VentureBeat Needs To Put On Their Big Boy Pants If They Want To Fight With TechCrunch

VentureBeat leveled quite an accusation at TechCrunch this evening, claiming that they had evidence that suggested TechCrunch was trading stories for ad buys. The evidence? An email sent by a startup CEO to VentureBeat that was meant for TechCrunch.

“AOL-owned tech blog TechCrunch is often accused of trading favors for exclusives,” says VentureBeat, adding “Now we have proof.”

Err, ok.

The company supposedly offering the payment apparently has an advisor that’s married to a VentureBeat reporter, which may explain how the mixup happened (or not, it’s a very confusing post). But the gist of the accusation is that the company spoke to a TechCrunch salesperson about an ad, and then emailed the TechCrunch editorial team with an expectation of a post. There’s now an update to the post with the company CEO trying to explain that the email was taken out of context and was really meant for VentureBeat anyway. In short, it’s a mess.

Despite the extremely hazy background facts, the accusations are clear. TechCrunch posts stories in exchange for advertising.

That’s absurd.

In a comment to the post I pointed out that if that email had been received by the TechCrunch team someone would almost certainly have posted it immediately and mocked it. Here’s a post I wrote last year when an ad agency threatened to pull business based on a post I wrote about American Express.

Here’s another interesting factoid. Valleywag tried for years (and years) to nail TechCrunch on some sort of ethics charge. They never succeeded because that stuff never happens at TechCrunch. The original post is gone but I quoted it here:

Arrington, for a reason no one has ever pinpointed, attracts haters at a level far beyond what you’d expect for what is basically an online trade magazine. I learned this firsthand when I wrote for gossip site Valleywag from 2006 to 2008. Despite Valleywag’s cruel, personal posts, we received almost no hate mail and were never accosted in public. Instead, we got mail, phone calls and in-person pleas from people who begged us to take down Mike Arrington. The most common accusation was that TechCrunch sold endorsements of startups, either in exchange for advertising buys on the site, or for outright cash payments.

This is important: None of these claims ever checked out. Sources would claim to know someone who knew something, but these mystery witnesses never showed up to tell their stories to a reporter. Arrington’s success, both as a blog-era publisher/writer and a startup businessman, inflames less successful entrepreneurs and journalists with off-the-scale envy. How does he do that?

In the one case where a TechCrunch writer had acted inappropriately by requesting compensation for a blog post he was terminated immediately and everything he’d ever written was deleted from the site. And I broke the news about that, we did not wait in the hope that it would never get out.

TechCrunch has been controversial because it has never played by the rules (see my post here about how I ran the joint). But they’ve never (NEVER) done the kind of shady shit that VentureBeat is accusing them of today, despite a ridiculous effort by competitors to show otherwise. Like I said in that post, “One thing I knew for sure was that I’d never trick readers, or lie to them, or otherwise be shady. It’s not me. And even if it was me, it’s too easy to get caught.” It’s just not the TechCrunch way, and if it was, they’d have been nailed for it by now.

If VentureBeat wants to fight it out with TechCrunch, I’ll be glad to watch. But they need to put on their big boy pants, or bow out gracefully with an apology.

Look for that apology shortly.

Update: The original title, “How TechCrunch’s back-room deals destroy its credibility” has now been considerably softened to “Start-up’s gaffe raises questions about blogs in Silicon Valley.”

Update 2: A representative from the company in question left this comment on the VentureBeat post: “Hi my name is Bill Briggs. I am part of the founding team of Own Point of Sale, board member, and VP of Business Development. I wanted to state that this article was taken very far out of context. A simple conversation was cut, pasted and filled to make it look like a direct blow to TechCrunch. This is not the case we like Tech Crunch very much. I spoke with the editor, Mike, and explained to him that he is pulling us into a battle which we want to no part in. This is directly hurting our reputation, especially with those we like (TechCrunch). I asked them to please take it down. He refused saying, “we don’t have to,” which might be and probably is true. However, know this, Venture Beat has falsely composed an article about our company and it is not true. The very fact that they chose not to take this down shows the caliber of this organization.”

Update 3: Apology issued:

Update 4: Here’s a copy of the original post.

85 thoughts on “VentureBeat Needs To Put On Their Big Boy Pants If They Want To Fight With TechCrunch

    • but one thing VentureBeat already has in common with today’s TechCrunch: censorship of comments

      • The Antimike says:

        “today’s techcrunch”
        that is laughable, they always deleted any comment that didn’t support their ego. Expect more of the same here, as Arrington has again promised full disclosure, so long as it conviently fits his personal standard. Hey mike, if you’re going to proclaim yourself to be above board, how about actually comming through this time.

  1. Not that you’re wrong but why not just walk away from TechCrunch like everyone thought you did? Staying involved and tweeting all about TechCrunch’s stories and continuing to be involved in the TechCrunch commentary just seems…. wrong.

  2. MG Siegler says:

    I’ve read the VB story three times, and I still don’t understand what the accusation was. That someone sent an email? That TC has an ad sales team? With the update, it sure looks like VB just kicked a guy in the nuts who was offering them an exclusive. And then shot themselves in the face for good measure.

    Awesome.

  3. I don’t think you’ll be getting that apology, unfortunately. The author of that article replied in the comments that he was wrong in the article… “Except for the part where Arrington had previously explained that’s exactly how TechCrunch works.”

    So yeah.

  4. When you’re not the best, you try to justify it by saying the industry leader *must* break the rules to win; it can’t be due to better people, culture, etc. Can’t wait for VentureBeat to retract.

  5. This is why one of the top founders of the last 12 years, said to me
    “VentureBeat is a tabloid on the sidewalk”

  6. lolzzzz says:

    Firs…LAST!!!!!!11

  7. Joe Schmoe says:

    i enjoyed your twitter complaint about your comment not being posted quickly. after all of your years of aggressive “management” of comments on tc. think about that whilst you delete this comment! :)

  8. UNCRUNCHED-HATER says:

    Let’s call it like it is. Not only does VentureBeat dislike TechCrunch because people actually read TechCrunch, but also VentureBeat Idiot-In-Chief Matt Marshall hates that DEMO sucks (he made the wrong bet) and TechCrunch Disrupt rocks and has done MUCH MORE for startups in much less time. DEMO made an attempt at some level of purity with Chris Shipley around, and he pushed her out. Douche.

    They will post any dirt they can on TechCrunch, and make no real attempt at verification. Awesome.

    Anonymous should launch a crusade again VentureBeat-off.

    (Mr. Arrignton / Mr. Arrington’s minion: please don’t delete this comment like you did some of my last ones! Kthxbye!)

  9. Write whatever you want. It’s your blog, dude, and you earned it.

  10. The update by VentureBeat is fine and well, but their SEO is still optimized for “how-techcrunch-works” in the URL.

  11. Mike or pOwned Point of Sale.com

    Inadvertently or not… one or both of these guys just discovered a whole new guerrilla marketing tactic.

    Pitting tech-blogs against each other with subversive emails. Can I please have the honor of naming said new tactic?!

    behold… “the UNp0wned”

    Venture Beat just got UNp0wned

  12. Seriously is VentureBeats trying to win a popularity contest by taking tactics our of the political playbook? Oh well. Nice post and I respect that even after leaving the company you started you support its integrity. Keep the posts comming.

  13. Btw, Arrington, thanks for not using facebook’s comment system.

  14. VB took the story down. AND Uncrunched is officially a player. BOOM!

  15. ~46 minutes. neutrino or not, things travel fast.

  16. Hongbo Zhang says:

    Just can not catch up with other guys to become ” THE FIRST”. Email me next time before you post so i can be the first LOL.

  17. Dan McCarty says:

    “We’ve pulled this story down after talking further with the startup involved. We apologize to the startup and to TechCrunch.” – VB

  18. they’ve updated again…

    “We’ve pulled this story down after talking further with the startup involved. We apologize to the startup and to TechCrunch.”

  19. Ram P Singh says:

    With so much that looks and feels like drama in the tech press, it is hard to tell what is genuine and what is a cheap publicity stunt these days..

  20. That’s pretty ridiculous. I purchased ads with techcrunch for an app I built and launched and it was never conveyed to me or my company that it would guarantee posts to the site. In fact nothing about our product was ever posted to the site, though ads we bought did get us interest from other people in the industry.

  21. I just want to know where you got that hilarious photo–so perfect for the headline!

  22. Marck says:

    The picture is so cute. It’s good that VB pulled down the article after realizing the mistake.

  23. Travisvan says:

    I’m confused. I thought twitter and facebook’s marketing teams steer tc’s editorial direction?

  24. Ram P Singh says:

    “Update 4″ only shows that the story has been taken down..

  25. JD says:

    Well any publicity is good publicity right?, especially for a startup trying to get its name out there in in the Valley? publicity stunt?

  26. I asked my 15 year old niece what she thought of this story. Despite her immediate, rapid fire, thumb typing, I am still awaiting a response. It must be important.

  27. Kabinet says:

    What a great post. Excited to be seeing more activity here.

  28. Mike Butcher says:

    Dylan Tweney. Says it all.

  29. I like that post that Denton wrote, because it is so true. While he is a competitor he is an outsider to the politics between the tech blogs and he called it perfectly. It is on rare occasions like today that readers get a sense of just how much animosity there is between some of the bloggers.

    To the point where they would take a tiny shred of a suggestion of impropriety (it would be wrong to call what they had ‘evidence’) and stake their entire reputation on a claim. The irony is that they talk about ‘journalistic value’ in a story that is built on a single lousy source and a story that wasn’t checked with Techcrunch.

    If anybody took a moment to think about what is being claimed here with impartial analysis you would have to conclude that Techcrunch has never taken money for favorable treatment.

    First, as Denton mentions, despite all the animosity and all the effort that has gone into trying to prove the case, nothing has ever come of it

    And second, these other blogs claim that they do not accept advertising for favorable treatment, while Techcrunch does. If you ranked all of the tech blogs, Techcrunch would be first in terms of both advertising audience and advertising demand. From the very first day we put ads up on Techcrunch they have always sold out. We went from 4 squares to 6 and then to 8 because of advertising demand. Techcrunch don’t do favorable treatment for editorial because they don’t have to – there is an excess demand for Techcrunch advertising. Also – the individual writers do not benefit from this at all – they don’t make commissions on advertising. So you are suggesting that an independent group of writers is keeping quiet about writing favorable treatment, for what exactly? So that AOL can post better numbers?

    Yet somehow Techcrunch, which has an excess of demand for advertising, compromises itself in order to get ad customers, while the #2, #3, #4 and #5 blog in the space absolutely do not. This does not make sense. If anybody was on the take for favorable treatment it would be the #3, #4 and #5 blogs – not the top blog. So the #2 or #3 blog would only ever be able to claim that the blog that is more desirable to advertisers is on the take only if they are already feeling the pinch and are on the take themselves.

    If the ad market tanked again tomorrow, it would be the #5, #4, etc. blogs that would begin spinning favorable treatment before the effects are felt at the #1 blog.

    Simple when you think about it – but there is so much hatred here that common sense, logic, journalistic process etc. are all discarded when it comes to getting just a single chance to take the smallest shot at Techcrunch.

  30. “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” -Winston Churchill

  31. Hilarious. And I hope for TechCrunch’s (and Arrington’s) case that VB WAS and IS completely wrong.

  32. Unliked VentureBeat on Facebook.

  33. Yodhe says:

    What a joke, anyone who knows (knowed?) you, knows that you and others on the team only used to do “puff” pieces in TechCrunch in exchange for coke and whores. :P

  34. kid mercury says:

    lol arrington i gotta hand it to you you are better at blog beefing than i initially gave you credit for! still gonna diss you for techcrunch’s failure to cover the intersection of kook conspiracy stuff and technology. though i concede you are more honest, and more skilled at beefing, than i originally thought.

  35. guest22 says:

    @arrington, to believe that @techcrunch today or tomorrow will be, or is, the @techcrunch of last week and before is something you may need to get over.

    While Venturebeat may have jumped the gun in this instance (OK, they jumped the gun and the shark), the underlying reality is that many feel that @techcrunch is biased, skewed and plays favorites — coupled with (in the past) about zero Editorial oversight (which was promoted as a positive).

    Basically, who knows what or why a TC writer posts what they post? Clearly, there were ethical infractions in the past that came to light and were addressed. Were there others than never came to light? We’ll never know.

    @techcrunch is now Over, effectively, in it’s own deadpool. It has reincarnated as Huff/AOL. What you “will always love” is a just a memory, like an “X” from your 20′s who haunts you through your mid-life crisis.

    #writeon

  36. Ric says:

    Sometimes over at the other space I would roll my eyes at your chutzpah MA, but now, today, reading this I am reminded about why you stir up so much shit! Its not that you break the rules of content and media its that you make them up as you go, you do it successfully and with panache and the rest of the constrained creative types resent you for not following the traditional rules.

    It will be neat in 10 years to look back and see who is more relevant and read you or that aggregating biatch Huffington! I think I know the answer already, so keep on trucking you glorious bastard!

  37. Re: Update #3… classic.

  38. Jack Wright says:

    Hey Mike,

    I’m glad to see that you’re still at it. The whole situation with AOL was a bit ridiculous. Why you chose to partner with a dead company like AOL (the antithesis of cutting edge) in the first place, is beyond me.

    Uncrunched could definitely use a UX Designer, Graphic Designer, and a proper programmer, but for now this format is fine :D

  39. I’m already tired of reading about TechCrunch here…

  40. good work…….you can find some really good blogs just like same on http://makeadvice.com/

    kindly visit :) thanks

  41. TechCrunch was started because mainstream media ignored & didn’t adequately cover the startup world….

    …but here in Chicago (and I’m guessing it happens elsewhere) I have chased down new startups, asked questions about their funding, revenue, plans, hopes and dreams and they are excited I found out about them and want to write about them….

    and then they say, “But you can’t run this until we’ve talked to TechCrunch. They demand exclusives and if we don’t give it to them, they won’t write about us.”

    I have heard this so much it is either a misconception gone viral or true. TC as mainstream media bully kind of cracks me up since TC was supposed to be the solution, not a problem.

    I also realize I’m complaining and I’ll say this- it made me tougher (and thick skinned) because recently I’ve said, “Fuck it” and I now report what I want and, like Mike said in his “process journalism” piece, its amazing how people are ready to comment and talk once something goes live on my site.

    Love UnCrunched, and love the insight Mike. But I’m elbowing my way in anyway. :)

    • Michael Arrington says:

      “its amazing how people are ready to comment and talk once something goes live on my site.” – it took me a year or so to figure that out too. works like a charm.

  42. VentureBeat Dirt says:

    Hey Mike, I’ve got something of interest for you. Could you shoot me an email please? It’s worth your time. Thanks.

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