I’m known for taking on sacred cows, and that has earned me many foes. But I also have support from a sizable population that relies on me to be real in a city famed for artifice.
The latter, however, were disappointed and baffled by my August 18 column heralding brothers Bill Cody (@VegasBill) and Chris Rauschnot (@24k) as new media pioneers. The duo have parlayed an apparently huge Twitter following into coveted spaces on red carpets and seats at press conferences, and that pleased me because I’ve long advocated for respect for podcasters, bloggers and the like. Yet I was too eager to bestow such credit on these guys. At first I thought critics of that column were just jealous of the brothers, but now the scales have fallen from my eyes.
Cody and Rauschnot, you see, aren’t tilling new soil. They’re actually a very familiar Vegas breed, the sort of freeloaders who make it more difficult for real media vanguards to be taken seriously by either publicists or the public.
Shortly after that column ran, it was brought to my attention that while Cody and Rauschnot told me they didn’t claim to be “journalists,” they do, in fact, use that very term in some of their online material. That bugged me, but they still had such broad followings—Cody had about 40,000 followers and Rauschnot about 50,000—and had earned a place on a fairly well-respected list of the nation’s most influential tweeters.
But on January 3, Cody sent out this via his @VegasBill account: “Hmm, do you think I don’t watch who unfollows? Well, latest is @stationcasinos. Smart for a casino brand in Las Vegas?”
Whoa. This was a digital-age version of “Do-You-Know-Who-I-Am?” I retweeted it because it was so odd, but Cody thought I sided with him and privately huffed to me: “Some wonder why Las Vegas is having a diff economic time. Some casinos don’t prioritize social media.” In other words, indulging Bill and Chris are the panacea for the Great Recession! (An apologetic @stationcasinos, by the way, sheepishly tweeted later that the unfollow was an accident.)
Then, last Friday, Rauschnot exposed the duo in full: “So it’s @VegasBill’s birthday early next week. Any #Vegas hotels or venues want to help us celebrate? Family is flying in. :)” I could no longer remain silent, so I asked publicly if they could be any more blatant. Rauschnot replied in a since-deleted tweet, “Ya sometimes it takes a blatant request.” I wrote back: “For what, freeloading?”
Rauschnot then claimed he was only asking Vegas resorts to tweet his brother a birthday greeting. I couldn’t bear it. I asked folks on Twitter and Facebook how they read the initial tweet, and after the prevailing view was that they were asking for freebies, Rauschnot wrote back: “Unfortunately the people responding are those that don’t care for [or] appreciate any of the tweets I do for the city, venues etc.”
He later deleted that remark, too, but it’s now all laid bare. The brothers believe that they have a significant influence and may demand special treatment or menacingly forewarn those who deny them.
But I’m now not even sure they even have an impact. Some of their followers are “bots,” the Twitter equivalent of automated spammers. Also, strangely, since my August column, their numbers have barely grown. Their tweets, which are fairly constant, seem to spur little action, either; I get more views per photo I post than they do and I have fewer than 3,500 followers. What’s more, when they mention me, I rarely gain a single new follower, implying a very low level of engagement. By contrast, when Holly Madison does so, it’s good for about 40 new tweeps within minutes.
I’ve heard repeatedly that my August column legitimized these guys and forced publicists to deal with them despite suspicions that they’re ineffective and boorish. Now I’m sorry, and I hope that this piece may do the opposite.
The jig is up, fellas. Spread the word.