Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact
The Internet is a utopia for those involved in PR and marketing.
With the click of a mouse you can reach a potential audience measured
in millions -- if not hundreds of millions.
It's more immediate than post, trendier than TV and even cheaper than
But best of all, if you mess up and make a mistake, you can quickly change
things and deny all accusations of incompetence.
This is best seen in the case of online news sites, more than a few of which
have been known to quickly "patch" up errors in a story without
any indication that there was a mistake.
A lot of the time they get away with it -- but sometimes they're caught out.
Then there's those who simply don't seem to care that their pages are littered
with misinformation and mistakes.
Take this page
on the XtraMSN site for example.
Here's what it looked like when it was first published
on Friday. When I checked this morning it was still unchanged.
UPDATE: as of 11:30am I see they've fixed the wording but the
HTML error described later persists. Sigh!
If you read it carefully (or the copy if they've suddenly decided to wipe the
egg off their faces) you'll see that they're claiming an anti-virus filter
installed on August 23 had caught "1.5 million virus nasties"
by August 22 -- one day previous.
Now maybe this software has a temporal time-shift module or something -- but
it seems far more likely to me that whoever wrote that dross has never heard
"Okay" I hear you say. Aardvark makes typos and small errors all the time --
on some days this column is littered with them -- right?
Oh yes, I'm the first to admit that this page is often less than perfect.
However, in my defense, I'm not NZ's largest and richest ISP working in a
joint venture with the world's largest software company to publish online
content am I?
Given that my entire budget consists of the stipend provided by the sponsor
and the money/time that comes from my own pocket, some mistakes have to be
Of course the story I've linked to is far more spin than news. It's a clearly
just an Xtra press release published under the thin veil of a news story -- which
makes it even worse.
A press release, and the way it's written, says an awful lot about your company.
If you can't be bothered taking a few moments to proof-read your own press
release then what does that say about your attention to detail in other areas
that will most certainly affect customers?
So, I'm being bitchy and pedantic right?
Well I'd maybe feel a little guilty -- if it weren't for
Yes, it's what the page looks/looked like when viewed with Netscape's browser.
The fault is not Netscape's -- it's a very basic HTML error in the page itself.
So, not only are the facts wrong, but the technical presentation is also
One can't help but get the impression that the role of writing
PR and publishing it to the XtraMSN site has now been delegated to the tea-lady.
Now I'm sorry to pick on Xtra -- they're not alone in this type of slack attitude to
online publishing and, as I have admitted, I'm also not without sin. My goal today
has simply been to point out that the Web should not be treated like the poor
cousin to print or broadcast simply because it's a such a low cost medium.
What's more -- if you do mess up, do fix it double-quick and, if you're brave
enough, admit that the page has been changed by adding a small footnote.
When I make a mistake, my mailbox begins filling with emails from readers within
a few short minutes -- and I almost always fix up the problem straight away.
Clearly either nobody reads Xtra's news pages or their tea lady doesn't work
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