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December 27, 2004
Fortune Favors The Blog-Ready

Fortune Magazine published an analysis of blogs and the blogosphere, with a business rather than political viewpoint. The verdict: Corporations had better understand blogs and bloggers, or risk annihilation in the marketplace. Their first case study shows how Microsoft failed to grasp the underlying concept of blogging -- free speech -- and suffered a major blow to their credibility:

[Boing Boing blogger Xeni Jardin] titled her critique of MSN Spaces "7 Dirty Blogs" and hilariously sent up the fickle censoring filters Microsoft appeared to have built in. MSN Spaces prohibited her from starting a blog called Pornography and the Law or another entitled Corporate Whore Chronicles; yet World of Poop passed, as did the educational Smoking Crack: A How-To Guide for Teens. Within the first hour of Jardin's post, five blogs had linked to it, including the site of widely read San Jose Mercury News columnist Dan Gillmor. By the end of the day there were dozens of blogs pointing readers to "7 Dirty Blogs," a proliferation of links that over the next few weeks topped 300. There were Italian blogs and Chinese blogs and blogs in Greek, German, and Portuguese. There were blogs with names like Tie-Dyed Brain Waves, Stubborn Like a Mule, and LibertyBlog. Each added its own tweak. "Ooooh, that's what I want: a blog that doesn't allow me to speak my mind," wrote a blogger called Kung Pow Pig. The conversation had clearly gotten out of Microsoft's hands.

Or take the false-marketing approach that made Mazda the laughingstock of the savvy Internet denizens it wanted to attract:

Mazda, hoping to reach its Gen Y buyers, crafted a blog supposedly run by someone named Kid Halloween, a 22-year-old hipster who posted things like: "Tonight I am going to see Ministry and My Life With the Thrill Kill Cult. This will be a retro industrial flashback." He also posted a link to three videos he said a friend recorded off public-access TV. One showed a Mazda3 attempting to break dance, and another had it driving off a ramp like a skateboard, leading in both cases to frightening crashes. Other bloggers sensed a phony in their midstthe expensively produced videos were tip-offsand began talking about it. Suddenly Mazda wasn't being hailed; it was being reviled on widely read blogs. ...

"If you fudge or lie on a blog, you are biting the karmic weenie," says Steve Hayden, vice chairman of advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather, which creates blogs for clients. "The negative reaction will be so great that, whatever your intention was, it will be overwhelmed and crushed like a bug. You're fighting with very powerful forces because it's real people's opinions."

I wonder what other blogs Ogilvy and Mather has created for clients, and whether those blogs also try to use anonymous personas to sell product to blog readers. Fortune's analysis does not ask, but it appears that this may be a new corporate strategy to exploit the blogosphere.

It's a fascinating look into to the business aspects of blogging, an area that I haven't given much consideration until now. Give the whole piece a read.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 27, 2004 2:47 PM

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