Dell’s Blogosphere Woes

In 2005, blogger Jeff Jarvis wrote a series titled “Dell Hell” on his blog, BuzzMachine. Jarvis has years of experience in dealing with Dell computers, and one day he decided to share his misfortunate experiences with the world. On BuzzMachine, Jarivs ridiculed Dell over its inadequate customer service. Soon, the BuzzMachine was generating 5,000 hits per day, and Jarvis’ story began to unravel Dell’s image of positive customer service.

Since then, Dell has tried to rebuild its image by engaging in the blogosphere and communicating directly with its stakeholders. Dell maintains a corporate blog called Direct2Dell, which promotes on new Dell products, services and customers. Direct2Dell focuses on positive aspects of Dell’s image and brand. At the same time, Dell just launched a social networking site, called Your Blog. On Your Blog, customers can engage in discussions about technology and Dell. On the Ideastorm section of Your Blog, Dell promotes users to share their ideas about making Dell products better.

Despite its venture into two-way communication, Dell cannot overcome its customer service woes; however, this time, the blame lies entirely on Dell’s shoulders.

Look at this latest blunder, discovered only a few days ago by Jake Gordon. Dell released its new laptop, the Vostro 1310, with misaligned keys. The whole bottom row of letters is shifted one key to the right. The QWERTY keyboard has been the main keyboard in use for years; a sudden change in keyboard layout does not translate to happy consumers.

(Photo of faulty keyboard courtesy of Jake Gordon)

As expected, Dell is replacing all of the faulty laptops (and the manufacturing error affects every Vostro 1310 in Europe). However, the corporate Dell blog doesn’t even mention the error. A search in Direct2Dell for “Vostro 1310” returns one result, which promotes the laptop’s features. A similar search on Your Blog returns nothing.

So why did Dell engage in the blogosphere and then neglect its use for crises? Does Dell want information about its goof to reach consumers from third-parties? New owners of Vostro 1310s cannot even learn of the error from Dell’s blogs. Instead of managing the crisis itself, Dell is passing along its responsibilities to the blogosphere.

Unfortunately for Dell, the blogosphere has created thousands of potential writers like Jeff Jarvis.

May 6, 2008 at 10:33 am 54 comments

Trent Reznor Prevails With Profits and Fans

Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, has formed the foundation of a successful musician in a post-peer-to-peer world. Along with Radiohead, Reznor is the first musician to truly generate record profits and please a massive fan base.

By challenging the conventional formula of the music industry, Reznor has succeeded independently while the major record companies flail for steady profit.

(Trent Reznor photo courtesy of Nine Inch Nails’ Web site)

In early March, Nine Inch Nails released an album of instrumentals, called Ghosts I-IV. Fans could download the first quarter of the two-hour album for free from various peer-to-peer networks or the band’s Web site. However, Reznor gave people the option to purchase the full album in digital form for $5 or physical form for $10. Additionally, 2,500 limited-edition copies of the album sold for up to $300.

In the first week of sales, Reznor recorded revenue of $1,619,420. That is one week of sales, for an album that is partially free. Not only did Nine Inch Nails fans appreciate the new music, they appreciated it so much they paid millions for it.

This brings us to May 5. Yesterday, Reznor released another album, called The Slip, completely for free. On Nine Inch Nails’ Web site, Reznor wrote, “Thank you for your continued and loyal support over the years – this one’s on me.” The Slip can be downloaded in both MP3 and CD-quality formats, which include artwork in PDF form. Only a valid e-mail address is required for download.

The result? More pleased fans, more gathered e-mail address and more publicity. Simultaneously, Nine Inch Nails announced its upcoming tour. The free album will certainly generate more concert revenue, especially because fans can hear the music without a down payment.

Reznor and Nine Inch Nails are creating a healthy – and profitable – relationship between the music and the fan base. People want new music without paying for CDs, but they also want to support their favorite bands. Reznor caters to both needs. Can other bands replicate this relationship and learn from Reznor’s success?

May 5, 2008 at 11:17 pm 2 comments

The Power of Pitchfork

In a traditional sense, Pitchfork Media would never become a dominant force in the music world. The music Web site headlines “indie” bands that don’t have a record label. Pitchfork often employs a pretentious, self-important writing style. Pitchfork writers sometimes emphasize personal wittiness over genuine criticism. Even the Onion parodied Pitchfork’s music elitism, mocking the Web site’s rating scale.

So how did Pitchfork acquire the power to fill concert venues and generate massive CD sales for independent bands? Even Wired wrote about the “Pitchfork Effect.” Pitchfork can shake the music world, as it has the power make or break an artist with its music reviews.

(Photo of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah courtesy of the band’s Web site)

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah owes its entire success to Pitchfork. Before Pitchfork, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was a small New York band fighting for a record contract. Soon after Pitchfork’s first review of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, David Bowie attended one of their concerts. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah sold out of self-produced albums immediately. The band’s success took off, while the remainder of the Internet finally noticed.

In addition to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Pitchfork launched musical acts like Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene. Pitchfork respectively gave albums by these artists a 9.7 and 9.2, respectively. Before the reviews, a music critic would be an anomaly to have heard of these artists.

How did this happen? Despite criticisms of the Web site’s writing and overall demeanor, Pitchfork represents the future of niche news. Pitchfork’s boldness gives it credibility and authority. A reader knows exactly how Pitchfork feels about a musician.

Additionally, Pitchfork reviews five albums every weekday. The workers at Pitchfork listen to an abundance of music. Reviewers build a solid knowledge of music just through experience. And, above all, Pitchfork’s writing is often hilarious. Publications like Blender or Spin aspire to be as quirky and fun as Pitchfork, but they seem watered-down in comparison.

I doubt Pitchfork originally thought it would ever have the ability to highlight or kill careers. Regardless of its intentions, Pitchfork is the new heavyweight music critic around.

Good luck, Rolling Stone.

May 1, 2008 at 10:04 am 1 comment

RIAA Mishandles Downloading Lawsuits

Over the last six years, the war between music-downloading consumers and the Recording Industry Association of America has become a stalemate. The RIAA threatens to sue consumers to ward off illegal downloading, but illegal music downloads still outnumber legal downloads by a 40-1 ratio.

Apparently, the RIAA is not reaching its publics about illegal downloads, despite its staunch stance against pirating. People continue to illegally download regardless of facing a potential lawsuit.

I blame this negative attitude toward the RIAA due to its mishandling of the illegal downloads. Just look at this case of the RIAA suing Tanya Andersen, a single mom living in Portland.

(Photo of Tanya Andersen courtesy of BusinessWeek)

Four years ago, Andersen and the RIAA began a bitter battle over illegal downloading. The industry group said that Andersen had to pay them about $4,000 dollars, or she would go bankrupt from court fees. Andersen contended that she never downloaded illegally. Eventually, the RIAA dropped the lawsuit due to lack of evidence.

Anderson fought the RIAA for three years; now, she putting legal pressure on them. She has filed a lawsuit against the RIAA for conspiracy laws and invasion of personal privacy. Her confrontation with the RIAA has produced a number of problems for the trade industry group, including that fact that the RIAA may have misidentified illegal music consumers up to 20 percent of the time.

For this case involving Andersen, the RIAA or the record labels wished not to comment. Why the secrecy? Why the rejection of journalists? By neglecting to respond to people, the RIAA is engaging in only one-way communication with its publics. To make matters worse, the RIAA forces its message of “piracy is bad news” upon people without any room for discussion.

To earn respect among people, the RIAA must steer away from guilt-tripping people and engage in more earnest arguments. Until then, people will continue abuse digital piracy and bypass buying music.

April 27, 2008 at 9:52 pm 1 comment

Twitter Experiment

Last weekend, our class conducted a 48-hour Twitter experiment. From Thursday to Saturday, each person in my class of 13 people posted to Twitter a minimum of five times. The micro-blogs accumulated, and our public relations class was highly connected for 48 hours. We all knew the published details of everyone else.

From this experiment, we were supposed to learn the real-time value of Twitter. As a micro-blog of 140 characters, Twitter is constantly updated and personal. I learned when people went to bed, what homework they worked one, and which movies they watched. Some classmates would update every few hours; others, like me, updated two or three times per day.

I remain unconvinced that Twitter will work for me. First of all, I have to want to read about the details of everyone else’s lives; I need to care. I try to be connected with my friends in the digital world; however, I strive to be not too connected.

Granted, sometimes the micro-blogs warranted my response. They truly sparked my interest. However, I wonder how much time I would accrue “Twittering” if I became attached to the social site.

Nonetheless, I see the potential of Twitter for the use of companies and public organizations. It provides organizations with an instant message that is viewable by all of its “followers.” The followers can then reply to the organization immediately, which is instant feedback for companies. Additionally, the organization’s publics receive an inside-look at the company. Thus, Twitter is more personal than a corporate Web site or email update. This fact gives companies an advantage when building brand identity or consumer credibility.

April 23, 2008 at 1:38 pm 1 comment

The Raconteurs’ Unconventional Promotion

No one knows how to promote music anymore. Fifteen years ago, the record industry had music promotion figured out. Artists like Sugar Ray, Linkin Park, and Usher sold millions of records. Music fans—young and old alike—eagerly bought compact discs. Then Napster happened, and the digital music revolution began.

The fallout after Napster led the recording industry astray. Albums sales declined. People now found new music online, using peer-to-peer networks and Web sites like Myspace.com. Recently, musicians have experimented with different manners of releasing and promoting albums, both in physical and digital form.

On March 25, Jack White’s band, The Raconteurs, unexpectedly released “The Consolers of the Lonely” across every distribution channel.

But how is the release of “Consolers of the Lonely” different from other music releases? The Raconteurs did not use any promotion for “Consolers of the Lonely.” Instead, the band depended solely on the mass distribution of a press release on March 18—only one week before the album’s release.

The band gave music news sites and blogs an opportunity to break the sudden news to the public. On March 18, popular news site Pitchfork Media made its headlining story about The Raconteurs, running the story with the press release verbatim. Other music news sites and blogs did the same.

Since its release, the album’s single peaked at 35 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Charts. The single, “Salute Your Solution,” has stayed on the charts for every week since its release. Furthermore, the album has stayed within the Top 10 on Amazon.com’s New Releases chart since its release.

For Jack White and The Raconteurs, this indirect approach to public relations and marketing worked. In many cases, the public read The Raconteur’s main message verbatim. Intrigued fans then acted upon the news and purchased the album.

Jack White’s famousness certainly lends credibility to the album’s release. He didn’t need to use promotional tactics to incite the public’s interest. But can this cost-friendly approach to marketing work for other bands? Will other bands follow The Raconteurs’ lead and release albums that lack traditional promotion?

April 21, 2008 at 9:57 pm 2 comments

Hillary Clinton to Appear on The Colbert Report

In another unexpected twist of political events, Hillary Clinton will appear on “The Colbert Report” Thursday night.

MSNBC’s “Hardball” host Chris Matthews leaked the news during his interview with Stephen Colbert last Monday. Embarrassed, Colbert responded, “There’s a possibility of that…We like to surprise people with certain guests.”

Colbert jokes about how candidates will experience a jump in popularity, dubbed the “The Colbert Bump.” Mike Huckabee did it himself in 2007, which set the stage for a fierce, brief competition for the Republican nomination.

Nonetheless, Clinton is likely to encounter a much harsher interviewer than she did with John Stewart last month. Colbert routinely interrupts his interviewees. When she appeared on “The Daily Show,” Clinton was allowed to speak mostly unimpeded. The day after the Jon Stewart interview, Clinton won the Texas and Ohio primaries.

Obviously, the Clinton campaign is reaching out to Comedy Central viewers. Days before the Pennsylvania primary, she is trying to woo the youth vote. So far, Obama has garnered the majority of voters between the ages of 18 and 24 in competitive states, according to exit polls.

Can “The Colbert Bump” give Clinton more voter support? Or has Obama already won Pennsylvania, regardless of Clinton’s last-minute appearance?

April 16, 2008 at 10:08 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts Newer Posts


About the Blogger

My name is Ben Benson. I attend the University of Oregon. I will graduate next spring with a degree in public relations from the School of Journalism and Communication.
Add to Technorati Favorites