OLD Media Moves

The WSJ and ranking stories

May 11, 2008

TheDeal.com executive editor Yvette Kantrow disses on The Wall Street Journal for running a story on business gurus based on Google hits and media mentions.

Wall Street JournalKantrow writes, “We knew we were in for a weird one when we came across the explanation of the methodology behind the ranking, which basically consisted of tallying up the ‘Google hits, media mentions and academic citations’ scored by a list of influential business thinkers (sign No. 2). How very scientific. And then there’s the list itself (sign No. 3), which includes New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman and New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell, in spots No. 2 and No. 4, respectively. Meanwhile, Michael Porter and Tom Peters, who topped a similar list in 2003, fell to Nos. 14 and 18, respectively.

“Given the ranking’s reliance on Googleability and media mentions as key measures of influence, it’s not surprising that journalists at two powerful publications would place high on the list; just having a byline is enough to give any working journalist an Internet presence these days. But it’s sort of depressing, too. Friedman has gained a business following by pointing out the importance of globalization — not exactly a shocker — while Gladwell has extolled the virtues of snap judgments. It’s as if businesspeople only want to hear from gurus who will repeat back to them what they already sort of know.

“According to the Journal, Thomas Davenport (pictured), a Babson College professor who compiled the ranking, says ‘time-strapped managers are hungry for easily digestible advice wherever they can find it. … Traditional business gurus writing ‘weighty tomes’ are in decline.’ But Davenport actually has much more thoughtful things to say about his ranking. Sadly absent from the Journal’s no-jump story, which seemed more interested in running sketches of the top five gurus and quoting from their work than providing any actual analysis of the ranking, Davenport’s additional comments can be found on a blog he wrote for Harvard Business Online.”

Read more here.

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