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P&G's Positioning Needs Context

Its product announcement almost coincides with a Clorox analyst meeting.

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So much lamebrain business media thought, and so little time.

While The Business Press Maven was at Disneyland, getting the hairy eyeball from the top names in business media as he told them how they were failing investors and

what to do to fix it, the business media rank and file worked double time to miss some obvious issues.

On Tuesday morning,

Procter & Gamble

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did what companies tend to do best: It announced a product due out in the future. In this case, it was the "2X" concentrated formula. By about a year from now, all of its detergents will apparently be the compacted type -- easier to carry and pour, supposedly more economical and environmentally friendly.

"The time for compaction within the laundry category is now," said a company brand manager, in a line that brand-management sorts actually cheer.

Where's the Context?

The problem was, the business media cheered this release without putting it in the proper, wider perspective. From the wires on, we got little but the rewriting of

this press release.

If you see a substantive difference between the press release and the ensuing articles, do tell.

As always, The Business Press Maven let his fingers do the walking to a

hometown publication of P&G, out in Cincinnati. What larger understanding did it offer readers on the timing of P&G's release?

Uh, none.

The Enquirer

did nothing but

rewrite the press release and slap a byline on it.

Bad local stenographers, bad!

What's the harm in that? Well, they were missing a larger issue while busily regurgitating the press release and not thinking for themselves.

The P&G release came out on Tuesday, but why then? The big rollout is not scheduled to take place until the fall and will not be complete until next year. So?

Well, this little outfit called


(CLX) - Get Clorox Company Report

was due to have this big, highly anticipated analyst meeting in New York on -- wow, what do you know? -- Thursday, at which rookie CEO Don Knauss was going to lay out future strategy. And, well, bleach my bones, buyout talk was swirling. There had even been a big, positive

write-up in



Was P&G running scared? Could be. Was this just typical corporate jockeying, the sort of stuff that The Business Press Maven's three little children do daily? Could be.

Well, which was it? Either P&G thinks Clorox is on to something, or it wants to steal its thunder just for fun. Regardless, investors need to sort it out, and the business media need to point it out. The only way to fully understand P&G's decision to announce its concentrated formula rollout was to see it in the context of Clorox's big meeting two days later.

So was P&G scared or just positioning? Send me your thoughts. It will be a nice departure to read some writing on this central issue.

Ragin' Rupert

While we're on the subject of lamebrain writing, did you get a load of this


piece on how Rupert Murdoch was going to walk away from his $5 billion

Dow(n) Jones


bid, after only a few weeks on the prowl?

I guess the newsroom's tactic of warding him off with garlic worked, huh?

Not so fast.

The entire premise of the article was based on a research note from two analysts -- not even two separate analysts, but a pair of them co-authoring the same research note.

TheStreet Recommends

In spite of the


headline "News Corp. May 'Walk Away' From Dow Jones," the Bancroft family, owners of the determining stake in Dow(n) Jones, are meeting today,

The Wall Street Journal

reports. Did these two analysts -- or


, for that matter -- really believe that Ragin' Rupert would walk away from the crowning achievement of his career so easily, much less before the Bancrofts had met formally?

Speaking of more lamebrain reporting,


The Wall Street Journal

's recent front-page article on how takeover barriers have fallen down all over the place, right above an article on the many obstacles to a


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And remember when the

New York Post

ran an article recently on a purported takeover by


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? A quick Business Press Maven

source analysis showed the article to be made out of either whole cloth or old information.

Guess what? Alcan rejected Alcoa's offer (put that in your fallen barrier and smoke it), and

The Globe and Mail

reported that Alcan had turned to

BHP Billiton

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. And source analysis says? Very thin, but at least a slight bit more specific than the


tub of nonsense. Plus, at least

The Globe and Mail

identified the supposed talks as "early stage." Everyone talks these days, and early-stage talks often go nowhere. Here, readers can see them for what they are -- or might be.

At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.

A journalist with a background on Wall Street, Marek Fuchs has written the County Lines column for The New York Times for the past five years. He also contributes regular breaking news and feature stories to many of the paper's other sections, including Metro, National and Sports. Fuchs was the editor-in-chief of, a financial Web site twice named "Best of the Web" by Forbes Magazine. He was also a stockbroker with Shearson Lehman Brothers in Manhattan and a money manager. He is currently writing a chapter for a book coming out in early 2007 on a really embarrassing subject. He lives in a loud house with three children. Fuchs appreciates your feedback;

click here

to send him an email.