Moira Curran starts her day at the office by skimming several dozen blogs, occasionally firing of instant messages to her co-workers with links to juicy bits of celebrity gossip.
Then she listens to podcasters chatting about the latest episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Lost.” In the afternoon, she keeps an eye on soap operas on the television set that hangs above her desk.
About 70 colleagues, scattered across two floors of an Arlington high-rise, spend eight hours a day doing much of the same. Some of them are also playing video games, watching movies and cruising around MySpace.
That’s exactly what the clients of New Media Strategies, an online marketing company, pay the employees to do. Companies ranging from movie studios and television networks to automakers and burger chains hire these professional Web surfers to scour the Internet for any mention of their brands. Over the past few years, the “online analysts” have helped the companies track their reputations, found ways to get their products noticed and joined online conversations to help steer them the way clients want them to go.