Open Letter to Mike Arrington: Please Stop Investing in Startups

5/2/11Follow @danshapiro

Hi Mike,

I’m one of your customers.

We don’t really know each other. We’ve chatted at a few events, you’ve covered some of my antics, but I’m mostly just a guy who reads TechCrunch a lot. I find it’s a pretty good place to see what’s important in the industry. And you and your team do some damn fine reporting on things the world wouldn’t know about otherwise.

I am product guy, not a media critic. But I’m a big believer that economic incentives shape behaviors in subtle and unmeasurable ways. And I think your decision to make investments in startups is going to make TechCrunch a worse product.

I can’t tell you exactly how. Are you going to be a little more likely to ignore competitors to your companies? Cover them, even when they’re not newsworthy, to show you’re not biased? Feel compelled to pull or throw punches, either to support or prove you’re independent of the companies you deal with?

I don’t know. But I think it’s going to happen, it’ll be subtle, and it’ll make TechCrunch worse.

I’m not making demands or threatening to leave. Just making a request, from one product guy to another: journalistic independence is a great feature. Please don’t cut it.

Best wishes,

Dan Shapiro

[Editor's note: This post originally appeared on Dan Shapiro's blog.]

Dan Shapiro is the CEO of Robot Turtles, a crowdfunded boardgame that teaches children programming. He previously worked at Google after it acquired his company, Sparkbuy. Follow @danshapiro

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  • Ron

    Agree strongly with the points you raise, Dan.

    Arrington is a lawyer and sometimes lawyers think they can be trusted to recognize conflict of interest even in transactions they are involved in, or at least get a waiver from the parties to protect themselves from being sued over conflict of interest. All that does is allow them to take advantage of others and get away with it. In this case there isn’t even anyone to get a waiver from, so to speak. The best reason for Arrington to stop investing and reporting at the same time is to avoid getting sued himself by someone who feels his editorial influence negatively impacted their investment. Freedom of the press when compromised by financial interests is not as strong a shield to stand behind as he may presume.

    That said Arrington isn’t the first nor will he be the last journalist to become an angel investor in conflicted situations.

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