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30/03/2006

First PR Business column (with links!)

Below is a slightly longer version of the column I wrote for today's first issue of PR Business, replete with links to the stories.  Let me know what you think!

Britannica fightback

PRs who have their finger on the online pulse are used to the fact that news and issues can move frighteningly quickly on internet forums and blogs. So it’s nice to see some folks still taking their good time with such matters.

When respected science journal Nature published its findings of a comparison of Encylopedia Britannica and Wikipedia last December, the former refused to be rushed into a knee-jerk response. The report concluded that as far as entries on science-related subjects were concerned,  Wikipedia was only marginally less accurate than the venerable Encylcopedia Britannica.

Wikipedia is an online encylopedia to which anyone can submit an entry or edit one, so many observers were surprised that it received a relative vote of confidence from such an esteemed publication.

The Nature article incensed the Encylcopedia Britannica team, who, with characteristic attention to detail, took a full three months to issue a massive twenty-page rebuttal last week, in a document entitled “Fatally Flawed”.

Interestingly, Encylcopedia Britannica’s online edition carries no entries for “Wikipedia” or “Wiki”, while its online rival carries a nine section, 2,800 word entry on “Encyclopedia Britannica”. I’m sure there will be something in the next edition…

Legal concerns

Further controversy in the online world came this week when a lecturer from Oldham was ordered to pay £10,000 damages to  a UKIP parliamentary candidate whom she had called a “Nazi” and a “nonce” on a Yahoo! message board debate about the

Iraq

war. [See this Guardian article for the full story.]

The case was one of the first to be tried in the UK and prompted concerns among commentators in newspapers and blogs alike to worry aloud about principles of free speech in the UK.

It also raises some serious issues for PRs in the

UK

. As it becomes easier and cheaper to create, publish and distribute all kinds of media on the internet, as well as hosting chat rooms and discussion forums, there will be a need for agencies and in-house practitioners alike to be more familiar with the laws around libel, defamation and copyright. Basic legal advice may become a pre-requisite for many more PR campaigns than is already the case.

UK

new media evolution

While most of its national newspaper rivals are launching new ways of working with blogs and podcasts, the Guardian still seems to be setting the pace. Following on from the launch of its rolling-blog “Comment is Free” earlier this month it this week launched a range of new podcasts including a daily news  programme, all to be produced in its brand new Farringdon Road recording facilities. 

The Guardian also proved that its strategy for online had paid off this week as it revealed that its Guardian Unlimited website had earned profits of over £1 million this year.

Guardian Newspapers chief executive Carolyn McCall, couldn’t resist a side-swipe at Rupert Murdoch, whose acquisitions of websites like myspace.com have earned him admiration from across the new media industry: “Everyone credits Murdoch with this amazing foresight, but actually we’ve been doing this for ten years,” she said.

Meanwhile, the BBC’s director of new media and technology, Ashley Highfield announced his intention to “completely redesign” the corporation’s website “for a web 2.0 world”.

Web 2.0 is the catch-all buzzword industry insiders are using to describe the flurry of innovation in web media over the past couple of years, including the spread of services like blogs, podcasts and Wikis, as well as the rise of phenomena such as “citizen journalism” and “consumer generated content”.

It will be interesting to see what new delights the Beeb serve up online, but for a sneak preview of the possibilities, take a look at their Backstage and Innovation Labs websites….

Last man blogging…

After the anonymous and scandalous Spin Bunny and Bad Hack blogs from the

UK

, comes the American Strumpette, promoting itself with a provocative photo and a claim to be A Naked Journal of the PR Industry. Reactions among PR bloggers range from scorn to amusement, and more than a few are speculating that Strumpette is in fact a man…