Not to pile on the criticism, but Business Insider / Silicon Alley Insider got taken in by a PR / Marketing stunt that Gawker Media had bought a new blog this weekend. The story, as they would have had us believe it, is that Gawker bought a blog that writes about vampires from the perspective of a human who recently was turned into a vampire.
Yeah. Somehow this didn’t ring any alarm bells at all for them. Somehow not a single genius analyst at BI / SAI was able to remember back to the last time Nick Denton made a statement about whether it’s better to consolidate media brands or expand.
It isn’t as if he kept it a secret. Wanna learn more about it? Try this blog post at the Wall Street Journal. Or this one on Gawker by Owen Thomas. Or this other one on Gawker by Hamilton Nolan. Or this coverage here at PaidContent. Or dozens of other posts like this one from indie blogger Jay Yarow. Or this post from the man himself.
So why, and I’m sincerely curious here, why would they not deign to question getting a press release from a company that isn’t Gawker.com, but an anonymous PR / Ad firm called “CampfireNYC” claiming to be trumpeting the news of a blog purchase? Why not make a call to Valleywag?
Look, I’m a nobody and a personae non grata when it comes to the who’s-who of NYC and Silicon Valley. I live in Dallas, Texas for Pete’s sake. Sure, some people know my name on the coasts, and in the tech punditry business I’m fairly well known, but I’ve never had my pictures regularly in the pages of Valleywag, and I know I’m probably barely on Nick Denton’s radar, if at all.
How much digging did it take me to get his phone number this morning, though? Two tries going down the list of people in my GTalk list, and I had a number I was assured would get him wherever he was.
The truth is, though, that the thought of it is so ridiculous that Nicholas Carlson wrote a several page post about how embarrassed BI / SAI was and how ‘stupid and irresponsible Gawker was’ for sanctioning this.
The bottom line is that through insufficient legwork, SAI got taken in by a hoax. It happens to us all once in a while – it’s even happened to me before. You take your knocks, you say “good one!” and you move on. You don’t try to chalk it up and spin it to some sort of odd “the blogosphere needs to learn disclosure” trope. It was a hoax – granted a sponsored hoax – but a hoax none the less.
The moral here, though, is to follow your instincts, and if a story is too good to be true – pick up the phone.