From our Late to the Party Pooper desk

Novelist Jennifer Weiner filed this piece in last weekend’s New York Times Sunday Review section.

The Cost of Buying Someone’s Soul. Or Tweets.

YOU never forget your first time. Mine was 13 years ago, just after my first book came out in paperback. My literary agent called and said I’d been asked to be a “campus ambassador” for a brand of feminine-protection products. Naturally, I had questions.

“Do I have to dress up as a giant tampon?” I asked my agent.

“Um, no.”

“Could I dress up as a giant tampon?” I inquired.

“Do you want me to ask?”

“Yes! And find out if there are strings attached!”

“I’m hanging up now,” she said.

“Well, you can’t blame me,” I told her meekly. “It’s just a lot to absorb.”


Apparently, Weiner gets these requests a lot.

Last month, I was offered $20,000 to provide “a mom’s perspective” on head lice. (How do they know?) Last week, it was $15,000 to talk up a new yeast-infection cream. (How do they … wait. Never mind.)

Don’t we wish we could never mind. But the corn is off the cob, my friends.

Sponsored tweets aren’t about replacing traditional ads, but about “creating a kind of surround-sound on different platforms,” said Annie Heckenberger, a vice president at the ad agency Red Tettemer O’Connell + Partners. Even if the tweets never go viral or attract traditional media attention, getting 10 cat lovers whose candid snapshots are huge on their blogs to do sponsored posts is cheaper than buying an ad in “Catster.”

Then again, there’s nothing cheap about surround-sound celebrity tweeters.

Weiner again: “The queen of this brave new world is — no surprise — Kim Kardashian, who has more than 30 million Twitter followers, to whom she pushes everything from shoes to lip balm to her preferred brand of waist trainer (Google it). For her 140-character endorsements, Ms. Kardashian can collect a fee that’s rumored to be anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 (her publicist did not respond to a request for a comment).”

ClearLice, anyone?

John R. Carroll is media analyst for NPR's Here & Now and senior news analyst for WBUR in Boston. He also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town.
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