Burying the Competition

October 23, 2010 • Ethics and Quality, Public Relations • by

We’ve long hailed the Internet as the great liberator, the free-sharing facilitator.

But with the business of burying information booming, how accurate can this be? In a recent NPR story, Peter O’Dowd discusses digital marketing and tampering with the supposedly “free” flow of information. “Unseen battles are waged every day to protect and destroy brands and reputations,” says O’Dowd, who cites Elixir Interactive, a company with an image problem specializing in search optimization, and controversial Congressional candidate Ben Quayle in his examination of brand management.

There’s colossal cash to be had in the stifling of search results – according to digital media research firm eMarketer, search optimization and suppression is a $2 billion industry. The very business of search optimization stirs provocative questions about free speech in the digital era.

Perhaps there’s truth to the fact that establishing a reputation on the Internet is inextricably linked to being able to pay for one, or at least being able to pay to have one polished and restored when appropriate. Take BP and Toyota for example: both mega comapanies tossed startling amounts of money at “managing” more than a few wee image issues (see Marcello Foa’s analysis of BP’s communication campaign).

The game’s not a fair one, but then again, was it ever?

See NPR for more.

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