Sunday, July 17, 2011

Send in the Clowns: Did You Hear the One About Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Launching A Customer Loyalty Program?

Don't you love farce? My fault, I fear
I thought that you'd want what I want, sorry, my dear
But where are the clowns, send in the clowns
Don't bother, they're here..."

- From the song "Send in the Clowns," by Stephen Sondheim

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. group in the United Kingdom has been in the media spotlight for the past week as the result of the recent discovery, once again, that members of its newspapers' editorial staff, particularly at the now-shuttered News of the World tabloid, hacked the mobile phone and voice mail accounts of various people as a way to "scoop" the competition.

The latest news finds Murdoch's top executive, Rebekah Brooks, being arrested and interrogated by British police after resigning her position the other day, despite her Sergeant Schultz-like claims she knows nothing of the phone-hacking behavior.

To Ms. Brooke's and the News of the World phone hackers we say: Why did you bother?

Instead, it's much easier and less risky to write and publish a story as "news," even though the particular news had already been broken by a blog, Fresh & Easy Buzz, nearly three weeks earlier, and in the process just fail to discover, or if you did discover it, fail to note or attribute where the news first appeared. After all ... In the case of Fresh & Easy Buzz we're just a little old blog that's read by about 100,000 people a week and has 3,400 followers on Twitter, including scores of UK and U.S. supermarket industry folks and a whole lot of journalists and writers from both sides of the pond.

Such is the case with a story in today's Financial Times, titled: "Tesco to trial loyalty card operation at US operation," which you can read here.

On June 20, 2011 we broke the news that Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is developing and plans to launch a loyalty card program for its chain of 176 stores, which are located in California (127 units), southern Nevada (21 stores) and metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona (28 stores), in this detailed story: June 30, 2011: Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Developing Loyalty Card Program it's Planning to Launch This Year.

We invite you to read our June 30 story linked above, then read the July 17, 2011 Financial Times' piece published today (linked above and at the end of this story), nearly three weeks later.

The Financial Times' piece offers little added information from our story of nearly three weeks ago, and has far less detail, despite its source, who's very familiar with Fresh & Easy Buzz.

The publication's source of information is Tesco group deputy CEO/Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market CEO Tim Mason.

Either Mr. Mason's public relations people at Tesco and at Fresh & Easy's headquarters office in El Segundo, California pitched the Financial Times' on doing the loyalty card story - perhaps in part because they read our June 30 report and have been getting tired of the calls from writers from mainstream publications who also read it and have asked if it's true - or the Financial Times' "heard about" Fresh & Easy's plans to launch a loyalty card scheme in its Western U.S. stores and the writer of the piece was thus granted an interview with Tim Mason, who is attributed as the sole source in today's story.

Either way, Fresh & Easy Buzz broke the story on June 30, 2011. And based on a search of all three major search engines, no other publication has written about it since, until today's Financial Times' piece.

If you search using the search terms "Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market," "Fresh & Easy" or "Tesco's Fresh & Easy" on Google, the most popular search engine by an English countryside mile, you will see Fresh & Easy Buzz almost always comes up as the first listing in the categories. If not, it's almost aways in the top five. Not hard to spot, in other words.

And if you google "Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market loyalty program or card," which is something a writer of a story on the topic might do before starting work on such a piece and should be the first thing any editor of a major or minor publication does before going to press with a story, you'll see here (as of 6 p.m today) that our June 30, 2011 story not only comes up at the very top - although it might move down once the Financial Times' piece starts getting reprinted by the numerous publications that if they don't check might assume the British-based business publication broke the Fresh & Easy loyalty card story - it's also the only report about Fresh & Easy's plans, until today of course, to launch a loyalty card.

Perhaps the writer of the story and the editors at the Financial Times aren't aware Fresh & Easy Buzz broke the loyalty card story on June 30, 2011? That certainly is possible if the writer or editors didn't do an Internet search and notice the top and most recent item under Fresh & Easy and loyalty cards, which is our June 30, 2011 story.

But now that they're aware of it, the Financial Times' editors can add a sentence to the story published today that goes something like this: "As first reported in the Fresh & Easy Buzz blog on June 30, 2011. A link to the story in the blog would be appreciated as well.

Not long after we published our June 30 story on Tesco-owned Fresh & Easy's loyalty card plans, we sent a direct message and a link to the story to a follower on Twitter, who also happens to be a senior executive at a major food and grocery industry research firm in the UK.

Our tweet: Let's see which major UK-based publication writes about Fresh & Easy's loyalty card scheme first but doesn't mention it was first reported by Fresh & Easy Buzz. The follower's reply: I will keep an eye out. The exchange was related to a discussion of a similar topic. We both have that answer today.

The Financial Times has this notice at the bottom of its story today: "Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2011. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from and redistribute by email or post to the web."

Sondheim's lyrics noted at the top of this story seem to us to fit that irony well.

And the Financial Times has nothing to worry about from Fresh & Easy Buzz when it comes to its end-of-story notice. After all, we've been there, done that on the Fresh & Easy loyalty program story, on June 30, 2011, in case you forget where you read about it first.

Read the two stories at the links below and feel free to let us know what you think.

~Fresh & Easy Buzz - June 30, 2011: Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Developing Loyalty Card Program it's Planning to Launch This Year.

~Financial Times - July 17, 2011: Tesco to trial loyalty card at US operation.


UKPRMAN said...

Clarke and Mason wanted to get the news out so PR people contacted the Financial Times, told them the news and offered an interview with Mason, or at least for him to answer a few questions. That's pretty obvious to me.

No journalism involved. Basically a "he said" story. Pure PR move by Tesco. A no work, hand-fed by Tesco story for the Financial Times.

Probably wanting to target the investor community by being able to put the Tesco spin on the story you guys broke.

They likely saw your story but don't want to admit they were scooped by a blog.

Nigel said...

Happens all to often I'm afraid.