TechCrunch Gets into Copy and Paste Press Release Journalism

Posted on June 24, 2008
Filed Under Web 2.0 Kool Aid |

The disdain TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington has for the world of mainstream journalism is well-established.

In the past, I’ve criticized his irrational position on mainstream journalism and have also pointed out that his own standards are often quite lacking ( than once).

Arrington recently made claims about a conflict of interest he thinks exists with the New York Times, so it was with interest that I was sent an email earlier with a link to a curious TechCrunch post.

The post was written by a “Guest Author” yet the identity of this “Guest Author” is not disclosed. That in and of itself wouldn’t have been so problematic if the post didn’t, as the person who emailed me the link pointed out, read more like a press release than an objective review.

Some of the notable snippets:

There have been several attempts in the online karaoke scene over the years, and we’re proud to report a newcomer.


RedKaraoke, the most popular European karaoke site, is launching its English language version today. RedKaraoke boasts the largest online karaoke song catalog, with 14,000 songs, and more than 400,000 users worldwide.

Most popular European karaoke site according to who? Where do the catalog and user figures come from?

Surprisingly there are a lot of competitors in the online karaoke marketplace.

Why is this surprising?

Another newcomer onto the scene is SingSnap, who has a very basic front end, no bells and whistles, but seems to have a good community, with forum posts at around 850,000.

If SingSnap has a “good community” despite the absence of “bells and whistles,” why is the focus on RedKaraoke?

RedKaraoke attempts to set themselves apart in several ways . For example, instead of using MP3 files for their background track, they use MIDI and KAR files. By using this technology, they can convert almost any song into a karaoke track. The other sites mainly use MP3 files, which requires a re-recording of the music, which is both costly and time-consuming, and ultimately leads to their smaller catalog. The MIDI sound quality is very poor, like an old school ringtone, but it does allow for seamless recording, low bandwidth, and a larger catalog.

So by the author’s admission, the sound quality is “very poor” (as bad as “an old school ringtone”) but somehow he or she still “generally like[s] what RedKaraoke is trying to do.”

RedKaraoke is also announcing today the expansion of the U.S. offices, with two new executive appointments. Justin D. Abbott has joined as International Sales and Business Development Director, and Fernando Ara as Country Manager for the U.S. RedKaraoke is profitable in Spain, but recently had their expansion funded for €2 million from VC firm Clave Mayor in January 2008.

Red Karaoke plans on extending their reach to Japan by the end of the third quarter, and Germany and France in 2009. They are currently developing a Facebook application, and working on several new features for the site including a video uploading platform, blogging platform, lyrics database and search, and widgets and RSS services. They are also currently gearing up for their partnership with Antena 3’s TV show “Al pie de la letra” - a Spanish equivalent to American Idol - for whom they’ll be hosting all of the auditions for on their site.

While some of this seems worthy of inclusion in a review, it reads more like marketing fodder than “reporting.” In particular, the discussion of the company’s “plans” seems to, in my opinion, create the impression that the company has a bright future when we have no idea whether or not all of the long-term plans will amount to anything at all.

Needless to say, after reading this guest post, my suspicions were aroused. Not only did the post read like a press release, the fact that it was posted the same day the company apparently made an announcement about its US expansion seemed a little bit too coincidental as well.

So I decided to see if Red Karaoke issued a press release and sure enough, it had.

The press release opens with:

Red Karaoke, the premier European karaoke website, today launched its English language version in the United States, at [Emphasis Mine]

TechCrunch’s headline reads “Premier European Singing Community RedKaraoke Launches in U.S.”

TechCrunch’s guest author also decided to copy other parts of the press release.

Press release:

RedKaraoke also has rights agreements with copyright management companies and music publishers, and is affiliated with ASCAP and BMI.


RedKaraoke also has rights agreements with copyright management companies and music publishers, and is affiliated with ASCAP and BMI.

Press release:

The online service, which is completely free-of-charge, generates revenue with the sale of advertising space along with strategic sponsorships and special activities.


The site has always been free, and generates revenue through the sale of advertising space, strategic sponsorships and special activities.

If this isn’t “copy and paste press release journalism,” I don’t know what is.

Interestingly, the press release was issued by a PR agency called Breakaway Communications.

According to this article, Breakaway Communications, as the PR agency of record for Plaxo, was involved with “outreach efforts” related to a “Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web.” Arrington was one of the authors.

Additionally, I asked an associate of mine who has a Facebook account to see if Arrington is “friends” with anybody who works at Breakaway Communications. My associate was able to determine that the Breakaway Communications person listed on the RedKaraoke press release, Patty Oien, is “friends” with at least two people who are “friends” with Arrington. Further, Arrington is “friends” with Kristofer Konietzko, who apparently works at the San Francisco office of Breakaway Communications.

Unlike Arrington, who once, without evidence, claimed that a New York Times article favorable to a startup in competition with a startup he had invested in must have been the result of a conflict of interest, I won’t go so far as to declare that there must be some conflict of interest lurking here.

But the facts aren’t pretty:

Needless to say, I expect the usual apologists to write this all off but it doesn’t take the nose of a bloodhound to pick up a whiff of something foul here.

At the very least, this is yet another example of the lax standards that seem to be prevalent at the highest levels of the blogosphere. TechCrunch’s editors (Arrington and Erick Schonfeld) not only allowed a poorly written post from a guest author to be published without disclosure of who the guest author is, but they apparently exercised such little editorial oversight that a post which contained text lifted directly from a press release was published without question.

No matter how you cut it, this is a sad indictment of blogging as journalism.

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2 Responses to “TechCrunch Gets into Copy and Paste Press Release Journalism”

  1. Deva Hazarika on June 24th, 2008 8:19 pm
  2. WinExtra » From the Pipeline – 6.24.08 on June 25th, 2008 2:51 am

    […] TechCrunch Gets into Copy and Paste Press Release Journalism :: Drama 2.0 – some rather interesting questions being asked over a recent post at TechCrunch about a new Web 2.0 service […]

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