“The basic problem is that there’s no profit (from attention) in being right, but there is in being first.”
The first post on a topic gets most of the inbound links, most of the traffic, and most of the attention, something that was obvious to me even when I was online editor at MacUser ten years ago. In that sense, TechCrunch is simply responding to the market.
The theory has always been that good information will out, and some people might suppose that the coverage that Last.fm’s response has got is evidence of that. But the problem is that it basically took RJ being incredibly blunt – “TechCrunch is full of shit” – in order to get the message across. He, and other Last.fm employees, had already denied the story in less-blunt language in the TechCrunch comments, and on other blog posts elsewhere. Yet the story continued to get traction until Last.fm effectively made it personal.
The interesting question is what consequences does this have for communications, and responding to erroneous stories. If the pressure is on sites to be first, rather than being right, then we are going to see a lot more of these stories – and sooner or later, a company will get into serious financial problems because of one.
Will it take a court case before big new media organisations implement better reporting standards? Will it take a company suing someone like Mike Arrington personally before people realise that the editorial process evolved for some very good reasons?