What Are Bloggers Responsibilities?

07/05/2006

Last week I ran a couple of posts (first post / second post)  regarding my concerns about JupiterResearch's lack of methodology information to support the findings of a study. Some of the results of the study were published in a media release available on the JupiterResearch website.

There has been quite a lively discussion on a number of blogs about my posts and Fard Johmar's conclusions regarding the research (Fard purchased a copy of the study). In particular the conversation has struck a chord with several of Neville Hobson's readers. Even though I had several email exchanges with Peter Arnold Associates (Jupiter's PR agency) and was told that they passed along my request to JupiterResearch one commenter suggested that I should have gone further and contacted Jupiter directly.  Following is my response posted on Neville Hobson.com.

Yes, the concerns about the lack of information regarding the research methodology should not be taken lightly.

I would be happy contact a JupiterResearch analyst. Would you please forward me the phone number or email address: tobyb1 at gmail dot com?

You might find this interesting. In trying to find Alan Meckler’s contact information I came across this post that Mr. Meckler wrote on his blog about a poor customer service experience with FTD flowers. Following are Mr. Meckler’s conclusions and recommendations to his readers.
http://weblogs.jupitermedia.com/meckler/archives/008141.html

“Perhaps I will order flowers online in the future, but I would never use FTD.com. I will let readers know if the flowers are ever delivered. Based on my experience with customer service over at FTD.com, it will be difficult to get my money back — the response will be an automatic: “sorry, but we are very busy due to the holiday” or some such silly excuse.

In the meantime I hope Google and other search engines pick up this post so that searchers can be warned about FTD.com.”

Sure, Mr. Meckler spoke directly to the company .. a customer service rep. Should he have contacted someone more senior before he posted his remarks that could have serious consequences for FTD? Perhaps. However, what the post tells me is that JupiterResearch is no stranger to using blogs for expressing personal opinions and is well versed in social media strategies.

 

Again, my message was relayed to the JupiterResearch team - even if indirectly - through the channels that the firm established.

Ian brought up a very interesting concept. What are a blogger's obligations when posting anything that might impact the reputation of a company? I would very much like to know your thoughts.

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Tracked on Jul 6, 2006 4:57:57 PM

Comments

I was "off-grid" last week due to vacation and didn't follow this whole story, but skimming it today, I don't think Toby could have done much more to contact the folks at Jupiter. In fact, part of her story is that Jupiter gave her (and others) the brush-off. Her post was about her concerns and the brush-off, not the detailed study findings.

Bloggers who wish to be considered objective 3rd parties (like journalists) do need to make reasonable efforts to get the story straight. Which Toby did. If they hit a brick wall and are told no more information is forthcoming (We don't want to talk to you), do they owe the company even more efforts? I don't think so.

Posted by: Susan Getgood on Jul 5, 2006 11:12:08 AM

I had a somewhat similar experience a while back on one of my sites, when I offered a criticism of an ad in the cycling magazines that I felt was a bit misleading (http://bicyclemarketingwatch.blogspot.com/2006/05/truth-and-fiction-in-advertising.html)
and I took a bit of heat for it from a couple of different directions that I won't name. Needless to say, it wasn't pleasant. The point of the criticism I received was that I should have contected the ad agency or the company to see why the ad was the way it was, rather than making my own conclusions. My whole point was that I was defending the view of the potential consumer.

Anyway, I felt that the ad said one thing, but reality was different. My commentary was based on that set of "facts". I didn't feel that I was off base, but some folks strongly disagree.

I do believe that bloggers, as Susan mentions, need to exercise due diligence if they wish to hold any credibility. Otherwise, it all becomes a shouting match and a "he said, she said" scenario. In my case, I presented the ad and then a race photo that contradicted the claims of the ad. I felt that was sufficient... but I could be wrong.

As for Toby, I think she (you) was more than accommodating and attempted to take all the right actions.

Posted by: Tim Jackson on Jul 5, 2006 12:05:36 PM

I guess it depends on what type of blogger you are. If you want to be accepted and taken seriously, you double and triple check your facts before spouting them out. And if you can't corroborate what you're about to print, but you feel you simply must put it out there, it is imperative to emphasize just how much of a rumor it is and that you haven't had the opportunity to verify it. In any case, if you can't or haven't yet verified it, it's better to hold off than to put rubbish out there in the long run, even if another blogger or site scoops you.

My posts that involve actual facts (which are, blessedly, few and far between) are always researched. I got burned on my second-ever post by reviewing a CD seriously that was meant as a novelty. I got called on it, and FORTUNATELY that was before I got semi-popular, so I recovered. I learned never to make that mistake again.

Posted by: J.D. on Jul 6, 2006 12:54:09 AM

It's an interesting question. On my personal site, I've tried to start acting more like a journalist. That is, when I'm going to write something negative about a company, I generally contact them first to give them a chance to respond.

Here's an example of that in action:

http://tinyurl.com/lw8ko

I think that gives the company a fair shake, and increases my credibility.

Posted by: Darren on Jul 6, 2006 1:16:47 PM

Ok...Jupiter thinks it's the 800 lb gorilla in the room when it's really just a wild chimpanzee. Toby, you did everything right. I cannot imagine what else you could do...but, here's a thought - let'em stew.

You questioned their report - OMG! - and they got testy. Since when is it wrong to ask questions? I do 'reviews' of websites occasionally and I ask questions of complete strangers...wondering why they've done something a particular way.

When possible, I'm happy to engage in a dialogue. That's what Jupiter could have done with you. That's what blogging is for. I bet you would happily engage in a dialogue, wouldn't you? Since they prefer to whine, so be it. Send'em a violin.

Posted by: Yvonne DiVita on Jul 6, 2006 2:32:38 PM

I see the blogging world divided into two kinds:
1. The "MySpace" blogs
2. The "Scobl-ogs"

There are no rules for the Myspace blogs because nobody really cares. But as a professional Scoblogger (read one who blogs like Scoble), there are certain expectations from your target audience. Bloggers falling under the 2nd category, owe their target audience some journalistic ethos (Fact checks, etc...) especially when it could impact large entities.

However, I couldn't agree more with Susan that if the blogger encounters brick-walls that prevent publication of the post, then the blogger could go ahead and publish the blog stating explicitly that calls for info haven't been returned and let the respected party now respond in public or have their reputation impacted.

It's a brave new world out there but I feel the journalistic rules still apply -- to a degree.

- Mario
Marketing Nirvana

Posted by: Mario Sundar on Jul 6, 2006 5:19:44 PM

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