Who\’s the 800-lb Gorilla: Google, or the Chinese Government?

A few days ago, my friend and colleague Dave Taylor posted a thought-provoking commentary on Google’s decision to launch a censored version of its search engine for the Chinese market.

See: “Google gets pragmatic and enters China

On balance, Dave thinks that this was a good business decision that ultimately will be good for both Google and the Chinese people. He wrote:

“I find it abhorrent that the Chinese want to filter the information that its citizens can access through the Internet. I also find it appalling that Chinese bloggers risk being shut down or even jailed for sharing their political or religious views. To do business in a foreign country, however, you must respect their political, cultural and social rules. That’s not something up for debate, that’s just how business works, and how life works.”

Very true.

On the one hand, I agree with Dave about business pragmatism. China is a huge market no search firm can afford to ignore. Also, I do think it’s good for Google to have a presence in China, and for for Chinese citizens to have at least some access to Google. Engagement can yield considerable benefits, however it happens. Never underestimate the power of serendipity.

But down the road, who’s the 800-lb gorilla in this room: Google, or the Chinese government? I’d bet my bananas on the Chinese government. Here’s what that might mean…

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Conflict and Context: Washington Post Blog Comment Cutoff Redux

Over at a group weblog I contribute to, the Poynter Institute’s E-Media Tidbits, there’s been an interesting discussion among media professionals about the recent decision by WashingtonPost.com to close comments on one of its weblogs. (I wrote about this here earlier.)

Steve Outing’s post “Taming the Comments Monster” attracted an intriguing array of possible alternate solutions. Steve Yelvington took that a bit further in “The Costs and Benefits of Interaction.”

However, I was most struck by a comment to Steve Outing’s post, offered by Terry Steichen. He reminds us of a core bit of context: Not all conflict springs from unreasonable or overreacting readers. Sometimes media organizations act in ways that invite vocal criticism.

Here’s what Terry said…

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Disclosure, Press Releases, and Life Support: Can We Pull that Plug After All?

I often discuss with media professionals – including PR pros – the role of the traditional press release in today’s media environment. Basically, I believe it no longer has a one.

That is, I think the press release as it’s evolved over previous decades has outlived its limited usefulness and now usually represents more of a hindrance than a help to communication. It’s time to let it go and explore new vehicles for lobbying the media as well reaching target audiences directly.

Many people (almost all of them PR pros) disagree strongly with me on this. That’s good, since I always learn more through constructive debate and I love learning. I’ve listened carefully to their arguments supporting press releases. They make good points. Gradually, through in-depth discussion, most of these people relent point by point. So far I’ve been able to successfully counter all their supporting rationales for press releases.

…Except for this trump card: “Federal regulations require press releases for financial disclosure.”

Well, yeah. My understanding so far is that this requirement does exist. So that makes it the sole undeniable rationale favoring the continued existence of traditional press releases – the life support system.

…Or does it? Of course I had to wonder, what REALLY is required? In my journalistic work I’ve often found that if you delve into a thicket of legal language all sorts of options and loopholes appear. The realm of what’s legally possible generally boils down to who has the power of interpretation.

Therefore, might close examination of disclosure rules indicate other viable communication options that regulators would allow?

That’s what Todd Van Hoosear of the tech PR firm Topaz Partners and I are going to try to find out…

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Washington Post: Pros & Cons of Closing a Blog\’s Comments

(NOTE: I cross-posted this from Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits blog.)

Yesterday, at 4:15 ET, the editors of WashingtonPost.com indefinitely shut down comments on one of the paper’s weblogs, post.blog. Jim Brady, executive editor of WashingtonPost.com explained that this was due to profanity and hate speech evident in the torrent of contentious comments about the Jan. 15 column by ombudsman Denise Howell concerning the paper’s coverage of the Jack Abramoff story.

I can completely understand this decision, although I’m not sure whether it was the right move…

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10 Reasons Why Blogs Are Awkward for Conversation

One reason why I’m a bit frustrated with what I see as “blog myopia” rather than a broader recognition of conversational media (of which blogging is but a part) is that blogs have a lot of drawbacks.

Yes, blogs can facilitate certain aspects of the public conversation – very well in many cases.

Also: Blogs are a clunky, imperfect, limited, primitive form of conversational media. In fact, sometimes they can inhibit conversation, or even be used (consciously or unconsciously) to dodge conversation.

So in a way, it kind of bugs me that blogs are currently such a high-profile aspect of conversational media, because I don’t think they’re necessarily a great exposure to the experience. But then again, all conversational-media tools, even e-mail lists, have their own set of drawbacks.

So just to put these on the table, here are 10 reasons why I think blogs aren’t always great for conversation…

(Read the full article at The Right Conversation…)

Blog Myopia (Or, I Need Some T-Shirts)

Lately I’ve been getting a tad discouraged with the rampant myopia about blogs.

Don’t get me wrong: Obviously, I like blogs. I read them daily. I’m thrilled by all the ways they expand the public conversation and push the media envelope. Still, it’s getting a bit tiresome to hear various major media thinkers ramble on about blogs, blogs, blogs as if blogs were a huge deal in and of themselves.

Personally, I think they’re all missing the point. I’m considering printing up t-shirts or buttons to make it clear: “Don’t miss the conversation for the blogs.”

(Read the full article at The Right Conversation…)

Ghostwritten Executive Blogs Are Popular, but Are They Good?

On Jan. 4, David Davis, a speechwriter and corporate communications pro, published the results of a business blogging survey he commissioned. His researchers surveyed 750 business executives from the US, UK, South Africa, and Australia who publish company weblogs. Intriguingly, only 17% of these executives write their own blogs.

Hmmm, might a ghostwritten blog be a viable option, after all? I didn’t used to think so, but this survey has me wondering.

But first, a reality check…

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Search Releases: Not Just for Audiences, but Journalists, Too

Earlier I wrote about James Clark’s “search release” concept. (See: Rethinking Releases: Who’s Your Audience?)

Over at the British PR blog Mediations, Philip Young respectfully disagreed with some of my points. Well, I expected that, lots of PR practitioners disagree with my perspective on the press release issue.

We had a brief exchange in the comments of his blog, where he made some good points. In a nutshell, he contends that traditional press releases are still useful, especially in the UK, because many (perhaps most) people get their news from mainstream media (that is, via journalists) than searching for it. Therefore, search releases wouldn’t help PR people reach these audiences directly.

That is worth considering. With any communication, it’s important to clarify your goals and know your audience. Given that, here’s why I still think search releases offer generally more merit than traditional press releases…

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I Wish More Media Execs Had This Attitude

(UPDATE: Don’t miss my exchange with Craig Newmark in the comments to this posting. Then, at The Right Conversation, I explain why this little exchange indicates that Newmark is an Exec with a Clue About the Public Conversation.)

From an interview in today’s Guardian with Craigslist founder Craig Newmark:

“Describing himself as ‘customer service representative first, founder second,’ Newmark maintains diligent communication with as many of the 10 million monthly users of his site as possible. ‘It’s enabled me to see that people around the world share the same values, and the best thing you can do is simply help other people out. Forgive me – I’m seriously trying to be more cynical – but there’s this do unto others vibe in the Craigslist community which seems to be pretty universal.’”

I’m seriously trying to be more cynical too, but…

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