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02.07.10

Michael Arrington a Hypocrite: Bribed by Microsoft Yet Fires Bribed Bloggers

Posted in Deception, Marketing, Microsoft at 5:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Michael Arrington
Photo by Joi

“Ask the partner to give you heads up on customer situations – bribe them!”

Steve Winfield, Microsoft

Summary: Another fine example of an influential blogger who sells out to Microsoft yet does not apply to himself the same standards that he applies to colleagues

SOME TIME ago we wrote about how Apple had arguably bribed influential people. We provided more than a single example but what makes it “arguable” is that iPad is a hardware product; In order for hardware to be evaluated, sending hardware might be required. Microsoft bribes differently though. In order to persuade influential people to write positive reviews, Microsoft sends them expensive gifts that have nothing to do with Microsoft’s products.

TechCrunch’s founder, Michael Arrington, was bribed by Microsoft for secret advertising disguised in posts (before he was ousted and his little deal with Microsoft exposed). We are not going to repeat stories that we have already covered (over 2 years ago), but Arrington also spoke to Ballmer 4 months ago and his site's hypocrisy when it comes to Microsoft bribes was mentioned here a couple of months ago.

Sadly, too many people forgot what happened and now that TechCrunch sacks an intern over a bribe, there is nothing to be said about the hypocrisy of Arrington, who should probably also sack himself (or resign).

There are many links about this incident right here:

I first found out about the blowup at TechCrunch this morning when I read our own Kim LaCapria’s post about Michael Arrington sacking young Daniel Brusilovsky because of accusations of accepting tech toys in exchange for favorable posts. I have followed that up with reading every post on the matter that came through my feed reader. Just for the record they are:

An Apology To Our Readers
Techcrunch Accepts Money for Posts – Fires Under Age Blogger Daniel Brusilovsky
Rule #1: be honest
The Line Was Crossed
Was Deleting All Daniel Brusilovsky’s Posts an FTC Blogger Guideline Violation? [#bruhaha]
Tech Journalism Wunderkind in Bribery Scandal
Payola allegations prompt TechCrunch to fire teen intern
Unpaid Techcrunch Reporter Sacked For Bribe Attempt

So I would say I have a really good grounding on all the angst and finger-pointing that is going on around what Daniel is suppose to have done.

This subject is also being covered by JupiterMedia, for whom I used to write. Carla from JupiterMedia writes about “Vendor-Paid Product Reviews and Journalists vs. Bloggers”

Ever since the US economy turned sour, hordes of people have flocked to blogging as their path to riches. Because there is nothing so fine and empowering, including the Internet, that it cannot be subverted for crass commercial exploitation. And thus we have a growing phenomenon of vendors paying bloggers to review their products.

My first reaction is to recoil in horror. How is that not the most blatant shilling? Why would anyone want to trust such a “review”? But on the other hand, the news and publishing industries have been taking terrific beatings, so more power to anyone who can get paid to write product reviews. But on yet another hand, it seems an obvious conflict of interest. But on still another hand, it’s OK if the blogger discloses it, right?

And then what is the difference between a blogger getting paid by the vendor to write a review, and a journalist accepting review units? The usual practice is to receive hardware on loan for review, and to return it after 30 or 60 days. Most vendors don’t want to hassle with software returns since those are just boxes of CDs. Most reviewers give away product that vendors don’t want back. But there are reporters who are notorious swag hounds, and who exploit vendor relationships for all they can get.

[...]

In the end it seems that what matters the most are a journalist’s or blogger’s reputation, ability, and quality of work. Doesn’t it seem that even in this high-tech era everything comes down to knowing who you can trust?

Boycott Novell was never pressured to say anything positive, even when companies that are regularly criticised here mailed us with the intention of changing the tune (including mail from Novell).

Boycott Novell was never pressured to say anything negative, either. Merciless analysis is a path to truth. Boycott Novell never accepted gifts of any type.

“I’ve been thinking long and hard about this, and the only conclusion I can come to is that this is ethically indistinguishable from bribery. Even if no quid-pro-quo is formally required, the gift creates a social obligation of reciprocity. This is best explained in Cialdini’s book Influence (a summary is here). The blogger will feel some obligation to return the favor to Microsoft.”

Former Microsoft manager

It is worth mentioning that there are Linux hardware sites (we prefer not to mention names) whose reviews are mostly of products that they receive as gifts. It could be argued that a hardware company is ethically allowed to ship hardware for reviews. Where hardware and software are mixed (phones for example), it’s a tricky and thus borderline case. Microsoft need never send more than just software, but it gives out free vacations and $2,000 laptops which it does not actually manufacture (Microsoft also gives these to AstroTurfers). That’s what makes Microsoft one of the worst among the bunch, with PR agencies that bribe bloggers, notably Edelman and Waggener Edstrom. We have reported these agencies to the FTC.

“Government attorneys accuse Microsoft of using its monopoly position to bully, bribe and attempt to collude with others in the industry, while illegally expanding and protecting its Windows franchise.”

The antitrust case: a timeline

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4 Comments

  1. Yuhong Bao said,

    February 7, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Gravatar

    I read TechCrunch (it is still very interesting IMO, and I sometimes cite it), and AFRIK, it was a startup that bribed the intern, not Microsoft.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I was talking about an older incident involving Microsoft.

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    If you are talking about the “people ready” thing, yea it seems that GigaOM handled it better:
    http://gigaom.com/2007/06/22/on-the-microsoft-ad-campaign/

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Notice that Federated Media still works with Microsoft. They might be doing the same thing in Twitter. We’ve covered many examples of paid Microsoft tweets.

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