Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

PRWatch: Using Google Ads Or "Right to Respond" To Deal With Bad Press

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 11, 2009

Zachary Seward, writing at Nieman Journalism Lab reports that PR companies are using online ads to try and deal with bad press.

One example is the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council, which didn't like a New York Times article about a type of fish called hoki. [An Unlikely Star Among Seafood Causes a Row - NYTimes.com]

The council responded by buying Google Ads linked to keywords: 'new zealand hoki' and 'hoki new york times.'

The ads linked to a page that purports to set the record straight about hoki fishing and includes emails exchanged with Times science editor Laura Chang.

That was itself a feat of public-relations genius: Because the council's hoki page was originally a straightforward description of the fish and its uses, the Times had linked to it in the third paragraph of the article (at right), and 78,000 people clicked though, according to Sarah Crysell, a spokeswoman for the council. Taking advantage of that incoming traffic, the group transformed its hoki page into a rebuttal of the Times story.

I'm sure there will be others using this technique. But it's not as good as my idea for a "Right to Respond" box that could be present next to the actual story.

Companies could pay to respond to a specific story. All publications running a similar story or syndicating that story could also publish the "Right to Respond" button or link and thus its content would be automatically updated across ALL news stories carrying a Right to Respond link.

It would also provide newspaper sites with additional income rather than going to Google and and it would also act as showing the news site is "trusted" and legitimate.

- Companies would pay to use this service, individuals would have free access to make corrections.

- Web site owners/publishers/bloggers, etc would not be forced to provide a Right to Respond link next to their content. But if they did, it would show that they are a respectable and responsible site.

- The New York Times and other large publishers should offer a Right to Respond link next to every story because of their reach and influence and potential to harm reputations. It's the fair thing to do.

- Search engines should offer a right to respond link next to each search result they publish -- even if a right to respond link isn't found on the original web page of a search result.

- There is almost no monetary cost to offering a Right to Respond link, it does not cost a web site owner anything extra in servers or bandwidth.

- Publishers would be paid for offering a Right to Respond service from the fees charged to companies. Each time the page is loaded could earn the publisher a micro-payment, something that could be easily tracked by the Right to Respond widget sitting on the publisher's server.

That payment could be further qualified by the influence of a web site. The New York Times gets more money for running a Right to Respond link than less influential sites-- even if traffic volumes for both are the same.

- Only the content publishers get paid to carry a Right to Respond link and not search engines. It is the originator and not the aggregator that collects the payment.

Would some sites publish nasty things about companies or people simply to collect Right to Respond payments? They could, but constantly publishing critical and negative content would undermine their credibility, their influence, and their traffic.

- Competitors could use the Right to Respond link to publish their side of the story.


Please see:

The Right to Respond Should be a Fundamental Right of the Internet


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