In the wake of the controversial Forbes cover story, “Attack of the Blogs,” here’s the transcript of an Oct. 27 segment of CNBC’s On the Money , featuring Daniel Lyons of Forbes, Micro Persuasion‘s Steve Rubel, Mike Kaltschnee of Hacking Netflix.com, and Neil Hunt of Netflix:
DYLAN RATIGAN (HOST): Corporate secrets, some facts and many lies. They’re all spilling out onto computer screens worldwide these days, costing many companies a pretty penny. Forbes magazine calls the Internet rumor-mongers an online lynch mob in this new article, “Attack of the Blogs,” which details the lives and businesses ruined by Weblogs.
With us tonight: Dan Lyons, senior member of Forbes magazine, author of the article; public relations strategist Steve Rubel from CooperKatz; Mike Kaltschnee, the blogger behind Hacking Netflix.com; and Neil Hunt from Netflix — he is their chief product officer.
Dan, in brief, what’s the problem?
DAN: The problem is, most of the blogosphere’s fantastic, and there are lots of great things to say about it. But there’s a small amount of the blogosphere invested in attacking companies, sometimes with intentionally false information, and ruining people’s lives. It’s very, very hard to deal with them. Some companies now really live in fear of the blogosphere; they spend a lot of time and money monitoring the blogs to try to stay ahead of it and try to respond to these things when they happen.
DYLAN: Steve, you’re the PR guy here. You say, “Don’t live in fear of the blogosphere. Manipulate it.”
STEVE: It’s human nature; you have positives and negatives in every society. You have people who want to do good and people who want to do bad. Mike Kaltschnee from Hacking Netflix is somebody who wants to do good. The bloggers we have blogging for Vespa, under the auspices of Vespa at VespaBlogs.com, are doing good.
DYLAN: That’s good but this conversation is about those who are the evil-doers, the liars, the hackers of this world.
STEVE: Blown out of proportion, Dylan. Blown out of proportion.
DYLAN: That’s fair, but let’s talk to Mike. He is a blogger out there. Mike, what inspires you to do a complimentary blog about a company like Netflix?
MIKE: I think people blog about what they are passionate about. People are interested in Netflix. I get about 100,000 people every month coming to my site, looking for news, information, customer support issues, basically anything they can find about the company. They are very passionate and very loyal about Netflix.
DYLAN: And Neil, as a principal at Netflix, how do you feel about someone out there who is obviously very well-informed about your company … but you have no actual control over what he says or does?
NEIL: He’s extremely well-informed; in fact, we find that the comments posted on Mike’s blog and other similar blogs are extremely useful for us to help keep a pulse on what people are saying and thinking out there. And like any other communications channel that brings in a lot of customer input, there’s going to be a lot of good stuff and there’s going to be some fringe stuff … You have to figure out which is which, and which to ignore. But in general we find it a great channel.
STEVE: Dylan, part of the problem here is the companies aren’t listening and responding to the people who have complaints. So maybe if they actually used it as a customer service channel, listened to what is actually being said in the blogosphere and then didn’t just sit on the information but did something with it, then maybe there wouldn’t be this backlash.
DYLAN: Is that what you found, Dan? Maybe the problem is the companies are unresponsive and so they set themselves up for it?
DAN: Actually, that’s a really good point, because what we’ve found is that a lot of companies are almost asleep at the switch. I spent some time talking with one of the top PR guys at Microsoft, and he said, “Look, we’ve been very aware of the risks of the blogosphere for a long time. We spend every day, all of the PR people get up and monitor the blogosphere in addition to the mainstream media now, to make sure nothing bad or nothing false is being spread about us. The potential for brand damage from the blogosphere is really, really high, and most companies are focusing only on how to exploit the blogosphere to spread their PR message, to get their marketing hype out, which is great and the blogosphere is a great vehicle for that. His argument is, you also have to be aware of the potential for brand damage and try to be on top of that. He calls it the four-hour rule; when something gets out in the blogosphere, he says he’s got four hours to get on that and address it and put the truth out ahead of it.
STEVE: You know what, I actually think that people are not taking the steps to be proactive here and empowering the bloggers. No one here is thinking, “What are the blogger’s motivations? Why is Mike Kaltschnee spending his free time blogging about Netflix, because he loves it? Why are people complaining? What’s their motivation and how do we address those motivations?” We’ve got to treat these people like people.
DYLAN: Thank you all.