The WSJ today reported that a small video production company that for years recorded internal meetings and events on Wal-Mart‘s behalf. Having been dumped by its main customer, it has now decided to offer up the content to anyone who wants to have access. Provided they pay of course. It’s apparently a treasure trove for historians and lawyers suing the company. For example one lawyer has paid $15000 to secure copies of video clips on the chance they may be useful in future cases. Wal-Mart not surprisingly is unhappy about this and is considering legal action. The maker of the tapes started working with Wal-Mart in the 1970s and claims he had no contract meaning he owns the content. It made me wonder if this will cause firms to quickly review their contracts to check whether the notes taken by PR staff in meetings become their legal property. We all know that clients tell PR staff information they need to do their jobs that they wouldn’t like to see in places like the WSJ. If there is no contract or the contract is poorly written, who knows where that information will end up in time.
Pre Murdoch I heard about MySpace every week if not day in one way or another. Since Murdoch bought it, the military has banned its use by soldiers and Facebook has arrived as the latest ‘thing’ in social media. This makes we wonder about a couple of things:
1) Are social media sites a bit like search engines were back in the old days – destined to be superseded until somebody invents the Google equivalent?
2) Will Murdoch’s acquisition of the WSJ be a good thing? The apparent disappearance of MySpace is of course a PR problem. MySpace is still huge and getting bigger by all counts. It simply doesn’t get the buzz that Facebook currently enjoys. While I’d argue that Murdoch still doesn’t seem to know what do to with MySpace, it would be hard to argue that he’ll have the same challenge with the WSJ. He understands the newspaper business and will presumably leave the news side of the publication well alone. He may well change the right wing tone of the editorials but even that is debatable. He does have a challenge on his hands though. He has bought a publication, that like most other newspapers, is losing readers on a daily basis. Sure, they are acquiring some online readers but the overall picture isn’t a good one. At a certain level he will be forced to make some changes at some point, if only to make sure he can continue to generate reasonable returns. I guess the question is how long will he wait before he acts and how will he go about it?