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Coffee Controversy

January 26th, 2007

Coffee. The simple beverage that, for some of us, is an absolute start to a long and hectic workday. Since the first Starbucks coffeehouse was opened in 1971, the company has become a household name. The company’s vernacular has even been adopted into the American vocabulary. That is, “venti half-caf skim latte” is almost as much an American staple as apple pie.Not everyone’s as endeared to Starbucks as we are, though.

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal titled “It’s Called the Forbidden City for a Reason— Latest Web Crusade Threatens a Starbucks Inside Chinese Palace” describes how a Starbucks opening in Beijing’s Forbidden City has led Chinese news anchor Rui Chenggang to protest. His online blog encouraged the closing of this particular Starbucks location, as he says it is “the erosion of Chinese culture.” Chenggang’s Starbucks post has stirred international attention on the matter, leading me to wonder—just how powerful is a blog?

Rui.jpg

I started writing this blog to express my thoughts, get a few people thinking, maybe have a little fun, if a certain news article or hot topic caught my eye. But nowadays, more and more people are using blogs to voice strong opinions, stage protests and even incite boycotts against many companies. They’ve begun to influence laws and policy about everything from beer to city government. Blogging may just be the new lobbying.

Remember Jeff Jarvis’ series of “Dell Hell” blogs last summer in which he voiced his frustrations with the company’s customer support service for the whole world to see? Or maybe you recall a series of complaint blogs aimed at MySpace.com, the online social network whose lenient security practices has sparked the attention of the media? Now, it seems that almost anyone is capable of gaining international attention for issues that they personally value, simply by logging onto their personal computer.

Chenggang says he didn’t intend to start such a flurry, but after media picked up on it, his well-known blog post was viewed more than half a million times in one week. Now there’s real speculation Starbucks could close its Forbidden City shop, fueled primarily by the attention of one man’s blog.

With power like this, who knows – the next controversy may be triggered by the online musings of a disgruntled teenager.

Posted Under: Digital & Social Media
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