Companies’ Interaction with Bloggers

There’s an interesting interview over at iMedia Connection with Wired Editor Chris Anderson. Unlike most interviews, it obviously isn’t a set of static questions mailed off to Chris, but an actual dialogue between Anderson and Brad Berens, his interviewer. It starts off discussing Anderson’s recent interactions through his blog with Microsoft over technical support for his XBox 360, but soon gets up to the elbows in the meaty subject of blogs, consumerism and corporate responsibility. The following quote is actually part of one of the interviewer’s questions:

On the consumer side, the great thing about blogs and blogging is that any thoughtful, engaged citizen with a browser and an internet connection can become a media voice in just a few minutes. On the corporate side, this is great if the citizen is a thoughtful and engaged customer. But the terrible thing about blogs and blogging is that any meathead with a grudge or too much time on his hands can have the same megaphone. Whose job is it to tell the engaged customers from the meatheads?

As guest-blogger this week, this has actually been a question I’ve asked myself in regards to my Consumerist posts. Obvious from our tagline is the fact that this site is a darker, more cynical take on consumerism than, say, Gizmodo, our awesome sister site. A certain degree of cynicism when dealing with the promises of faceless corporate hegemonies is needed to actually appreciate their slickness: these aren’t things we need, these are things we want, and there in really lies the allure. When companies can afford to launch multi-million dollar advertising complaints to blunt the sharpness of consumer’s complaints, it’s important we remain all the more persistent and vigilant in our complaints. But omnivorous, purposeful cynicism devours itself. Because of this, there’s an odd contradiction: to be effectively cynical about consumerism, one – at heart – has to be a fair and enthusiastic consumer.

The razor’s edge of being a critic is whetted on actually having a great deal of fondness of that which you criticize, and I think it’s that fondness which separates the “thoughtful, engaged citizen with a browser” from the “meathead with the microphone”. So when Beren asks whose job it is in companies today to separate the one from the other, I think it’s a dual responsibility: on one hand, companies need to realize the validity of complaints from consumers, but on the other hand, consumers have an even harder task, because they need to introspectively judge the validity of their own complaints.

Anyway, read the whole interview. And thanks to Chris for the heads up!