With America’s favorite shopping holiday just a few days away, two tales from journalists who claim to have failed in their enterprises because of their refusal to play nice with advertisers.
One comes from Mark Duffy, also known as the Copyranter, who left a copywriter job to join BuzzFeed, only to be fired from the media startup last month. Yesterday, he published one last rant, via Gawker, titled “TOP 10 BEST EVER WTF OMG REASONS BUZZFEED FIRED ME, LOL!”
Ben Smith made me delete a post I did on Axe Body Spray’s ads, titled, “The Objectification Of Women By Axe Continues Unabated in 2013″ (it was initially called something to the effect of “Axe Body Spray Continues its Contribution to Rape Culture,” but I quickly softened it). Get this: he made me delete it one month after it was posted, due to apparent pressure from Axe’s owner Unilever. How that’s for editorial integrity? Ben Smith also questioned other posts I did knocking major advertisers’ ads (he kept repeating the phrase “punching down”), including the pathetically pandering, irresponsible Nike “Fat Boy” commercial.
I of course understand that websites like BuzzFeed need lots of advertising dollars to operate, and that no media outlets—including the one you’re reading this on—are immune to advertiser pressure. I understand that my posts may have pissed advertisers off. I also understand—very clearly—the job I was hired to do because I invented it. I had a longstanding blog that clearly outlined what BuzzFeed was getting into. Turns out Ben Smith didn’t want what he asked for, and I guess I was too gullible to think it could be any other way.
In a level headed response, Ben Smith says he has “never based a decision about reporting on an advertiser’s needs” and illustrates some of the editorial conflicts he and Duffy had.
Then, today, we had Mathew Ingram’s account of what happened to NSFW Corp., as told through the eyes of Paul Carr.
Carr also admitted that his attitude towards his existing investors — such as his former boss Michael Arrington’s CrunchFund and Zappos’ founder Tony Hsieh’s VegasTech Fund, two of the company’s earliest backers — probably didn’t help increase his company’s lifespan either. As he described it during a discussion of Glenn Greenwald’s new venture, and whether the former Guardian writer would be comfortable reporting on his benefactor, eBay billionaire Omidyar, Carr said:
“You only have to look at NSFW and see that we have been relentless in attacking CrunchFund for its bullshit hypocrisy in investing in NSA-backed [actually CIA-backed] startups, and we have been relentless in mocking the stuff Tony Hsieh is doing in Vegas… of course it has [had an impact on financing], it’s probably the main reason we couldn’t raise any more. It’s the reason why Vegas Tech Fund didn’t invest in the latest round or the round before, and it’s why Mike Arrington hasn’t talked to me in a long time.”
For Carr, whose aggressiveness towards colleagues, friends and pretty much everyone else has achieved almost legendary status in the media community, this kind of attitude may have doomed NSFW Corp. as a financial entity, but it was required in order for the venture to have any kind of journalistic credibility at all. “I’ve never been one to hide behind saying ‘Oh, he’s an investor, I’d better be nice,’” Carr said. “Who cares? We’re f***ing journalists. I’d rather be poor and credible than have $250 million and have to say bullshit like ‘I can’t comment.’”
Enjoy your holiday!
— Caroline O'Donovan