Mike Arrington vs. Charles Cooper

CrunchNotes � Sorry CNET, You’ve Mistaken Me For Someone Who Gives A Damn Mike Arrington is out with a post this morning that is a follow up in a long line of posts over the past few days about an issue with FM Publishing and bloggers who lended their names to a recent Microsoft advertising campaign.

By way of disclosure, FM Publishing does my ads for thomashawk.com and I was never asked to be one of the bloggers to participate in the Microsoft ad campaign in question.

Mike says that John Battelle who runs FM threw bloggers under a bus with this post and says TechCrunch is looking for new ad representation.

Personally, to me, alot of this drama seems much ado about nothing. Bloggers increasingly are gaining power and a blogger like Mike Arrington is about as powerful a blogger as they come. A blogger has power not just because they reach thousands of readers, but because they reach thousands of important readers. Influencers, decision makers, other bloggers, journalists etc. Getting a top blogger to blog about your product can mean much more than just a blog post.

I’m CEO of Zooomr. Mike Arrington, CNET, Scoble, lots of people have blogged about our product. Now, last week the largest newspaper in Israel posted a positive review about Zooomr (they gave us 4.5 stars and we tied for the highest rating of photo sharing sites reviewed). This resulted in thousands of new sign ups on our site. My guess is that they read about Zooomr on a blog somewhere. But I don’t need to tell you all that blogs can be influential.

So it’s clear that marketers and savvy PR folks get this. So the question is how should bloggers handle this push by marketers to influence them. My own opinion is that each blogger can do whatever they want as long as it’s disclosed.

Did the drobo folks give me a free drobo and then I blogged about it? Sure. Did I disclose that they gave me one? Yep. Is it a kick ass product? Yep it sure is. The company came back and asked me if they could use quotes from my blog for their marketing stuff. I said yes to that too. Again. Because I thought it was a kick ass product. They didn’t offer me any money to do this by the way. I just liked their product and so it was fine with me.

Now. At question in this CNET vs. Arrington vs. FM Publishing debate is whether or not it was disclosed that bloggers were receiving a financial interest by participating in these testimonial sort of ads. And with this one I’m going to have to side with Mike Arrington. An ad is an ad and unless you are an idiot most people can tell the difference. The ad in question was a very stylized ad that only a moron would consider to be editorial content. If I saw that ad on Mike’s blog I’d *know* it was an ad. And I wouldn’t take it in any way as Mike was secretly selling out to Microsoft.

Should there have been additional disclosure by FM authors that these ad units were in fact testimonial ad units? Nah, I don’t think so.

Ads are fine. Ads are good in fact. They help publishers like Mike survive and put something like TechCrunch out. It couldn’t be done without the ads.

So not only is Mike Arrington right on this one, but he just earned himself a hell of lot more respect by having the balls to stand up to some pretty powerful people in the tech industry. This is nothing new for Mike of course. He pisses people off all the time. But that’s also in part what makes him an interesting blogger.

Dave Winer has some good thoughts on the whole thing as well.

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  1. Vinny says:

    Problem is, it also appeared on a companion site that doesn’t really look like an ad. It looks like a Social Media site with testimonials from trusted people, and I think that’s the difference.

    I don’t doubt Arrington’s integrity. I never have, and I never will. Considering the amount of crap he takes, he’s more than welcome to do what he pleases. I think people are pissed because he didn’t disclose it and the quotes he made went on an infomercial type site.

    And John Battelle is a weasel for throwing his bloggers under the bus by saying they should’ve disclosed what was going on.

    This is an issue in the blogosphere, and frankly Arrington, who’s gone off on Pay per Post a million times should try a lot harder to avoid even the appearance of impropriety lest that high-mindedness come back and bite him in the ass like it just did.

  2. Thomas Hawk says:

    Good point Vinny, but still I’m not sure. I mean the companion site still feels pretty much like an ad to me. It says Sponsored by Microsoft up at the top and while it’s cheesy as hell I still think it would be hard for someone to confuse it with editorial content.

    To me this is no different than when I’d listen to Howard Stern and he’d go on blathering about some product he was pitching. Everyone knew it was an ad. To me this is just another form of advertising. I used to tune out those ads from Stern and I’d just as soon tune out this page from FM.

  3. Vinny says:

    It does say sponsored by, but really isn’t that just generic stuff these days? I mean, I have “A word from our sponsors” in my side bar above my measly two text-link ads. Does that mean my site is an ad? Not really.

    Arrington’s name and quote was used on a site that was intended to trick people into thinking it was a social media site and even solicited votes and user stories. To be clear, I’m not fully convinced that he did anything wrong aside from lending his name to an ad campaign that was somewhat on the sleazy side.

    As for radio ads, you can see those “endorsement” type live reads from a mile away. You’d have to be 3/5ths of an idiot to actually not be able to tell what’s an ad and what’s not. Even as subtle as he is on Twit, Leo Laporte’s ads for Audible in the last few weeks have been enormously obvious.

    Arrington goofed. Valleywag took a shot at him. C-Net is capitalizing on it.

    All in all, it’s just another day in the blogosphere.

  4. Dave Zatz says:

    I’ve been wondering if I blew my chance at getting a review Drobo unit prior to launch after questioning it’s usefulness and price.