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Monthly Archives: September 2008

The majority of this week’s reading consistently of the first eight chapters of Scoble and Israel’s “Naked Conversations.” Scoble and Israel are blog “evangelists” who adamantly believe that blogging has and will continue to revolutionize the ways in which companies market and publicize their products and brands. Specifically, they believe that “a communications revolution is underway, moving from a controlled one-way model into a decentralized interactive one” (p.27). They also clearly state that blogs are the most efficient corporate communications medium and suggest that blogging is going to replace both PR and marketing with more organic and collaborative online communication.

Interestingly, numerous companies who have successfully harnessed the power of blogging are profiled. Their successes are analyzed and recommended for adoption by other companies. The parts of the reading I found most interesting were when the authors interviewed the CEO’s of successful companies. Their unique perspectives shed a lot of credibility to the authors’ assertions.

One area I am that I am left wondering about is the idea of corporate policy surrounding blogging. As someone who works in a highly regulated industry where privacy is paramount, I cannot imagine that this revolution is going to take place without some policy in place at most corporations or organizations for liability sake. I understand what Scoble and Israel are saying when they discuss the need for open and unedited communication, but I just don’t think it is realistic. So, I decided to do a search in the internet for examples of corporate blogging policies.

Imagine my surprise when the most helpful link was to “Groundswell,” a book that we will be reading later in the semester. Looking forward to that one! This site offers sample corporate policies and codes of ethics of companies and organizations such as Google (I guess things have changed since 2005!), Harvard, and Sun Microsystems (Apparently things aren’t as free form as they used to be!).

http://blogs.forrester.com/groundswell/2004/11/blogging_policy.html

While I found Microsoft’s embrace of blogging to be admirable, I also wonder how appropriate or realistic it is to recommend this to other companies or organizations without the resources of a monolith like Microsoft. The statement “If blogging can do all this for Microsoft, think of what it can do for your company,” seems unfair given that Microsoft has a person whose job it is to keep the company’s employee blogs running effectively and making sure that all customer complaints and inquiries are responded to.

I agree with Scoble and Israel on the revolutionary potential of blogging. However, I believe that it is a piece of a larger communications and marketing plan or strategy for any company or organization. For companies like Sun, Microsoft, and Treo, it will play an increasingly important part of their strategies because such a substantial portion of their target markets are online and blogging. For companies whose primary audiences are not in the blogosphere (or are only partially in it), abandoning traditional communication and marketing strategy not only seems nonsensical but irresponsible.

Gillmor’s “We the Media” has been referenced numerous times so far throughout “Naked Conversations.” I imagine that if we had Gillmor, Scoble and Israel in the same room we would have quite the echo chamber. It would be interesting to inject some integrated marketing and communication expertise into the mix!

In the second half of Gillmor’s “We the Media,” he starts off by discussing specific examples of citizen journalism and the way it is changing and improving the field.He elaborates on the incredible rate of speed at which the internet medium is growing, evolving, and innovating.

After the first two chapters, Gillmor delves into the “evils” that lurk when using the internet as a communication tool. Specifically, he discusses personal and corporate misrepresentation, libel, plagiarism, doctoring of photos, and the lack of fact checking that often occurs with “citizen journalism.” Additionally, “trolling” by cyber attention-seekers and need to be wary of “spin” are focused on.

Furthermore, Gillmor discusses at length the libel, copyright, and trade marking laws and issues that surround the internet. Issues of jurisdiction and what constitutes free speech in different places are addressed. What is permissible on the internet as well as cases that have led to litigation are discussed.

Finally, Gillmor addresses at length his theories regarding the “evil regime” of Hollywood, government, and big business to limit freedom of speech, enhance their bottom lines, and ultimately seriously impede the innovation process.  Here is a link to an article on Tech Crunch that shows the timeliness of this discussion:

http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/09/20/is-myspace-music-an-antitrust-lawsuit-waiting-to-happen/

Strangely, Gillmor wraps up his book with a surprisingly rosy outlook on the future of the internet and citizen journalism. Having just read the previous chapter about “The Empire Strikes Back,” I found it difficult to make the leap to his suddenly positive point of view.

While Gillmor regularly talks about the need for citizen journalism to keep marketers, spin doctors, and those evil PR people honest, he only lightly touches on the trust factor of the news media. He addresses the need for Big Media to be careful as they enter this online world because they could hurt their credibility. Specifically, he says, “This act, which I consider more a certainty than a possibility, will change the news media’s trust equation, at least for a time. Will it have long-lasting impact? Only if it happens repeatedly.” (p. 189) In an effort for full disclosure, I will admit that I am not a journalist but a marketer/pr person/communicator. So, I am sensitive to his tendencies. However, here are a couple of links to blogs that articulate the media distrust that I think is already rampant in our society:

http://www.bloggernews.net/114362

http://www.dyreportents.com/2007/08/poll-us-public-distrusts-media.html

I thought the discussion about zoning was very interesting. As Gillmor points out, it is not feasible for all publications or websites to make endless versions of their output, but perhaps they could do it where possible or makes sense for liability purposes. This is an area where I wish he would have elaborated more on potential solutions and the steps or protocols that organizations should follow in the meantime. Especially for nonprofit organizations, often all you have is your good name. A lawsuit in this arena could mean the end of your mission. While he says that “unfortunately, cyberspace doesn’t have a global First Amendment written in law, even if it exits, for the most part, in practice,” I wonder how realistic an assertion like that is. There is not a global first amendment period. Why should be expect there to be one as it applies to the internet? A discussion of more tangible solutions would be great here.

Finally, while I thought Gillmor’s argument about Hollywood, government, and big business impeding innovation and creativity certainly had merit, I would have appreciated a more balanced presentation of the argument. Rather than just offering up campaign donations and bottom line greed as the impetus for the “empire’s” protectiveness, explanations of true reasons would have made the argument more valid. As I mentioned, I do not disagree with his argument but I think it just would have carried more weight if there was a more balanced presentation of both sides.

In summary, Gillmor’s book opened by eyes to many things and excited me (and scared me a little!) about the potential of the internet and citizen journalism for the future. A little more “meat” rather than what seemed to be opinion, would have strengthened his assertions even more.

The Essential Blogging chapter by Cory Doctorow et al was fairly straight forward and provided a solid foundation for setting up our own blogs this week. I especially appreciated the examples included in the chapter as well as the links to other types of blogs. However, I found their definition of “blog” left much to be desired. I went on a search of my own and found this definition to be more helpful and provide additional context:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog

I am not usually a big fan of Wikipedia for accurate information, but compared to Merriam-Webster, webopedia, and a few more, the Wikipedia definition was most helpful to me.

The first six chapters of Dan Gillmor’s “We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People” (2006) comprised the majority of our reading for this week. The readings provided an interesting history of the evolution of online journalism and the roles that the average citizen and professional journalists have played, currently play, and could potentially play in the process. Gillmor believes that the internet will transform journalism for the better due to the speed with which information is shared and the different perspectives that are being brought to the table.

Gillmor elaborates about how the internet has allowed the average citizen to become a journalist (using this term loosely) by publishing information at will. From Gillmor’s point of view, this has been a tremendous shift of power from the Big Media to the citizen journalists. I definitely agree with this assertion and I am grateful for it!

According to Gillmor, one of the primary benefits of this citizen journalism is that it is forcing the Big Media to be more honest or at least transparent. It is further discussed that this transparency is crucial for most all corporations and organizations. Gillmor also suggests that all organizations should have a blog and respond to all questions that are posed in the forum. I wonder if many companies or organizations who are adhering to this practice have hired people to do this. I would imagine it is very time-consuming.

There is also substantial information regarding the antiquity of the traditional newspaper business and commentary about how the newspaper business needs to embrace the online opportunities in order to stay afloat.

I can definitely see the benefits to citizen or grassroots journalism as Gillmor outlines them. From the citizen perspective, the benefits are clear. However, I am left wondering a bit more when it comes to the perspective of the Big Media, specifically newspapers. It appears to me that Gillmor has a lot to say about the need for newspapers to embrace online technology but has little to say in the way of concrete suggestions regarding doing just that.

Gillmor suggests that newspaper columnists need to all be writing, maintaining, and responding to blogs at all times. The benefits to the reporter include uncovering stories, being more in touch with their audience, and fact checking. According to Gillmor, the readers always know more than the journalist. As newspapers are struggling to make ends meat and lay off staff left and right, I wonder how the remaining reporters have the time to do additional duties (including online engagement).

It is addressed in the reading that Big Media does provide a substantial service to the public and that it is in all of our best interests for it to survive. But, in my opinion, Gillmor falls short in offering ideas allowing for the uninhibited success of online citizen journalism as well as Big Media.