Friday, 22 February 2008

Lesson: Why corporations are nervous about blogs and forums

Expanding our Web 1.0 websites (the traditional we-publish-you-read) to embrace blogs (we-publish-you-respond) and user communities (you-do-what-you-like) is not always an easy sell.

Understandable objections include the risks of libel, but there are also (mostly) unspoken concerns about loss of control.

So yesterday's announcement that our parent company Reed Elsevier is to "divest" itself of Reed Business Information has meant that controls over the message going out are much more difficult to manage than they would have been 10 or even 5 years' ago.

Of course, all our bloggers know their contractual obligations but it's interesting to see who has mentioned the news and where. There is one on Kieran Daly's aviation blog; another on the ICIS Chemicals Confidential blog.

Given the somewhat emotional nature of the news and the ease with which a blogger can publish his or her thoughts, they are quite restrained really.

As we get further down the line towards a sale or a floatation or whatever from the "divestment" is, I imagine guidelines on what can or can't be said may become rather more explicit. Not least for legal reasons.

But you can't stop people asking. An eagle-eyed American farmer picked up that RBI was up for sale and posted on the Farmers Weekly forums, worried that "if this is true and comes to pass, the forum will be much changed or even deleted??".

This is rather touching but then another forum regular posts some speculates about who might buy RBI.

Editor Jane King does the right thing and explains that it just business-as-usual here at RBI, and it is. Surprisingly, it really is. You wouldn't believe just how usual business here is.

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