Tuesday, April 11, 2006

War of the Blogs

Think back to the beginning of our blogging studies. Remember the Cluetrain Manifesto and the 95 Theses? Well there is also what seems to be a continuation of the Cluetrain’s message in the book Naked Conversations by Robert Scobel and Shel Israel. I’m not sure if any of you have found the chance, but the first chapter of the Cluetrain Manifesto is available on-line and I would encourage you all to read it. The writing style and language of the authors is both clever and entertaining, check it out at Cluetrain Manifesto, Chapter 1. The main point of the Cluetrain and of Naked Conversations is that markets are basically conversations. Blogging provides a forum for these conversations where consumers are connected to employees in the corporations.

In a column written by John Naughton at The Observer on-line,“Amazon may live to rue naked aggression against blogging,"Naughton describes what happened when a skeptical Amazon employee joined in the blogging discussion. Recently, Amazon invited the authors of Naked Conversations, which advocates corporate blogging, to join Amazon employees in a luncheon discussion.

In the discussion Werner Vogels, who is the chief technology officer at Amazon, allegedly started questioning the authors in a very direct, critical, and almost “rude” tone. As Naughton describes, Vogels asked questions mainly about how a blog would benefit a corporation financially. He asked about the ROI, or, return on investments. Scobel and Israel express this idea of blogs as forums for discussions about corporations. Rather than focus on the money that blogs can potentially generate, they focus on the relationships that form between consumers and companies. Could it be that perhaps Amazon is just not the right kind of company to blog?

According to Scobel and Israel if companies have not started blogging they: “won't know what people are saying about you. You can't learn from them, and they won't come to see you as a sincere human who cares about your business and your reputation.” This is just one of Scobel and Israel’s points that express how the blogosphere is one of, if not the best, form of two-way communication for corporations and consumers. Apparently, Vogels could not be convinced. I think the authors of Naked Conversations have a great point here in that it's important to know what is being said about your company. Being able to comment on such blogs or defend your image, is just one of the benefits to companies who are a part of the blogosphere.

As we discussed in class, I decided to check out John Moore’s blog called “Brand Autopsy,” to see how the dialogue between Amazon and the authors of the book panned out on the blogosphere. In his post entitled “Wretched Conversations,” Moore outlines the “he said, she said” argument between Werner Vogels and Scobel. Basically, what Vogels says is that Amazon always sets a high standard and that’s why they are so critical of the blogging concept for Amazon. He goes on to say that he does not feel that blogs should be “institutionalized” by Amazon just because everyone else is launching them. I think this is a good point I mean, blogging is quickly gaining popularity. Could it be that blogging is just going to end up being another regular marketing tactic that companies employ?

Wow… as I finish going through the posts, I agree with Moore. This really is a "he said, she said" war on the web. However, I think it’s a really great example for us as students learning about corporate blogging. Here is Amazon, contemplating the decision to blog. Ironically, we are in class interviewing successful bloggers about their decisions to start blogging, how perfect! The thought process of both the authors of Naked Conversations and Vogels of Amazon are so clearly outlined.

One more note on our class discussion: Take a look at these blogs and interpret the personalities, they really stand out! What do you all think?