller detail.
As for BlogCatalog? One of the ways they describe themselves in their communications to IMHO members is, “BlogCatalog is about humble opinions about humble companies. Companies that don’t say one thing and do another.”
Kind of seems ironic, given the current state of play, no?
One thing’s for sure – the IMHO fiasco probably isn’t over yet and, from a blogger viewpoint, probably leaves a few questions that BlogCatalog might have to answer about openness and humility.
Something the whole IMHO program was meant to be built on…
(Disclosure. This post references Selina Eckersall, who is a personal friend and business partner. The details are from conversations we’ve had, and comments and actions from Blog Catalog CEO Tony Berkman, amongst others. I emailed Tony for his take but haven’t heard anything back yet).