The automaker that once epitomized the Type A business world of suits and white shirts has decided to join the trend toward keeping Internet blogs, the online personal diaries that have become a huge hit with Web users. This week, GM quietly introduced Fastlane (http://fastlane.gmblogs.com), a blog written by top management of the world's largest corporation.
This kind of thing just hasn’t happened before. Anyone in the world can voice their opinion, the only barrier they have is net access, which is becoming very close to accessible to anyone. This kind of thing blows me away, and I’m starting to understand why some people are so excited about blogging.
Boy, do I feel behind. This thing launched this past Wednesday, apparently.
First off, a small thing that impresses me: in Mike Wendland's Detroit Free Press column on freep.com, the link to http://fastlane.gmblogs.com is an actual hyperlink. On a newspaper's site. Now, I'm sure this is happening more and more, but I wish I had a nickle for every story I've read over the years on a newspaper's website that referred to resources elsewhere on the web yet failed to ever include any hyperlinks-- and if they did, it was an unlinked URL pasted into the story.
So, http://fastlane.gmblogs.com, for however much a PR front it might be, is by all appearances a real blog. In fact, it looks like it's running on Movable Type or TypePad, from the TypePad favicon and the TypeKey login on the comments form. There are even RSS and Atom feeds available.
Er, wait-- did I just see an open comments form? And Trackbacks? On a potentially high profile corporate site?
Now, I've been working in the Detroit area for almost eight years now, mostly doing promotions and advertising for the auto companies. That's not a long time in auto industry years, but it's like an eon in Internet Time-- and I remember the first few times I was on a project where we tried opening up some sort of discussion forum or a guestbook or any channel of any sort where the public could cause content of their own to appear on an automotive-company-related website.
People screamed, yelled, and wet themselves. Lawyers flew in and circled over head. Project Managers and Programmers were drafted into being around-the-clock intensive hands-on moderators, intercepting and/or deleting anything that wasn't absolutely and completely safe to appear on the site. Open text areas were whittled down to text fields, then reduced to a choice from canned messages by radio button. Someone might swear, be rude, post nasty jokes-- or more even more obscene, someone might say that the other guy made better cars.
And now, I'm looking at an automotive-company site that displays a Blogger Code of Ethics on its About page.
Who are these people?
And how many inches of snow have fallen in Hell so far?