site devoted to technology news? Yep, 'fraid so
. This one, PandoDaily, will be written by, among others, some of the people who had previously made TechCrunch so awful: Sarah Lacy (who runs it), Michael Arrington, MG Siegler
, and Paul Carr. These are people who believe that their coverage of, say, browser plug-ins and smartphone apps should be handled with -- and they actually used this word, about themselves
Often, they employed this "swagger" by rewriting press releases, adding the word "fuck," and referring to themselves a lot
. Much of TechCrunch seemed as if it had been designed by Lindsey Naegle
and her marketing team: "Let's make MG Siegler 10 percent more 'in-your-face.' Perfect!"
Which is not to say they were wrong. TechCrunch was a huge hit. Apparently, a fairly large number of emotionally stunted geeks and marketing droids eat this kind of stuff up. For all the hype around it, tech news can be dull, especially at the granular level at which TechCrunch and similar sites operate. Maybe using the word "fuck" and writing a lot of self-regarding tripe is what makes it palatable for a certain demographic. Henry Blodget's Business Insider does the same kind of thing.
Advertisers, apparently, love manchildren, as long as their disposable incomes are sufficiently high.
The new site is called PandoDaily, and given the circumstances
surrounding it, the name seems almost as if it were chosen, defiantly,
as a straight line. It will be regularly referred to as PanderDaily -- mark my words. (Indeed, that's already happening
Lacy, like her TechCrunch compatriots, seems as enamored with herself
as she is about anything else. But her greatest claim to infame
is still the cover story she wrote for BusinessWeek
about six years ago
claiming that Digg.com founder Kevin Rose had "made" about $60 million
in 18 months. Digg was breaking even at the time, and that number was
basically made up. The cover line about the $60 million was really the
editors' fault, but the article
in all its shallowness and hype, represented everything that had gone
wrong with BusinessWeek
under its previous ownership, and which has long
been a problem with tech coverage in general -- a problem that, lately,
has reached new heights as web publishers grow more and more desperate
for hits, and more and more prone to circle-jerkery. (BusinessWeek
itself is now owned by Bloomberg, and is better than ever, staffed as it
is by real pros who put readers' needs first).
Shallowness and hype seem to be part of the plan for Pando, too. Lacy's shtick is to be shamelessly enamored of "entrepreneurs." She uses
the word -- a lot. She is generally not, shall we say, a
That lack of skepticism is almost certainly the main draw for the people
and venture funds that are investing $2.5 million in the site. It reads
like a who's who of Silicon Valley, including Netscape founder Marc
Andreessen, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, Zappos.com CEO Tony Hseih, and
a whole bunch of other financiers and venture firms.
Gawker's Ryan Tate sums up the situation nicely
with his headline: "Tech Industry Buys Itself a Mouthpiece." Returns on
the investment aren't important here -- they don't have to be, since
$2.5 million, spread over that many funds and superrich people, is
nothing. They aren't looking for profits, they're looking for PR. And
that's just what they're going to get.
As has been well documented
Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch (whose CrunchFund is one of
Pando's investors), has a complicated relationship with ethics. Which is
to say, he doesn't actually have any. When he announced that he was
going to invest in some of the companies TechCrunch was writing about,
AOL (to whom he had earlier sold the site) fired him after a long and
silly dance that involved AOL stumbling over what to do and various
TechCrunch writers repeatedly declaring what streetwise rebels they
were, in the process coming off a bit like George Costanza when he tried
to be a "bad boy
." Ultimately, not only Arrington, but also Siegler and Carr, and later, Lacy, left the site.
In Pando's case, nearly every item it publishes will carry some kind of
conflict, given the number and length of its investors' tentacles.
Lacy addressed this
by saying, basically, "La la la, whatever
Actually, she declared of her writing both for and about her investors:
"Some people will call this a conflict." It "is certainly messy," she
said, but, "We are unashamedly part of the startup community. We love it
and are advocates for the best parts of it, while we'll aggressively
call out the worst parts of it."
The "unashamedly" part is clearly true. We'll have to see about that
latter promise, though. "Either way," she wrote, "we'll disclose
Ah, yes. "Disclosure." This is Arrington's watchword, too. It's based on the addled idea
that, as long as you disclose the fact that you're shamelessly shilling
for some company, it's okay to shamelessly shill for some company. Which
is better than not
disclosing, but it still raises the question
of how readers are served. There are sites that publish press releases,
after all. And there are already way too many sites -- an appallingly
large number -- devoted to technology, some of them truly independent and not afraid to call bullshit when they see it.
Some of them even avoid making press releases their main source of tips.
Dan Mitchell has written for
New York Times, Slate,
Wired, National Public Radio, the
Chicago Tribune, and many others.
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