I have a game for the readers of Techcrunch: I was reading this post today where Paul Carr, a columnist for Techcrunch, complains that his outrageous posts do not generate waves of death threats and blog-mob violence. Of course, what follows is a comment thread full of mixed reactions regarding the blunt writing style of the columnist.
Intro: Techcrunch needs comments
Before I keep going, I want to make sure you understand that Techcrunch gets paid (mainly) by page impressions. They have a direct sales team, and they work with ad networks to make money. But Techcrunch also spends money on events, a business directory (Crunchbase), high-profile writers, interns, heavy traffic hosting solutions… In other words, with all things in consideration, it’s probably challenging to keep the cash flow positive. Its direct competitor Mashable is a company of about the same size, with I imagine the same expenses. Mashable’s historic strategy is to cover everything from the tech industry. This ambitious SEO strategy allowed the blog to grow extremely fast, but there is so many updates per day that following it quickly turns into a major headache.
Techcrunch has a different strategy: They keep their posts/day around 10 to 15. To drive traffic, they go for the controversy strategy:
my whole shtick is saying inflammatory things and inciting furious debate among morons (Paul Carr, from article mentioned above)
Why? Because A well-versed educative article that can be read from a RSS reader, starred and forgotten forever doesn’t bring traffic. Techcrunch has +3 million RSS readerss, but they need to make them come to the site, because Adsense for feeds pays way less than TC’s ads. How do you make them come: With a controversial title that will make remote readers want to share their opinion on the site. When Techcrunch is going through a slow Sunday, why not trash the Brazilians, and have them all come to the site for a fight and a prolific load of ad impressions.
The ratio behind pushing comments is much more than 1 commenter = 1 ad impression. Today, comments travel through the statusphere, and all become a viral agent for the article-source. Techcrunch relies on its controversy-n-comment strategy to keep the business going, and just like any business, it seems like they sometimes go too far.
So I was saying, I was reading this post from Paul Carr, and the following comments. One comment struck me:
This comment intrigued me because of its well-articulated structure and its intellectual depth, which obviously contrasts with the rest of the comments. ‘Who’s that Startupwizz?’ I thought (‘BS! Fake comment!’ is what really popped into my mind) So I followed the @startupwizz link on Twitter:
What you see here is a dull Twitter bot account. All the tweets originate from Twitterfeed (automatic posting of a RSS feed on Twitter), it follows 5 random accounts, and 3 accounts that belong to the Techcrunch network. It has 8 followers total, including spammers and people who haven’t done their friendorfollow cleanup yet.
Ok, a bot account linked to Techcrunch doesn’t mean that it actually belongs to Techcrunch. So I followed the link to Startupwizz’ Website to see what the company was all about: Startupwizz is a user-submitted directory of tech companies, much like… the Crunchbase. There is no specific info on the about page on who is behind this project. You have to use a contact form to send an email to someone. In other words, a fake Website. You can find other comments of Startupwizz on Techcrunch here, here, and here. Oddly enough, I could only find comments from Startupwizz on Techcrunch (911 results on Google for startupwizz).
So now let me ask you: A commenter consistently posts well-balanced opinions, always and only on Techcrunch, with the name Startupwizz that can only be associated with a fake Twitter account and a fake Website, what do you think about it?
I declared war on anonymous commenters, making it absolutely clear how much I hate every last one of them, and even threatening to bludgeon the little basement-dwellers to death with their own Wil Wheaton action figures. (from the Paul Carr post mentioned above)