Dear Michael Arrington Please Save Techcrunch Before it’s Too Late

The following is an open letter to Michael Arrington owner of  Techcrunch.com, you still have a chance to save Techcrunch before it’s too late.

Quantity Over Quality

Last friday May 8 I took a twitter poll to see how other people felt about Techcrunch, and whether it was just me who felt the overall quality had dropped, here are the results:

Sure it’s not scientifically accurate, and I don’t know whether you should consider 80 people a large enough cross section to be valid, but it’s hard to ignore that almost 75% of the people polled felt it was getting worse, so bad in fact that 26% no longer read Techcrunch on a regular basis. In fact the quality has gotten so bad that this weekend you had to do some public damage control to address people’s dissatisfaction. But let’s take a deeper look at some of the underlying factors.

Here’s a screen shot from my RSS reader this past thursday:

tc-thursday

You published 23 stories to the main Techcrunch feed, 23 STORIES!!! I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many people who have the time to read 23 stories from one blog in a day, and there’s just no way you could push out 23 high quality stories in that period of time, it’s just impossible. Here’s the rub, 23 is pretty low for a weekday, look at the graph of how many stories get published to the Techcrunch feed, 40+ is pretty average on some days it even hits 80 stories:
tc-trends

See the orange lines, that how many stories I’m actually reading, if I’m spending more time marking stories read, than actually reading them, we’ve got a real problem. But let’s dig even deeper into those 23 stories …

Of those 23 stories 3 of them aren’t even from Techcrunch!
Interview: James Weatherson, Red Inflight Entertainment Engineer on Virgin America
Video Review: SuperSmoker Blue
Stupeflix releases awesome API to generate 1,000s of videos on the fly

Three is a low number on some days it’s 6, 8 or even 10 stories. I never asked for those stories, I don’t subscribe to Crunchgear or TechCrunch UK and quite frankly I don’t want to read them. However over at Techcrunch the editors are worse than a minimum wage McDonalds drive through clerk who decides “I really did want fries with that” and gives them to me without even asking. Listen I understand we’re in a recession and ad revenue and page views are down, and I understand that you’re trying to grow an new ad network, but force feeding me content I don’t want and never asked for isn’t the answer … really

Blogging Hypocrites

Yahoo! Finance Tech Ticker host Sarah Lacy
photo credit: Yodel Anecdotal

Sarah Lacy

Last week Sarah Lacy wrote a post entitled “News Flash: Paying for Coverage Is Still Taboo“, where she called out someone for pitching her about “pay per post”. Sarah’s position on the matter is, and I quote:

“I’m sorry, I still consider paying for coverage incredibly controversial and, for a reporter, unethical. Can you explain to me what has changed about this issue?”

Really you consider paying for coverage unethical? So Sarah Lacy you consider people who participate in the pay per post program and get $5, $10, $15 a post unethical, how do you feel about people who take sponsored trips across the globe, staying in hotels and getting free meals, in exchange for coverage? Know anyone like that? Let me jog your memory with this little video below …

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/1131565[/vimeo]

I know 11 months is a long time in internet years, but last April you and some other bloggers like Robert Scoble went on a sponsored trip to Israel, see you blogged about it. I guess Silicon Valley operates under a different set of rules. I’ll let you in on a little secret  Sarah, to the rest of the world that is sponsored coverage, even congress has figured out it’s unethical for them to take sponsored trips. The fact that it’s OK for you take trips costing thousands of dollars for coverage, but not everyone else, makes you look like a big fat liar or hypocrite, take your choice.

I know you probably consider it good PR and it goes on all the time, but in a Google world, that’s a paid link, and you normally you would expect a Google penalty for it … except well that’s not how it always works, Google has two sets of standards and won’t actually ding high profile bloggers.

Censorship and Croneyism

I understand when you run a blog as popular as techcrunch you’re going to attract your share of haters, but the selective censoring of comments on your blog is a joke and has to stop. I understand you aren’t under the impression that I have some free speech right or anything, and hey that’s cool, but the way that most of the comments you allow agree with you is lame.  See you had a post about the truly awesome Robert Scoble showing his creative genius by naming his new project after a building at google, I commented on it and you deleted or censored it. Strong accusation isn’t it, but guess what I’ve got the proof, see backtype scanned and indexed it before you did the deed, see for yourself.

I get that moderating comments is a PIA and it’s getting worse with the trolls and haters, but if it sucks that much, turn them off, it’s what I did, only approving the one’s who agree with you is really bad mojo.

Save Techcrunch Before it’s too Late

This post isn’t a smackdown or a callout, it’s more of an intervention to try and help you save techcrunch before it’s too late. See like Tony Bourdain I’m a quintessential New Yorker. I’m cynical and sarcastic, I don’t like most people, I don’t think most people “are great” the way you hear them described at a party before you meet them. I think the world would be a better place if Obama nominated Judge Judy to fill the Supreme Court position that’s opening up, like I said I’m from New York. I know a lot of people from California misinterpret this cynicism as hatred, but really it’s not. Some people have figured out that  sarcasm is actually a compliment. I’m a firm believer that your real friends are the ones who will take the time to call you out when you’re doing something wrong. The problem is of course your friends won’t do that because they don’t want to piss you off. They’re afraid you’ll give them negative coverage while they wait around for another round of VC money or for a Google buyout, so that leaves me to do the dirty work.

I’ve been trying to tell you this on twitter except you blocked me there, I’ve left you comments, but you censor them, I’d have written you an email but I doubt you’d read it. so please Michael Arrington stop, look around, fix what’s broken, and save Techcrunch before it’s too late. If you’d like to talk more offline, that’s fine we have a few mutual friends who know how to connect us.

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