Published on: June 3, 2009by Kate McMahon
Content Guy’s Note: Kate’s BlogBeat is a new ingredient in the MorningNewsBeat stew – a regular look at what people are talking about on the Internet, and how it impacts the conduct of business by retailers and manufacturers.
The “American Idol” viewing public is ripping mad at AT&T and Fox TV, and their online outrage has little to do with clean-cut Kris Allen’s upset victory over edgy Adam Lambert.
This may not seem important, but there are lessons to be learned…
It has everything to do with the integrity of the voting for this 8th “American Idol” season. Americans want the truth, straight up, and have zero tolerance for corporate obfuscation of any kind, particularly during a recession. That was clearly the message that lit up the blogosphere this past week and kept the debate alive in on-line chat rooms long after the finale. The takeaway is this: Integrity matters, whether you are selling pop singers or consumer products. And the people who populate the blogosphere have the ability, the desire and the skills to focus attention on issues of integrity that can be bad news for companies that even have the appearance of taking shortcuts.
As all of America knows, Kris Allen, a wholesome crooner from Arkansas, was crowned the “Idol” winner over Adam Lambert, a Californian known for his sultry singing style, black eye-liner and sexual ambiguity.
What America didn’t know was the final vote tally, withheld this season by the show producers, or that AT&T employees provided free cell phones and taught “power texting” at two pro-Kris finale parties in his home state. The texting story broke nationally last week and reignited on-line the long-running controversy about the “Idol” voting process.
“American Idol Defends Voting Amid Mass-Texting Brouhaha” trumpeted the USAToday.com blog. Other blog headlines shouted: “Did AT&T Help Kris Win?” and “Idol Finale Rigged.”
AT&T, of course, is a major corporate sponsor of “Idol.” Only AT&T subscribers can vote by text, leaving others to try (often in vain, for hours) to dial in their votes. The company insisted the actions of a few local employees “caught up in the enthusiasm” in Kris’ home state did not influence the vote.
Fox defended the results as “fair, accurate and verified” but still refused to release the final tally of the 100 million votes cast in the finale, even though last year’s numbers were made public.
The bloggers didn’t buy either corporate response. Said one: “Vote rigging is illegal, and ‘Idol’ should not get away with this clear conspiracy to defraud the viewers.” Others called for boycotts of “Idol” and AT&T and urged fans to file a fraud complaint with the Federal Communications Commission. In short, they watched, they voted, they paid, they blogged, they’ve had it.
Does it matter? Not to everyone, but this blog post spoke for millions of “Idol” fans and nailed the larger issue:
Some will read this and say, ‘Get over it; it's just a television show.’ True, it is just a show, but it's also one that makes bogus claims about its voting process and fails to be transparent in reporting results ... Why should any of us care? Because integrity matters.
Integrity absolutely matters, whether you are a TV show or a retailer, because in the end, your integrity is really what you are selling. People may buy bread or steak or produce, but since they are feeding themselves and their families they ultimately are investing in a retailer’s integrity. And the recent peanut and pistachio contamination cases demonstrated just how fragile trust can be when abused, and how important transparency is.
If you don't live up to expectations, you can count on the blogosphere to let you know it.
Kate McMahon can be reached via email at email@example.com .
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