Tech Blogger Catfight! Why Bloggers Attack Bloggers

I’ve been following the Path privacy controversy with a great deal of interest for the last week, but Crunchfund’s MG Siegler has somehow steered the conversation from Path’s mistakes to the degradation of journalism. The result: an increasingly nasty tech blogger catfight that I was going to avoid. That was, until I read this. And this. And this. Oh, and don’t forget about this. Seriously guys, can’t we all get along? No? Well, that’s fine with me — it’s more entertaining this way. But before we go back to life as usual, I want to address some of the assertions being leveled in this fight. Quick recap: in a rather depressing post, Siegler rips apart a recent column by NYT’s Nick Bilton, accusing him of not putting in enough work to get his facts straight about the story. Siegler doesn’t really blame Bilton for his poor writing, though. Instead, he blames the “pageview beast”, which doesn’t care about the quality of an article, but its speed, reach and the level of sensationalism it employs. His argument is simple: pageviews equal advertising dollars in the modern media world, and it doesn’t matter how many facts you get wrong, so long as you get the pageviews. Of course, when you attack the media, the media bites back. Dan Lyons is leading this charge, but he’s not the only one. Now for a few quick thoughts on this catfight:
  1. Siegler’s right — the media is getting more facts wrong, and investigative journalism is becoming a lost art, thanks to decreasing news budgets and more efficient means of delivering and disseminating information.
  2. That doesn’t mean people aren’t getting their information from more sources, though, and the new media ecosystem gives more people the power to respond to misinformation with their own blog posts and tweets. This is a smart point that Scott Fulton of RWW makes in a rather lengthy counterpost.
  3. Everybody — not just journalists — now have the power to report and make news. This is a good thing. Just ask Sohaib Athar, the man who live-tweeted the raid on Osama Bin Ladin’s compound.
  4. Siegler also needs to realize he isn’t the average reader. Most people don’t spend six hours a day on the blogosphere. In an era of information overload, they just want the Cliff Notes version of the tech news for the day (they have more important shit to do than watch insiders like us bitchslap each other). So they turn to shorter posts that give them the bite-sized information they need. Insiders (the few, the proud) are the crazy ones that like the 49-paragraph monsters like Siegler’s post.
With all that said, Siegler’s post proves, in a twisted sort of way, that the new media ecosystem works. Because of its competitive nature, the media keeps itself in check. Readers get more opinions and can make a decision for themselves based on multiple voices, and when there’s an egregious screw-up, the Twitterverse kicks into high gear. The downside is that more false “scoops” and incorrect information makes it through the cracks in the first place because of the focus on speed. In the end, the media’s job is to give readers what they want. While MG and I may wish readers would crave more in-depth thought pieces on the startup ecosystem, more of them prefer drama and catfights like the one happening in the tech blogosphere. But do you know what readers like even more than catfights? They like funny texts, celebrity gossip and Jeremy Lin:
My point: life is short, and the human race is probably doomed. Get your fill of lolcats and tech blogger catfights while you still can. Oh, and as for why bloggers attack bloggers, the correct answer is pageviews. It’s crack for bloggers.
  • gruen

    “In the end, the media’s job is to give readers what they want.” But it’s a journalists job to make sense of what they need. 

    • Ben Parr

      Both needs have to be balanced.  If you only deliver what readers want, you degrade. If you only deliver what they need… well it’s like harsh medicine. They’ll avoid it.

      • gruen

        Giving people what they need isn’t mutually exclusive from giving people what they want. (See also: The Daily Show.)
        Today, it seems that journalists err on the side of factual accuracy over timeliness and bloggers/talking-heads err on the side of sensationalism. You need balance, certainly, but herein lies the important distinction.

        Sent from my thumbs.

  • Aakar

    Some people are just overrated!

  • colincrook

    “In the end, the media’s job is to give readers what they want. ” ?

  • Derek

    I don’t know man…as others pointed out that’s a misrepresentation of the media’s “job”. We’ve all been liberal enough to lob tech blogging and blogs into the bucket we call “journalism”, but I think that statement about the job of media being “give us what we want” sums up exactly where the issue lies. In my world the role of journalism is facts and truth. That’s a long stretch from the content up on Techcrunch or really any tech publication in this catfight or near it. Sure, pageviews/ads fuel the competition, but that doesn’t excuse accuracy. 

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m quick to criticize any outlet on its bias; NYT, WSJ or otherwise, but the core Silicon Valley reporting outlets are a far cry from the traditional boundaries of true journalism. This isn’t even to touch on what happens behind the scenes to get “stories” on the front page. I’m not being cynical; our industry’s almost accepted this as a corollary to the very industry that reports on us pushing boundaries and living outside of conventional norms. We created the monster, but let’s not all pretend it’s something it’s not.

    This isn’t the audience’s fault for demanding cat-fights.  It’s that the people we give our attention to find it worth their time to engage in them. 

  • Aaron Brazell

    MG cares about stories. Not social media. That’s why he wins. You, on the other hand, should still be shilling at Mashable. 2007 called and wants its blog handjob back. Come on, Ben.

  • feed up

    This is basically the reason I stopped reading techcrunch because it’s just a bunch of people like MG screening like a bunch of 5 year olds. Just couldn’t handle all their garbage for the one article a week worth reading.
    And what a joke about MG wanting people to read i’m depth news about startups,I don’t think he considers any startup noteworthy unless perhaps apple buys them. He’s easily one of the most annoying bloggers your there.