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Un-hijacking the conversation

2 min read

Marketing Strategy

Read between the lines in news stories about Yahoo, and you get the sense that co-founder Jerry Yang is a decent guy — maybe even a bit sentimental and goofy. After all, the very name of his company is a self-deprecating acronym (Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle) and Yang’s original job title was Chief Yahoo.

Whatever one thinks of him as a manager, it stands to reason that it pains him to institute deep budget cuts, resulting in 1,500 layoffs. He announced the news on a blog post that includes a cut-and-paste of a characteristically informal e-mail Yang sent around company-wide.

The first comment on the blog, and many subsequent comments, referenced the fact that Yang’s e-mail contained no capitalization — it was all lower case. Sample comments include, “Jerry, could you not have used the shift key in that message?” and “But seriously, is a shift key too much to ask when thousands are losing their jobs?”

While many commentators wanted to steer the conversation back to the substance of Yahoo’s business problems and the news about the cutbacks and layoffs, as is so often the case in the blogosphere, the crankiest voices held sway.

How can a company manage a news announcement as tough as the Yahoo layoffs in a free-wheeling blog environment? How can a blog publisher distinguish between voices of legitimate complaint and those of trouble-makers and even possibly competitors looking to take advantage of a vulnerable moment? Is moderating comments the answer? Is a corporate blog even a place for these sorts of communications? The basic question is this: Is it possible to “un-hijack” a blog conversation?

We’d love to know what you think.