Slipping: TechCrunch Reporting

Over lunch today I was catching up on my reading. I was drawn in by one of their headlines (which I saw on TechMeme.com). My interest quickly turned to disappointment because the article was poorly researched, exhibited nearly zero analysis, and sat under a sensationalist traffic-grabbing headline that it failed to back up. I expect more from TechCrunch, and I think they owe their 598k subscribers – me included — better reporting. The #1 blog should lead us to quality and respect by example, not through sensationalism and hollow reporting.

This was going to be a comment on TechCrunch’s site, but I agree with many recent commentators that posting on ones own blog and letting Trackbacks make the connection is the more respectful, responsible, and effective way. I’m not exactly sure why I needed to get this off my chest today, but here goes:

Mr. Schonfel, in my opinion your article and its headline are bad journalism. I believe the data reported by AddThis is insignificant and an insufficient basis for your broad headline. You provided no context or substantiation. I feel that you’ve done your readers a disservice by publishing this article.

You report that AddThis is used “nearly 2 million times per month.” Does that seem like a lot to you? Significant? Does their data correlate or challenge other available data or trends? What, exactly, gives you the confidence to warrant such a far-reaching headline?

I believe you would have done well to report on the overall market size that they are a niche within. Technorati’s About Us page reports, for example, that there are 1.6mm new blog posts PER DAY (sounds like “nearly 2mm” to me); over 5mm new blogs each month; over 100mm blogs total.

In addition to questions of reach, I have to question the use-case and user profile that AddThis.com enjoys. I know you have the button on your site, but can you report what % of your visitors interact with it? Have you cross-checked your total del.icio.us saves witt the numbers AddThis reports? You have both those pieces of data – so that should be reportable.

I’m given additional pause when I notice that approximately 1 in 6 AddThis users us it save to their native Favorites folder! Really? Why would anybody do that? You don’t need a special tool to bookmark a site in your browser, in fact it’s much slower than any of the other available mechanisms (native menus, keyboard-shortcuts, dragging-and-dropping). There’s nothing wrong with people doing that, but it doesn’t make then seem like trendsetters.

In total, I don’t see any reason to think that this article is insightful or relevant. I’m worried about TechCrunch’s integrity when such poor data and analysis leads to such a presumptuous headline.

I’ve taken the time to write this comment because I expect more from TechCruch. You’re earned my attention in the past, and I won’t let my silence help you short change yourself. I’m a big TechCrunch fan, like most of your (alleged) 598k readers, but I expect you to do much better reporting than this sensationalist rubbish. I’ll be back for your next post, and hope it’s much better.

I have two hopes. First, I hope I’ve misread or misunderstood something, and that I’ll have an opportunity to retract this entire objection. If not, but second hope is that this call-to-action encourages greater journalistic integrity, whether new or old media.

Respectfully,
Nate Koechley

@Dom Vonarburg, comment #25 on TechCrunch and a representative of AddThis, please feel free to provide the answers my comment is hunting for.