How one company duped financial journalists with tricky PR
Clary Shirky, writing on the Corante web site, reports how a company called Linden Lab has been able to convince a bunch of well-respected financial reporters to write positively about the company simply by changing the language in its press releases.
Shirky wrote, “If you want to understand how Linden has managed to disable the fact-checking apparatus of much of the US business press, turning them into a zombie army of unpaid flacks, read on. (And, as with the earlier piece on Linden, this piece has also been published on Valleywag.)
“The basic trick is to make it hard to remember that Lindenâ€™s definition of Resident has nothing to do with the plain meaning of the word resident. My dictionary says a resident is a person who lives somewhere permanently or on a long term basis. Lindenâ€™s definition of Residents, however, has nothing to do with users at all â€” it measures signups for an avatar. (Get it? The avatar, not the user, is the resident of Second Life.)
“The obvious costume-party assumption is that there is one avatar per person, but thatâ€™s wrong. There can be more than one avatar per account, and more than one account per person, and thereâ€™s no public explanation of which of those units Residents measures, and thus no way to tell anything about how many actual people use Second Life. (An embarrassingly First Life concern, I know.)”
Later, he added, “Like a push-up bra, Lindenâ€™s trick is as effective as it is because the press really, really wants to believe:
“Professional journalists wrote those sentences. They work for newspapers and magazines that employ (or used to employ) fact-checkers. Yet here they are, supplementing Lindenâ€™s meager PR budget by telling their readers that Residents measures something it actually doesnâ€™t.”
Read more here. It’s the Internet bubble all over again.