Elle Darby vs. Paul Stenson : Who Won Bloggergate?

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The Internet has been abuzz for the past week over Bloggergate – the online tiff between social media influencer Elle Darby and Paul Stenson, proprietor of Dublin’s White Moose Café and Charleville Lodge Hotel.

It has divided people – some people supporting her, some supporting Paul, and many just munching on popcorn watching the drama.

It’s been interesting to see the comments from both sides, so we decided to share our 2 cents on this controversy. This is a long post, so feel free to skip what you already know :


The Bloggergate Saga : Elle Darby vs. Paul Stenson

Here is a blow-by-blow account for those who missed the drama…

Elle Darby Emails The White Moose Café

It all kicked off with this email Elle Darby sent The White Moose Café, requesting a free stay in return for exposure.

Paul Stenson shared it with the world, with her name, YouTube channel and Instagram account blanked out.

Elle Darby vs. Paul Stenson Bloggergate : Who Won?

16 January : How About No

Paul Stenson shared her email (above), and posted his reply publicly on The White Moose Café Facebook page :

Dear Social Influencer (I know your name but apparently it’s not important to use names),

Thank you for your email looking for free accommodation in return for exposure. It takes a lot of balls to send an email like that, if not much self-respect and dignity.

If I let you stay here in return for a feature in your video, who is going to pay the staff who look after you? Who is going to pay the housekeepers who clean your room? The waiters who serve you breakfast? The receptionist who checks you in? Who is going to pay for the light and heat you use during your stay? The laundering of your bed sheets? The water rates? Maybe I should tell my staff they will be featured in your video in lieu of receiving payment for work carried out while you’re in residence?

Lucky for us, we too have a significant social media following. We have 186k followers on our two Facebook pages, an estimated 80k on our Snapchat, 32k on Instagram and a paltry 12k on our Twitter, but Jesus Christ, I would never in a million years ask anyone for anything for free. I also blog a bit (www.paulvstenson.com), which as far as I’m aware is another way of saying “write stuff on the internet”. The above stats do not make me any better than anyone else or afford me the right to not pay for something everyone else has to pay for.

In future, I’d advise you to offer to pay your way like everyone else, and if the hotel in question believes your coverage will help them, maybe they’ll give you a complimentary upgrade to a suite. This would show more self-respect on your part and, let’s face it, it would be less embarrassing for you. Here is a little video I produced which you may learn from: http://bit.ly/2mKTDTD

Best regards,

Paul Stenson

P.S. The answer is no.

That Facebook post went viral, getting shared thousands of times.

16 January : Elle Darby – I Was Exposed!

Even though Paul Stenson did not directly identify her, Elle Darby immediately took to YouTube to vent her feelings, and cry out to her fans for support.

17 January : Trollolol

Taking opportunity of the virality of the drama, Paul Stenson started to troll bloggers (even though Elle Darby is really a social media influencer).


Dear bloggers,

Following the incident today in which one of your members was clearly hurt and distressed about having to pay for something like everyone else, I would like to make a statement.

I am so sorry that I have waited until now to mobilise you in numbers and I am kicking myself that I didn’t think about you before now. If each one of you is pissed off, and you all have your individual following (no matter how small), there is a fair chance that you will all speak badly to your followers about us which will result in a huge number of people hearing about our brand collectively.

I am so sorry that I didn’t think of you guys until now. You are a much more lucrative group of people to piss off than the vegans and the gluten intolerant combined.

Thank you for all your hard work and don’t forget to continue to spread the word about our business!

Many thanks,


P.S. I hope all your followers are real and not bought! No point speaking to Mohammad in Istanbul about how horrible we are! Cheers!

We have to wonder if that reference to Mohammad in Istanbul was necessary since the Turkish people do visit Ireland.

No, Paul, the Turks are not uncouth barbarians who have never travelled overseas.

17 January : Bloggers Get Banned

Probably to capitalise on the media coverage, Paul Stenson proceeded to ban all bloggers from The White Moose Café and the Charleville Lodge Hotel.

Ironically, he earlier identified himself as a blogger as well…


Following the backlash received after asking an unidentified blogger to pay for a hotel room, I have taken the decision to ban all bloggers from our hotel and cafe.

The sense of entitlement is just too strong in the blogging community and the nastiness, hissy fits and general hate displayed after one of your members was not granted her request for a freebie is giving your whole industry a bad name. I never thought we would be inundated with negative reviews for the simple reason that somebody was required to pay for goods received or services rendered.

The girl in question was never identified in my original post, but she herself went on to create a video explaining how she was “exposed” with “malicious intent” for asking for a freebie. This kind of victimization is very prevalent in the blogging industry, and is in keeping with their general modus operandi of wanting everything for nothing.

If any of you attempt to enter our premises from now on, you will be ejected.

Many thanks,

Paul Stenson

P.S. Perhaps if you went out and got real jobs you’d be able to pay for goods and services like everybody else. Just a thought!

This is really just drama and/or viral marketing on Paul’s part because bloggers don’t walk around with the words “I’m a blogger” on their foreheads.

18 January : More Trolling

Enjoying the limelight, Paul Stenson continued to troll bloggers for more free publicity.


I’d just like to say a huge thanks to all the bloggers for their hard work over the past two days. The publicity you’ve given us is absolutely priceless. But don’t worry bloggers, your work won’t going unnoticed. It will be featured in my book ‘How To Get Worldwide Publicity Without Spending A Cent’. I’m even thinking of dedicating a full chapter to you guys, including screenshots of some of your most entertaining public tweets, Facebook posts and negative reviews. It will be some chapter!

Keep the hateful comments and reviews coming and, you never know, it could be you who is featured in the book.

Thank you bloggers, I really appreciate this.


P.S. You’re still barred.

19 January : A Tweet Too Far

Paul Stenson revealed that their Twitter account was temporarily banned by Twitter for sending Aldi a tweet about messages from one of their employees.

Elle Darby vs. Paul Stenson Bloggergate : Who Won?

Emily Spilling should not have called Paul names, but to attempt to get her fired for a personal comment by private message?

That’s a tweet too far, we think, and Twitter seems to think so too.

20 January : Even More Trolling

Riding the wave of fame / infamy, Paul Stenson continued to troll bloggers, even though his original target was a social media influencer, not a blogger.

  • Elle Darby vs. Paul Stenson Bloggergate : Who Won?
  • Elle Darby vs. Paul Stenson Bloggergate : Who Won?


Our Two Cents On Bloggergate

Here are our opinions on this drama, which are just as relevant and irrelevant as everyone else’s…

Buyer Willing, Seller Willing

There was really NOTHING WRONG with Elle Darby’s proposition. We may not understand or like how social media influencers operate, but there is nothing fundamentally wrong for anyone to make someone else an offer.

Unlike what Paul Stenson and many people think, it is NOT demeaning for Elle to offer her services in return for the hotel’s services. It is NOT free if a service is being offered in return.

We may argue about that the value of both services or how they are disproportionate, but what she proposed is a barter trade of services. In that sense, she cannot be considered a freeloader.

On the other hand, Elle and her supporters need to understand that there is NOTHING WRONG for Paul to reject Elle’s proposal. It is a buyer-willing, seller-willing situation.

He could have been nicer in his reply, but it is also his RIGHT to be nasty or sarcastic in his reply. It’s not illegal to be an asshole or a troll.

The Email Expose

Elle Darby alleged that Paul Stenson was wrong in sharing her email because it was “written in confidentiality”.

Well, there is no presumption of confidentiality in any email. It was not like a hacker intercepted the email and posted it. Paul, the rightful recipient of that email, posted it.

Arguably, Paul should have also blanked the parts “an early Valentine day weekend from Feb 8th – 12th” and “Universal Orlando“, because they can be easily used to identify the influencer he was referring to.

Because he left them there, Elle naturally felt she was exposed by his exposé, because anyone in her industry can quickly identify her as the influencer being roasted by The White Moose Café.

Influence Peddling Not Quite Unethical… Yet

There are comments that Elle Darby is being unethical, selling good reviews for freebies. That isn’t actually true. There is a difference between influence peddling / celebrity endorsements, and REVIEWS.

The former merely relies on the influencer or celebrity promoting a service or business to his/her fans and followers. It can come in the form of an advertisement, a Facebook post, an Instagram photo or even a blog post, but nothing negative is ever said because it’s pure PROMOTION.

REVIEWS, on the other hand, are completely different. Actual reviewers will have to try to be honest about their experience, telling us about the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of a product or service.

In short, it’s definitely wrong to get paid to write a good review, but it’s not unethical (at the moment) for celebrities and influencers to promote products and services (whether they’re good or not) to their fans and followers.

Elle Darby Should Have Done Her Homework

Elle Darby should have done her homework. Businesses generally work with social media influencers because they have poor reach on social media.

As Paul Stenson pointed out in his first post, The White Moose Café and Charleville Lodge Hotel have a large social media following.

Elle’s popularity and influence actually pales in comparison to theirs, so why on earth would Paul need her help?

Universal Orlando may have needed her help with social media, but obviously not Paul.

Elle Darby + Paul Stenson : Such Prima Donnas

Elle Darby should not have posted that rant video. Even if she’s super popular, she comes across as a self-entitled prima donna. She should have taken the high road, and politely thanked Paul for reading her email and considering her proposal.

Paul Stenson didn’t take the high road either, “banning” bloggers to his hotel and cafe. What was that about? It may have been an effort at viral marketing, but it also demonstrated a lack of professionalism.

It is one thing to reject (even sarcastically) a proposal he didn’t like, it’s quite another thing to refuse to serve an ENTIRE community / group of people because of who they are, or what they represent.

How is that any different from another hotel refusing to serve LGBT couples, or people of the coloured persuasion? Was that why he referred to Mohammad from Istanbul in a troll post?


So Who Won Bloggergate – Elle Darby or Paul Stenson?

So who won Bloggergate? Let’s see…

Elle Darby : Won On Reach, Lost Some Reputation

If Paul’s post was not bad enough, Elle Darby looked really bad after she posted that video ode to self-entitlement. She saved herself though by keeping quiet after that post, and Paul’s continued assault. If she’s smart, she will just keep mum, and let him continue.

Elle Darby gained an INCREDIBLE REACH with that video though, gaining over 1.4 million views which will translate into a nice chunk of ad revenue. That’s a HUGE WIN for someone who only averages 20-30K views per video.

She even gained 7,000+ new subscribers from the controversy. A solid 8% boost. Not bad!

Paul Stenson : Won BIG On Reach, Lost Some Reputation

Paul came out way on top at first. Heck, he dedicated a solid paragraph to his staff welfare! It helped too that those visiting The White Moose Café Facebook page saw him taking his staff on a trip to Disneyland. That’s a really nice guy right there.

But when he started to veer into attacking bloggers (instead of social media influencers), and banning them in an ill-advised post, he lost some respect. It’s one thing to attack a particular person for trying to “leech off” the establishment and staff, it’s quite another thing to attack a whole group for one person’s mistake… especially when that group (bloggers) has nothing to do with the social media influencer he was feuding with.

Granted, many people were throwing hate at him and his establishments, but that’s the nature of social media – it brings out the worst in humanity. As a proficient social media user, he should know that very well. Those who can’t stand the heat should get out of the kitchen.

But like Elle Darby, he too benefited from the media coverage. In fact, he WON BIG, receiving A TON of FREE online coverage. That will definitely drive traffic to his establishments, unless he overreaches with his persistent trolling.

Before this Bloggergate blew up, most of the world have never heard of The White Moose Café or the Charleville Lodge Hotel. Now, even Mohammad from Istanbul can tell you all about how a social media influencer got scorched trying to cop a free stay and meal there.

The Internet : So WOW. Much Popcorn.

The Internet got a dose of free drama, at the expense of everyone involved. And a new opportunity to prove how snarky, petty and vindictive they can be.


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