Information may want to be free, but most often it isn’t. There is a cost to just about everything. In this exciting new media world, we tend to forget this. In particular we tend to forget that many (most?) of the companies providing the goods and services that power the new world are for-profit endeavors.
Such as Technorati, which experienced a little PR blogger backlash today after the details of its joint project with Edelman were revealed. Folks were concerned about Technorati having such close ties with a PR agency. What would that mean for all the rest? Will the blogosphere be damaged somehow by this deal? To which I say, respectfully: Come on, folks.
It’s a business deal. I highly doubt whether anyone is in anyone’s pocket, now or ever. Each participant had a good business reason for doing the deal, both benefit, and lucky for the blogosphere, so do we.
Let’s start with the Edelman. This is one of a series of smart business moves by Richard Edelman. He is establishing his agency as the premier PR agency for social media. Doesn’t really matter yet whether they’ve delivered anything yet or that there was a flap over Wal-Mart or even whether there is a real competitive advantage in the short 6-8 month period that they’ll have an exclusive over the new localized stuff. The perception is that the agency has made a commitment to blogging and is willing to do what it takes. And it’s not just lip service or having a blog or recruiting well-known bloggers. With this deal, they’ve made an actual investment in the blogosphere. And that is one smart PR move.
Whatever competitive advantage this exclusive period gives them depends on their execution. And quite frankly I don’t think it really matters. Six-eight months is nothing. The real competitive advantage is owning the position of "the" social media PR agency. Big company clients who want to look into "this stuff" will know where to go. Eventually, the agency will have to deliver on the perception, but from his speech at Syndicate last week, sounds to me like Richard Edelman is ready for the challenge. Is that hard for PR agencies to swallow? Probably. Bad for the blogosphere? No, because it seems we will get the localized Technorati far faster in this scenario.
Now to Technorati. I may be over-simplifying, but it just seems like a smart business move. After all, Technorati is a for-profit business, not a public service. Good for them that they’ve made the service so central to our blogging experience — at least if we speak English or Japanese. But… Technorati has a business problem — it needs to deliver localized versions of its service FAST or risk losing first-mover advantage. However the deal materialized and whatever the terms, having a customer to fund the development makes everything a lot easier for Dave Sifry and team.
From what I’ve read, it also sounds to me like Edelman’s interest is in the monitoring of global blog conversation. I may be naive, but I didn’t get the sense that Edelman was involved IN the development, simply funding it and reaping the initial benefits. I wouldn’t call that a Technorati sell-out. I call it a business deal.
Technorati may be the most well known RSS search engine but it is by no means the only one. If some of the nefarious deeds speculated upon elsewhere did happen, it wouldn’t take long for the crime to be discovered.
I’m sure both companies weighed the potential blogstorm of their announcement, and determined that the benefits outweighed the negatives. The good news for us is that no matter how much Edelman and Technorati benefit (and no question, they will), in the end, we all benefit, because we will have these localized Technorati services next year. And that is indeed a very good thing.
Disclosures: None. I have absolutely no inside information. This is just my opinion.
Update: Andy Lark has a good post, updated with some additional info from Steve Rubel.
Update 2: Stowe Boyd makes some good points.
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