The last two weeks has brough a fresh wave of TechCrunch hate. I’ve learned to avoid responding to this stuff in the past because it just draws more attention to it, but tonight a reporter from the Sydney Morning Herald named Asher Moses emailed me and said “First off, great site – i’m a regular reader of yours.” He then went on to say he’s working on a story about the “disclosure scrubbed at techcrunch debacle.”
I took issue with his use of the term “debacle” before actually speaking to me – this tells me everything I need to know about this particular reporter’s slant on this “story,” and basically told him to fuck off. And while I’m not surprised that someone is looking to do a hit job on TechCrunch, I am surprised that traditional media is starting to see TechCrunch as newsworthy enough to attack. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
I’ll go through the details around this below, but I want to make one thing very clear about how TechCrunch operates. It seems that I have to make a statement like this every couple of months.
TechCrunch and Conflicts of Interest
TechCrunch is a new kind of publication. We don’t fit into a neat little box like traditional media, who refrain from financial conflicts of interest with their readers and feel that they are therefore above reproach. They aren’t, but they really, really feel that they are, and look down on blogs and other media as the unwashed masses. Yes, I’m grouping them unfairly, but the really good reporters will all soon be on their own anyway, so this will be completely true eventually.
TechCrunch is different. TechCrunch is all about insider information and conflicts of interest. The only way I get access to the information I do is because these entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are my friends. I genuinely like these people and want them to succeed, and they know it and therefore trust me more than they trust traditional press.
I am an active investor, board member and advisory board member with a number of startups. That isn’t going to change. I also write about startups. That isn’t going to change, either. Obviously people like what we write on TechCrunch or they wouldn’t come back. But no one should think TechCrunch is objective or conflict-free. We aren’t. We never have been. We never will be.
All I promise is to give my honest opinion every time I write, regardless of whether there is a conflict of interest or not.
Just like other publications like the New York Times, we take advertising on this site. And sometimes, just like the NYT, we write about companies that may have advertised here. Sales and editorial are now completely separate – Jennifer Rice handles any money coming into the company and I have nothing to say about it, other than a veto if I don’t like the service (I vetoed a payperpost advertising campaign recently, for example). Other than that, there is a complete ethical wall. Likewise for our events – sales are handled by Jeanne Logozzo.
When it comes to my personal investments, they are all stated on the About Page at TechCrunch, and we disclose conflicts in posts. It’s easy to note a conflict when writing about a company I’ve invested in. It’s harder when writing about a competitor because sometimes it isn’t clear if a company is a competitor or not. We try to be overly inclusive, but the About Page disclosure is always there as well.
Traditional media doesn’t like this. They hate the fact that I get information that they can’t get. They hate the fact that I actually enjoy my job and have fun doing it. And because they wield a powerful weapon, their publications, they are going to continue to use that weapon to try to destroy TechCrunch and blogs like it.
I don’t know what else to say – none of this is going to change. Some people seem to think that I either need to shut down TechCrunch, or stop investing. Here’s my answer: No.
The Most Recent Issue
A lot of startups fire off a press release to our email and expect to be covered. That of course doesn’t happen – many great, funded companies don’t get covered on TechCrunch. We decide what to cover based on personal interest and what we think will get page views. Just because your company has a nice design, or raised a boatoad of cash, doesn’t mean you’ll be written about. If we wrote about every company, no one would come to the site. We make choices, and we are judged by our readers.
A few startups that don’t get coverage go ballistic. They leave random irate anonymous comments on the blog (sometimes using the same IP address as previous, non-anonymous comments). They talk about how much of an asshole I am at parties. Etc. For this reason, I have stopped going to parties.
A company called Mothersclick was angry that I covered a competitor called Maya’s Mom. I know the founders of Maya’s Mom from a number of years ago, and in our initial coverage of the company disclosed that relationship. Later, thinking about the fact that I’m not really that close to that person, I removed the disclosure. I do that all the time. At the end of the day, most of my friends are entrepreneurs, and I don’t disclose every friendship when I write.
I guess Mothersclick sent an email or press release or something to us, and was upset when we didn’t respond. I have no idea. But they left a nasty comment in the post above suggesting that the reason we didn’t cover them was because of the “friendship conflict”. They complained to valleywag, who immediately wrote a story about it. The story got up on Digg, where another person from Mothersclick wrote:
Actually, I was involved in a startup competitor to Maya’s Mom and we tried to get prelaunch press from Arrington months ago (around the same time as he first announced Maya’s Mom) but he wouldn’t give us the time of day. Now that our site launched (about 2 weeks ago), Arrington has still ignored us, despite press releases and direct contact…and now he’s pimping Maya’s Mom…which is owned by a former colleague and friend of his.
Fuck Arrington’s biased ass. He as no credibility anymore.
But the truth is I’ve never heard of Mothersclick other than when they were attacking me. Hell, I often forget all about startups we’ve actually written about (see the list here and you’ll understand why). I am trying to build a new type of publishing company, one based on insider information, and frankly I don’t have a lot of time to conspire to keep the most recent parenting site off the public radar becausee I worked in the same office as someone back in the 90′s.
My record is clean. I call things like I see them. I disclose financial conflicts. I’ve complimented direct competitors to a startup I founded (see here and here), edgeio. I’ve slammed sponsors (see my comments on ReviewMe). There’s a very good chance I am going to rip apart a startup I invested in when it launches soon if they don’t get their shit together.
If you are a casual reader looking for things to attack, you’ll find them. But if you are a regular reader, you’ll know that I’m a straight shooter, I love startups and I always write what I actually believe. That’s a lot more than most traditional journalists can say, and I’m proud to be a blogger.