Posts tagged ‘TechCrunch’
Twice in the past six months I’ve written about examples of poor technology reporting. These posts have been popular and have garnered a decent number of comments, including some who questioned calling out reporters publicly.
Well, there is plenty of bad PR out there and it’s only fair I highlight that side of the story as well. TechCrunch “outed” an example late last week. (Kudos to TC for the Captain Picard image.)
PR pro Timothy Johnson was pitching client news to TechCrunch, and got a polite “no thanks.” The reporter pitched he did respond, and asked to be informed of any product launch by the company.
At that point he criticized the reporter Leena Rao in a snarky, condescending way:
- You wrote about platforms that move maybe $40 million in 2009. Platforms. Not communities. Not much since.
- Even if mig33’s virtual goods averaged 50 cents USD – and that’s a HUGE if – that’d mean about $20 million in rev, which is over twice mig33’s recent round
- You guys devote little coverage to SE Asian/Asian sites – don’t you think it’s time, or is FB all that matters?
Really? Wait for a product announcement? Is that a joke, Leena?
So, now the email exchange is being featured with his full name in the title on a news site with 1.7 million uniques a month. You could argue the punishment didn’t fit the crime — here’s a blog post that makes just that point. And the majority of the comments to the story are more critical of TechCrunch and author Robin Wauters than they are of Johnson.
But to me, Johnson lost his perspective and his professionalism. I can certainly relate to the frustration of not getting the media reaction you’d like when you feel you have a strong story angle. And TechCrunch is a really tough target (unless Michael Arrington knows one of the VCs backing the company being pitched). But never take it personally, and never forget that every email or post is public or could be made public.
Mistakes are made by both parties of this symbiotic relationship. The challenge is to keep bringing the passion, without it warping your objectivity or morphing into frustration.
It’s no secret that the economic climate has made business tougher for everyone, and the tech PR business is no exception. PR is not easy in the best of economic times, demanding equal measures of strategic counsel, tactical performance and account management.
Now Michael Arrington of TechCrunch is calling out bad PR actors, claiming his popular tech blog is experiencing a big dose of the “spray and pray” model of PR, as we refer to it at Strategic Communications Group.
Tech companies are desperate for press and hammering their PR firms for coverage on blogs and major media sites. That in turn means that PR firms hammer us to get us to write about their clients. Gone are the days of polite pitches and actual relationship building. Today, PR firms email a story to us as many as 20 times, and call every TechCrunch writer on their cell phones repeatedly. If we say we won’t write a story (which is most of the time), things often turn nasty (check out Lois Whitman at HWH PR/New Media for a fine example).
I was with Arrington to this point in the post, although I disagree this is anything new. Prominent media outlets have been the targets of lazy, poorly researched outreach for decades. Maybe TechCrunch’s prominence in the world of technology reporting has made it worse for them recently.
Full post: http://tinyurl.com/4x223k
But after highlighting poor PR tactics, the post takes a different turn. Arrington identifies another problem, and proposes a very dubious solution:
A portion of the stories we write are “embargoed” news items. They aren’t stories that we’ve dug up ourselves. Instead, PR firms have pre-briefed us on the news and have asked us to write, if we choose to, no earlier than a set time.
One annoying thing for us is when an embargo is broken. That means that a news site goes early with the news despite the fact that they’ve promised not to. The benefits are clear – sites like Google News and TechMeme prioritize them first as having broken the story. Traffic and links flow in to whoever breaks an embargo first.
We’ve never broken an embargo at TechCrunch. Not once. Today that ends. From now our new policy is to break every embargo. We’ll happily agree to whatever you ask of us, and then we’ll just do whatever we feel like right after that. We may break an embargo by one minute or three days. We’ll choose at random.
There will be exceptions. We will honor embargoes from trusted companies and PR firms who give us the news exclusively, so we know there won’t be any mistakes. There are also a handful – maybe three – people who we trust enough to continue to work with them on general embargoes (if you are a PR person and wondering if you’re on that list, you’re not). But for the vast majority of news we get in our inboxes, we’re just going to fire it off to our readers ad hoc whenever we please.
For me there is a bait and switch here. Arrington leads off with an egregious example of lousy PR that nobody would defend. Then he connects that to the problem of embargoes, and says TechCrunch will accept them, then break them. Not refused — they will be agreed to, then broken.
But embargoes will be honored if given to TechCrunch exclusively. Here Arrington is leveraging the popularity of the blog, the #3 blog on the Internet according to Technorati.
If Arrington wants to only accept exclusive embargoes, that’s the prerogative of attracting such a large online audience. More power to him. But he should take the high road, and not say one thing and then do another. Just have a policy of not holding any news that is also shared with other outlets. And continue to break news through investigative reporting, which TechCrunch does on a regular basis.
Using bad PR people and the actions of other news sites to justify deception makes TechCrunch part of the very “race to the bottom” that Arrington’s post decries.