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News & Views Jan 24

Shit. January is nearly over. Where’d it go!

You Gotta Pay To Play. So after a week chatting about that Ketchum thing there’s this little doozy flagged by Dan Gillmor. In a bitchy letter to Wal-Mart the erstwhile editor of the National Newspapers Association – Mike Buffington – all but says that in order to get coverage, you need to advertise. Screw having something meaningful to say, something of local interest or importance, something your readers might like to read about. No:

“So why is it that community newspapers in America are good enough to help you fend off critics with free PR, but we’re not good enough for your paid advertising?

You can’t have it both ways.

Based on a number of previous conversations I’ve had with newspaper publishers and editors across America, I don’t think you will find very many who are willing to give you the requested free PR space to fend off attacks from your corporate critics.

I believe my view is one held by many newspaper publishers: If Wal-Mart wants to communicate valuable information about itself to our readers, then you can purchase our valuable advertising space to do it.”

OK – so now we’re all clear. What’s between the ads in newspapers is PR-space and to get that all you need to do is advertise. And, if you have valuable information you’d better advertise as well. Brilliant! I’m not sure he could have crafted a more insulting letter to journalists and PR professionals.

IT Conversations has a great Podcast from the Gillmor Gang with some lucid comments by Stephen O’Grady of Redmonk. Lots of chatter on Schwartz’s blog which this last week had an interesting post on Network Intelligence.

Couple of comments on the podcast. The notion that lawyers might shut down Schwartz’s blog is, well, unlikely if not a little amusing. The Sun team is smart enough to take counsel and as Jonathan has pointed out he has to worry about SOX, fair disclosure and all those other issues a section 16 officer has to.

What the conversation does point to is a central issue facing all communictors, evangelists and managers of corporate blogs – how to ensure your obligations as an employee in a public company are considered when posting to blogs. I don’t believe the law differentiates between a personal and private blog in this respect. What it does look at is fair disclosure of material information and today, blogs are not regarded to represent fair disclosure in the same way that a wire service is.

Bloggers as Employees. So while much of the debate focuses on the difference between a journalist and a blogger, we might also start focusing on the blogger as employee… are they different from your mainstream blogger? This is a similar issue that has resulted in Apple going after ThinkSecret. Simply put, bloggers aren’t seen as journalists, blogs aren’t seen as media outlets.

Open Dialogue. Take a look at Jonathan’s latest blog, an open letter to IBM. While it would be easy to view this soley as smart PR it is something more potent – transparency. I can’t think of any more public and effective way of speaking with the Sun community and enlisting support. Dan Fraber touches on this over at ZDNet:

Sun is using blogs, open letters, Web sites, and customer testimonials as guerilla warfare, take-it-to-the-streets tools to force a much larger competitor to accede to its needs/demands. It’s becoming totally embarrassing for IBM. It’s hard to imagine how IBM can come up with any reasonable excuse that the IT community (customers) would accept and save face at this point. Given the public forum and the support Sun has built up among customers and other vendors for its request, IBM should just bite the bullet and port the apps.

At the end of the open letter, Schwartz says, “We stand at the ready to help you tear down this wall.” It’s not an epic battle of communism (Berlin Wall) versus democracy, but we can expect to see more companies using a similar tactic–using public forums rather than just backrooms to alter the course of business.

Yes, blogs will alter the course of business. But it takes the guts and savvy Schwartz is consistently willing to show for that to happen. Sun is also demonstrating a willingness to use Blogs to further what is right for it’s customers – something IBM doesn’t seem so willing to do.

Listen to the podcasts coming out of the “Blogging, Journalism and Credibility: Battleground and Common Ground” conference. David Weinberger makes some interesting points on the incompleteness of Weblogs. I find all my entries are generally incomplete – and that I do change my view as folks chat to me about my postings. David also makes the important point that Blogs are the key to having an online community:

You can’t have a weblog if your style of writing is that you finish your pieces. Therefore, anybody who works in a profession which depends on completed documents– journalism, academia, law, engineers, medicine– it is impossible to develop community. Posted on the Conference Site – not sure if he actually said this.

Accepting incompleteness is going to be a real challenge for communicators. We’re trained to write perfect, polish like crazy and present views set in stone. But central to blogging is incompleteness and community – both of which are tangental in some respect to all we have been taught.

Entertainment Break. If you love web radio, you gotta love KCRW. I’m now listening to more on my computer than on traditional radio. Tip For Communicators: Turn that staid news site into a fully-fledged broadcast channel. Feedroom is a great and economical way to get going.

Opensource AnalystsAlex Barnett and Tom Murphy have more detailed posts on Redmonk’s recent moves. Stephen O’Grady – the other half of Redmonk has five pointers on why the open source analyst model might work:

1. Open Source is as Applicable to Industry Analysis as it is to Software

2. Great Ideas Come Can Come from Anyone

3. The Group Mind is Smarter than the Individual

4. An Idea’s Power is Proportional to Its Audience

5. Proprietary Analysis is a Myth

6. Open Source is About More than Source Code

Blogging Ethics. Some interesting ideas on blogging ground-rules and ethics and a story over at AP.

Great Graphic. I’ve been a big evangelist of PR people using graphics to tell stories. Here’s a great example of a graphic that tells a story.

Hardball. A great incentive to read the book from Fast Company. Tom Peters hated it – which is a stunner in so far as Tom’s positive on just about everything. Here are some of the tenets of playing Hardball:

Unleash Massive and Overwhelming Force. After Eagle Snacks grabbed a 6% share of the salty-snack business, Frito-Lay responded with an all-out war of quality improvements and price cuts. Eagle ultimately folded.

Threaten Your Competitor’s Profit Sanctuaries. First, Japanese automakers attacked the U.S. car market, capturing more and more share while the Big Three gorged themselves on profits from SUVs. Now the Japanese are moving aggressively into that market.

Take It and Make It Your Own. In other words: borrow, mimic, copy. Microsoft does it, of course. But so does Ryanair, which has copied Southwest Airlines and transformed the airline industry in Europe.

Break Compromises. Don’t go along to get along. If everybody in your business is closed on Sunday because, well, that’s the custom, you should open your doors

Keynote week… I’ve been working hard on my Keynote for the NewComm Forum this week. Really looking forward to it. WIll post notes, thoughts, copy of the preso and transcript here later in the week.

Have a good one!

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