David Kirkpatrick

March 3, 2008

Wal-Mart’s blog, Check Out

Filed under: Business, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:58 am

Interesting NYT story today on Wal-Mart’s blog, Check Out. The blog is a third effort at the genre by Wal-Mart and written by the company’s buyers. Check Out was actually the source that broke the news Wal-Mart was going to stock only Blu-ray equipment and DVDs, rather than the HD-DVD format.

From the linked article:

Microsoft is one of Wal-Mart’s biggest suppliers. But that did not stop the Wal-Mart employee in charge of buying computers from panning Microsoft’s newest operating system, Vista.

“Is it really all that and a bag of chips?” he wrote on his blog. “My life has not changed dramatically — well, for that matter, it hasn’t changed at all.”

His public burst of candor was not isolated. On the same blog, a video game buyer for Wal-Mart slammed a “Star Wars” film as a “debacle” even though Wal-Mart still sells the movie.

Known for its strict, by-the-books culture — accepting a cup of coffee from a supplier can be a firing offense — Wal-Mart is now encouraging its merchants to speak frankly, even critically, about the products the chain carries.

This unusual new Web site, which was quietly created during the holiday shopping season, has become a forum for unvarnished rants about gadgets, raves about new video games and advice on selecting environmentally sustainable food.

Update 3/14/08 — I received a note from the folks at WalMartWatch.com outlining a few differences they have with the article’s characterization of the Check Out blog being uncensored by the company. In the interest of telling more of the story, I added the provided link to that site

From the link:

An article from last week’s New York Times applauded Wal-Mart’s latest online outreach effort – a blog called “Check Out”– for its transparency and honesty. Well, as long as Wal-Mart approves of that honesty, it seems.

The document above is a copy of Wal-Mart’s corporate internet policy for employees. At line 28:

    “Associates must not make statements or post items that negatively impact on Wal-Mart’s reputation and/or that are derogatory or defamatory to any Wal-Mart Associate, customer or supplier.”

Wal-Mart’s had a hard time with that whole transparency concept in the past, so what does this mean for Wal-Mart’s supposedly unbiased Check Out blog? Perhaps what bloggers have suspected all along: that the writers are merely toeing the company line.