Tuesday, October 17, 2006

When keeping up starts to seem like too much

I've been falling behind lately when it comes to keeping up.

Whether it's keeping up with mainstream news, tech news, communication news, blog posts, reading blogs, listening to podcasts, researching web design, thinking, walking the dogs -- the list just keeps growing.

This past week, the blogosphere was abuzz over news that PR firm Edelman was behind a fake blog for WalMart. It seems that everyone has a take on this and they've all been posting about it. I couldn't imagine what else I could add to the debate. So I haven't posted until now.

The furor seems to be fading, now that Richard Edelman has blogged about it and admitted what they did was wrong. But as so often happens, the fact they took a few days to say anything has added to the problem. For more on this, see Shel Holtz's insightful comments.

All I will add is that this story reinforces my already negative opinion of WalMart, which has a deserved reputation for aggressive tactics in almost every area of business. Why should taking advantage of this new social media area be any different?

What does seem surprising is that Edelman (which is touted as a PR firm that "gets" social media and has been working hard to prove it) should be involved in this. The lack of transparency in not acknowledging that their client was sponsoring the tour was a mistake and one they are paying for now. They should have known better.

Is this a case of a firm letting a valuable client sway their judgement? Or did they overlook the negative impacts this thing would have if the truth got out (as it has and as it always does)?

An interesting note to this story. While it has caused a firestorm in the blogosphere, I can't find any stories in the traditional, mainstream media. I'm not sure what that signifies, beyond the obvious concern that bloggers might be guilty of a bit of navel gazing. In an age of paid product placement in movies, at grocery stores, billboard, etc., perhaps the larger public isn't that concerned about paid placement in blog posts either.

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