I just read this interesting article in the Guardian about how blogs are becoming corporate early warning systems. This resonated with me because just this morning I had a run in with Amazon.com about an editorial review for a controversial book where the review included a quote that was fabricated. This story became known through the blogsphere and the response that was generated forced Amazon to change course and correct their error. Were it not for blogs this story would never be a story, it certainly would not have been picked up by the mass media and Amazon.com would not be aware of the subversion of their editorial comments. I am totally convinced of that, and this proves 2 very important points: 1) there is very little latency in blog stories, and 2) citizen journalism can get results.
Here's the email I sent to Amazon customer support and cc'ed Jeff Bezos on (I just guessed that his email was email@example.com and it didn't bounce so someone got it):
From: Jeff Nolan [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Tuesday, August 10, 2004 11:07 AM cc: Bezos, Jeff Subject: Unfit for Command. You're editorial review is deliberately misleading
Your editorial review of Unfit for Command is deliberately misleading and you should correct it immediately, as well as highlight the correction:
Senator McCain was never quoted:
"Dishonest and dishonorable... none of these individuals served on the boat (Kerry) commanded."
What he did say is:
"I deplore this kind of politics. I think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable."
The rest of the quote you fabricated for him, beginning with "none of..." is a DNC talking point, McCain never said it.
I would expect someone in the book business to be at least accurate when it comes to checking quotes and facts. This is disgraceful.
I got a response from a Amazon customer support person, but it didn't at all address the issue that I was raising and we have been going back and forth. However, I just read another blog that had the following post on the Amazon matter:
Patty Smith of Amazon.com Media Relations explained that Amazon allows publishers to submit content via a Online Publishers Review Form to Amazon.com including Editorial Reviews. That information is reviewed before appearing on the Amazon.com web site. In this case, someone at Amazon failed to properly review the source of the Online Publishers Review Form.
"Someone used the publishers submission form," Smith said, "a 'bad actor', who used the system in a way that they should not have." Smith stressed that the form was reviewed but not reviewed properly.
The Editorial Review attributed to Sen. McCain no longer appears on the Amazon.com web site.
Whatever your politics, this really isn't about that, it is about being accountable for accuracy in your communication to your customers, in many cases the broader public, and the role that blogs are increasingly playing in both keeping you honest, and advancing your cause. The Guardian article really nails it with the following:
These web pages can make or break a company's reputation because they provide links to one another and allow people to comment on postings.
PS- the Blinkx search applet that the Guardian mentions is an awesome tool