Posts tagged ‘TechCrunch’

Fairness Doctrine — A Case of Bad PR

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.

March 2, 2011 at 8:45 am Leave a comment

A Bad Reaction to Bad PR

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:

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.

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December 18, 2008 at 4:34 pm Leave a comment

Jerry Yang Hatred Reaches Hysterical Levels

It’s been a few days since Microsoft reportedly walked away for good from discussions with Yahoo, and the vitriol being hurled at Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang is really something to behold. There certainly are facts to back it up, but the uniformity of the conventional wisdom and the level of anger puzzles me. Some of the coverage has taken on a very personal tone.

You can easily picture the veins bulging as Michael Arrington at TechCrunch screams Yahoo can’t possibly make more mistakes:

Joe Nocera in the NYTimes rips into Yang and accuses him of violating his fiduciary duties and “stiffing” shareholders:

Kara Swisher at All Things D already has a list of possible successors prepared:

Each executive departure is shown as proof of internal chaos — even when people like Jeremy Zawodny go out of their way to deny any connection:

So what’s wrong with the conventional wisdom? Seems to me it’s focused too much on stock watching, assumes a merger with Microsoft would be successful and would curb the dominance of Google, and can’t conceive of the status quo changing. Let’s take those quickly in order:

  • Didn’t techies used to complain about business types obsessing over quarter to quarter numbers, and failing to see the need for the long-term view? And do the shareholders of Yahoo need Michael Arrington to go into a frenzy on their behalf? Investment comes with risk. If you don’t like how a company you’ve invested in is performing, you sell the stock.
  • A majority of mergers fail. Everyone knows this, many forget in the excitement of mergers and acquisitions. Poor planning, executive distraction, culture clashes and an internal focus on integration that hurts day-to-day performance are just some of the common causes. And is there any proof that Microsoft and Yahoo today exerting any moderating influence on Google’s rates? If not, then why assume a combined MicroHoo would?
  • To think the status quo can’t be changed is showing a lack of faith in technology and innovation. Who saw Google coming when first started offering bids for search ad placement in 1998? Will no company ever challenge Google? And this view is very North America centric — in other global search markets Google has nothing like the share it has here. Internet growth is fastest in areas like China, where the search engine reigns supreme.

So I’m not totally alone on this ledge, a couple of interesting posts. Tim O’Reilly talks about an Internent Operating System of which search is just a piece, and encourages Yahoo (and Microsoft) to find new ways to excel:

Meanwhile, Yahoo! has let itself be defined by the same kind of penis envy. Here is a business that has beaten Google in area after area, that is unquestionably the #1 media company on the net, and yet has let itself be defined by the one area in which it is #2 — and where it could be much more profitable and successful by partnering with #1 than by competing with them.

And here’s a good read from Bernard Lunn of ReadWriteWeb, where he outlines 11 areas of possible opportunity around search:

My first post for ReadWriteWeb (nearly a year ago) started with the premise that search was “game over”, that Google had won and the only opportunity left was (re)search – i.e. what one does after the basic search. Unfortunately, none of the search start-ups since then has made a dent in Google’s relentless march towards search market dominance. In this article, we outline 11 search trends that may change that.

The proposition that launched countless search start-ups was: “If we can get just 1% of the search market, we will have a very valuable business”. That may be true, but getting 1% has proved elusive. It has been an all or nothing game. That may be about to change.

It is possible that Google will not be beaten by one big competitor. It is possible that they will be pecked at by thousands of tiny start-ups using a new outsourced infrastructure.

None of this means Yang is necessarily the right guy for the job — he could be gone very soon under the avalanche of negative coverage. Unlike Kara Swisher, I’ve never spoken to him and can’t give an opinion on his abilities based on first hand knowledge. And unlike Michael Arrington I’m not on the speed dial of every disgruntled Yahoo exec with a juicy leak. (maybe someday this blog will get there…)

The reporting around the poison pill that was rushed through to make any MS acquisition harder sure sounds bad. A shareholder suit has been filed, and time will tell on that front. But it would be nice if some of the reporting allowed for the possibility — just the possibility — that Jerry Yang understands the company he founded and can lead Yahoo to success on its own.

UPDATE — Awesome, Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land agrees! Of course he writes a more thorough and detailed post:

Yahoo The Failure — Myth vs. Reality:

June 18, 2008 at 3:26 pm 1 comment



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