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The Long Tail is a concept, first elaborated by Chris Anderson, that a large number of products can be sold in relatively small quantities in a Web 2.0 world. Anderson argued that even products that are in low demand can outnumber or outweigh the relatively few bestsellers when little-selling products are accumulated.

Since the Pope ignited the condom debate during his visit to Africa on Mar 18, it has been a HOT issue in the traditional newspapers as well as in the blogsphere.

Can we apply the long tail concept to PR? I plotted the number of news articles on the pope’s condom issue during Mar. 18 ~ Apr. 19.

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Some interesting but expected findings are

(1) Blogs respond more rapidly than traditional media – see the slope of the graph from Mar 18 – 20.

(2) Bloggers are continuously making noises, creating the long tail.

I assume that Pink hits have more impact considering the traditional media’s higher number of subscription. The long tail (Dark blue), though, still makes up a significant amount of the noise.

Maybe it will be easier to reach everybody in a short period of time through The New York Times, but we, PR practitioners, will also have not to ignore millions of blogs who are fragmented audiences and who creates the long, long tail of the story.

Needless to say, the Long Tail alone may not be enough to make the issue salient. The best practice will be to generate not only enough buzz but also news-worthy blog posts which ignites traditional media’s interests so that the issue can be a hit again in the influential media, changing the long tail into the head.


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I had once argued that former-president George W. Bush should get some credit for his commitment to fighting AIDS in Africa.

Here is a proof of his accomplishment. Former President George W. Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has saved 1.1 million lives in Africa, according to the Washington Times.

The study by two Stanford University doctors showed the treatment part of PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which involves making drug treatment available to about 2 million people, has shown solid success while the prevention efforts under the program have not yet produced the same concrete results. The study results were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine………Presidential scholars have said PEPFAR is one of the best chances Mr. Bush has to rehabilitate his legacy, and the study’s results are a strong showing for the still-young program.

Interestingly, this news was highlighted only in the Washington Times among traditional media although some on-line media dealt with the story.

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Indeed, the Washington Times was very favorable toward this story

with a VERY NICE photo of Bush. The image indeed reinforces the message.


I complained about the unbalanced media views on the Pope’s comments regarding the use of condom for the AIDS prevention. I should have been patient to wait more responses from traditional media.

I am glad to introduce a Dr Green’s column titled “The pope may be right” on Washington Post on March 29.

Besides, I found a very good analysis of the issue on the William Crawley’s Brodcasting diary. He is a  journalist and broadcaster with BBC Northern Ireland. His post titled “The pope and condoms” echoes all different perspectives from the Catholic church, WHO, Dr. Green, and so on. It also describes who Dr. Green is and how he became to change his view on the usefulness of condoms in Africa. The conclusion of the article says,

Against Dr Green’s claims that condoms have been ineffective in countries such as Uganda, the World Health Organisation maintains that “recent analysis of the AIDS epidemic in Uganda has confi rmed that increased condom use, in conjunction with delay in age of first sexual intercourse and reduction of sexual partners, was an important factor in the decline of HIV prevalence in the 1990s.” This statement references a 2003 research paper exploring the Ugandan experience, “The Roles of Abstinence, Mongamy and Condom Use in HIV Decline”, published by The Alan Guttmacher Institute in Washington DC. Read the paper in full here. This analysis concludes that “positive behavior change in all three areas of ABC, abstinence, being faithful (monogamy) and condom use have contributed to the decline of HIV in Uganda to sustained lower levels.” It’s a long way from that statement to the claim that condoms are making the problem of Aids worse.

My thought of the day

  • Would it be possible for traditional media – the one with limited space– to deal with a complicated issues, e.g.,  the condom use in Africa- while providing fair information with all supporting proofs in the same way Williman Crawley did on his post?
  • The condom controversy will not end soon and should not. By the way, for whom do we discuss this issue? It should be for people, not for the debate itself.

Responding to severe criticism of the pope and his comment on the condom use for preventing AIDS in Africa, the Vatican altered his original statement in a version posted on the Holy See’s website.

According to the Times report, the word “preservativi” (condom in English) was changed to “profilacttici” (prophylaxis). And it went back to “preservarativi” again. Besides, the amended version softened the message by adding the word “risked” [aggravating the problem].

It is said that the Pope knew the questions before in advance.

Then, why didn’t the pope and the Vatican prepare the answer to the question to message out?

Didn’t they expect furor against the Pope’s condom message?

The answer should be “Abstinence is the best preventive measure.” instead of “condom aggrevates the problem of AIDS.”

Interestingly, a report in the Telegraph tells how badly the Pope and the Vatican communicate and why.

The Pope is isolated and fails to adequately consult his advisers, said a Vatican source with 20 years’ knowledge of the Holy See….. “He’s out of touch with the real world,” the Italian insider said. “On the condom issue, for example, there are priests and bishops in Africa who accept that condoms are a key part of the fight against Aids, and yet the pope adheres to this very conservative line that they encourage promiscuity. The Vatican is far removed from the reality on the ground.” The Vatican’s traditional culture of secrecy has made it ill-equipped to communicate its message in the internet age. The Holy See claimed that the Pope had no idea that British bishop Richard Williamson had denied the extent of the Holocaust, but critics have pointed out that a simple Google search would have uncovered the maverick’s anti-Semitic views. “Until recently the Vatican was secretive and their way of controlling the message of the Church was to release information slowly and highly selectively through carefully worded documents,” said Francis X Rocca, Vatican correspondent for Religion News Service. “The problem now is that the internet and the blogosphere won’t wait for the Vatican, so its message gets swamped.”

A blogger suggests that “ Maybe it’s time for Benedict to educate himself on the difference between a blog and a tweet…or just get his head out of his ass. That might help too.”

My suggestion? Listen to people. Prepare key messages. Expect objections. Ask the right PR professionals. 🙂

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Since Pope Benedict XVI ignited a firestorm of controversy about AIDS and condoms, he has been criticized a lot mainly in the blogsphere.

As expected, mainstream media dealt with the news when the pope made his comment but it is not news any longer in the print media. Instead, bloggers are creating a longer tail of news distribution and debates. When I searched “pope, aids, condom” in Google Blog Search, I got 10,000 posts that produced in the past week only.

What is interesting is that the pope’s comment has become to get some support – not enough yet to win the debate. LifeSiteNews.com released

Harvard AIDS Expert Says Pope is Correct on Condom Distribution Making AIDS Worse.” and the news has received an attention among bloggers.The news introduces Dr. Green’s comment: The pope is correct […] There is […] a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded ‘Demographic Health Surveys,’ between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates.

Dr. Edward Green is Director of of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard School of Public Health. Interestingly, LifeSite News.com is a non-profit Internet service dedicated to issues of culture, life, and family. The news has written from a conservative standpoint.

It is impossible and meaningless to tell who is correct. There is no one right solution for AIDS prevention specially for African people. There are cultural differences that Western AIDS experts cannot understand, the problems are too epidemic to solve, and there are few financial resources, and so on.

I want therefore to urge the pope, opinion leaders and the media to be more cautious
when making comments on AIDS issues in Africa. A Korean proverb says,
A frog is killed by stone thrown without purpose.

One quick question in mind: Why has Dr. Green’s opinion been able to appear only in LifeSiteNews.com? – Is it because the media has no interest of information balance?

Photo as News Frames

While reading articles on the Pope’s condom comments, an interesting photo accompanying a New York Times article on “Pope, in Africa, Says Condoms Aren’t the Way to Fight H.I.V.” caught my eye.

The caption beneath the image reads,

Pope Benedict XVI greeted crowds in Yaounde, Cameroon, on Wednesday, where he addressed the country’s 31 bishops on the second day of his trip to Africa.

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However, it seems to me that the image delivers the huge gap between White and Black, a thick Wall standing between them.

Is the article deliberately saying that the Pope doesn’t understand the AIDS problems in Africa?

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The Pope Benedit XVI reignited the controversy on the eve of his trip to Africa by declaring that condoms were not the answer to the AIDS epidemic and could make the problem worse.

This remark provoked immediate outraged responses:
(1) Catholics for Choice released press release through PRNewswire, saying that

The Pope is Wrong on Condoms

(2) The WHO comments that

[Pope’s] incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous when we are facing a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42 million.”

These responses were introduced in several traditional media through on-line news:

Times: Critics attack Pope for his ‘myopic’ views on condoms
Telegraph: Anger as Pope Benedict XVI says condoms make Aids worse

Besides, most of bloggers are posting negative opinion on the Pope’s comments.

A blogger, claiming a Catholic herself, says that

The Pope Is Lying To Us.

Considering the POPE’s influential power and heavy debates on his comments in a Web, this issue will likely be highlighted in new and traditional media for the time being.