Sunday, November 13, 2005


BLOGS: Business must pay attention to many more sources


PUBLISHED: Sunday, November 13, 2005

Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune

Call it electronic gossip.

It is spread by thousands, if not millions, of conversations across the blogosphere, and it is catching the attention of
businesses everywhere.

Companies that used to have to monitor only newspapers, TV and Web sites now must reckon with the reality that their
names are being tossed about every day on one or another of 20 million blogs, or Web logs, worldwide.

Operated by people who are customers, competitors, employees and others, the blogs can contain everything from in-depth
product commentaries to random scathing comments. In short, they are the wild cards of modern communication, capable of
giving birth to real or invented scandal or spreading precious "word-of-mouth" praise.

The challenge of keeping up with the fast-mutating messages has companies hustling, or hiring out, for ever-more-refined
monitoring strategies.

"Blogs are a technology-enabled grapevine," said Mark Weiner, president of Delahaye, a media research company. "They're
very powerful. They have no borders and no rules."

"Something new is being done to companies by this enormous force and collection of people, who are writing and talking to
each other about them," said Dan Gillmor, the author of "We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People for the

"Businesses should use the same tools and techniques to join the conversation," Gillmor said.

A recent search for "3M" on Google's blog search engine pulled up 54,915 hits ÿÿ including a college student's account of
his summer internship, a quarterly earnings report, and the relocation of a meeting from Room 3N to Room 3M.

Plug in "General Mills," and among the 13,772 hits there is one blogger's dream about trying to cash in her cereal box
tops and another's anger at the company's "viral marketing" campaign for Lucky Charms cereals.

Both companies said they now pay attention to blogs.

"We definitely monitor blogs, like any other forms of media, and we respond when we feel like we need to," 3M spokeswoman
Jacqueline Berry said.

At General Mills, "we read blogs and look for anything new or different that hasn't come to our attention before,"
spokeswoman Kirstie Foster said. "Then being able to cross-reference them with the million calls, e-mails and letters
from consumers each year makes it easier to determine the issues that need to be addressed."

Google has just one of a growing number of blog search engines. Technorati has another.

There are even uber-search engines, including one called BlogPulse, that also rank what's "the buzz" moment to moment in
the blogosphere and tracks which bloggers are getting lots of attention measured partly by numbers of hits and links.

At Delahaye, the screening process sends blog hits through a series of technological and human screenings devised by
Delahaye, Weiner said. People make the final calls on whether postings are good, bad or neutral, he said, or even whether
they're accurate.

When bad news cascades from an influential blog, Weiner advises clients to post a message on that blog explaining why
they believe the original posting is wrong or unfair.

"Honorable bloggers don't want to be wrong," Gillmor said.

Then the same blog culture that propelled the original posting far and wide will carry the client's response.


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