Trying not to be shamelessly self-aggrandizing here... this week\u2019s Fortune magazine carries an amusing and cautionary story on the inevitability and importance of blogs. \n\n\n\nWhy There\u2019s No Escaping the Blog talks about the freewheeling bloggers who can make or break your business with the supremely accessible and downright viral nature of online self-publishing, and also about how corporations are approaching and even embracing the blog.\n\n\n\nIt mentions Robert Scoble, Microsoft\u2019s "software evangelist" whose own blog, Scobleizer, opines daily on issues in the tech world\u2014especially the world of Microsoft. As Fortune says, it\u2019s \u201cnothing too profound or insightful, yet Scobleizer has given the Microsoft monolith something it has long lacked: an approachable human face.\u201d \n\n\n\nFor example, Scoble didn\u2019t get defensive on Microsoft\u2019s part, but rather agreed when a rush of criticism of MSN\u2019s newly offered blog interface, Spaces, saturated the blogosphere. The onslaught bloomed mostly from the seed of one rather hilarious blog entry on BoingBoing that poked fun at the decency feature of the interface, which wouldn\u2019t allow certain words in a blog title (\u201cPornography and the Law\u201d was right out), but did allow others (\u201cSmoking Crack: A Guide for Teens\u201d was OK). His representing the company without mindless rah-rah probably helped Microsoft through the barrage. Scoble told Fortune, "I get comments on my blog saying, \u2019I didn\u2019t like Microsoft before, but at least they\u2019re listening to us.\u2019 The blog is the best relationship generator you\u2019ve ever seen." \n\n\n\nSo, a blog can be terrific for relationships. But, as Fortune says, \u201cit can also be much more: a company\u2019s worst PR nightmare, its best chance to talk with new and old customers, an ideal way to send out information, and the hardest way to control it.\u201d In fact, employees have reportedly been fired at Starbucks, Harvard University, Delta and Friendster for blogs their bosses deemed offensive, though those organizations are not commenting. Most companies are so far ignoring the blog phenomenon, but that will get harder to do. \n\n\n\nAs proof, Fortune recounts as \u201cthe clearest sign of blogger muscle\u201d the case of Kryptonite, the company whose famously tough bike locks were brought low by a blog that explained they could be picked with a ballpoint pen. The biking blogger just wanted to alert other cyclists, but with ten busy blog days before the company responded, Kryptonite\u2019s parent, Ingersoll-Rand, said it expects the disturbance to cost $10 million. \n\n\n\nNaturally, people find a way to make a buck out of controlling, or at least monitoring the free and fecund blog spin. BuzzMetrics, for instance, offers \u201cWord of Mouth Research and Planning\u201d as well as other online chatter tracking services. Marketing and external relations types should be all over this. There are some so far free services, too, such as Intelliseek\u2019s BlogPulse.com, with which you can watch trends or see where your brands turn up in the blogosphere. Have fun!