Klout Faces Foes

Controversy over changes to its algorithm validates the service, CEO says

Klout, a startup that aims to measure people's influence on social networks—and help brands reach those influencers—has recently angered some with its practices. But CEO Joe Fernandez tells Adweek that the bad buzz has been mostly for the good.

Last month, the company changed the algorithm used to calculate Klout scores, leading to complaints from some users whose scores had decreased significantly. It then came under fire from The New York Times for automatically creating profiles for minors (a practice the company says it since has stopped).

Critics of measuring online popularity have entered the fray. Sci-fi writer and blogger John Scalzi, for one, wrote that Klout was "a little bit socially evil."

Fernandez, who addressed the criticism on the company blog—and also noted that Klout isn't made up of "elitist jerks"—told Adweek that Klout did need better communication. For instance, he said, its ranking algorithm needs more transparency.

Some of the criticism of the site has been broader, with critics questioning the purpose of a service that essentially rates coolness. But Fernandez says the controversy has actually "served to validate" Klout's model. "Our users care passionately about Klout and their Klout Scores," he said, "and the last few weeks have demonstrated that." 

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