Ghost Sites of the Web

Web 1.0 history, forgotten web celebrities, old web sites, commentary, and news by Steve Baldwin. Published erratically since 1996.

July 23, 2007

Working Families for Wal-Mart May Be Dying

Working Families for Wal-Mart May Be Dying
Wal-Mart has a lamentable record when it comes to running Web sites; its phony Walmarting Across America site, launched after consulting with PR giant Edelman, was shut down last October after its sponsorship became public, creating a huge PR scandal. And while everybody knows that Wal-Mart pays the bills at Working Families for Wal-Mart, at the domain, the site doesn't even mention this in its About section, leading to an obviously inevitable question: "What is Wal-Mart trying to hide?"

Oddly, the Working Families for Walmart site looks as if it's been languishing for the past few months. Its News Center section was last updated in February: that's five months ago. Its Featured Stories section is also showing its age, no stories have been uploaded since February of 2007. Interestingly, another Wal-Mart-funded site, ("Exposing the Paid Critics of Wal-Mart") was last updated in March. That's a lot of bitrot for any multi-billion dollar retailing giant to tolerate.

Could it be that Wal-Mart has abandoned its habitual Sock Puppeting/AstroTurfing strategy of launching phony sites to influence public perceptions? Let's hope so: this kind of thing represents the worst kind of corporate behavior in cyberspace, and undermines whatever trust users might otherwise have in the company.

If Wal-Mart wants to rebuild its online reputation, it needs to take steps in the direction of transparency and accountability, pledge that it will not engage in deceptive practices online, and relegate sites such as Working Families for Walmart to the dustbin. (Note: I am neither a paid critic of Wal-Mart nor in the pay of Wal-Mart.)

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December 14, 2006

Another Fake Blog Shuts Down

Following on the heels of the Wal-Mart fake blog scandal, another Fake Blog ("or Flog"), this time run by a Sony PR contractor called Zapatoni, has shut down. The deceptive blog resided at the domain

What the hell are these people thinking? It's definitely time for the Federal Trade Commission to start busting practitioners of this kind of deceptive advertising.

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October 13, 2006

PR Scandal Closes

Wal-Marting Across America, a site launched and paid for by Working Families for Wal-Mart, was forced to cease updates last week, when news reports disclosed that Wal-Mart had hired Washington Post reporter James Thresher to produce photos for it.

According to news reports, "Wal-Mart outfitted the RV and turned it over to Thresher and his partner, Laura St. Claire, who drove it cross-country, staying overnight in Wal-Mart parking lots. Along the way, they posted favorable photographs and interviews of Wal-Mart shoppers and employees."

Thresher was disciplined by his boss, and agreed to stop taking money from Wal-Mart (the Washington Post's editorial policy forbids freelancing for interest groups). The whole crazy idea of launching this fake property was hatched, I'm told, by the big brains at Edelmen, which should have anticipated that their ruse would have been uncovered. The result is considerable tarnishing of the Wal-mart and Edelmen brands. was launched too recently to be archived at the Internet Archive. If you want to save this one for your Top 10 PR Disaster files, grab your screen shots now before Wal-mart, Edelmen, or Working Families for Walmart pulls the plug on this stinker.

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October 05, 2006

Wal-Mart Shuts Down "The Hub"

Wal-Mart closes its social networking site The HubThe Hub, whose domain was, was Wal-Mart's effort to gain some traction in the uber-hot but largely vaporous social networking space, and it shut down last week.

The Hub was excoriated by Ad Age commentator Bob Garfield as "a bomb" and "excruciatingly bad shortly after it launched in July.

Grab your screenshots now: this is one that many people will have a very hard time remembering in a year or so.

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