Debate over Alleged Conflict of Interest at TechCrunch

TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington believes he and his publication are getting a raw deal from the mainstream business and news media. He says, among other things, that the mainstream news media don’t understand the nature of TechCrunch, which he describes as follows:

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 have read TechCrunch, off and on, for more than a year. I appreciate the coverage it provides, but I feel sometimes that Arrington and his crew become shills for companies in which they have a financial interest. What makes TechCrunch different also makes it open to question and reproach.

It doesn’t strive for objectivity, which Matthew Ingram rightly notes is unattainable, but I have found that it also struggles for balance and perspective, which are critical ingredients of good critical commentary. TechCrunch is pumping up what passes for a Web 2.0 bubble, and it does so with neither apology nor restraint.

Mark Evans writes: "If you don’t like what TechCrunch or Arrington are doing, don’t read it."

That’s fair comment, but I think we also have the right to hold Arrington to account and to question whether he is continuing to provide quality and value to readers.

A thin line separates what Arrington does from the paid news-flavored advertising supplements that are distributed inside or alongside daily newspapers. Those neither have nor warrant credibility as news sources, and Arrington will have to take care to ensure that his online publication doesn’t cross over into that territory.

4 responses to “Debate over Alleged Conflict of Interest at TechCrunch

  1. will you please provide an example of when we have been “shills for companies in which they have a financial interest”?

  2. First, Michael, thanks for your reply.

    In answer to your question, I think you’ve been guilty of such a bias in your coverage of Zoho, which has been a regular advertiser on your site.

    You’ve openly advocated that somebody buy them (http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/08/27/google-makes-its-move-office-20/) and generally shown them favoritism in your coverage.

  3. Oh ok I get it. If I write anything positive about a company that was once a sponsor then I am a shill. Thanks.

  4. No, Michael, I don’t think you get it.

    There’s nothing wrong with writing something positive about a company that is or was one of your sponsors. When, however, does the coverage go from being merely positive to being a form of commercial advocacy?

    I’m not sure I have the definitive answer, but I think some of your coverage — involving companies from which you derive or stand to derive financial gain — is open to conflict-of-interest questions and criticisms.

    I know you disagree, so let’s leave it at that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s