Grassroots or Astroturfing?

Two interesting and very different takes on a recent dust-up in which apparently P.O.’d local merchants are taking local search site Merchant Circle to task for phone spamming them whenever someone reviews their business on the Merchant Circle site.

John Battelle at SearchBlog sees fed up merchants Googling their way to speaking out and the power of search to be the “connective tissue between cause and action.”

But Peter Krasilovsky at LocalOnliner smells a rat.

Genuine or not, it’s not hard to imagine that merchants wouldn’t appreciate getting a recording telling them a negative, or even a positive review of their business has been posted on the site and then feeling obligated to check it out. Merchant Circle seems like a potentially valuable tool, but this marketing approach seems ripe for a backlash. Anyone out there have first-hand experience with Merchant Circle?

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