People Ready? Not really.

Microsoft People Ready Banner
OK. I’ve scouted around and read all the blogs and I think I’m up to speed with the MS People Ready spokesblogging thing. Still haven’t seen any actual live ads though. Were they pulled? Anyway, to summarise: some ‘A list’ bloggers (the ones whose stuff is carried by the Federated Media network) agreed to write and publish some ‘advertorial’ copy for Microsoft.

Apparently they promised Microsoft – or, presumably, Microsoft’s go-ahead ‘conversation marketing agency’ – they’d use (or at least refer to) the words ‘people ready’. The ads ran as banners and were pretty obviously, well, ads. That’s it. That’s the whole storm.

The reason it’s gone wrong (and the reason we’re unlikely ever to see those ads again) is because the various bloggers implicated (not all of them) have responded to the commentstorm triggered by Valleywag‘s original revelation in a way that can only be characterised as both belligerent and disingenuous (“fuck you, media old-timers!” and “I had no idea those two silly words would cause such a fuss”).

The ‘sphere’s spleen so far, though, has been misdirected: at Arrington and Wilson mostly. This isn’t really their offense. They’re innocents in all this. They’re not journalists and only barely publishers – they’re over-excited participants in a business and media revolution and they really do have a defense: ignorance.

They just didn’t know there was anything wrong with carrying those two innocent words. Their publisher, though, is different. John Battelle’s Federated Media is a sophisticated business, an interesting, web-native publishing network – a business advancing a promising model in an uncertain medium. They should have known better.

FM will survive this debacle, but their reputation surely won’t. The publisher now looks rather less like a serious, top table new media player and a lot more like a cheesy catalogue printer or a second-rate contract publisher. This is not how you build a future media titan (here’s Battelle’s thoughtful response to the storm).