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When A Blogger Meets Public Relations

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the protons-and-anti-protons dept.

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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Nothing new (4, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866823)

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.

Wait, I don't understand. This is news? I thought it was common knowledge that a large portion of bloggers (the majority?) simply copy text from elsewhere as their "blog". Take Digg [digg.com] as an example. Digg integrates with many blogging services, allowing users to write commentary on the story, and link back to the Digg page from their blog. The feature is quite popular as most of the front page stories have a "blog" attached to them.

Now with such a feature, you would expect each blogger to provide insightful commentary on the issue at hand, right? Wrong. The majority of the blogs do nothing more than replicate the exact text from the Digg story. Not only are these blogs redundant, but they add another level of indirection to anyone who might happen upon them. ("Oh, so I go from blog, to Digg, to Link, right?") Ok, so the better blogs have a direct link AND a Digg link. But this is really nothing more than sydication of rather fluffy content.

Here's a few examples of what I'm talking about:

http://nik-hil.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]
http://www.r00tware.com/ [r00tware.com]
http://hackerslife.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]
http://www.petesblog.com/ [petesblog.com]

These are examples of "real" blogs with sydicated Digg content mixed in:

http://jacobsonster.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]
http://howgoodisthis.wordpress.com/ [wordpress.com]

Now these blogs aren't entirely without value. In many cases, it's a way of aligning your tastes with those of a particular blogger. i.e. That blogger only links to articles you want to know about. It's also good for the site that's being Dugg, as they have more links to their site.

But no, there's nothing magically articulate about bloggers. Plenty of them are happy to syndicate.

Re:Nothing new (4, Informative)

grazzy (56382) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866851)

Digg has a feature called "blog" this that just copies the blog summary to your blog verbatim. It makes it very easy todo what these guys are doing.

Re:Nothing new (2, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 [lazylightning.org] regarding my disappointment in their Guinness Pours or the comments from a comic in training at Acme Comedy Company [lazylightning.org].

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?

Sometimes serves a purpose (3, Interesting)

LeonGeeste (917243) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866894)

Blogs are good at connecting to people that are hard to reach. Many of these people otherwise would not have found the press release. By repeating the contained information, they reach these viewers. So yes, the blog still servers a purpose -- by connecting those with a message, to those who may be interested in that message.

Re:Nothing new (2, Insightful)

rewinn (647614) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866904)

In the old days ...like 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.

the collage effect (3, Insightful)

barutanseijin (907617) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:the collage effect (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867342)

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.

What should be 100% definitive, though, is that even lazy, disingenuous fanboyism is *not* "astroturfing".

Re:the collage effect (1)

Absentminded-Artist (560582) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867672)

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.

I don't know what blogs you've been reading, but there are hundreds of original content blogs out there. I publish a weekly column at my blog about ADHD, Depression, etc. [blogspot.com] and how to deal with it - all original content. I scan dozens of original content blogs via RSS daily and I find more every week. None of them paste copy from elsewhere.

That's not to say that the regurgitators aren't out there. I just ignore them. Perhaps you've been following only tech blogs? They're notorious for being nothing more than PR, product announcement, and link hounds. Gets very boring after a while. When you venture out into niche topics you begin to encounter more original content, and I don't mean personal blogs where people contemplate their navel and discuss the fluff they pulled out of it this morning.

The trick is to find a blog with original content and then see who they link to. To streamline that use a site like http://technorati.com/ [technorati.com] to search for specific topics. I just discovered artblogs this week. Some are better than others, but the ones that stand out are rewarding for me to read. Who knows what niche I'll discover next month. Blogging is exploding out away from the typical political and tech topics. It's rather exciting, IMO.

I agree that a lot of blogs aren't terribly original, but the one's that have value to me don't collage other people's content. I'd recommend digging deeper into blogs before dismissing them, and start by stepping away from the A-listers.

Re:Nothing new (1)

prgrmr (568806) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867693)

But no, there's nothing magically articulate about bloggers. Plenty of them are happy to syndicate.

That is true; however, there's a difference between legit syndication and what the Slashdot story had to say with this:

What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the puppetmaster's email?"

For too many so-called bloggers, it's not at all about content, or even being heard, it's simply about being recognized. Almost everyone wants their 15 minutes, and many aren't particular about how they get it (not that many really are).

I doubt I'm the only person who is bothered that the "Dance monkey, Dance!" (supposed) path to fame is so heavily traveled.

"What is the use of a blog. . .?" (2, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866835)

Good question.

KFG

Re:"What is the use of a blog. . .?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14867068)

I can't see that much use for blogging either. However, when US media are too chickenshit to have anyone in Falujah in 2004, there were bloggers. When Znet posts an innacurate technical article, there are bloggers. Expert and eyewitness bloggers are interesting. I just can't stand armchair bloggers. Round them up, put them in a field, and bomb the bastards.

Re:"What is the use of a blog. . .?" (2, Insightful)

bj8rn (583532) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 [jayisgames.com], for instance. Or this [boingboing.net]. Or even this [3quarksdaily.com] or this [breaksblog.biz]. As you can see, there's quite a lot of ways you can use a blog.

Re:"What is the use of a blog. . .?" (1)

bj8rn (583532) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867130)

And I cannot belive I totally forgot about this one [slashdot.org]!

Re:"What is the use of a blog. . .?" (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867338)

Hack is gone. His blog had a clear and necessary use and the Wonkette cannot replace him.

KFG

Re:"What is the use of a blog. . .?" (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867316)

. . .it's anything you want it to be.

The question was not what is a blog, which is also an interesting question in its own right, but what is the use of a blog.

It's a question everyone contemplating starting a blog should have a clear answer to before going on with things; and the very reason I do not have one is because I have never been able to formulate a clear answer.

KFG

+1 funny (1)

BigChiefMunkey (870488) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867540)

Damn. I wish I had some mod points today. I understand that there are some news-oriented blogs (like /., engadget, etc.) that are relatively useful, but I would hazard that a vast vast majority of blogspot or myspace types are just normal people using them as whining platforms and their little grabble for the spotlight/attention. Also, copy/pasting content from other blogs/sites does not a good writer make. Nor does it make you any more useful. If you need a vent-journal, write it down. You're going to feel like an idiot when your kids are mining "the old internet" for your crybaby rants.

What is the use? (5, Insightful)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866836)

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?

Re:What is the use? (2, Interesting)

Firehed (942385) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867222)

Yes, but consider the newspaper. How else is the press release going to get out to the people for whom it's intended? Do you really think the government is going to want to send out hundreds of millions of fliers, at considerable cost to them, when the news sources can do it for effectively no cost to them? Of course not. The newspapers relay information, the blogs we're discussing duplicate it. I'm sure most /. readers know the difference between relayed info and duped info...

The difference, in case the previous paragraph was utterly wasted, is the fact that blogged "news" can be attained elsewhere - blogs are like third- or fourth- or fifth-hand sources. The papers and broadcast news are effectively secondhand information - while you're not there in person, it's being explained, more or less directly, by someone who is. If it weren't for the paper, you'd have no other way to gain the knowledge other than experiencing it firsthand. With blogs, we have google and five billion other websites with the same data.

Though the idea of being able to cross-check information with that many more sources is good, you can easily get minor distortions that snowball into something completely different than the original. It's the difference between RTFA and just the summary. If you make assumptions based off of the half-picture you have of the situation, and then repost them, the story gets distorted, however minorly. Look how it turned praise for Apple's simple remote [designtechnica.com] into a criticism of Apple's new products [slashdot.org]. And that's after only one degree of separation.

Just don't believe everything you read! (3, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866846)

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.

Re:Just don't believe everything you read! (1)

rajafarian (49150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867071)

People still tend to want to believe anything they read...

People are generally stupid and need to be told what to like, think, say, and believe. Take for example Christianity: How did the average Christian become that? I believe the average one did not say, "Hmmm, I think I will pick a religion based upon what I think makes the most sense."

That being so, I don't think the average person CAN "learn to do their own fact checking and not accept anything as fact until fact checking confirms information" because they are too effing stupid.

Want more proof? President Bush.

Flamebait anyone?

Wait a damn minute... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Wait a damn minute... (1)

raitchison (734047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867192)

I'm not a Wal-Mart fan, haven't shopped there in 15 years. I don't like what they do to the small businesses in the areas they move into.

Setill I have to admire them as the ultimate example of a capitalist success story, I also like their ability to stand up to the unions.

So I guess you could say that in some ways I am "sympathetic" to Wal-Mart, I certinaly don't think they should be destroyed, as many people do.

Not that I'm about the start posting their press releases on my web site, grant you.

Re:Wait a damn minute... (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867527)

Sir, you are aware the "the union" has nearly zero power these days outside of the UAW. Perhaps in the 60s and 70s when unions were very nearly the mafia, you may have had a valid problem with them.

Wal-mart is famous for not allowing their employees to join unions. Wether or not you agree with how unionization affects the consumer, I'd think you could get along with the idea of people forming organizations to collectively bargain with their employer.

Re:Wait a damn minute... (3, Insightful)

srussell (39342) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867194)

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

Re:Wait a damn minute... (2, Insightful)

raitchison (734047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867367)

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.

Blogs are SEO tools (2, Funny)

spentrent (714542) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866853)

What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the puppetmaster's email?

Blogs are used to clutter search engines. Where have you been the last few years? Most blogs are keyphrase link-fests. Another innovation from the world of online adult marketing. Porn coders could solve cancer if the money was there.

Just like the moveon paper-spammers (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14866866)

This is like the moveon.org paper-spammers. They literally get their marching orders from moveon.org and mindlessly send form letters to newspapers all over the country. I caught on to this when I read the exact same letter in two newspapers halfway across the country. I searched on one phrase in the letter in Google, and found the entire letter in Moveon.org, along with instructions for everyone to send it to their local paper (despite newspaper letter rules against form letters).

Astroturf blog and newspaper spamming.

Re:Just like the moveon paper-spammers (1)

nanojath (265940) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867521)

Unfortunately it's a bipartisan technique. Neither liberals or conservatives should feel any sense of superiority about these kinds of tactics, and the relevant organizations should be ashamed of themselves for encouraging this kind of thing. Ends justify means seems to be one principle political activists have in common.

Been there, Done that (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#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:Been there, Done that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14867148)

Because bloggers do that and very little else.

Journalists and Reporters (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867567)

We all know that "journalists" do this all the time.

A cliche from an old movie:
  - The difference between a Journalist and a Reporter is that a journalist writes a story, a reporter simply reports what he sees.

Just one question: (1, Funny)

abes (82351) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866876)

What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the puppetmaster's email?

Re:Just one question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14866957)

"What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the puppetmaster's email?"

I dunno, but I have a question for you. What is the purpose of posting on slashdot if you are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the article summary?

Pot, kettle, etc. (5, Insightful)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866886)

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.

Re:Pot, kettle, etc. (2, Insightful)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Pot, kettle, etc. (1)

GOD_ALMIGHTY (17678) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867089)

Just wondering the same thing. Isn't this criticism:

What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the puppetmaster's email?

just as applicable to traditional media? When the Katrina tapes came out, it took several stories before anyone picked up on the fact that the contents of the tapes directly contradicted Bush's claims made right after the storm that "nobody could have anticipated the levee failure". What's the point of a news outlet that manages to miss such an important element of the story?

Weren't all the mea culpa's from the nation's papers on coverage of the lead-up to Iraq about how they failed to actually investigate the administration's claims and those of sources referred by the administration?

Let's not forget the "common wisdom" of the Beltway pundocracy that has no basis in reality and is usually a rehash of memes conjured in isolation from the real world. See either, the Democrats are weak on National Security meme, or the Republicans believe in small government meme.

At least bloggers are easier to ignore, they don't have advertising budgets.

Re:Pot, kettle, etc. (1)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867388)

When the Katrina tapes came out, it took several stories before anyone picked up on the fact that the contents of the tapes directly contradicted Bush's claims made right after the storm that "nobody could have anticipated the levee failure". What's the point of a news outlet that manages to miss such an important element of the story?

Or even worse, gets that story wrong [usatoday.com], because they're repeating the claims of partisans rather than actually bother to listen to the words?

Re:Pot, kettle, etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14867253)

The regurgitating of articles is annoying if you subscribe to a number of journals.
For instance, I get many science related articles at least three times:

First - Scientific American
6 months later - New Scientist
1-2 years later - The Independent newspaper.

The interesting part is how little the Independent version resembles the Scientific American version, and how often the same article is presented as a shocking new discovery years later.

Re:Pot, kettle, etc. (1)

vinn01 (178295) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867452)

Also many product reviews are mostly barely rewritten press releases from the manufacturers.

Anytime that you read a glowing review of the latest electronic gadget, you are most likely reading a cut/paste of the manufacturer's press kit.

You should suspect blogs focused on consumer electronic products of having an unhealthly relationship with the product makers. Some sites/blogs are squeeky clean. Some sites/blogs always have their hand out for free samples (in return for good reviews).

Blogs have mass communication power. Power can be corrupted. Blogs can be corrupted.

Welcome to our corporate world.

Always low prices...thanks to your tax dollars (3, Insightful)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866891)

Wal-Mart was found out to be exploiting [infozine.com] 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 [forbes.com] 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.

Payment for work done is not exploitation., (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14867014)

"Wal-Mart was found out to be exploiting the US taxpayer by not providing adequate health benefits to its employees."

All they were found to be doing was paying the workers for the work they do. This does not exploit workers or taxpayers. It is pretty outrageous to expect a company to pay EVERY low-value low-skill worker enough to meet some arbitrary high standard of income, whether or not the worker earns it...and most importantly (in your line of having companies give away money logic) whether or not their lifestyle needs it.

A single mother of three working the register might need a health plan, but a teenager working the register won't (because their family has it already). In your "pay them according to demands, not their work" world, what do you do? Pay the single mother some high amount she never earned, while also overpaying the teenager so they have equal pay? Or have a pay scale based on lifestyle instead of work (so a single mother earns much more than a teenager)?

Taxpayers subsidize Wal*Mart with $0 money. It is not the taxpayer's fault that welfare medical money is wasted, and it is not the taxpayer's fault when someone is a lousy worker is too lazy to earn more. Wal-Mart should not be blamed for paying everyone the worth of the work.

Re:Payment for work done is not exploitation., (1, Informative)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867156)

All they were found to be doing was paying the workers for the work they do

Unfortunately, the reality of the exploitation does not match your rhetoric. They were purposely leading them to public assistance, rather than providing them basic benefits.

For the World's biggest retailer, [forbes.com] how can you not think that this is wrong?

Re:Payment for work done is not exploitation., (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867559)

it is not the taxpayer's fault when someone is a lousy worker is too lazy to earn more.

Wow, too lazy to earn more. Couldn't have anything to do with the fact that WalMart does have a group health plan, and because of that they refuse to work employees over a certain number of hours because they are contractually required to enroll employees meeting that hourly limit on their plan. Not that Wal-mart is alone on this, they're just the most visible case since they're one of the largest employers in the country.

Also have to wonder what WalMart's policy on moonlighting is too. These days with many employers' contracts taking over the lives of employees after they've clocked out, I wouldn't put it past them to ban their employees from moonlighting either. I know I've had a company ask me to sign a contract that would have banned me from moonlighting (boilerplate "we own everything you think say or do 24 hours a day 7 days a week". I told them that I intended to work some evenings consulting for another company I had an existing relationship with, they took the contract back and I went home.)

Re:Always low prices...thanks to your tax dollars (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14867028)

This is the only thing that I agree with Walmart on. Health care should not be linked to employment, but part of the responsibility of the government to its citizens. It is how people can justify the money that goes to the 'defense' of America, but very little going to actually defending the health of its citizens.

Re:Always low prices...thanks to your tax dollars (2, Interesting)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867097)

Maybe we should ask the Waltons how they feel about exploiting US Taxpayers?

From what I've heard the Waltons are very humble, and even though they are each worth 20 billion they mostly live off the types of products sold in their stores. Of course they do so by choice, and the average Walmart employee does not.

Re:Always low prices...thanks to your tax dollars (2, Informative)

Some Pig! (103985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867127)

A key part of Wal-Mart's business model is cost-shifting from the private to the public sector. Tax deals with states and municipalities are the most important part, but even the cost of storage is shifted from warehouses to trucks on streets and highways. The burden of maintaining those thoroughfares is of course on the taxpayer.

And, for those praising Wal-Mart's economic "efficiency", please explain the advantage to the economy of forcing into leases the provision that no competitor can use the buildings after Wal-Mart moves out? The country is littered with crumbling ex-Wal-Mart centers, paid with your tax dollars.

Re:Always low prices...thanks to your tax dollars (1)

Viper Daimao (911947) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867491)

Why should walmart have to provide health care to low wage part time workers? Especially when the govt is offering it for free. Heathcare shouldnt be linked to jobs, it should be in the private sector, with more healthcare spending accounts. Companies dont have to provide it, and the govt is incapable of providing it.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics... (3, Informative)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867660)

I am not replying to be a Wal-Mart appologist, this is just a little exercise in analysis of a random "+5 Insightful Whine" post...

Wal-Mart has a lot of employees (1.7 Million). It is a BIG company. Everything else follows from there.

The full-timers do have insurance. But there many are part-timers who do not, just like many other businesses. Seems to me, giving instructions for finding free clinics is more of a public service for those employees who need it than an exploitive scheme. Do other companies tell their non-covered employees about free clinics?

You might as well say Poor people exploit the taxpayer by using government services .

Exploiting the US Taxpayer Did you know that Wal-Mart has 1500 International stores (3600 US)? Does Wal-Mart exploite the taxpayes of these other countries too?

How does Wal-Mart compare to any large employer? How much health care does McDonalds provide for part-time employees? How about Starbucks - they have lots of part-timers.

I don't know what all this hatred of WMT is, of late. What's the difference between a valid business model and an evil scheme? I guess it has to do with how big you are. At the end of the day, I think it all comes down to the fact that WMT has money and other people want to get at it because it is there.

Let's check that last one... Is Wal-Mart making "obscene" amounts of money? WMT [yahoo.com]

Profit margin: 3.6% - Doesn't look obscene to me, Sure it is billions of dollars. MCD makes 12.7% and so does PEP. TGT (Target) makes 4.58% - maybe they exploit their workers even more to squeeze that extra 1% profit out of them.

Traditional media do the same thing... (2, Interesting)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866900)

"What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the puppetmaster's email?"

Traditional media, including newspapers, magazines and especially the local TV news do the same thing every day.

Is he kidding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14866905)

What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments

Are you shitting me? This is a perfect description of the overwhelmingly majority of blogs! While some blogs feature original reporting or analysis, they're few are far between. Mostly it's: "Hey, spotted this open email from Michael Moore/Rush Limbaugh over at FreakyQuiblet's blog [Insert block quote from original text]. I agree this is awful/wonderful." The only issue here is that the poster doesn't like the politics of this group's particular echo-chamber.

They are called shills. This isn't new. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

A better question would be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14866908)

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 blog, period? Does anybody actually read these damn things?

Re:A better question would be (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866942)

What is the use of a blog, period? Does anybody actually read these damn things?

Most blogs are written by people who want to feel contact with the world, it's a search for being understood. Whenever you get a response, you feel like someone understands you.

Or maybe it's just a hobby. But who cares, if you're not harming anyone and it makes you feel better...

Re:A better question would be (0)

twoshortplanks (124523) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867037)

What, like people who post to Slashdot? ;-)

...

Which begs the question, do you think I understand you?

Well... (2, Funny)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867049)

What is the use of a blog, period? Does anybody actually read these damn things?

I gather there's a guy by the name of CmdrTaco whose blog has a pretty impressive readership. Always some interesting reader commentary following every article, too... I'd link to it, but I forget the url.

True, but... (1)

mctk (840035) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866928)

What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the puppetmaster's email?

Yeah, freedom of speech can be a real pain, can't it.

Automated blog-copy detector? (1)

Myself (57572) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867247)

Free speech is great, and a skeptical reader is more informed because of it. The trouble with this tendency is that it blurs the line between personal speech and advertising. As many others have pointed out, traditional media outlets have parroted press releases for many years.

This conflicts with all the recent trumpeting of blogs as a great independent media watchdog and personal voice, much of which has been done by traditional media outlets perhaps uncomfortable with their mouthpiece position. Kinda blows that out of the water, doesn't it?

Here's a wicked idea: Automated plagiarism detection systems are commonplace in academia now. What if some of the larger blogging services started highlighting sentences or phrases that appeared on someone else's blog earlier? A shared database between LJ and Blogspot and the rest, with feeds from a few dozen top tech websites, would simplify the whole mess. Resource-intensive? Yes, but not nearly so much as every user running their own crawler-comparator. :)

Sympathetic bloggers? (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866934)

I'd be sympathetic too if I found a few extra dollars deposited into my bank account... *coughs* Ahem.

You Herd It First (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866940)

Bloggers update faster than newspapers and TV news that received Wal*Mart email and began to simply copy the PR text.

It's Like Campain Donations (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866947)

Some people see a campaign donation and just assume corruption or a buyoff. What if the blog/politician/whatever already agrees with the other party?

Now, that's not so corrupt.

Wal-Mart giving stuff to already pro-Wal-Mart (or more likely anti-anti-Wal-Mart) blogs is no big deal. Wal-Mart buying actual blog support would be a big deal.

If the Democratic Party gives a press release to a liberal blog to use, is that a big deal? I wouldn't think so.

Re:It's Like Campain Donations (1)

Bazzalisk (869812) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867228)

Yes it's just as corrupt. Political parties shouldn't be allowed to take any campaign donations whatsoever - put the damned thing back on an even footing.

Re:It's Like Campain Donations (1)

CreatureComfort (741652) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867574)


Political parties shouldn't be allowed to take any campaign donations whatsoever - put the damned thing back on an even footing.

Wha? Run that by me again.

How would removing all campaign donations "put things on an even footing"? Money is required for the advertising necessary to win a political office in the U.S. It has been proven over and over that name recognition, of either the candidate or her associated political party, is the key to winning an election. Campaign donations are supposed to be a way for less wealthy, but more deserving, candidates to be able to compete against super-wealthy candiates.

This is not how reality has worked out, but the basic intention was good. Without campaign donations we might as well go back to a hereditary monarchy with full royal court. Of course, what we have now is the election of whoever can convince the most special interest groups that they will get special legislation if they donate money, so maybe a hereditary ruling class might be less corrupt. You might have a point.


Ditto (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14866949)

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?

I couldn't agree more.

What is the use (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14866960)

What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the puppetmaster's email?

Works for FoxNews.

Bloggers are lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14866967)

"What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the puppetmaster's email?"

So you'd rather some latte-quaffing ponce told us about their day using OSX and riding around on an eco-friendly scooter before meeting their pseudo-intellectual friends to discuss the latest birkenstocks over a tofu & soy meal? I only read one blog - "Ms Kitka's Kitkast". And the only reason I visit that is in the slim hope that one day she will get her kit off and show me the goods. She really is a naughty little minx.

Evolve or die. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14866969)

This kind of collaboration and syndication is what Web 2.0 is all about!

PS: Have blogs ever been useful?

What is the use of a blog, etc.? (1)

Infernal Device (865066) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866973)

I don't think we get to determine which blogs are useful and which blogs aren't, except in a personal sense. Sure, it might be nice to pretend to be the god of bloggers and smite the useless ones (and believe me, your smiting hand would get pretty tired), but in reality, the worth of a blog can only be objectively determined by it's creator. Our only control is binary: read or don't read.

If Walmart has a posse, then good for Walmart. I'm certainly not a fan, and it does bother me that some people are, but that's their choice. Until we get rid of this whole "free speech" thing, we're stuck with it.

Re:What is the use of a blog, etc.? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14867075)

My smiting hand never gets tired. My smiting palms are hairy.

Who actually *reads* these blogs? (1)

trigonalmayhem (938527) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866975)

Seriously, who actually bothers reading these PR mouthpiece blogs? In fact, who bothers reading most of these worthless "me-too" meme-reposting blogs too? I will never fathom how these sorts of things get any hits to start with, but the fact that they must be getting return hits (or no one would notice these things, right? ... right?) boggles my mind.

haha, my verification word is "advert." How a propos.

Corporate Fad (2, Interesting)

Dr. Sorenson (947697) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866979)

While there will always be companies trying to infiltrate blogs as a mouthpiece, this takes a sustained effort, the expenditure of resources and a coordinated effort for it to be successful in anything but the short term. Most companies aren't good on sustained efforts with questionable benefits and blogging is one activity that has dubious results in effecting the bottom line. Companies keep business by keeping their customers happy and there are limits to the effectiveness of spin control and FUD. RIM used a lot of blog astroturfing against NTP and still ended up paying $620 million dollars, which was $162 million more than than if they had settled a year before.

Re:Corporate Fad (1)

rajafarian (49150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867217)

Companies keep business by keeping their customers happy and there are limits to the effectiveness of spin control and FUD.

Microsoft has proven you wrong, buddy.

Key blogger's response (4, Informative)

sphealey (2855) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866980)

Duncan Black over at Eschaton [blogspot.com] (one of the most-read political blogs) had a good take on this: [blogspot.com]
Unless I'm missing something this New York Times article is just another stab at holding bloggers to ethical standards and practices which don't apply anywhere else in the universe. The public relations industry existed long before bloggers came along and they had reporters' phone numbers long before they had the email addresses of bloggers. Barely edited press releases have long been published, especially at smaller newspapers. I get press releases and information from all over the place all the time. Obviously disclosure is a nice idea if there are any financial relationships, a practice not always followed by our hallowed 4th estate, but if people want to devote their blogs to throwing up Wal Mart press releases they're free.

The main reason stories like this are even written is that contrary to popular opinnion the internet often provides a lot more transparency even when there are efforts to hide it. Astroturfing operations of various kinds through all media are nothing new, they're just usually harder to track. If Wal Mart pays 50 people to call talk radio all day and extol its virtues would anyone know?

I'm not defending all astro turfing practices or its practitioners, and there are certainly ethical issues that can be raised. But "Wal Mart PR guy reaches out to bloggers" just isn't much of a story. PR people reach out to me all the time. So what.

Re:Key blogger's response (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14867255)

Blogger defends blogging. How shocking!

There's a more important issue than that. (2, Funny)

Minwee (522556) | more than 8 years ago | (#14866989)

The real question is "What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the puppetmaster's email?"

Walmart, Astroturf, and Plan B (2, Informative)

Malangali (932979) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867046)

I was planning to make a smart-ass comment by simply going to the Walmart corporate website and posting some fluff. I was surprised to find a rather interesting article instead. It seems that they are finally responding to pressure and will start selling Plan B nationwide. They are still going to allow their pharmacists to exercise their ridiculous right to "opt-out" of filling Plan B prescriptions (which sometimes results in rape victims being forced to continue with their pregnancy at least as long as it takes to get an abortion), but it does show that they recognize that, if they are going to do business in blue states, they have to follow blue state business practices. Here's their news release:

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. today confirmed that all of its pharmacies will begin carrying Plan B contraceptives, effective March 20. The company is currently required to sell the product in Illinois and Massachusetts, and pressure to introduce similar mandates is building in Connecticut and New York.

"We expect more states to require us to sell emergency contraceptives in the months ahead," said Ron Chomiuk, vice president of Pharmacy for Wal-Mart. "Because of this, and the fact that this is an FDA-approved product, we feel it is difficult to justify being the country's only major pharmacy chain not selling it."

Chomiuk said the company will maintain its conscientious objection policy, which is consistent with the tenets of the American Pharmaceutical Association. This policy, except where prohibited by law, allows any Wal-Mart or SAM'S CLUB pharmacy associate who does not feel comfortable dispensing a prescription to refer customers to another pharmacist or pharmacy.

"This decision has been made after careful consideration and in the belief that we are doing what is best for the business, while respecting our individual associates," Chomiuk said.

nothing is sacred (1)

PMuse (320639) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867048)

What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the puppetmaster's email?

The use of a blog is the same as it ever was: if an individual has something valuable to say, we listen; if not, not.

PR departments have invaded every form of communication that has been developed. They will continue to do so. All we can do is be selective about who we listen to.

Re:nothing is sacred (1)

Hao Wu (652581) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867167)

Maybe they/we happen to agree with the views of Walmart -- independently, and as a matter of principle or ideology.

No conspiracies, no financial interests, no pay-offs, no circle-jerks, or other schemes.

Is that allow, Mr. "Zonk"? May I please state (and re-state) my support for a certain company? No, not in your communist views, of course not....

Or rather... (2, Insightful)

endrue (927487) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867078)

What is the use of slashdot if submitters are just going to copy sentences and sentiments FTA?"

Start the spin cycle. (2, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867081)

This is great. The New York Times along with most of the press don't like blogs. So they write about bloggers that post positive material about Walmart. Walmart which is one of the current targets of dislike by many in the online community. And what are these evil bloggers doing? Posting emails sent to them by Walmart.
If a blogger was posting emails sent to them by Planned Parenthood, Amnesty International, Whole Foods, Ben and Jerry's, or Greenpeace would it get any attention? Would they have any less credibility?
I rarely shop at Walmart not because they are EVIL but because I don't like a lot of what they carry and the lines and parking are just not worth it. Yes there are other stores that provide better service, products, and or selections for not much more money. Those stores seem to be doing fine in my city.
This is a great piece of spin and it looks as if many have fallen for it hook, line, and sinker.

Re:Start the spin cycle. (1)

sphealey (2855) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867245)

> This is great. The New York Times along with most of the
> press don't like blogs. So they write about bloggers that
> post positive material about Walmart. Walmart which is one
> of the current targets of dislike by many in the online
> community. And what are these evil bloggers doing?

Indeed. The NYT and even moreso the Washington Post are horrified by the free exchange of political information and fact checking that blogs represent. The "NYT blogger ethics" kerfluffel has become a complete joke in the political blogging world. If those two traditional media outlets would just go ahead and hire some people who really understand the Internet (after what - 11 years?) they would be better off. But since that would mean reducing or even eliminating some existing fiefs, they can't do it - they will ride their traditional media model all the way down.

sPh

What's the use of a blog... (1)

palad1 (571416) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867084)

"What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the puppetmaster's email?"

And you're asking this on slashdot?

All the News That's Fit to Invoice (2, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867093)

This story is most significant as Washington DC decides whether to protect the free speech of bloggers, as the First Amendment requires, as completely as it protects the rights of mass media, like cable TV news. The mass media lobbies DC with scare stories about corporations paying bloggers to publish pure PR, as opposed to the "responsible, independent, researched journalism" from the mass media that the law currently protects. The idea is to protect a privileged class of journalists, the corporate mass media, but not the unprivileged interactive media, like bloggers.

Of course, the corporate media's entire business model is taking corporate money and publishing their PR, even if carefully cooked to provide harmless (or occasionally stress-releasing) corporate PR.

Boilerplate (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867125)

What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the puppetmaster's email?
What indeed? But you might ask the same question about many online comments. Half the stuff I see on Slashdot is just somebody parroting their favorite Talk Radio host or columnist.

But this post is really an excuse for a triva lesson: everybody's seen Press Releases, which are phony news articles that people put out in the hopes that lazy newspaper editors will print them unchanged. Back when most newspapers were published with hot type [wikipedia.org], press releases were often distributed as pre-typeset pieces of lead that papers could just stick on their presses. The pre-typeset articles were big curved pieces of metal that looked like something you'd use to make boiler. Hence the term "boilerplate".

Pot to Kettle (0, Redundant)

N)k3mH1ll (959544) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867128)

"What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the puppetmaster's email?" Says Zonk as he cuts and pastes....

This is only new to bloggers. (1)

supabeast! (84658) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867142)

Anyone familiar with the American media knows that our "journalists" spend a lot more time recounting what they've picked up off the wire services and corporate/government press releases than they do actually attempting to enlighten the public . Why anyone would expect bloggers to be any less lazy and worthless than CNN, Fox News, MSNBC or most newspapers is beyond me.

People are lazy, bloggers are just more so (1)

geekwithsoul (860466) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867153)

Blogging, as with many concepts, sounds great in theory. Unfettered information and opinions blasting across the 'net and all that. However, in practice, as with most other forms of journalism it just means a bunch of lazy people passing off information from others. Whether it is from WalMart or the New York Times hardly matters. And yes (speaking as a recovering journalist), I count blogging as journalism. It's just the modern equivalent of Poor Richard's Almanac. Unfortunately, most bloggers (and modern journalists) can't compare with Ben Franklin. Of course, if he was still around and was a blogger, I can only imagine the lack of restraints (having to set type tended to make people actually think about what they were writing before they printed it) would mean his blog would be crap too.

Doesn't matter (1)

danpsmith (922127) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867162)

Who actually reads corporate blogs anyway? The whole point of blogs being interesting, if they are personal blogs, is that the writing is interesting and has intrinsic value. It's not like TV where it is one site of a fixed number, there's millions of blogs out there and if the readers don't want to read it, they won't. I know I wouldn't waste my personal time trying to hunt through a corporate-sponsored blog looking for truth about anything.

Well.... (1)

tetrahedrassface (675645) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867283)

Im quite happy to cut and paste some.. Ive spent way to much time getting good sources at NASA, and considering I am a big fan of space, if it passes our lameness filter (whatever that is) it can go on there.

Of course we don't consider ourselves a "blog" so whatever, more like a space news thing. Sometimes cut and paste is good, especially when one doesn't want to place personal opinions on the piece.

By the way we have a great article up right now at http://www.foxcheck.org/ [foxcheck.org] with a legal and free mp3 from Big Head Todd and the Monsters for the upcoming Yuris Night world space party.

Ahead of the curve well?.. maybe.. cool? We think so. :)

Check it out if you want to, its straight from a great source at JPL :) Peace, D

p.s.: yes i still love /. :)

Et tu, slashdot? (1)

logicpill (948409) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867321)


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?"


Isn't this what /. does for the majority of article heads? I'm missing the point here...

You sure are missing the point :) (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867683)

With a BLOG, there's an expectation of significant innovation in content that expresses the views of those posting it. Slashdot, like Google News, is expected to be a collection of links with little to no original content (except, for slashdot, in the discussion areas).

So blogs are unreliable (2, Insightful)

mstone (8523) | more than 8 years ago | (#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."

Problem with all news media. (1)

paullyjunge (953573) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867408)

What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the puppetmaster's email?

What news media isn't like that? If a PR is giving you the news, it's going to be biased. It is a PR's job to be biased and get the image they want out. If the PR gives a completed story to a journalist/blogger/local idiot, the journo/whatever will report what the PR said as fact, not as biased garbage. Surprised? You shouldn't be...

Can I be the first.. (1)

Space Coyote (413320) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867423)

Can I be the first to point out the irony that this story posting contains exactly two words that weren't cut and pasted from the person submitting the article?

Atrios [blogspot.com] rightly points out [blogspot.com] that many many newspapers often pick up press releases and run them almost un-edited as content, and that it's been going on for a long time. The difference is that on the web such practices are much more easily exposed. "Much ado about nothing" indeed.

Use of the Bulls**t Filter (1)

Orville (104680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867432)

I don't know if anyone noticed - but the supposed bit of PR was that Wal-Mart is more selective than Harvard, the Navy SEALS and MENSA [iowavoice.com].

If that's "good PR", Wal-Mart needs to hire better PR folks to write material that is actually believable.

Of course, the guy who put up the Wal-Mart PR also likes to threaten lawsuits for anyone using 'his material'. [iowaunderground.com] Evidently, those corporate PR posts are copyrighted, dammit!

Blogs & PR (1)

indyweb (959553) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867434)

Sounds like natural evolution to me. Blogs have attracted enough attention by the corps to get noticed, now we'll see blogs with categorization and restrictions over the next several months. It'll be interesting to look back at this next year to see how our definition of "Blog" has changed.

Caveat lector (1)

Khelder (34398) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867489)

WARNING: Information you read on the Net may be untrustworthy. Film at 11.

Like the saying goes, "I read it on usenet, so it must be true." Just s/usenet/the world wide web/ and we're done.

How is this sort of thing news?

I Love That the NYT Is Running This Story (1)

KarateExplosions (959215) | more than 8 years ago | (#14867581)

One of the main members of the traditional "OMG Bloggorz!" media which hires editors for the sole purpose of making sure they deleted the "For Immediate Release - Office of the Press Secretary" off of every story.
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