Sony PR Lunacy

I don’t usually post quick one-offs, but this is worth it. Welcome to one of the most foolish PR moves in the history of the video game industry. Followed by an understandably quick (and rather humiliating) reversal.

Can’t claim I’m posting this for purely innocent reasons (I have a competitive streak a mile wide) — but I do honestly believe that this is an excellent example of a big corporation being completely out of touch with the rules of the blogosphere.

Want a lesson in handling a potentially negative situation on the Internet in the appropriate manner? See Linden Lab’s handling of the “First Life” campaign.

14 responses to “Sony PR Lunacy

  1. I don’t usually post quick one-offs, but this is worth it.

    What value? I’m disappointed in this cheap slight. You have not provided any critical analysis — you do not have to, but that is what I have come to expect from you — and your conclusion is clearly based on the lame “Microsoft versus Sony” campaign. That campaign, by the way, is extremely obnoxious. Not a day goes by that I do not see some opinion piece by some Microsoft or Sony executive proclaiming they have the upper hand. I know these are big companies. I know this is a competition. I cannot stand this incessant politicking.

    I would prefer to see innovation in product development. I would prefer to see one company one up the other in quality. Instead I am treated to a shouting match and a weak exchange of verbal taunts that are wastes of space in periodical columns. If I were interested, I would pay more attention to elections.

    Welcome to one of the most foolish PR moves in the history of the video game industry.

    Kotaku was wrong. Kotaku made the foolish move. Any respectable journalist who values relationships over content would have not published information that was requested by a business to not be published. Whoever wrote about the “differences between what PR people do for a living and what journalists do” is obviously trying to escape with a weak excuse.

    The author wrote, “My interest is not in making sure that Sony has positive news or that the timing of their news is correct, my job only is to inform the readers of news as quickly and accurately as I can.”

    Note the last clause of the statement. The author describes his/her job as one of informing “the readers of news“. Perhaps rumors are news for FOX, but in the rest of the world, rumors are not proper news items.

    Want a lesson in handling a potentially negative situation on the Internet in the appropriate manner?

    Here’s a better lesson: do not lend credence to amateur outlets whose “news” consists of hearsay and whose arrogance presides over rational decision making. They cannot be trusted, and they will do anything for traffic. When they pull stunts as you described, “the websites, newspapers, magazines, people who were so quick to come to [their] defense and support [their] decision” are merely fairweather friends. I do not care how much traffic Kotaku receives. Their ranking on the “blog ladder” carries little meaning. What matters most is their integrity. Kotaku is clearly lacking in that regard.

  2. > your conclusion is clearly based on the lame “Microsoft versus Sony” campaign

    I think not. I’ve spoken publicly about the need for corporations to rethink their relationship with bloggers. This was a very good example of *why* they should.

    > Kotaku was wrong

    Whether or not that is true, it is irrelevant from a business perspective.

    > Perhaps rumors are news for FOX, but in the rest of the world, rumors are not proper news items.

    If you’re comparing FOX and Kotaku, you’ve already missed the point. And if you think you’re in the position to act as “moral judge and jury” of the blogosphere, you’re in for a very rude awakening someday.

  3. Update: see the Penny Arcade writeup of this PR incident. Note that their post will be read by about three million people.

  4. I think not.

    You wrote:

    Can’t claim I’m posting this for purely innocent reasons (I have a competitive streak a mile wide) …

    Whenever a Microsoft employee talks about Sony, and when a Sony employee talks about Microsoft, the result seems to always be one company badmouthing the other. There is always an article somewhere about how Microsoft or Sony failed to do this and that, and someone in one of those companies just has to come out and say, “Look at them! They suck. We rule.” That’s what you seemed to be saying.

    If that is not what you were saying, then I misunderstood and I apologize.

    Whether or not that is true, it is irrelevant from a business perspective.

    It’s irrelevant from the perspective of SCEA, and it’s irrelevant from the perspective of Kotaku. It’s not irrelevant from any other business perspective. The editor had the cajones to call himself and his team journalists. They should be held to the same standards of integrity that are expected of journalists.

    And if you think you’re in the position to act as “moral judge and jury” of the blogosphere, you’re in for a very rude awakening someday.

    The blogosphere is not an alien homeworld in a distant galaxy. The blogosphere does not exist outside the mortal realms of humanity. The blogosphere cannot be granted freedom from civil and ethical conduct because the blogosphere is simply a part of the global society that happens to have recently been bestowed a label. Bloggers are not another category of people. They are people, and they should be held accountable for their behavior.

    We are all in for a very rude awakening someday. Hopefully.

  5. I was unfair to you in my reaction to your post. I posted a more reasonable response here. That response should be more focused, and less conflated with other topics. My thoughts on the blogosphere being a part of society, instead of an elite club with special rules, remain standing though.

  6. Morgan — no worries. RE: elite club — I think the opposite is true (or becoming true), and the absence of traditional “rules” (as you see them) reflects that.

  7. Regardless of whether the blogosphere fits some type of definition of journalism is, as David pointed out, not the point. Rather, it exists and it has a huge undercurrent that if you\’re not paying attention can either propel your brand or drown it rather quickly.

    Is there an example of how Sony does work well within the long tail? For example, Microsoft is involved with gamertagradio, gamertag, clash.cc and others.

  8. Regardless of whether the blogosphere fits some type of definition of journalism is, as David pointed out, not the point.

    No, talking about blogging is talking about something else entirely. The issue in this case is not whether the people who blog or use blogs can be influential. It’s a given that large masses of people can effect change. It’s also a given that if you don’t pay attention to your brand, its strength will diminish. No, the issue is one of ethics, and because the issue is one of ethics, words and definitions are important.

    Brian Crecente wrote:

    As I told Dave Karraker in reply, this only highlights the differences between what PR people do for a living and what journalists do.

    Crecente described himself and the editors of Kotaku as journalists. They should be held accountable as journalists. Kotaku’s behavior was irresponsible, unethical, and detrimental to the business of games, and the gaming press—a corps of writers of which the editors of Kotaku believe they are members. Yet, simply because Kotaku has a large audience and they are powered by “blog” technology, quite a few people are overlooking Kotaku’s malpractice.

    When David wrote that the truthiness of Kotaku’s malpractice is irrelevant from a business perspective, he effectively said that ethics does not matter in business. Ethics does matter. Integrity does matter. Principles do matter. Simply because there’s money dangling from a string does not mean that it’s okay to be strung along.

  9. > When David wrote that the truthiness of Kotaku’s
    > malpractice is irrelevant from a business perspective,
    > he effectively said that ethics does not matter in business.

    No.

    1) Your definition of “malpractice” is quite debatable.

    2) Even if we assume that Kotaku’s behavior was “unethical”, you’re making a very big assumption that the only “ethical” response is to “punish” Kotaku. This alone could be the subject of a week-long debate, but since I completely disagree with you about the ethical nature of Kotaku’s actions, I stop here.

  10. Your definition of “malpractice” is quite debatable.

    Really?

    Even if we assume that Kotaku’s behavior was “unethical”, you’re making a very big assumption that the only “ethical” response is to “punish” Kotaku.

    I never said anything about “punishing” Kotaku. I could draw a hard line and say, “Cease contact with anyone whose integrity is found lacking.” But people make mistakes. What I am suggesting is that casually dismissing Kotaku’s malpractice—I insist on the term—in favor of more business is bad business.

    This alone could be the subject of a week-long debate, but since I completely disagree with you about the ethical nature of Kotaku’s actions, I stop here.

    1. Kotaku decided to publish information on new technology.
    2. Kotaku then asked SCEA for whatever.

    The decision to publish was already in place. Kotaku assumed a non-negotiable position, leaving SCEA in a tight spot. SCEA responded, albeit hastily, and made a reasonable threat of access limitation. The Kotaku readers think this is abnormal. This threat is standard operating procedure for all media, but usually the threat is never made verbally.

    3. Kotaku published the information on new technology.
    4. Kotaku sent a link to the article, taunting SCEA.

    SCEA did what was warned they would do.

    5. Kotaku posted about the situation.
    6. Kotaku reframed the situation in a way that reinforced a positive image for Kotaku and a negative image for SCEA. Read the articles “Sony Blackballs Kotaku” and “Sony and Kotaku Make-Up” again. Be critical. Those articles are effectively organized and appropriately worded to send the message that Kotaku is the victim and SCEA is the abuser.

    Was this a smart move for Kotaku? We’ll see. SCEA is back on board, but only because they were outmaneuvered by so-called “journalists” who play dirty. Who’s to say that other content partners will trust Kotaku? Who’s to say that Kotaku’s relationships with other content partners will remain healthy?

    Let’s pretend Kotaku is a single individual. In fact, Kotaku is one of your friends. He’s cool, but he knows something about you that only he knows. He tells you he knows. You’re surprised and ask him to keep silent. Being good friends, you expect he will. Instead of keeping that information confidential though, he tells the world.

    Would you trust him?

    Let’s take that story one step further. Instead of just disclosing the information about you that you asked him to keep secret, he also adds that you tried to strong-arm him into silence. He claims that you threatened to torch his car and break his legs if he told anyone.

    Now that you’re up on conspiracy charges, would you trust him? Everyone you know thinks you’re a thug, too. Would you still trust him? Ever again?

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