Tony Hung, who blogs at Deep Jive Interests, pointed something out to me via email — and if he hadn’t, I probably never would have heard about it. There has been plenty of news and discussion about it, but none of it has shown up on Techmeme.com or any of the other feed aggregators and meme-trackers I follow. Why? Because no “A-listers” have written about it (as Gabe Rivera of Techmeme points out in my comments, it’s there now).

It’s an issue that strikes right at the heart of the debate the blogosphere has been having lately about PayPerPost and blog “payola,” and whether bloggers should disclose their conflicts of interest.

The issue has to do with Edelman, the PR firm that Steve Rubel works for, and Wal-Mart. Tony’s post lays out it pretty well, as far as I can tell — as well as a story in Business Week, and posts from Shel Holtz and Biz Hack. In a nutshell it has to do with Wal-Mart paying for a couple of bloggers to drive their RV across America and write about how great Wal-Mart is.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. More power to them. Except that the connection to Wal-Mart, and the extensive financial backing the company has provided, is never mentioned anywhere on the blog. In light of comments made by Richard Edelman the last time the whole Wal-Mart/blogger thing blew up, where he said bloggers should “disclose receipt of product samples, membership on advisory boards or any other financial consideration that might affect their impartiality,” you would think Edelman would have made sure to do so in this case.

This doesn’t just cause confusion by blurring the lines between blogging and payola, or blog-vertising, but it arguably does Edelman harm too — and that would be a shame, since they are the PR firm that probably walks the walk the most when it comes to blogging and the conversation (the Wal-Marting Across America blog has a post that puts all the blame on Wal-Mart haters). I’m hoping Richard Edelman responds to this one in some way soon. As Tony points out in an update, the PR blogosphere is unanimously critical of Edelman on this one.

Update:

Scoble has weighed in, as have several others, including John Dowdell, who says that he isn’t sure the story is as cut and dried as it has been described. He argues that the relationship with Wal-Mart was disclosed (although I think Tony and I would argue not well enough) and that it’s not clear Edelman orchestrated the whole thing. All fair points, which it would help to hear from someone at Edelma. If I have rushed to judgment, I will be happy to apologize.

About the author

Mathew 2414 posts

I'm a Toronto-based former senior writer with Gigaom and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

16 Responses to “Why isn’t this on Techmeme?”
  1. Ever since I wrote about Edelman’s mis-management of Wal-Mart’s blogging “scandal”, I’ve been waiting for my favourite meme-tracer, TechMeme, to pick it up. Seems like it has finally caught hold of the story thanks to Mathew Ingram’s post. Better late than never, Gabe. Shel Holtz, Robert Scoble, Neville Hobson and many others are/have been writing about it as well. Still no word from Edelman or uber-blogger and Edelman VP Steve Rubel

  2. Well, maybe it’ll pick up since its anotherwise slow weekend as far as blogging news go.But, the whole thing is pretty damn shocking otherwise.
    The PR community has picked up on it, thankfully — but who else has?
    http://www.deepjiveinterests.com/2006/10/15/edelman-sockpuppet-shennanigans-known-to-pr-community-little-else

    And where’s Steve Rubel on all of this? Praying that because no one in the tech side of the blogosphere has commented on it he’s absolved of any commentary?

  3. […] Mathew Ingram – wonders why this story hasn’t gotten more general interest/technology pick-up.  If you’re in Toronto, ask him yourself at the newly re-arranged Third Tuesday Toronto, this Tuesday at the Spoke Club (Gallery Room) starting at 6pm! […]

  4. Sure glad A-lister Mathew Ingram wrote about this, thrusting Shel’s post onto Techmeme hours ago. :)

  5. Gabe, if I’m an A-lister then the A-list sure has come down a bunch of notches :-)

  6. I think that edelman “talks the talk” when it comes to the blogosphere; this incident (amongst others) shows that they are some distance short when it comes to walking the walk…

    looking forward to discussing this on Tuesday!
    Ed

  7. Glad to see its finally getting some press on Techmeme … thanks Gabe! :)

  8. I’ll pass the thank you to my robot Tony!

  9. Shucks, Gabe — I thought it was a well trained team of monkeys!
    Like I said to the wife yesterday “there’s no way Techmeme runs on fancy pants (waves fingers around) AL-gore-ithisms … its gotta be Monkees!”

  10. […] Like many other folks, I’m a big fan of Steve Rubel (no link) and his Micropersuasion (no link) site.  Generally speaking, he is right on the ball. […]

  11. I think it’s great that you have a name for your robot, Gabe :-)

  12. […] Consequences: blowback This will hit TechMeme, and the consequences could be severe. […]

  13. […] Blog community response: “Edelman wanted to make consumers think that Wal-Mart is a hip place that you’d want to use as the anchor point for a roadtrip. The problem is it’s not. And because blogging is not a control-based medium, Edelman couldn’t make Wal-Mart appear to be something it’s not. It rang false, and they got caught.” –Publishing 2.0 “I suppose the take home message is that if you’re going to sponsor a blog either be completely transparent all the way – risking the authenticity of the message, but perhaps done in a ‘wink-wink’ fashion.” –Deep Jive Interests “This doesn’t just cause confusion by blurring the lines between blogging and payola, or blog-vertising, but it arguably does Edelman harm too – and that would be a shame, since they are the PR firm that probably walks the walk the most when it comes to blogging and the conversation (the Wal-Marting Across America blog has a post that puts all the blame on Wal-Mart haters).” –Mathew Ingram […]

  14. […] How does it work? Only Gabe knows for sure, which drives some people around the bend. I know that I’ve been fascinated with the way Techmeme functions ever since I first laid eyes on it a couple of years […]

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