Thursday, January 12, 2006

Your Opinion Counts … As Much As Those of 20 Million Other Bloggers

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

“The blogosphere is overflowing with brutally honest opinion,” says Howard Kaushansky, Umbria’s 47-year-old CEO. “Our goal is to track those opinions down.”

My daily voyage through the cornfields of the internet brought me to a fascinating article written last month by Fortune Small Business. Apparently many companies will pay another company to find out what I think about their products. I guess that’s nothing new since consumer surveys have been around since prehistoric times. But when I saw the line “Meet an entrepreneur who can survey 20 million consumers in two minutes,” I figured this was either someone who can talk and write really fast or someone with a website that gets, oh, ten bazillion hits a day. Nope and nope. It turns out that Umbria is one of many companies that searches blogs like yours and mine for our opinions on products and services. So for Coca-Cola to find out what people think about Vanilla Coke, they just needed to fork over about $60,000 to Umbria, and Umbria would have come back a few minutes later to let Coca-Cola know that X percent of bloggers think it’s inconsistent, flat, or just plain terrible.

The real fun comes in with how Umbria distinguishes between 12-year-old boys talking about sports cars they can’t afford to drive and 30-year-old married women talking about minivans they need to buy to carry around their seven children…

Elongated spellings (‘soooooooo’), multiple exclamation marks (!!!) suggest a teenage female. The blogger is probably a teenage boy if a posting is rife with hip-hop terminology such as ‘aight’(translation: ‘all right’) and “true dat” (‘I agree!’).

Okay, I can believe that. The next part is a little scarier…

Male baby-boomers, on the other hand, tend to favor stale hip-hop-isms such as ‘jiggy’ and ‘bling.’ They also pepper their blogs with terms such as ‘prostate’ and ‘IRA.’

Wait, I have a point! The lesson to learn here is that our blogs are being “read” by big-time companies who want to know what we think about their products and services. If you think that complaining about something in your blog–for example, Dell’s technical assistance or a missing ten-by-two pink brick in your latest Lego batch–won’t get noticed … you’re probably right. But if you and ten thousand other bloggers all agree that, again for example, Mountain Dew should only be green, then you might not see red, orange, and blue Dew on your next trip to the grocery store.

Okay, Umbria, let’s see you work your magic on this honest-to-goodness opinion of a white male between the ages of 18 and 25: Kellogg’s needs to bring back their watermelon Pop Tart. I repeat, give me back those scrumptious watermelon Pop Tarts. And I obviously have lots of money to buy them with seeing as I got too jiggy and now there’s bling in my prostate.

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