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When A Blogger Meets Public Relations 193

fermion writes "The New York Times is running a story on the evolving relationship between PR departments and bloggers, specifically between the Wal*Mart PR people and sympathetic bloggers. The interesting thing in this story is not so much the astroturfing, which is old news, but the transformation of blogging from a personal statement to a corporate bullhorn. The bloggers mentioned in the story, who presumably are able to articulate their own opinions, received Wal*Mart email and began to simply copy the PR text into the blogs. What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the puppetmaster's email?"
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When A Blogger Meets Public Relations

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  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:18PM (#14866835)
    Good question.

  • What is the use? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eli Gottlieb ( 917758 ) <> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:18PM (#14866836) Homepage Journal
    What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the puppetmaster's email?

    What is the use of a newspaper that just reports government press releases almost verbatim?
    What is the use of a television channel if it copies its programming from somewhere else?
    What is the use of a boy band just like every other boy band?

    The mainstream media and blogs are beginning to watch over each other reciprocally. This is a good thing. It means that if either lies or fucks up, the other pounces down its throat.

    Three (tentative) cheers for a free press?
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:19PM (#14866846) Homepage
    People still tend to want to believe anything they read, but they shouldn't and routinely need to be reminded of that fact. Most importantly, people need to either accept what they read from various sources may not be true or accurate and be open to opposing information at any time, or learn to do their own fact checking and not accept anything as fact until fact checking confirms information.

    Only those who are already skeptical will do that... the rest of us are simply too lazy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:20PM (#14866849)
    Some people are "sympathetic" to Wal*Mart???

    I'm sympathetic to wounded puppies, starving people, oppressed subcultures, the sick, the dying, abused children, and so on.. but multinational corporations are just not something I can rouse the neccessary emotional response to sympathise with.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:22PM (#14866872)
    We all know that "journalists" do this all the time. They quote from PR releases, and use video footage in their news reports.

    Why shouldn't bloggers do this as well?
  • Re:Nothing new (Score:3, Insightful)

    by garcia ( 6573 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:23PM (#14866881)
    I thought it was common knowledge that a large portion of bloggers (the majority?) simply copy text from elsewhere as their "blog".

    The only time that I copy/paste stuff into the posts on my site is when I'm directly quoting a source or posting a copy of an e-mail from staff members or inviduals that opted to e-mail me directly instead of posting a comment.

    Take for example the comments from the Copper Bleu Training Manager [] regarding my disappointment in their Guinness Pours or the comments from a comic in training at Acme Comedy Company [].

    The rest of the time my thoughts and writings are my own worthlessness. I personally don't know any other local bloggers that copy much content. I guess I only read the worthwhile ones?
  • Pot, kettle, etc. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amliebsch ( 724858 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:24PM (#14866886) Journal
    Fascinating that a newspaper would run such a story, considering the huge numbers of newpaper articles that are barely rewritten press releases from special interest groups and politicians.
  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:25PM (#14866891)
    Wal-Mart was found out to be exploiting [] the US taxpayer by not providing adequate health benefits to its employees. How did they do this? They simply printed out instructions (in Spanish and English) to direct their employees to the nearest free clinic in the area.

    Illegal? Maybe. Unethical?

    Now that you know how they dodge their health costs, you can enjoy an article about the richest Americans. Five of the Richest Americans [] are Wal-Mart's owners and relatives of owners.
    Maybe we should ask the Waltons how they feel about exploiting US Taxpayers?
    Blogs that just repeat Wal-Mart PR, are not blogs, they are PR for Wal-Mart. This is done order to help continue their ways of exploiting their workers and the system.
  • Re:Nothing new (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rewinn ( 647614 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:26PM (#14866904) Homepage

    In the old days six months ago ... there was a percerption that blogs were expressions of the blogger's personal observations. WalMartBlog has revealed what you may have always suspected: it can be hard to tell whoring from true love.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:27PM (#14866906)
    Now we have shills on the internet, who cares. Just because it's online doesn't make any statements more true then anywhere else. In order to have a "voice of quality" you must first earn your reputation. The number of dullards who "read it on the internet, so it must be true" is thankfully getting smaller, as they knw to search for multiple sources of the same information.. and maybe read TFA once in awhile.

    I've read more than a few things and knew I was reading a corporate blow hole, and not a genuine opinon.
  • the collage effect (Score:3, Insightful)

    by barutanseijin ( 907617 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:30PM (#14866939)
    I'm a little skeptical about blogging myself, and like you say, much/most of it isn't terribly original. However, I think that if there is some value to blogging, it probably comes from the selection and arrangement of the texts that bloggers choose.

    It's like a collage. The material within a collage comes from elsewhere and is "simply" pasted in, yet the overall effect is something greater than the mechanically reproduced parts. The problem here seems to be that Walmart are choosing the texts more than the bloggers, and with the bloggers slapping in great slabs of Walmart PR copy, there isn't a whole lot to differentiate these blogs from Walmart propaganda.

    Unfortunately, there isn't any magic formula that can give us a 100% definitive answer about whether a blog is just propaganda or an interesting collation of texts gleaned from elsewhere. You have to look at them, read them, and decide for yourself.

  • by hal2814 ( 725639 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:32PM (#14866950)
    Even if they're not released directly from the special interest group/politician, newspapers have a tendency to all run the exact same AP story that every other paper is running on many national issues. Often copying it verbatim or cutting it down to fit the space needed.
  • by bj8rn ( 583532 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:46PM (#14867074)
    In short, it's anything you want it to be. A blog is really nothing else than just a way of organizing and publishing web content; only a bit more structured than a "traditional" personal website. I use mine (not going to link it here) to post short fiction and essays to entertain my friends. But there are many other uses besides this. You can do this [], for instance. Or this []. Or even this [] or this []. As you can see, there's quite a lot of ways you can use a blog.
  • Or rather... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by endrue ( 927487 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:46PM (#14867078)
    What is the use of slashdot if submitters are just going to copy sentences and sentiments FTA?"
  • by srussell ( 39342 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:57PM (#14867194) Homepage Journal
    but multinational corporations are just not something I can rouse the neccessary emotional response to sympathise with.

    I hate Walmart, or, rather, I hate Walmart management. They're terrible community citizens -- in fact, if Walmart was a person, it'd have been in and out of jail for most of its life due to a habitual tendancy for vandalizm and assault.

    Also, I agree with you -- corporations are *not* living entities. I sympathize with my television more than I sympathize with any corporation.

    That said, I think that most people who feel sympathy with the company are really feeling sympathy with:

    • Their own pocket book ("Walmart has great prices! One stop shopping!")
    • They are feeling sympathetic to all of the people that Walmart employs, who might not have jobs otherwise

    The main problem with the humanist sympathizers is that they're entirely ignorant about, or they choose to ignore, how shitty Walmart treats the people who work for it. It is similar to justifying sweat-shops by saying that the people are better off being raped than they are starving. The fact that often gets ignored is that these aren't non-profit organizations. There are plenty of fat (figuratively) fucks at the top who are getting rich while they figure out new ways of screwing their employees out of benefits.

    Despite the rant, I do think that there are people who are simply ignorant, and do believe that Walmart is a good thing for the jobs it brings into communities.

    --- SER

  • by raitchison ( 734047 ) <> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:12PM (#14867367) Homepage Journal

    I'll agree with you in general, though there have been a couple of recent incidences recently where Wal-Mart has wanted to open a store in a severely depressed area that already has super high unemployment and most businesses wouldn't consider going into (because of high crime rates - we got your vicious cycle right here).

    Sure the Wal-Mart jobs would be shitty McJobs but personally I'd rather have a shitty McJob than be on welfare.

    In any case the times it's happened around here the unions (which pretty much control most city governments in this area) got legislation passed that pretty effectively blocked Wal-Mart from moving in, I guess they think it's better to have unemployment than have non-union jobs.

  • by mstone ( 8523 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:15PM (#14867404)
    This is news?

    The whole point of unregulated speech is that people are free to abuse it. Some will be trolls, some will be corporate shills, some will be flat-out wackos, and almost all of them will be biased as hell. For all the crap some Slashdotters like to talk about bloggers being 'journalists', there's no set of standards or ethics that bloggers are required -- or even expected -- to obey.

    When people decide to turn off their critical thinking skills and just accept whatever they read on some blog they've never seen before, they're stupid. End of story. Making a big deal out of the fact that bloggers don't self-organize into an ethical and reliable news system is equally stupid. Both these principles fall on the 'obvious' scale somewhere near, "hey look: air."
  • by xmas2003 ( 739875 ) * on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @08:47PM (#14871482) Homepage
    The guy extensively quoted in the NYT piece chimes in with his two cents here [] - good reading IF you want to hear the their side of the story.

I use technology in order to hate it more properly. -- Nam June Paik