The Public Interest – Is it Porter’s Sixth Force?

One of the things we discuss in the class I teach is Porter's Five Forces. The model helps managers understand the strategic forces that come into play in their industry, and how they affect profitability. We study it in the context of various I.T. related business models.

Nicholas Carr wants to add a sixth force, the public. In a paper entitled The Public Wants Your Profits (I've had trouble opening the file), Carr argues that the public now influences the generation and distribution of profits. He cites Wal-Mart as an example. He states that managers need to recognize that the public interest now manifests itself as an economic interest – and hence must be a core concern of business strategy. That is true, but I'm not sure it is as important for most companies as Carr makes it out to be.

My initial reaction to this is that yes, it is a real pheonomenon, but it almost exclusively effects large consumer product companies. I'm not convinced that it matters for small businesses, or for say… IBM. What do you think? Is this a sixth force?