Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

TechCrunch's Yertle the Turtle Tantrum Over News Embargoes

[UPDATE below.]

Yesterday, the one-man-band of a tech blogger, Michael Arrington, let loose with yet another outrageously indignant diatribe–this time that he and his TechCrunch site would forthwith break all news embargoes.

Not content with the traffic generated last week by his obviously faked Wrestlemania bout with French entrepreneur Loïc Le Meur about the lazy-lunching Europeans, he moved on to a more promising, but ultimately meaningless, riff on PR people versus journalists, over embargo-breaking.

It’s a sure-fire hit, given tech PR people and bloggers obsessively monitor Techmeme.

(What next for the Geraldo Rivera of investigative tech blogging? A withering prosecution of Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang in the HOV lane on Highway 101 in Sunnyvale without a hybrid? Quelle scandale!)

But BoomTown is not going to do a thumbsucker response to TechCrunch’s news embargo jihad, because, well, who really cares about the details of PR-media interaction anyway (except those who take themselves way too seriously)?

Here’s the essential 411 you’ll need to know: Some embargoes are good and some are bad and some are just–how can I phrase this correctly?–whatever.

And let’s be honest, pretty much everyone has broken an embargo, either by accident or on purpose.

But Arrington’s ire about this seems overwrought, and I suspect the true crankiness is natural product of the end cycle of dopey Web 2.0 “exclusives,” which TechCrunch has gotten in droves.

And all of it is increasingly less important as the economy withers and a lot of the less sustainable start-ups fade away. There are big important stories happening in tech right now about major public companies, the state of innovation and the future of the industry, which require more serious journalism.

So I think we can all imagine a day very soon when the Web 2.0 echo chamber dissipates–as it inevitably did in Web 1.0–and no one goes nuts if Start-up X adds a new embeddable widget, Start-up Y changes its homepage design or Start-up Z contemplates a new social-networking site for dogs to gain a new revenue stream.

And, in a less frothy landscape, the more important exclusives now go out to many. For example, consider yesterday’s story on LinkedIn’s changing of the guard, which went out to a dozen news outlets in advance rather than to just one like TechCrunch alone.

Of course, the true exclusives that a tech site gets through enterprise reporting take hard work and no handouts, which TechCrunch does legitimately get. Yesterday, in fact, TechCrunch’s Robin Wauters got a few really good ones about product units Yahoo is cutting.

But in this bruising contest, TechCrunch clearly does not dominate, based on its size, as it did with the easier press release exclusives. In the new environment, in fact, tiny little voices that are accurate and insightful have just as much impact.

So, my takeaway from Arrington’s rant could be boiled down to three words: “GIVE ME EXCLUSIVES!”

That verbal stamping of foot brought to my mind the loud declarations of Dr. Seuss’s “Yertle the Turtle.”

In the story, Yertle wants to be higher than anyone, so he forces the other turtles to pile up under him in an ever-unwieldy tower to rule over everyone and everything.

It ends badly, of course, when Yertle asks for too much:

But, as Yertle, the Turtle King, lifted his hand
And started to order and give the command,
That plain little turtle below in the stack,
That plain little turtle whose name was just Mack,
Decided he’d taken enough. And he had.
And that plain little lad got a bit mad.
And that plain little Mack did a plain little thing.
He burped!

And his burp shook the throne of the king!

And Yertle the Turtle, the king of the trees,
The king of the air and the birds and the bees,
The king of a house and a cow and a mule…
Well, that was the end of the Turtle King’s rule!
For Yertle, the King of all Sala-ma-Sond,
Fell off his high throne and fell Plunk! in the pond!
And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course…all the turtles are free
As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.”

We’re all in the mud now, TechCrunch. But come on in–the water’s just as fine.

[UPDATE: Now Arrington is going for the full cup full of crazy by attacking an admittedly obnoxious PR lady, getting all hot and bothered by spam she sends with the kind of indignation I like to reserve for the vile terrorists in Mumbai or wife beaters. Oh, dear. Then again, the rest of us can concentrate on real stories, while he busies himself huffing and puffing away on his anti-PR sousaphone.]

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