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May 21, 2005

Fighting the rumourmongers: the task of modern "competition" 

I originally wrote this as a comment at Brandshift, but unfortunately despite the link, it wouldn't let me add it.
   The original post was by John Moore, about trust in newspapers. And whether they can create the same feeling of community as Craigslist has been able to do. My response, slightly edited for Beyond Branding, is below.
   'One of the experiences I have to relay is about a fashion magazine here, which, while it does not compete with us on content, does for advertising dollars. Sadly, someone's been sticking knives in its publisher's reputation, more so after both her brother and her boyfriend died within three months of each other.
   'I don't believe in kicking anyone while they're down and I alerted her to the fact I had been approached by a journalist about her. An article that just stopped short of making a connection between her and drugs was published the next day.
   'Normally one would expect that as a "competitor", I would be overjoyed, but the experience essentially put two "rivals" closer together. Because I know that if the shoe were on the other foot, I'd want someone to bat on my team. I'd want someone to tell me if they had been asked strange questions.
   'Whomever was doing this to her had powerful enough friends to get a major "broadsheet" (when you read the article, you realize that we might only have tabloids here that are just printed on big paper) journalist digging. Now, he couldn't find anything he could print, so I applaud him for not sinking into libel—which I have a feeling he may have been pressured to do.
   'The rumours continue to this day and while I wasn't present for her boyfriend's death, her story seems a lot more plausible, and simpler, than any that the gossipmongers are propagating.
   'I understand that some Australian publishing company representatives have been trying to start a rumour and saying I have connections with Chinese organized crime. I thank them for this, because I now use this to great comic effect in my public speaking. And as you know, Johnnie, I get around. Globally. Anyone who knows me and has seen me speak know how humorous this sounds. Especially with those chaps with nunchuckers and knives standing behind me holding up "Applause" and "Laugh" signs. (See what I mean? Great material.)
   'All this did from my perspective was write a forum post at Lucire's web edition about what she had gone through, then publish something similar in the print one the following month. I'd rather expose the crap someone goes through than join in the chorus.
   'And while it doesn't mean that we've stopped competing with her for dollars, at least I came up on the side of truth, which really, as a publisher, I should be defending every day. If she happens to cease publishing, then so be it: at least I wave farewell to her with clean hands, not ones bloodied from her stab wounds. If she continues, then maybe she and I are a step closer to putting up a sign of unity against others who are unscrupulous.
   'Through that, I, too, hope to create trust with my readers, possibly as one of these "beyond" brands.'
   Regardless of where I post, this message still seems relevant.
It's really nice to see someone putting the golden rule in action.  
Thank you, Alex: I'm happy to know that others feel I did the right thing. If I were a twentieth-century businessman who put profits first, convention would almost demand I join the chorus of rumourmongers. I'm glad we've moved past that era, into one where independent, individual action can make a difference.  
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