Monday, March 20, 2006

Walmart's Blogging Deception

I’m not sure if any of you listen to National Public Radio (NPR) but, did you know they have created a blog? NPR. I find it a great way to catch up on news stories I couldn’t listen to. It also gives listeners who could not call in a forum to post their commentary as well. As I was browsing the NPR blog which I should mention is called “Mixed Signals,” I came across a blog about Walmart. Since Walmart has been a reoccurring topic in class I thought it may be of some interest to you all. Visit here for the story and to listen to the actual commentary from the radio, Listen to the Interview!

NPR interviews Bob Moon, a regular on the show “The Marketplace,” about Walmart and blogs. More specifically, how Walmart has recently started fighting back criticisms of how they treat their workers, providing low pay and only minimal benefits. Since the public claim of Walmart’s poor treatment of employees, bloggers have taken the initiative of creating blogs that actually speak out against Walmart. In this interview with NPR, Bob Moon mentions a few of them, one of which is called Wake Up Walmart.

In an effort to defend their public image, Walmart turned to the internet where some bloggers are defending their image. At second look, The New York Times discovered that those blog postings were actually written by Public Relations firms for Walmart. Bob Moon describes how Walmart is using the blogosphere to tell their side of the story. Since there are blogs against Walmart is it so wrong that Walmart responded? Mr. Moon comments that Walmart is just adjusting with the times by going on the internet to defend their image. He goes on to say that the postings do not say who has written them. In addition, Bob Moon mentions one of the postings that “takes direct aim at Target,” one of Walmart’s competitors. Is this ethical? Walmart’s defense is that they do not compensate the bloggers in any way and if journalists are not required to reveal their identity on blogs, neither are they. Walmart says they will continue to blog!

As we discussed in class, it seems as though Walmart is using the blogosphere to try and influence public opinion. Personally, I think this is very manipulative. The source of a piece of information is crucial in determining its credibility. Once bloggers found out that these posts were actually from PR firms for Walmart, the odds are, their credibility plummeted. Or course bloggers aren’t going to bad mouth Walmart if they still work directly with them. I found this a very interesting discussion of how Walmart used blogs to try and repair their image. Looking through these different blogs is a great way to learn more about the dialogue between blogs and how they influence public opinion.