Technorati, the leading search engine devoted specifically to bloggers, has partnered with the Edelman PR firm. According to Technorati vice president Peter Hirshberg, Edelman is providing support for an "accelerated development effort" to create Technorati offerings in languages including Chinese, Korean, German, Italian and French. In exchange, says Edelman CEO Richard Edelman, his firm will get "an exclusive right to offer Technorati's analytic tools" in those languages.
The result, he says, will give companies "world-wide reach" so they can find out what people are saying about them in different languages, and will give Edelman "the ability to improve our work product; specifically, to make PR people valued contributors to the discussion, not the often-reviled spinmeister or hype artist lampooned in the media."
"We at Edelman believe that in a world where conversation is king, it's critical that our global PR teams be able listen to the conversation not only in English but in their local languages. It's essential for our clients," explains Steve Rubel, a senior vice president with Edelman's me2revolution team, which focuses on developing PR techniques for new internet media.
The announcement has raised concerns from PR industry blogger Todd Defren:
I am a li'l troubled by this move on Technorati's part, though. Aren't all PR firms and corporate marketers currently "working with clients on how to listen and engage the blogosphere"?
Giving one agency an early, proprietary lead -- if that's what is happening (it is unclear just now) -- seems to go against the grain of our open movement...
Wall Street Journal columnist Jeremy Wagstaff has more pointed concerns:
What is a PR firm doing developing content for what is basically a blog search engine? ...
Edelman’s interest is in promoting its clients. Fair enough. Technorati would be a great place to do that through advertising. But are there not conflicts of interest, and if so, where and when do they arise? What happens if blogs critical of Edelman’s clients start appearing on Technorati? How do readers know that the rankings are not being tweaked to hide such blogs lower down the search results? How do we know that faux blogs or PR-sponsored material is not finding its way up the rankings, or that the material being translated on these non-English Technorati sites is being developed in-house, so to speak? ...
I’m no staunch fan of traditional media. But it spent decades, centuries even, building Chinese walls between the marketing and the editorial departments (and, in some cases, between the opinion pages and the news gathering pages.) This was so that what you read wasn’t influenced (or unduly influenced) by the guy paying the bills, whether it was the proprietor or the advertisers. It didn’t always work.
At worst, Wagstaff says, the partnership may mean "that the average user will increasingly find it hard to sift between what is PR and what is objective, impartial commentary. For every independent blog there will be a spin blog, or a blog that might be independent on 99 subjects but one. After a while, you’ll forget which one, and that’s when the message finds its way through."
FULL DISCLOSURE: Technorati CEO David Sifry is the brother of Micah Sifry, who serves as a consultant to the Sunlight Foundation, which sponsors our own Congresspedia project. Micah is also one of the organizers of the Personal Democracy Forum, in which I participated last month. While I was there, Micah introduced me to David Sifry, who seemed like a nice guy. I've been using Technorati for awhile now and find it a useful search engine. I hope it stays that way.