Transcript: Steve Rubel vs. Forbes on CNBC

by Scott Baradell | PR and Pop Culture

Transcript: Steve Rubel vs. Forbes on CNBC

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.

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8 thoughts on “Transcript: Steve Rubel vs. Forbes on CNBC

  1. Jeremy

    Wow – so, after all that talk on not controlling the blogosphere, Steve doesn’t correct the host when he says “manipulate it” but goes right into a pitch on Vespa Blogs, which, well, are probably one of the worst example to use for customer evangelists. Sitting there was the man from Hacking Netflix / Tracking Trader Joe’s, two examples of great customer evangelist blogs.

    Unfortunately (or fortunately), Dan Lyons of Forbes had great points about companies and the need for PR to be noting what the conversation is, because of the short and long term issues that can come from negative blogs. Instead the “spokesman” for PR went into a speech on how companies should be controlling and using blogs for marketing messages. How is being proactive and empowering bloggers any different than trying to manipulate bloggers or trying to harness the blogosphere? It’s about open conversations, and while you can talk to bloggers about what their motivation is, you don’t want to cross whatever thin line is out there with bloggers.

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  2. SB

    I think Steve did well given the circumstances. The problem was that CNBC put together an inappropriate group of people to discuss the Forbes story. If they wanted to focus specifically on the dangers to brands, they should have included someone who has been damaged by blogs (e.g., Gregory Halpern). And then Steve’s role could have been to offer advice on how to get your brand out of trouble. As it is, the discussion came off simplistically as “Are blogs good or bad?” — which was never the point of the Forbes story to begin with.

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  3. Steve Rubel

    It’s worth noting that we really had all of four minutes to cover this. When you watch the “game film,” you’ll see that this segment moved along at a good clip. I didn’t even here him say “manipulate” until the second time I watched it. I agree with Scott, it was an odd grouping. Forbes was a last minute addition and it changed the theme.

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  4. Jeremy

    As any media trained PR person can tell you, you listen to all the comments and catch the nuances. You know that quite well, SB, because you have had to put out many BELO fires. And, judging from the latest accolades to 6A and Google, other’s advice should be taken with a box of salt.

    You come prepared for the negative along with the positive, so you can have no excuses that Forbes was a blindsided guest segment switch (which I find hard to believe). The piece was likely a shredder piece to begin with, and the people weren’t prepared for every angle. And, that’s just bad for PR.

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  5. Dennis Howlett

    Steve’s FU’d big style on this. It will come back to warm his backside – blog flame style. He just doesn’t see it yet. Oh yes – blame the producers – funny format I don’t understand – not me – bollox.

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  6. steven edward streight

    I want the morbid sectors of the MSM, and the vile corporations, to fear our WRATH.

    We are not playing around. We hardcore bloggers truly have infinite quantities of hate to unleash on deserving targets. We do plan to destroy…the unethical, the con artist, the shoddy product, the lying CEO.

    What’s the Blog Revolution? It means the Voice of the Consumer shall now intimidate and punish rotten corporate or political culprits.

    The trick we’ve all played was to coax businesses to blog…not so we could hear from them, but so we could bitch and question and challenge them.

    Ha ha ha. It worked.

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  7. Frank Nesbitt

    I was a subscriber to our-street.com, the subject of Dan Lyons trash piece “Attack of the Bloggers” and despite his attitude, Timothy Miles reports were impeccably detailed. To my knowledge no one ever challenged the facts he reported. The true villan in the piece is Greg Halpern, the CEO of Circle Group, a man who deceived his investors from before June until October about losing the Nestle contract. It was Miles’ investigative work combined with the constant pressuring of the message boards that finally forced Halpern to admit this crucial fact some 4 months after the fact. That Halpern pursued Miles to the degree he did, is evidence for strengthend anti SLAPP litigation laws. In his two years as publisher of our-street.com, Miles exposed stock fraud in 23 companies and over half of them has subsequently become the subject of regulatory action. He is the hero in this story. Dan Lyons’ piece is a disgrace to ethical journalism.

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