Blogs On Target: Missing The Point?

    November 30, 2004

For a few days now, the latest Internet goof-up being linked by news sites and IM’ers alike has been focused on Since early last week, people have been finding questionable products featured on Target’s website. As links to these pages make their way around the Internet, the blogosphere was quick with its commentary. However, did some bloggers jump the gun when criticizing Target?
Did Bloggers Overreact To Target?

Do bloggers influence other entities? Do their breaking news stories accomplish the intended goal? Discuss at WebProWorld.

The pages that brought attention to were for products that some might not expect to see available from a family-oriented business. One such page intimated that was offering illegal drugs, while another had more of an adult theme associated with it. Links to these pages have been showing up on a number of popular blogs, like; and news sites, like

Because word travels around the Internet at an incredible rate, it wasn’t long before a number of notable blogs began taking Target to task for featuring this type of content. WebProNews contributor and blogger extraordinaire Steve Rubel had this comment about Target’s oversight, “Dear Target, a PR crisis is brewing for your company in the blogosphere. Please tell me you’re listening.” Steve’s blog entry was not the only one either.

The reason why Target’s online inventory may contain questionable content is because powers Target’s site. This means that two companies share databases, and therefore, inventory. These “questionable” products appearing on are a result of’s inventory (the product in the “illegal drugs” link above is a book). A better explanation appears on, courtesy of Adam Kalsey:

“Apparently this isn’t a test data problem. It’s a problem with not enough product details and the way the ecommerce system’s back end works. The item in question is a book that Amazon carries, but Amazon has no details on the book. Since is managed by Amazon, many of the products sold by Amazon can be forced to show in the design; just tack the ASIN from Amazon onto the Target URL. For instance, you buy Isaac Mizrahi cashmere gloves from even though your local Target [doesn’t] carry this item.

When the book is shown on Amazon, it’s obvious that Amazon is selling a book entitled Marijuana,’ but when shown through Target’s interface it just looks like they’re selling pot.”

Blogger Jeremy Zawodny took issue with what he perceived as jumping the gun and devoted a blog entry toward explaining his position. The entry, called Are bloggers really that dumb, says, “It’s a stupid mistake. Are we too screwed up to realize that companies are composed of people and that people sometimes make mistakes?” Jeremy continued with, “I suspect that if someone bothered to tell them about the problem instead of using this as an opportunity to blame their PR folks for not reading blogs, they probably would have fixed it and gone on with life. Making fun of them on your blog is all well and good, but calling this a crisis strikes me as being over the top.”

This led to a bigger disagreement across quite a few blogs over the influence of the blogosphere. Some believe, with some justification, that bloggers do have an effect on company procedure. This train of thought would be supported by the blogs started by the search engines. Since it’s inception, the MSN Search Blog has been used as a good source of public feedback for the company’s search engineers.

However, there are those believe that the blogosphere has no influence. This is evident by many of the comments accompanying Steve Rubel’s blog entry. Concerning, Robert Scoble, commenting on Steve’s site, had this to say:

“With every hour that a representative of Target doesn’t come here or any of the other blogs involved at this point it just demonstrates they don’t know how to do searches on their company name on PubSub, Feedster, or Technorati and that they haven’t dedicated anyone to watch what people are saying about them online.”

Although, the fact that they haven’t reinforces the belief that bloggers don’t have as much influence as they think, according to the people who disagree with Steve and Robert. How much influence do you think bloggers have?

Chris Richardson is a search engine writer and editor for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest search news.