Much of the tension created between employers and private bloggers stems from what is said about the company on the blog. This tension is not new though. People could, and still do, publish their thoughts about their employer and their work mates via a letter to the editor or an interview on the radio or television. There is, however, a big difference between a blog and traditional broadcast media.
Broadcast media are expensive to set up and operate and operate in a zero sum game. If a story runs, it does so at the expense of another story. The result is only those stories that are likely to capture and maintain the attention of a mass audience are likely to receive air play or go to print. For mass media operators, big audiences mean big advertising revenues and big profits. It’s a simple matter of creating the highest likelihood of making a profit.
Media metrics, such as these, have, in many ways shielded companies from negative publicity. Unless a story about a company is outrageously compelling it is unlikely to make even the early, early morning edition of the news. Blogs are not subject to the same economic model.
As Clay Shirky attests, blogs have very low barriers to entry (this one, aside from my time, is completely free), have no economies of scale (it’s just as cheap to publish to an audience of 1 as to 1 000 001), and there is a limitless supply (the creation of this blog doesn’t mean that another blog can’t be made). In effect, blogs change completely the economics of publication and therefore provide the perfect environment for the rise of what Shirky calls “mass amateurization”. In other words, anyone with access to the Internet can now be a blogger; and publish their thoughts about their boss, their company, their colleagues.
Never before have businesses faced such an immense risk, and never before have employees had so much publishing power – not to mention a potential worldwide audience – at their disposal. It is small wonder that businesses are becoming so concerned about the power of the blogger. One wonders how long it will take for unions to join in the battle on behalf of their constituents.