CBS and Applebee’s Remind Us Content Matters

Receipt from ApplebeesThe internet is full of examples of companies taking advantage of random or planned content that goes viral. When this happens, it’s a great opportunity for the company to really expose and develop its brand. One of the most recent examples of this is Taco Bell’s swimsuit that they made for a high school swimmer. Yesterday however, two pieces of content that hit the web showed that not all content is positive, especially when handled poorly by a business.

 Applebee’s Check Fiasco

Reddit, the popular site also known as the front page of the internet, received a post from an Applebee’s waitress a few days ago. She likely violated some of the restaurants policies in regards to sharing customer information (a stupid mistake, to be sure). What happened is unfortunate, both for the waitress, Applebee’s, and the pastor.

Said waitress received a receipt from a pastor which complained of the 18% gratuity added to the bill. The pastor, Alois Bell, wrote “I give God 10% why do you get 18?” and crossed out the gratuity placed on the receipt for large parties. Dylan Stableford at Yahoo! News reports that the waitress “was fired on Wednesday after the pastor complained to her manager.” A more detailed summary of the story is available here.

Chelsea Welch, the waitress in question, was simply sharing her anger and her experience with others on Reddit, and this content turned into a national story overnight. Now she’s out of a job, and Applebee’s is feeling the heat. A quick look at their Facebook page and you’ll see two posts attempting to explain the situation and plenty of negative comments. The original Reddit thread when the news story broke is covered in posts declaring boycotts. There are real world consequences for everyone involved in this situation.

CBS Integrity Attacked

Shifting gears now to content not from the media, but attacking the media. Late yesterday afternoon, surprising news broke about CBS, CNET, and the Consumer Electronics Association. Christina Warren reports on Mashable, “The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has dropped CNET as a partner for its “Best of Show” Awards at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES).”

This comes on the heels of a little reported story back when CBS forced CNET to take back its “Top Pick” award of Dish Network’s DVR technology called the Hopper Sling. Why? CBS, CNET’s parent company, is involved “in litigation with Dish over the Hopper” and they decided CNET or anyone in CBS “cannot review the Hopper” because of the litigation, writes Christina.

As Brian Stelter writes for the New York Times, “The outrage at CNET spilled into public view a few days later, and one senior writer resigned in protest.” Now the story is in every major news publication on the web. You can bet CBS is taking heat. The President of the CEA, Gary Shapiro, slammed CBS, writing, “CBS, once called the Tiffany network, will never be viewed again as pristine. The ethical media rule is that corporate business interests should never interfere in journalism.”

Content That Hurts

This sort of content is not what any business or agency wants to have on the net. Many of these situations can be avoided by taking into consideration the backlash which could occur depending on whichever course of action a business takes. It’s not possible to contain bad news – too many people are connected and the power of the internet means a story can be shared with millions in a matter of seconds. Great content can be a huge benefit to your business, but content can also hurt if it isn’t managed properly.

What do you think about CBS and Applebee’s decisions? Who was in the right?


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Patrick currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he is studying for a Master's Degree in Intercultural Relations. Upon graduation from Penn State in 2008, he spent two years overseas in Kyrgyzstan with the U.S. Peace Corps. While writing is currently his chosen way to put food on the table, he loves fitness and exercise, which he believes makes up for his avid computer gaming habit.

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