Wal-Mart continues to struggle with two-way marketing, but I don't think they did anything wrong in sending out "exclusives" to bloggers, some of whom lifted sections and published them as if they were the blogger's own words. Anyone who publishes, including anyone who self-publishes, needs to be forthright about who wrote the words they are using and, if possible, where the information originated. It's okay to say "my source prefers to remain anonymous," but it's not okay to pretend there was no source, that the words and ideas are all your own. I'm very careful to credit sources, and if I slip would like to be corrected right away.
NY Times, March 7, 2006:
Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in P.R. Campaign by Michael Barbaro
Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, has been forthright with bloggers about the origins of its communications, and the company and its public relations firm, Edelman, say they do not compensate the bloggers.
But some bloggers have posted information from Wal-Mart, at times word for word, without revealing where it came from.
Glenn Reynolds, the founder of Instapundit.com, one of the oldest blogs on the Web, said that even in the blogosphere, which is renowned for its lack of rules, a basic tenet applies: "If I reprint something, I say where it came from. A blog is about your voice, it seems to me, not somebody else's."
Unlike Glenn Reynolds, I look at my web site as a source of news more than a source of opinion, but I think he's right. If we publish, we have to credit our sources, even if we say we have a source who wants to be anonymous.