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Facebook PR: Tonight We Dine In Hell (techcrunch.com)
262 points by parth16 on June 17, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 47 comments

Wow. Techcrunch defended journalistic integrity, and i actually believe them. They're right, this is a problem, and it's being highlighted in the correct manner.

The other broader issue that has to be dealt with is that this is the face of the new media landscape. Where do you think journalists and writers have left to go in the collapse of the news media? PR flacks often times have journalism degrees, and the only people left paying for flacks are big corporates and their pr departments.

A journalist arrogates to himself the right to take your confidential code and splatter it on the internet in return for advertising pageviews.

Siegler profits directly from leaks. Do you deny this?

And FB does not profit from leaks.

So this has nothing to do with integrity. What does printing something marked "confidential" have to do with integrity? Siegler is just mad that FB got someone to post their side of the story.

Really? Do you see any code being published here?

And, furthermore, Facebook does not profit from leaks here. But tech companies, especially FB, are more than happy to use leaks and whisper campaigns to their benefit, as we well know, and as is reiterated in this article.

And even if Techcrunch were to disappear, Facebook and their PR team would still be there, lobbying politicians, and putting out favorable stories about their company.

To that extent, i agree with TechCrunch, that their interests align better with the general public's than Facebook's do. So long as TechCrunch is interested in an accurate portrayal of how these tech companies actually function, and how their interests are, or are not aligned with the other forces they must contend with, that is actual journalism, with public utility.

I loathe TC's stupid gossipy coverage of the bullshit that individual VCs are pulling, or who Arrington has happened to have pissed off today. But what Facebook, Apple and Google are up to is certainly of the public interest, especially as they are the forces which determine a good deal of the landscape for the consumer internet.

That tech companies are brazenly trying to squash information that is tactically inconvenient to them is far more disturbing to me than whatever malfeasance you're ascribing to TechCrunch here.

When I read this my concern was that journalists like to see things in a narrative of battle and conflict. Even non-war journalists want to be war journalists, so they write about war, even when there is no war. Personally I don't see enough evidence to support Siegler's certainty of an all out attack on Apple by Facebook. He's even more likely to see it this way I guess because of his open bias in favor of all things Apple. (I say, as an Apple fanboy myself.)

On the other hand, some company executives like to see things in a violent narrative too. They're all about crushing the competition and storming the market. So maybe Facebook's leadership sees their relationship with Apple the same way Siegler does. Hard to know.

That's fair enough, the narrative frame here is certainly needlessly hyperbolic. I guess that i've (depressingly) become acclimated to the level of breathless ranting that TC operates at.

Certainly we can say that there is a tension between native and HTML5 apps, which is of interest to any dev that's interested in mobile devices. That Apple's and Facebook's interest do not align here is an interesting story. Especially with Facebook throwing their weight behind HTML5 apps.

How that relationship is actually handled between Apple and Facebook is indeed another matter, and also something that would be interesting to know.

Siegler's not mad at all. TC loves controversy, it's even easier money then churning out Apple pieces.

I couldn't help but notice the irony of TC's "Tonight We Dine in Hell" (which you just knew was an MG Siegler post before clicking through) right below the "AOL Hell" link.

MG is one of the stars of the "AOL Way" but at least in this case and with the Project Spartan break, he's committed some real and quality journalism.

I was shocked that it was MG was writing it, since I scrolled up to the top about halfway through the article to check out who wrote it. There weren't any rabid apple fanboy comments, and it was somewhat well-written, and usually it's Michael Arrington that writes the anti-PR articles. Maybe he will be more of a journalist in the future, and my unsubscription from techcrunch in my rss reader will have been wrong.

I was also very surprised to discover (after the fact) that this was an MG article. I normally skip his articles; the problem isn't the fanboyism, it's that he writes like he's being paid by the word. They're all three times longer than they should be, and I long ago got tired of straining the soup for a few morsels of real information.

Someone needs to give MG a collection of Hemingway's short stories for Xmas.

I too had the exact same experience: scrolled up halfway through to see whether Arrington wrote this, and was surprised to see it was MG.

Though I think MG's writing style etc. dates back before the acquisition by AOL. Overall this acquisition did not go particularly badly IMO. The AOL-Huffington Post acquisition was a lot worse.

IMO it is time to move to "PR 2.0", which is not based on controlling the message.

Yeah, the 3 to 1 ration he cites is, when I think about, surprisingly low, considering where the money comes from, and how easy being a PR flack is compared to being a serious journalist who breaks actual news.

Hey, HNers,

Here's something I would pay money for and maybe other publishers, as well.

Through WindyCitizen.com, I get about 40-50 press releases a day trying to get one our writers to cover some event or celebrity appearance in Chicago.

This is absurd considering our site is all user-generated content. But we're on lists somewhere and so the PR industrial complex thinks we want to hear about all their fake news. It's really annoying.

I would pay money for a gmail plugin that lets me specify the e-mail addresses of X PR people, and then responds to their press releases automatically with an e-mail from me telling them what it will cost them to buy advertising on our site that promotes the event they're touting.

If they're going to spam me, I would like to be able to spam them.

Most of them will just ignore the e-mails, but they'll get the picture eventually.

Meanwhile, some of them will convert into advertisers. If I pick up $1500/month worth of advertising from this tool, I would gladly pay $30-40/month maybe more for a service that lets me do it.

It could be free for one e-mail address, $29/month for up to 50, and so on and so on.

This way, the indie bloggers out there who can't sell an ad to save their lives but who get bombarded with PR pitches in their inbox all day can automate their sales process a bit AND get the satisfaction of annoying the crap out of the PR people bugging them.

You can already do this with the Canned Responses Gmail labs plugin. Just set up a canned response and then set up a filter.

Just investigated! It's very limited. You can really only do one-line responses. I want to respond with an e-mail with pricing info, a media kit attached etc etc.

Still looking.

So what you want is, in essence, a service which you can set up a filter to direct messages to (possibly safer than letting it interact with your account directly?), which then responds to each email it receives with a message that you previously generated, possibly including attachments.

Gmail's vacation responder does all of that except attachments, but you could use the rich formatting of signatures to include links to your media kits.

Sounds like I can't just have it respond to specific e-mail addresses though. I'm telling ya. There's a fun service in there.

You can do that in the filter. Copy/paste your list of email addresses into the "From" field in the filter config, then tell it to send the canned response. You can't attach things with them, but if you upload them you can just hotlink straight to it.

Slightly more elegant than having it forward to a new email account and have that autorespond to things.

You can set up an email account specifically for the responses, and have messages forwarded to it by a filter. That's extremely hacky, though, and yeah, there's certainly a service there.

Canned Responses will let you write arbitrarily long responses. It won't let you do attachments. (But are those really necessary for a spam response? Just send a link.)

You'd pay $30-$40 per month for a service that generates an extra $1,500 in revenue per month? I don't think your argument for someone to build this tool for you is very compelling ;-)

Oh how I long for the good 'ol days when people just paid for value...

Well, I'd still have to close the sale, get the ad creative, have a web site that gets enough traffic to deserve an ad spend of that kind, run the ad, answer questions from the advertiser as the ad runs, take down how the ad performs, answer questions from the advertiser about their numbers....

So yeah, the thingie that makes it easier for me to do step zero in this process is worth about $40/month in that value chain.

A good rule of thumb for pricing software is that the software should generate at least 10 times its cost in increased profits.

Is the power of this the Gmail integration, or is the power in the list maintenance?

Thinking about the MVP, it would be trivial to write a program that would login to a user's specific POP3/IMAP account, scan for messages from specific senders, and auto-respond. But how would you maintain the list of PR flunkies?

Gmail integration would be great because I use Gmail and wouldn't have to use some other app.

So if this were a rails app, there'd be two models. You'd have Message Templates and Senders.

Message Templates would be subject line, body, signature, and any file attachments.

A sender would consist of an e-mail address, a selected message template, and then some sending settings (how long to wait before writing back, for example). There'd be a button for a sender to be "active" or inactive. If a sender is "active" and has a message template associated with it, then when an e-mail comes in, the sender sends back the template tied to it.

Then maybe each sender would have some stats about how its performing, how many times it executed, what the open rate on those e-mails was, if there was a response etc etc.

I'm thinking of this more as a value add for corporate email, actually. I suppose there are already CRM systems out there that do similar features, but it would be interesting to do it in a more open manner. Via POP3 or something, rather than a proprietary vertical stack (which is what I mostly see at my target companies).

I truly do not get it.

PR exists to serve its clients. Control and spread specific messages is the job. I don't think anyone has any illusion about that.

Tech industry and tech journalism is weird. Most of the writers do not investigate or do any leg work for that matter (hauling their asses to WWDC is apparently too much work and too costly, so they demand realtime webcast). The majority of tech blog posts are dressed up PR pieces maybe with some attempt snarkiness and editorialization, the others are scoops(with fuzzy pictures!!!) or reviews or personal opinion/rant.

The gist is this: we do not get truth or plain news anymore (or ever did). The media have their angles and the companies represented by the PR firm have agendas too, but together they produce large amount of purposeful info everyday and millions of clicks. If this symbiotic relationship can be defined as war, then yes and Oceania is at war with Eurasia.

I mean... that's the same sort of argument that politicians wield to depress voter turnout, so that only partisans will vote (thereby polarizing political narratives further).

There are partisans in the world, get over it. We have to deal with their bullshit, or be overwhelmed with it.

The fact that nobody is giving it to you straight doesn't mean that we don't have interests that should be served, nor does it mean that we shouldn't speak up.

"A pox on all houses" is a convenient expression to reach for when frustrated, but it's not a functioning strategy to live by. I know what my interests are. I'll take the story, when it's relevant.

I think you misunderstand me. I absolutely agree that the audience should have a say and be more proactive in this whole thing. My point is PR firms have no obligation whatsoever to serve the readers, or to make bloggers' life easier. They are not representatives of the mass after all. MG's moral high ground and his holy crusade seems rather odd.

This reminds me too much about Henry Kissinger's comment on the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s: "Pity they can't both lose." Leaving out the issue of the particular companies and personalities mentioned here, there seems to be considerable suspicion that journalism has deep problems, especially when reporting on the economics or technology base of high-tech companies, and meanwhile the blurring definition of what "journalism" is seems to make it easier than ever for public relations personnel to manipulate the story lines the public reads. Maybe there needs to be some other outcome for this war than one of the two sides identified in the submitted article winning the war.

I actually think MG went really out of his way to look for a controversial reason for Facebook's choice of platform for Project Spartan. And I think he is wrong, this time.

Facebook could have gone with a native iOS app, granted that's what most companies do who are specifically trying to target iOS.

But is it really necessary to reach for far fetched reasons why they'd want to go with the web app approach instead? I mean, Facebook is a web app. Their developers are web developers, the vast majority of their developers are hired for their skills and penchant for web development.

As is evident from the regular Facebook.com, they have some pretty great web developers on board as well, knee deep in javascript, css and stuff like that every day, I'm sure. Wouldn't it be really practical to just leverage that expertise for Project Spartan as well, rather than have some other team work with some other code base for some other platform?

Then of course we have the slew of other good attributes of web development, to which Facebook are already accustomed. Like being able to update the app several times a day if they so choose, without Apple's adult supervision and delay.

Do we really need to look any further than that for reasons why Facebook went with the web as their chosen platform? I don't think so, I think it makes a lot of sense for Facebook to go with the web app approach. That Project Spartan uses mobile Safari, not webkit in general, as their target platform kind of shows that there isn't a hell of a lot of anger towards Apple anyways.

You can only have in-app payment inside a native iOS app if the payment goes through the appstore, or Apple rejects the app.

I think this is a little of the pot calling the kettle black. They are one of the biggest tech blogs out there, and Michael Arrington is an active investor in the same companies they cover or lack of cover. Integrity is questionable.

It bothers me that TC writers, when called out on their bias, claim to just be mere "bloggers" who are supposed to be expose their bias so you know where they're coming from, but now they're claiming to be holy "journalists".

Facebook creating a new mobile app platform? I doubt they are capable of producing of high enough quality software to serve as a platform - their iPhone app is the buggiest app I have ever used on the iPhone (constant crashes, stuck interface elements, mismatch between pictures and their thumbnails), and their web site is likely the buggiest web site (duplicate items in news feed, missing items, the message counter is never correct). Basically, on Facebook nothing ever works right. I don't see a lot of people rushing to discard their iOS apps in favor of that.

In other news today, giant social networking site wishes to own your data and the applications you might use to create even more of it.

Facebook's PR people have an even harder time of it after their privacy settings fiasco. More people take what they say with a larger salt pill than other companies because they have earned a reputation of saying X but doing Y. Not surprised that the TC article implies they are doing the same here.

How can you possibly be surprised by a company PR-spinning things that make them look weak?

The story is a bit too self-involved, there's no need to write about it. They should sort these issues in the background and maintain a professional image.

This felt like a TMZ piece, the only difference being that TMZ recognizes what they are, while TC tries to play both sides of the fence, depending on what they need from the post.

I fail to understand why anyone would take TC seriously these days, as there are much better sources of tech information where you don't have to worry about journalistic integrity.

I'm not a Facebook fan, but I don't blame them one bit. If MG is complaining about a broken unwritten rule of PR/Journalism, then he should realize that we don't care.

"Journalist" breaks story containing confidential information about a product in development. PR team kicks into damage control, trying to dismiss and deny the leak.

What is the story here? That's the job of PR! Whether journalists buy into the mess is another matter...

It's not just the tech industry - read Nick Davies Flat Earth News for more on PR and the massive impact it has on "news".

I wonder if this will become the norm or if there will be a backlash and people will start to prefer unspun unvarnished truth ?

It seems like this is a war whose outcome rest solely in the minds of the readers.

While I like many of Facebook’s PR team on an individual basis, as a whole, they are probably the worst in the industry when it comes to manipulation, double-speak, and all around slimeballishness

Their PR team are a prefect example, in Zuckerburg's words, of a "lack of integrity".

It certainly don't help that Zuckerberg is a sleazy businessman.

MG has got to be my favorite TechCrunch writer.

The war over the internet is intensifying. Now, why should you care? Do you think Google is going to "not be evil" for the rest of eternity? You're already seeing politicians going down for doing stupid things...the global elite fears the power of the internet, as well they should.

The internet will know what you are thinking, and it will use that against you. At some point, a tipping point, those who control the internet will be able to control the rest of society.

The internet can survive a nuclear war. Whoever controls the internet will control the future.

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