After two years of my having the "Technosoap" tag, I've never seen one like this. Everyone's gone hog-wild for a hissy-fit.
Here's how it all plays out:
Valleywag, the Jerry Springer of tech reporting, wakes up one day and pokes around for something incendiary. They settle on a rant about these little text ads where bloggers discuss a theme set by an advertiser. They look, taste, and smell just like ads - but they don't actually say "Attention People too stupid to know this is an ad: THIS IS AN AD. I TOTALLY GOT PAID FOR IT AND HERE IT IS ON YOUR SCREEN!"
So Om Malik saw the ValleyWag rant and flips out and removes them from his page. Then Mike Arrington goes all haughty and says something like 'Look guys, I gotta eat and feed my staff. If you can't deal with it, "go pound sand".' Which was pretty polite for a rant.
Then, John Battelle, probably up there in the top n of respected guys in tech and leader of the club that created the apparently offensive advertising, said that people should disclose when they run an ad.
Holy moly Mary! This is when the tempest in the teapot went straight to Category 5. Arrington, totally breaking my DON'T BLOG ANGRY rule, now blogs:
hmm. Disclose? Disclose what? That the text inside of an ad unit is an ad? Thanks, John. Classy move.
I’m now pissed off at every single person involved in this. Denton for bringing up a non issue to attack competitors, Malik for folding immediately and making it seem like someone did something wrong, and now Battelle, our agent, saying he wished we had made a disclosure on this.
When conversations get shrill like this, you end up with a weird human dynamic. Everyone is right. John Battelle is right, you should disclose when you are paid to write something. Mike Arrington is right, you have to be dumb as a brick to either not see that it's an ad or to even get worked up about the text in the first place. And Om is right to pull the ads and go on with his life.
This is all apparent when you look at TechCrunch's highly offensive Ad for Microsoft, which was more like a couple paragraphs musing about Microsoft's current and forgettable tag line.
Here is the TechCrunch text that started this catfight.
Just for the record, here’s the horrible, horrible text that everyone says blows TechCrunch’s credibility permanently. It was contained within an obvious ad unit - a banner ad:
"TechCrunch wasn’t much fun in the very early days. We were mostly talking to ourselves because readers were scarce. But as the site grew and more readers came along, things got exciting. The discussion in the comments to each blog post was as or more compelling than the actual news we were reporting. People’s opinions matter, and intelligent debate stimulates the mind. TechCrunch became People Ready.
We’ve added more software over time to engage our community and encourage even more active participation. Most recently we launched a discussion called TechCrunch Forums where anyone can talk about anything they like, without being tied to the current content on TechCrunch. Conversation has blossomed, and some of the most interesting ideas I’ve seen originate there.
We are always looking for more ways to pull down barriers and connect people. And we’ll keep experimenting, keeping the things that work."
Thank you ValleyWag for saving me from future musings like this and for utterly filling Techmeme with hysteria for a full weekend.