Michael Arrington, founder of Techcrunch, is a known preacher of ethics and disclosure and has hit out regularly at the MSM. Techcrunch has often been criticized to only promote startups who pay to be featured but so far none of these claims checked out according to former Valleywag contributor Paul Boutin.
Last night Arrington reported the upcoming sale of MCHammer’s DanceJam. So far, nothing special, just another acquisition of an online website which was reported by Techcrunch. Another day and people are still dying of starvation and crime. Life goes on.
But there’s one small detail about this news: Arrington is investor in DanceJam. The investment was disclosed in the post, with a small pinch of *whine* as he announced that the company had not announced the sale to him nor did respond to his email request.
Arrington cashes in as early, angel, investor, but things become really interesting when looking at a long post about ethics and disclosure, written by Arrington more than half a year ago: The Rules Apply To Everyone. In the post the former lawyer went as far as saying that Dave Winer’s credibility was shot because he didn’t disclose a sponsored placement in a feed reader:
But it turns out Winer has a shady past when it comes to disclosing his own conflicts of interest. After his post yesterday, an ex-employee of his noted that Winer took at least one cash payment of $10,000 to promote a blog in a news aggregator he created. This wasn’t disclosed until the the person who paid blogged about it some time later.
Credibility = Shot. Permanently.
Arrington, who has previously admitted that he will promote his friends’ startups on Techcrunch is a guy who balances between two worlds: the world of ethical bloggers and the world of journalistic methods, when the latter is the better strategy to defend his case as we learned from Twittergate earlier this year.
And the DanceJam case is no exception to Arrington’s double standards. The tech blogger has done everything he always claims important by disclosing his conflict of interest, his investment in the company. But what he did forget was to stick to his own words, keep a promise he made more than half a year ago to get rid of the interest of conflicts by ditching his investments:
Back to transparency, one change I’m going to make at TechCrunch is to get rid of all of our investment conflicts. I’ve long been an angel investor and have continued to make a very few investments even after starting TechCrunch. These investments are always disclosed and in my opinion we do more than enough to maintain transparency there. But it’s also a weak point that competitors and disgruntled entrepreneurs use to attack our credibility. So over the next few months I’m going to divest myself of all of those investments in an orderly fashion, and I’ll update readers on the progress. I’ll also discontinue making any further investments.
This is where the Spitzer phenomenon comes in. Arrington doesn’t see his breaking of a promise as an issue, disclosing his investment in DanceJam. Sorry Michael, but you aren’t above the ethical rules you so keenly shout about.
Credibility = Shot. Permanently.
Lesson learned: If you’re Arrington the rules don’t apply to you.
Author: Franky Branckaute
Franky is CEO, Editor and 21/7 Muppet on Duty at Splashpress Media. Occasionally he even sleeps. More sporadically even he also blogs about the professional online life at iFranky. He also is regular Guest Lecturer on all things blogging and ‘web 2.0’ish’. Follow him on Twitter.