Bloggers Form Lynch Mobs, Prove Forbes Right

When I was younger, I loved the cheesy "When Animals Attack!" television shows that were the standard fare on FOX. Well, sometimes Bloggers can act like animals, attacking others when their young (the Blogs) are attacked.

Case in point: Forbes' article on blogs, which does take a page from FOX. The bloggers attack on Forbes pretty much proves Forbes' point: attack if you don't agree.

The articles in BusinessWeek and Fortune were fawning articles, very pro-Blogs. Probably too pro-Blogs from two publications that are known for presenting both sides of an issue. Now, we get the other side from Forbes, and Bloggers can't take the criticism. While the article does take a negative tone, there are points that needed to be addressed, very valid points.

But, the attacks on Forbes? Give me a break. The issue here is that Forbes is right. When Nick Denton was interviewed by the New York Times in May, he noted that blogs are inherently negative. Hmm, somewhat the point that Forbes is proving.

From the story are a few gems that seem to prove Forbes' point.

"Bloggers are more of a threat than people realize, and they are only going to get more toxic. This is the new reality," says Peter Blackshaw, chief marketing officer at Intelliseek, a Cincinnati firm that sifts through millions of blogs to provide watch-your-back service to 75 clients, including Procter & Gamble and Ford.
You know, instead of PR bloggers attacking this article, we should be embracing this article because it proves a valuable point for our industry: that corporations need to be aware of what is being said out there.

This is what PR should be counseling. That corporations need to be aware of what is being said out there, the "new reality" as Pete Blackshaw noted in the article. This is what PR is supposed to shine at, counseling clients, monitoring what is being said out there, and providing a strategy to respond. Not to whine that one magazine is wrong and to ignore it - we ignore anything at our own peril. Or, take a page from the Forbes sidebar, and fight back, although that is a not a good way to describe being aware and some of the advice on the list is best ignored.

To quote another blogger, but to give good advice - the type of advice companies can actually use: My message to Corporate America is simple. Listen to Forbes. Take a look around the blogosphere for yourself and you will find real humans - good, bad and ugly.

Update: the story is tops on Memeorandum now, and Om Malik has a good, historical and used-to-work there view, and Doc Searls has a good and balanced post.


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14 comments

  1. Excellent post. Companies that are not doing blog monitoring (and PR professionals that are not counseling them to do do it) are taking a huge risk.

    I like to say that if a medium to large sized company had ten picketers marching out in front of their headquarters, they'd pick up the phone and call their PR firm immediately. No question - this is crisis communication 101. And PR would be in charge.

    But the same thing is happening online. Blogs, message boards and newsgroups are the communities where consumers and customers are talking with one another - and to your point, Jeremy, often negatively. And many companies are not waking up to this important fact. Nor are they (and their marketing firms) monitoring these online communities.

    Adam Brown

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  2. GREAT post. Totally dead-on. Bloggers jumping on this piece of journalism have to retract the knee. Just take a step back.

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  3. Donna Tocci1:04 PM

    Someone that sees both sides...that's refreshing. Thanks, Jeremy.

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  5. I took a similar position to you but from a British perspective at: AccMan

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  6. Jeremy,

    Thanks for your cogent and sensible comments about the Forbes story. I've blogged something along the same lines and referenced your post.

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  7. Hey Jeremy, I don't think our BW cover story was exactly "fawning." The point was that business had to pay attention to blogs, because they were powerful, not inherently good or bad. We tried to get past the polemics with the lead:
    It's time for a frank talk. And no, it can't wait. We know, we know: Most of you are sick to death of blogs. Don't even want to hear about these millions of online journals that link together into a vast network. And yes, there's plenty out there not to like. Self-obsession, politics of hate, and the same hunger for fame that has people lining up to trade punches on The Jerry Springer Show. Name just about anything that's sick in our society today, and it's on parade in the blogs. On lots of them, even the writing stinks.

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  8. I have to disagree with you on this one. It is not merely that the article was hysterical, it was also that it offered spectacularly bad advice. Companies who let themselves be guided by that article are going to shoot themselves in the foot.

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  9. Well, it's better advice than ignoring the Forbes article 100 percent, which other bloggers are calling for. You read the article - heck, you read any article or blog post - with some scepticism, and find the information that is valuable.

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  10. "The bloggers attack on Forbes pretty much proves Forbes' point: attack if you don't agree."

    That's funny... I'd venture to say that most bloggers would consider their response to the article as just being their opinion. And that seems to be the problem, doesn't it?

    Without an editorial structure or advertising revenue to hold them in check, bloggers have the freedom to give their explicit opinions. From a blogger's perspective, there is no side to the issue at all. We, individually, express our perspectives, opinions, etc. on a variety of issues and interests.

    The only network in play is the technology of the internet; Google and Technorati pagerank, etc. If Forbes and the rest of the corporate stiffs actually leveraged technology like bloggers, they'd have the same opportunities to participate in the network. But they won't participate because they're steered by execs with potential cash money to lose in a closed, top/down business model. There's too much risk to open up like that.

    Forbes and Lyons were swinging for kneecaps and giving similar directions. That's why bloggers were up in arms.

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  11. Lyons put a stick in a hornets' nest with entirely predictable results. Not only that, he recommends that others do likewise. We would be irresponsible not to point out the folly of this.

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  12. Hi Jeremy,

    Shel Israel has a hysterical post here:

    http://redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2005/10/an_open_letter__1.html

    I hope Dan Lyons/Forbes follow-up on the response from the blogosphere.

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  13. Bravo Jeremy. FYI, Sam Whitmore posted a podcast late on Tuesday of a phone interview with Daniel Lyons. Dan speaks out about the article. I just posted some excerpts on my blog.

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  14. Er, late Wednesday. Anyway...

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