Wal-Mart does not try to conceal from the bloggers that ultimately it is behind this news flow, and neither does it offer any payment.
However, its comments are frequently cut and pasted onto websites exactly as Wal-Mart wrote them, but usually without the source being acknowledged. Of course, newspapers do not always name sources either, but newspapers don't present themselves as a platform for an independent individual view. Influencing the bloggers in this way is more like the readers' letters page being filled with anonymous corporate PR.
In the US, companies have used bloggers before. General Electric executives met environmental commentators to enlist their support before launching a major initiative in energy efficiency. Microsoft used bloggers to spread the word about its new X-box console, as did Cingular to assist the launch of a mobile phone. What is different about Wal-Mart is that it is using bloggers to improve its battered image, rather than promote a product. Britain's supermarkets will be keeping a keen eye on whether the tactic is successful or not.