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BP Buys Prime Online Space: Message Manipulation?

Type in the words “oil spill” on Google– or “oil leak,” “Gulf oil,” or “oil slick.” See any recurring themes? BP has bought prime real estate on the search engine for all of those search terms, such that their company’s site (and message) are the first thing a user finds before they run into, say, the day’s news, or sites they have no control over. It’s simple advertising, technically, but some people are calling it manipulation of the media to protect their image.

The BP public relations machine did not start on the right foot– and, as cannot be emphasized enough, no thanks to BP CEO Tony Hayward— but now that they have a uniform message and some relatively positive news with their current project, they are doing all they can to bring their message to readers. Earlier today CNN’s Don Lemon had Maureen Mackey of The Fiscal Times to explain exactly what BP was doing, and what issue she took with it.

Basically, she explained, they are buying advertising space on search terms– many companies do this all the time for searches like company names or products. BP is using the same tactic to buy space on “oil leak” and “oil spill,” such that someone looking for news on the matter would run straight into BP’s company information before they get to independent news. As she argued, “what it effectively does is that it bumps down other legitimate news and opinion pieces that are addressing the spill… and they’re paying big money for that.”

CNN’s interview with Mackey and explanation of BP’s strategy below:

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