110 Comments

Summary:

Earlier today Valleywag published a post suggesting that Microsoft paid me (and a number of other bloggers) off to recite their corporate slogan. It is a serious charge, one I take very seriously. I have been upfront about my ethics and propriety in my reporting, so […]

Earlier today Valleywag published a post suggesting that Microsoft paid me (and a number of other bloggers) off to recite their corporate slogan. It is a serious charge, one I take very seriously.

I have been upfront about my ethics and propriety in my reporting, so a finger pointed in that direction is something I must respond to. So without making any excuses, to my readers, if participation in Microsoft’s advertising campaign has made you doubt my integrity even for a second, then I apologize.

I have requested Federated Media, our sales partners, suspend the campaign on our network of sites, and they have. We are turning off any such campaigns that might be running on our network. Would I participate in a similar campaign again? Nothing is worth gambling the readers’ trust. Conversational marketing is a developing format, and clearly the rules are not fully defined. If the readers feel a line was crossed, I’ll will defer to their better judgement.

The fact of the matter is that the original premise of the campaign was to give my thoughts by what People Ready meant to me – it wasn’t an endorsement of a specific Microsoft product. (You can read it here, and judge for yourself.) Nor did my words run in any portion of our editorial space. Microsoft asked us to join a conversation, and we did. I wasn’t paid to participate in the conversation, but Microsoft ran an ad-campaign that paid us on the basis of CPM.

But today the campaign, which has been running for close to two months, brought up doubt about my editorial integrity for some of you.

In the future I shall focus on what I know best – reporting and writing.

  1. It’s a slippery slope. Today it’s this slogan, tomorrow it will be “micro is soft and good” then “ms is great”. Where would you stop? Better stop here and now.

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  2. Wow – this is an extremely thoughtful and fast response. I heard very quickly from Federated and want to give them the benefit of the doubt but I still don’t see how this approach will enhance the dialog. Money does not have to be paid directly to focus things … differently.

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  3. GuyNamedNate Friday, June 22, 2007

    I read your post on peoplereadybusiness and don’t see what all the fuss is about. You clearly aren’t endorsing anything, you’re just giving good advice for someone thinking about striking it out on their own.

    If they did pay you, good for you! That kind of first-hand advice shouldn’t necessarily be free.

    At the very most, it seemed like you were endorsing the slogan “people ready” as being a good thing, which you back up with reasons why being “people ready” has helped you in your career.

    I actually would have MORE respect for you if you kept with your original judgment and ignored Valleywag and their sensationalist article, but do what you gotta do to feel comfortable.

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  4. Om,
    Its admirable that you would apologize even before defending your position.

    To be honest, those ad’s were kind of confusing and I thought you endorsed them after some kind of a “review”. It was definitely misguiding. Never paid any attention to it till today though.

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  5. “Microsoft asked us to join a conversation, and we did.”

    OK, but did Microsoft/FM pay you to “join the conversation?”

    If so, that crosses a big, bold line in traditional journalism.

    “Conversational marketing is a developing format, and clearly the rules are not fully defined.”

    No question, but since you claim the title of “reporter,” aren’t some rules fully, clearly and obviously defined? Taking money to endorse products or services from those you report on is covered in J-School 101.

    Kudos for pulling the ads from your network. It will be interesting to see if others follow suit.

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  6. Kudos to you for pulling the ads. Valleywag should thank you too – that’s the first time I’ve read something on their site in at least a year. For Nick to comment on “journalistic” ANYTHING is laughable.

    It’ll be a great day when Lifehacker and Consumerist disassociate themselves from Gawker.

    -a continued loyal reader.

    ps. please consider adding a nofollow to the link, VW doesn’t deserve your influence.

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  7. How to be Bribe Ready. Payoff Ready. Anything-but-credible Ready.

    Shoot the messenger.

    Or the other White House favorite, “we didn’t see it coming”.

    Or maybe go the Al Gore “no controlling legal authority” route.

    Or use Ron Brown’s incompetence defense.

    Shoot, why not use them all? Just don’t ever admit you were paid off.

    If your behaviour and that of your co-conspirators didn’t just kill off the remaining vestiges of blogosphere credibility, then we can now safely call the blogosphere’s reputation Xenu – because nothing can destroy it.

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  8. Om
    Glad you took this step. It is hard, but we know you’ll always do the right thing.

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  9. <p>OK, but did Microsoft/FM pay you to “join the conversation?”</p>

    <p>No they didn’t. But at the same time the ad campaign ran on the site.</p>

    <p>For what it is – I am terribly sorry for this. A mistake that i am not likely to repeat.</p>

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  10. Peter,

    thanks for your comments. You are right. Hopefully you will give me another chance.

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  11. Thanks Rafat, i appreciate the kind words.

    I will work harder to live up to your and everyone else’s expectations.

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  12. Micros,

    I stopped. period.

    thank you for your advice and comments.

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  13. “it wasn’t an endorsement of a specific Microsoft product”.

    Bull. Just by using the hollow copyrighted marketing phrase “people ready” means you endorsed all of Microsofts products and strategy. It’s like saying “yeah, I was holding a pair of sneakers and saying ‘just do it’, but I was in no way endorsing Nike products…”

    The campaign conveys nothing else then that you and your fellow bloggers stand shoulder to shoulder with Microsoft in their old school campaign to sell people stuff based on slick advertising and slogans instead of merit. That’s not “joining the conversation”, joining a conversations means using your own voice and your own words, this is joining the traditional practice of shouting slogans at the audience until they buy what your selling. For christ’ sake, Scoble didn’t even do that when he was actually working for MS.

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  14. It’s funny this should come up again so quickly after the Microsoft Free Ferrari laptop fiasco. No one ever learns.

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  15. Srini Raghavan Saturday, June 23, 2007

    Om
    Not sure what the din is all about? Your comments were rather benign and I don’t think you had any reason to apologize.
    Valleywag…whatever.

    Srini

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  16. Om,
    I do not believe you did anything wrong. I support you. I wonder who pays for the party and research budget of valleywag?

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  17. With a name like Om, he has to be good :) Kudos on a great decision, and backing it up with all your heart ! Crafty are the ways of influence, but your leadership-like choice in this matter has infused the blogosphere with NEW credibility, if you ask me ! KUDOS !

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  18. This is a classic PR mistake. You write:

    “if participation in Microsoft’s advertising campaign has made you doubt my integrity even for a second, then I apologize.”

    Basically instead of saying “I apologize for a mistake in judgement and I regret what I did” you are telling your readers “I’m sorry you were so upset”. The former would lay the blame on you while the latter lays the blame on the reader and implies we’re all just being a bit over sensitive. You’ve probably had enough experiences w/ spouses or partners over the years to know there’s a big difference between the two.

    Your blog is still, of course, a wonderful read and I think it’s safe to say the vast majority of your readers still respect you, as I do. Your integrity and credibility would be far better served if you didnt write a mea culpa in which you fail to even once admit you did anything wrong. Taking money from people whose products you cover daily and then writing endorsements for them is stupid. Admit it and move on or have the strength of your convictions that there’s nothing wrong with it….. but don’t patronize your readers with “Conversational marketing is a developing format”.

    I can’t believe I’m now going to link to a Jason Calacanis post (from 2005 no less), but I think you might be able to learn something from him. In fact in the link below it sounds like he was able to even teach Nick a lesson that your post seems to suggest you might not yet understand:

    http://www.calacanis.com/2005/01/19/take-note-bzzagents-and-canter-droids-the-ethical-chickens-are/

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  19. Om,
    Stop acting guilty. You run absolutely great blog ot rather network of blogs. Some slips of tongue here and there are unavoidable, due to sheer volume of processed information. Such slips (if there were any) do not undermine your ethics and integrity, at least in my eyes. There will be always a few paranoidal readers/writers in search of conspiracy theory, they come with the job of blogger.

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  20. Thanks for the fast, upfront, heartfelt reversal Om. The other issue here is that companies are increasingly and deliberately trying to blur the line between advertising and conversation. In many ways, this is positive – customers been wanting more dialog and less “being sold.”

    But when the A-listers help brand a company’s slogan, using their own editorial force, it blurs things in the wrong direction – it comes across as sinister, sneaky, etc.

    I think it’s worth considering Microsoft as well. Other companies might have gotten away with the tactic, but MS continues to demonstrate (IMO) they cannot trust the marketplace to evaluate their products fairly so they are simply moving from the bully pulpit to hoping some of the cachet of thought leaders like yourself might rub off on them.

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  21. Its Cool, Om. We know you love the mac!

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  22. Om,
    Nothing wrong with this. You love “People ready”, MS want to promote their brand name with “People ready”. So what connect you and MS is “people ready” not money. Why afraid just because it is Microsoft.

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  23. Om, We support you !

    But like the laptop debacle. This was an extremely sly campaign Microsoft is running with the bloggers … They are taking the cluetrain manifesto to new lows …

    Why is anybody not blaming Microsoft here? They seem to be running a weird blogosphere campaign here (and by the brouhaha surrounding the laptop issue and now this, I would say they are failing) .. Is the bribe giver forgiven of any blame ??

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  24. Om, We support you !

    But like the laptop debacle. This was an extremely sly campaign Microsoft is running with the bloggers … They are taking the cluetrain manifesto to new lows …

    Why is anybody not blaming Microsoft here? They seem to be running a weird blogosphere campaign here (and by the brouhaha surrounding the laptop issue and now this, I would say they are failing) .. Is the bribe giver forgiven of any blame ??

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  25. You got one of those Acer Ferrari Vista laptops from Microsoft in another blogger scandal.

    In a poll on this blog your readers voted for the return of the Ferrari to Microsoft and you were quoted in the press saying you didn’t need another laptop and would be returning it, but you never did.

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  26. I applaud Om for clarifying his position with decisive swiftness and integrity – reputation is all-important and I personally believe he took the high road here on behalf of both his own properties AND for his readers.

    cheers, JH

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  27. I’ll still read you, as I always understand the mild bias that – like any writer – is in your writing. Two things about this come to mind:

    The good – your post here. This is the stand-up way to handle this. You get big points in my eyes for it.

    The bad – so let me get this straight. Microsoft and Federated approach you and ask you for your opinion of what a MS-created advertising phrase means… and you saw nothing wrong with this?

    You had to have known that you were being asked to give a quote that they’d use to sell their products. And no, not being paid doesn’t matter.

    It isn’t like they interviewed you about the state of desktop computing compared to 1990 and this was one of 20 questions. This was a direct attempt at getting a quote from you about their current ad campaign so they could use it.

    In that regard, you lost points in my eyes.

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  28. Conversational Media is an interesting yet very old style form of ad media. In my parlance it’s called Endorsement. Such an approach is never right unless it is the stated goal of your business model, which, in your case, it is not.

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  29. Om!

    Reading http://peopleready.federatedmedia.net/ again and again, I found that it is very interesting topic to read and discuss. So I think that if you like the topic, take courage and follow it, do not care about what others say, follow your heart.

    Nothing bad with advertising the topic that you like and make money with this.

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  30. I don’t see what the big deal is.

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  31. Om, you are not guilty of anything.

    I did the same thing you did and don’t regret it one bit.

    Stop apologizing and get pissed like I did.

    http://avc.blogs.com/a_vc/2007/06/why-is-nick-den.html

    Fred

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  32. Come on Fred….you say

    “Blogging doesn’t play by traditional media rules. That’s why it’s great. Blog advertising shouldn’t play by traditional media rules either. I am proud to be a participant in this campaign and think it makes me even more credible.”

    Maybe it’s credible for VCs, but we do try to play by common sense journalist rules whether blogging or working on a newspaper. Actively participating–tell use what you think about people ready–in a Microsoft ad campaign doesn’t help to assure readers, watchers, listeners that you are fiercely independent. All of us who know Om don’t question his integrity at all, but its about perceptions in the larger world and the slippery slope. I obviously support his position and the honest way he handled it.
    DF

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  33. OM – as always you take the high road – YOU ARE A CLASS ACT!

    Fred’s approach is also right in his own way. But what I do not understand is this “fake deference” for Nick Denton – will somebody please take that clown off the stage!

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  34. Neil Chase, Vice President of Federated Media Publishing trumpets the “birth of conversational marketing.” I like the idea of markets being conversations…very cluetrain and the right direction.

    Here is his less than credible explanation of the MS campaign in question:

    “In the case of this Microsoft campaign, the marketers asked if our writers would join a discussion around their “people ready” theme. Microsoft is an advertiser on our authors’ sites, but it’s paying them only based on the number of ad impressions delivered. There was no payment for joining the conversation and they were not required to do it. They’re not writing about this on their blogs, and of course several of them have been known to be pretty hard on Microsoft at times as reporters. They’re talking about the topic, and readers joined that conversation.”

    Why would anyone join a conversation about what People Ready means to me? Is this a conversation worth having? I don’t think so unless you want to have fun critiquing Microsoft’s ad slogan.

    DF

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  35. Paul, link

    Thanks for your comment. As for the laptop, it was returned. Thanks for inquiring. I continue to use my Macbook Pro, even if it scorches thighs after 50 minutes of use.

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  36. Dan and Fred thanks for your comments.

    Dan you are absolutely right – when building for the future, it is important to be extra careful about every single decision.

    I have said what I wanted to say about this matter – this is going to be a big lesson for me in what to do, and what NOT to do in the future.

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  37. DaveD and others,

    You are right about the points you make, and again, every word you say is right. I am repeating myself (good thing), but will be very very and very careful in the future.

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  38. socialshopping Saturday, June 23, 2007

    Om,

    I have to be blunt here — you’re an ass on this one. You folded to criticism that was from a dubious source to begin with. You have a business, businesses often run on advertising. Radio personailities routinely pitch products — we all know that it’s an f’n ad — just like this campaign was. Besides, do you really think that you have any influence over what we buy because it’s a quote in a banner? If that’s the case, then you’re even a bigger ass.

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  39. Most of this discussion about “philosophy” is about the psychology [neuroses?] of the participants.

    Ain’t nothing wrong with discussing the practices of folks who also happen to be advertising on your site. Certainly, better than silent acquiescence = affirmation.

    As for worrying about Valley gossips – it’s your neighborhood not mine, Om; so, I guess I’ll take your word that it’s important – to you. I could bloody well care less.

    I’m confident in your independence and integrity. That’s why I visit here.

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  40. Om, you did nothing wrong. You can still maintain your integrity and objectivity while monetizing your content. Bowing to these self-righteous posters who read your wonderful and insightful postings for free is the actual slippery slope.

    As far as I’m concerned your integrity is intact and for those who would criticize you and the blogosphere, I say, get your information elsewhere.

    So, I guess you aren’t supposed to endorse any product or service without the naysayers questioning you. You cannot make everyone happy — don’t try to.

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  41. Om,

    From what I’ve read, only you and Paul Kedrosky have responded appropriately to the concerns. You didn’t attempted to excusify or rationalize the situation and Paul thinks he just should have said no.

    I’d say your credibility has just gone up.

    Cynthia

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  42. Using traditional as a benchmark won’t work. The weekely real estate section praising the current Condominumim to be sold is perfectly acceptable and rakes in vast quantities of loot.

    Nope. The rule is simple. Display ads and you are a whore. Displaying Microsoft ads is not “more evil” than displaying Google or Apple ads – despite what some would have you believe.

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  43. Om, You are a CLASS ACT. Fred is a VC and doesn’t report on anything, doesn’t break news on companies etc (so his site is different) but you have to hold yourself to a higher standard, and I am grateful you did. I hope Arrington sees the problem.

    It ain’t about Vallewag …

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  44. I understand that idea of the advertisings but the execution was terrible. While I understand that you weren’t promoting Microsoft, when I first read the ads, it came off to me like you were supporting Microsoft and Microsoft was the way to go if I wanted my business to be people ready.

    Om, you set yourself above everyone else by valuing your integrity. Old School, New School, Newspapers, Magazines, Blogs, whatever . . . integrity is important.

    Too bad Arrington has none and he just tells everyone to go pound sand. That’s a great sentiment to give to loyal readers who help him get paid so much for his precious advertising. He really comes off as an arrogant jerk.

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  45. Remeber the cardinal rule of “coolness” on the web:

    Microsoft is EVIL. Google and Apple are not. They can buy off anyone, including Firefox for 75 million. But if you take penny from Microsoft … you ain’t cool anymore.

    They are all dishonest hypocrites of course.

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  46. digginestdogg Saturday, June 23, 2007

    You accepted compensation for using your blog for the commercial gain of a third-party while masking the link between the compensation and the content you provided supported. That crossed the line. It was the hiding of the connection that is the problem. Overt advertising is fine. Shilling is not.

    Most of us know the difference and I find it hard to believe a man of your intelligence didn’t know what was going on any more than most of Congress does. Congress does it all the time with campaign funding. For example: Dingell was one of the key Democrats to vote against increasing mileage standards? He repesents Detroit in Congress. Direct connection? No. But most of us know exactly what is going on there. Do you want your reputation and approval to be as low as that of Congress?

    Those who wrote in in support of your action are showing their own lack of moral fiber and ‘compass’–its all about the ‘Bejamins’ with far too many people. Many of us will wonder if you’ll be doing it again now–only hiding it better. that’s a shame but a consequence of your own choice.

    “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it” –Benjamin Franklin

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  47. I really do not understand what the fuss is about. You didn’t do anything different than what traditional media would.

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  48. well handled. your regret is neither unreasonable nor placating – it’s professional and transparent.

    still love gigaom.

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  49. Kudos to Om for coming clean on this mess.

    Fiascos such as this could be avoided with better disclosure. When CNBC interviews a stock analyst on-air, they display a little check box with potential conflicts of interest. Is the company they’re commenting on a client, former client, etc.

    When bloggers or media disclose, they remove all senses of impropriety. If this MSFT campaign had been better disclosed, this wouldn’t be a story.

    I propose that bloggers and MSM join together to create a standard method of disclosure. Maybe “disclosure boxes” at the end of stories, maybe delivered via a WordPress plugin that would allow the reader to click on a hyperlinked “Yes” to learn details and decide for themselves.

    Author or blog received remuneration from persons or organizations mentioned in this story: Yes/No

    Author is an investor in organizations mentioned in this story: Yes/no

    Author is an investor in companies that compete with organizations mentioned in this story (When I covered the launch of Signet Solar for VentureBeat, I disclosed I owned stock in Signet competitors) Yes/no

    Author considers one or more of the subjects covered in this story personal friends. Yes/no

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  50. Om,

    Your integrity is never in question. When I read you post on thing came through my mind loud and clear:

    Consider the source.

    You made all the right moves.

    Andy

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  51. Again, your integrity is not in question.

    Microsoft, however, is bad devil about those things.
    Always expect bad things from them.

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  52. At Rocketboom, we started to sign up FM because they sold us on having integrity, but after many months of interaction with a group that seemed to be having an unusually large amount of internal communication problems, and especially no understanding of Rocketboom after repeated meetings, we determined that FM did not have very much integrity at all and that was the #1 reason why we never completely signed on.

    My friends and colleagues that I love and trust the most tend to use FM, so I have questioned my insight, but I keep getting hit with the same feeling – today again.

    The worst behavior yet had to do with the Ask A Ninja Deal. FM claimed in writings that they did not give Ninja an upfront by using words that a sophist would use. Yet they told us that they did give Ninja an upfront and that is how they do things at FM now with all their new signups. This deal really effected the industry perception of videoblogging so the truth was much more important than their own personal dealings which had become public.

    Every time I read John Battelle’s blog now, I can’t help but question if he’s saying it for his own personal gain. I assume he is sincere usually, but I guess I’ll never know and this uncertainty seems to linger whenever I picture his name.

    Isn’t this the effect that others will have now from this most recent fiasco with paying bloggers to say nice things about companies they dont care about?

    If FM has integrity, shouldn’t they at least understand why it’s wrong for a lot of bloggers?

    Michael at Techcrunch said he doesn’t care about what he wrote for Microsoft even though he signed his name. Yet he signed his name for me – someone who admires and looks up to his opinions. Thats why Microsoft had you guys do this; so I would believe in Microsoft indirectly.

    Apparently people like Michael are willing to write messages they dont believe in just for money in the same way, to the same people, in the same space and in the same place.

    Thanks Om for responding the way you did. I think you and Dave Winer got it right, as usual.

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  53. Om, You are a former journalist, and perhaps as an independent blogger you still hold yourself to the old journalistic standards. Fair enough, but I really don’t see a problem with this advertising method.

    Readers who don’t know the difference between an advertisement and a blog post are hopelessly lost. The ads are clearly separated and marked as ads.

    These advertising units are more conversational and relate personal experiences. I think that makes the ad more interesting, but is still just an ad.

    The notion that your integrity or opinion could be swayed by a simple banner ad is absolutely ridiculous. Anyone who has read you more than once knows that.

    You have nothing to apologize for.

    Don Dodge
    (yes, I work for Microsoft, but I also take shots at Microsoft when they do someting dumb. Not the case here.)

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  54. I don’t doubt the journalistic integrity of Om Malik for a nanosecond. With 30 years experience, I can relate this to a newspaper being accused of bias because there is a United Airline ad in the paper when there is a favorable article about United in the travel section.

    Gigaom has the same credibility with me that it did before this accusation was made.

    When you get this kind of criticism, it means you have a voice that is recognized and folks will take pot shots.

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  55. Don,

    You don’t get the point do you ? All these days the “Ads” appeared as though the slogan or whatever was endorsed by OM. Which he never did, but it was nevertheless misleading to the readers.

    These ad’s led me to believe, OM had “blogged” or “reviewed” and those snippet’s of text are appearing from a positive review at Gigaom.

    Om, you are a class act. Only you are able to understand your readers and came out clean on it. Really appreciate your candor.

    Venkatesh

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  56. To all you people who see nothing wrong here: What if the the editor of the NY Times participated in an ad campaign about what “the Audacity of Hope” means to them? And, what if they got ad revenue from it?

    Would you trust their next editorial? Would you have no problem with that? How is this any different?

    Don & everyone else at Microsoft: you guys really need to reconsider your marketing. In aggregate this incident, the Ferrari laptop thing, those cheesey college zune parties and everything else are doing nothing to help your brand. If you make good products people will write about them. Paying off bloggers w/ ad revenue to write about what “People Ready” means to them is cheesey.

    You don’t see Apple and Google resorting to these kinds of tactics because they are spending their time and money wisely on actually making products that people want to use.

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  57. Take Microsoft’s money. We all know your a Mac guy anyway.

    So you blog their “people ready” campaign or whatever. It’s dependent on the content and what you write but write about it, give your honest opinion, and take their money.

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  58. Hey Om,

    I know that this won’t stop me from reading your blog. People need to use some common sense, just because you or Mike endorse something, doesn’t mean I am going to blindly take your advice. I always go and do a little checking myself before I decide what is good or bad.

    A suggestion. Thank the little guys like myself and many others, who read this blog by doing a week of posts on up and comers, one man (or woman) show, with no money, but a lot of heart. Now that would up your Karma! Keep up the great work…

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  59. Don Dodge – its not a matter of not recognizing the difference between an ad and a blog post. I certainly wasn’t confused. But the point is Om and the others make their living through their editorial voice on their blog. Now they lend that editorial voice to a Microsoft ad for a payment. And regardless of whatever they want to call it, a conversation, whatever. Either way the ads comes off as Om and the others endorsing Microsoft. So they have jeopardized the integrity of their editorial voice. If they take money to say something, who knows what’s paid for and what’s not paid for.

    I’m not confused or hopelessly lost. I don’t know what you do at Microsoft, I vaguely remembering reading your name somewhere, but stop wasting your time on your insulting snide and try putting out some good software for a change.

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  60. Om – all of us who know you have the highest regard for your integrity, beyond reproach. I think you’ve handled this more than appropriately.

    Tony C.

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  61. Actually, the real issue for me is that it seemed like the ad was quoting from real blog posts, in an effort to seem like there was an authentic excitement about “people-ready”.

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  62. Jean-Michel Decombe Saturday, June 23, 2007

    I personally think you did the right thing and you explained your rationale rather well. Bloggers believe that they are exploring new territory and, to a certain extent, they are. But while redefining how news are communicated to the audience is OK, certain notions are not up for redefinition, including CREDIBILITY and TRUST. Or if they are, then I am looking forward to seeing the new definitions.

    You really need not apologize. Everybody learned something here about a medium, blogging, that is still in its infancy. And the last word on the subject has yet to be said. Onwards!

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  63. Om, I’m with my former colleague Dan Farber on this one, and with Scientist whoever he/she is. Easy mistake to make, but a tough one to fix except in the way you did it: forthrightly and adding to your journalistic creds while keeping your human voice. You come out ahead in this reader’s view.

    Robin

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  64. Thumbs up from me.

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  65. Wow, great response on this, Om. And I don’t always agree with Dave Winer, but he had a pretty good take on the issue as well:
    http://www.scripting.com/stories/2007/06/23/commentsOnPeopleready.html

    On the other hand, Mike Arrington really lost my respect with his “pound sand” response-moreso because, deep down, he knows you are right about this issue.

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  66. I saw all those ads and they never bothered me.

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  67. I am quite sure that – once again – Edelman is behind this.

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  68. Om, I respect your decision but frankly, I’m sad to see you given up so quickly. In these campaigns, each blogger is fully free to express their opinions. The purpose is to open a topic to discussion and that’s it – they can say anything they want. Advertisers just set the origin, the vectors belong to the participants, it’s their decision to take it wherever they want. Would ValleyWag fans prefer a typical static brand awareness ad campaign instead of this? No thinking, no dimensions, just striking promises

    People should get ready to the next generation of advertising. They’ll surely get more interactive, provocative and contextual. Those who are against innovations are vulnerable to extinction according to darwinist thinking.

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  69. A followup to my comment earlier….

    Om, you’ve score much more points now than you had before. Hey – everybody makes a mistake in judgment sometimes. It’s how you handle it when you realize it that matters most.

    Next, to certain posters… particularly the one who compared Microsoft’s “pennies” to Apple’s “75 million” to Firefox. Om. if you didn’t ever see it, now you do – this would be the underside of the blogoshpere.

    They aren’t just a crowd – they are a stampede that is controlled by…??? I actually found Michael’s post on all this to be worse than what set this all off. There was NOTHING in his words that said anything was even the least bit off – even in terms of credibility.

    And then he incited emotions to lash out at the ones who might have the temerity to suggest he was merely being two-faced.

    That sort of thing draws out the posters I just mentioned. They have no reason to speak except that of raising even more argument and fighting.

    Look, what happened, did. You can either try to color it by saying everyone does it, or redirect things by saying Valleywag has an axe to grind….

    Or simply say this is something you don’t think belongs as part of “the media game”.

    More and more = Om, you score quite a few points.

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  70. I never bothered about these Ads and never really questioned your integrity.
    you just proved me that you are one of a kind!

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  71. exemployeesdaughter Saturday, June 23, 2007

    I understand exactly what you mean about being honest and writing your stuff with integrity and truth. I am going through pretty much the same thing right now with my blogs… It’s pretty awful when you have to defend the truth. Good luck. By the way, I think that your coming right out and letting your readers become aware of what is going on tells alot about the person behind the blogs.

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  72. Even from the standpoint of “this blog is a business”, it’s incumbent upon om to cater to his audience. A good chunk of it would have been pretty pissed off, perhaps alienated for good, without this kind of statement from Om. So Om’s options were limited, for purely business reasons even if not ethical ones, contrary to the comments of those so hungry to “monetize” that they’d let Frito-Lay underwrite About.com’s nutrition guide.

    The blogosphere is like Linux – you can add unique value and profit, but just realize everyone in the world can play, you have to give most of your work away, and you must not corrupt the code or you won’t be compatible with anyone else anymore.

    Part of the code is an echo of journalistic ethics. In the blogosphere, the blogger is obligated to represent THEMSELVES ONLY unless specifically stated. When violated, bye bye credibility, so long traffic and influence. Regarding commercial messages you can’t just “slide it in there” like product placement in movies, because this audience is primed to leave the theater at the first whiff of manipulation.

    Microsoft’s effort was a direct challenge to the blogosphere to walk away from those ethics. We won this battle. It took om’s will and the ethical clamor of the outraged portion of his community to halt this corruption.

    Next time a corporation wants to undertake this kind of a tactic, I hope they realize how much credibility and goodwill Microsoft has lost as a result of this “clever brainstorm” by one of their foolish marketeers. In what way was this campaign “people-centric” ??? This incident in fact is a close-to-home reminder that the interests of corporate entities are not innately coincident with the needs of human beings, especially where ethics are concerned.

    According to libertarian logic, microsoft “can’t be blamed” for trying to “increase shareholder value” with this little scheme, right? Well, let’s see if the market punishes them for it or not. Odds are, it will. This suite of products must suck to require such pathetic promotion. Call it karma. Om indeed !!!

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  73. Om has reacted the best of any of these clowns. Om truly gets it, because he is a journalist.

    I’m done with Techcrunch – they aren’t good anymore. They’re not indepedent and they don’t get it. They can’t pretend to be journalists if they aren’t.

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  74. Nothing’s changed for me.

    Never worried about you and your team’s editorial integrity, Om; and never will.

    For me, ’nuff said on this subject.

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  75. no one ever aplolgizes until they are outed. i am extremely disappointed.

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  76. Never have any doubts about your integrity or intentions, Om. Keep up the good work!

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  77. Om, way to go :). I admire your decision and appreciate your blog entry on the topic.

    On a different note: why hasn’t anyone even touched upon the fact that the whole “PeopleReady” thing is — in itself — laughably embarrassing? I mean, seriously, who comes up with crap like this? PR / Marketing people get paid for this brilliance?!

    Perhaps if Microsoft let its many fine programs (e.g., OneNote) speak for themselves and spent less time/money coming up with vapid slogans (“Where Do You Want To Go Today?” and “PeopleReady” and so on), the company’d get more respect.

    Lastly, I’m both amused and annoyed that Arrington just doesn’t get it. Yes, Valleywag is a P.O.S. entity… one step lower than the National Enquirer in both class and substance. But that doesn’t mean that — perhaps completely by accident — Nick didn’t actually hit upon a real issue.

    The principle here is unambiguously simple: Own your words. Either you stand behind what you write (no matter whether it’s ad copy or whatever) or you don’t. People judge you by your words, as well they should. If you don’t give a whit about “PeopleReady” whatsits or, worse yet, are embarrassed about the whole cheesy thing, then run away. I mean, seriously, does Arrington REALLY need the money?! Can’t someone of that stature save his words and reputation for something he truly believes in and respects or even feels passionate about?

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  78. Om, please stop apologizing profusely. You’re giving competitors and detractors to your site (who have their own agendas and biases) like Dan Farber of ZDNet free play to criticize your business decisions. No doubt Dan is honest in his feedback but he’s speaking through an old-school, corporate editorial lens that is CNET. On the other hand, you have tens of thousands of loyal readers who will be behind you no matter what stance you take. Please keep that in mind along with your personal goals for GigaOm.

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  79. wotta riot ! microsoft is suddenly “people ready”. did someone suddenly unplug The Matrix ? are they admitting they’ve had us acting like robots for all of these years ?

    100% agreed that this is marketing fluff and a sad reflection on the hard work done by microsoft engineering. It is like marketeers hailing “revolutions” every other week as if appealing to Che’s ghost for endorsement.

    This is what we get for living in an era dominated by ironic sloganeering such as “no child left behind” and “fair and balanced news” i guess.

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  80. The most funny fact to me is that I nearly never had to see this campaign, because I always have Firefox’ AdBlock on. Only on my mobile phone there is no such plugin. And that’s where I was sometimes irritated by Om’s quotes.

    Maybe we just need better crap filters. Does anybody know a solution for Nokia E61? ;)

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  81. Julia Shazzi Sunday, June 24, 2007

    Bloggers should be representing the user population. I think bloggers who are on Firefox and Mac switch to platforms that are more representative of the population.

    Microsoft is just another company. Every one of them tries tactics as these.

    Om brings Ethics to publishing. Wish to see him bringing in true representation of the user population.

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  82. Julia,

    thanks for your comments and thoughts. I use a thinkpad for at least two days a week – though mostly it is on the weekends. Ever since they released IE 7, I have little issue with IE because now I don’t worry about the security holes as much. But point well taken – I will split my time between the two platforms.

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  83. It makes me really sad to see that unlike Om, so many readers seem to honestly believe ethics are irrelevant when it comes to doing business and making money.

    Whatever your position may be, so many people pretending there is no ethically question at all an making money justifies everything is just plain frightening.

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  84. As a potential FM advertiser, this issue makes me wonder where FM’s allegiances lie – do they lie with the big advertiser, where they get the access to pitch these kinds of “conversations”? Does FM serve the smaller advertisers differently…?

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  85. Quote from Robert McLaws Blog:

    Dave, the part of that statement that concerns me is that it you think readers are easily confused. Personally, I assume that my readers are smart, and in most cases, smarter than me. I saw this campaign weeks ago, and I sure wasn’t “confused” by it, so I doubt my readers were, either. Any confusion in the situation only came after people raised questions and all hell broke loose.

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  86. Om, as always you are a class act. As media becomes more of a conversation, so will advertising….and the rules are not as clear as they once were. You have done an excellent job clearly explaining your thought process, and you have done your readers and your advertisers a service being transparent, honest and honorable.

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  87. Om, your sincere commitment to integrity is that which will continue to make your work successful. Blogs, IMHO, have grown wildly successful in recent years, as a result of their integrity, in reporting as mavens in the thick of life and culture, among other factors. Today’s consumers have intelligent filters, which they/we use to tune out messages and/or advice with significant potential for conflict of interest. In today’s traditional media world, a “Best 10 ____” list often only lists those products that have strong relationships with a publication. I’m am reluctant, as a result, to let my behavior be influenced by any of them.

    In any case, I believe that a strong commitment to integrity will build far more valuable relationships with consumers, in the long term, and I applaud you for your strong resolve and receptive ear.

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  88. i don’t see what’s the big deal here ? i don’t think you did something wrong here . who said its wrong to discuss a product which is being advertised on your site . and Valleywag of all the people is making such a noise . they are self proclamed gossip monger of hi tech , why you ahve to react to their call ?

    i think you have apologized too much , i respect your judgment and analysis thats why i come to GigaOm 6 times a day , if you feel that discussing “People Ready ” wasa good idea [ i think its good ] than why not . and what about all the talk going on iPhone in blogsphere ,Forbes,NewYorker ?? VW would say they are being hired by Apple ??

    asa regular reader of Gigaom i suggest that you shouldn’t pay much attention to Valley Wag and avoid making Commander out of mere soldiers .
    you are commander Om, Shoot the soldier :)

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  89. Om, this is much ado about a non-issue.

    Participation in an obscure campaign that happens to be sponsored by Microsoft doesn’t put a question mark on your integrity. Guilt by association is nothing more than a fallacy.

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  90. There’s this little quotation by Gandhi which is displayed in most Indian shops and offices, I think, that – “The customer is God.”

    In a sense, you need only to listen to your readers and nobody else – your customers. However, Om – you give away your content for free. Almost, except we pay somebody else for the bandwidth.

    And there is another sweet quotation which hangs just below Gandhi’s aphorism in the Indian businesses:

    “We have nothing against competitors who charge less, they know what their services are worth.”

    I wonder what the truly ethical model would be…but it’s great that you’re quick on the listen. Well done.

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  91. Om

    I respectfully disagree. I believe bloggers (especially those with investors needing to show return$$) will increasingly compromise their ethics. I have already heard how you sold out to get your interview with the ATT president. You are increasingly suspect – this feeble effort to preserve some respect doesn’t satisfy me. You are increasingly becoming astroturf like so many others. You probably don’t even realize it – but the industry already talks about you like they know how to play you and manipulate you. I hope you understand how real this is.

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  92. Very classy act – Unlike some A list blogger into the name calling business:
    http://news.com.com/8301-10784_3-9734034-7.html?tag=head

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  93. Your frequent readers (like me) do not question your integrity but share the concern of this sly marketing without disclosure. I applaud you for taking the right step quickly.
    Class Act!

    I am shocked by many reader’s reaction/comments like ‘nothing to cry about or why people made a big deal’..quite pathetic wrt ethical standards as others have commented :(

    Lessons learned makes all of us more wise for the future..looking forward to more Giga posts.

    Cheers,
    Kishore

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  94. By the way, if anyone here is in advertising or marketing, kill yourself. Thank you, thank you. Just a little thought. I’m just trying to plant seeds. Maybe one day they’ll take root. I don’t know. You try. You do what you can. Kill yourselves. Seriously though, if you are, do. No really, there’s no rationalisation for what you do, and you are Satan’s little helpers, OK? Kill yourselves, seriously. You’re the ruiner of all things good. Seriously, no, this is not a joke. “There’s gonna be a joke coming…” There’s no fucking joke coming, you are Satan’s spawn, filling the world with bile and garbage, you are fucked and you are fucking us, kill yourselves, it’s the only way to save your fucking soul. Kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself now. Now, back to the show.

    “You know what Bill’s doing now, he’s going for the righteous indignation dollar, that’s a big dollar, a lot of people are feeling that indignation, we’ve done research, huge market. He’s doing a good thing.” Godammit, I’m not doing that, you scumbags, quit putting a godamn dollar sign on every fucking thing on this planet!

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  95. Most folks will know instinctively that money is changing hands when everyone starts talking about being p* ready. This is after all Microsoft we’re talking about. Mayhaps a disclosure of sorts will help those feeling hurt and seeking therapy.

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  96. Sorry to see you get caught up in all this, Om – it’s like watching Athenian mob rule in action. The social politics of the social web. What a joy.

    2c.

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  97. The fact that you’ve responded so quickly by suspending any similar campaigns shows how serious you’re taking these accusations. But, simple disclosure would’ve done the trick.

    Actually, there are guidelines in place. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) has worked with the FTC to define best practices in this new conversation economy. Check out: http://www.womma.org/ethics/

    At the end of the day, full transparency/disclosure will put you in the clear from the start.

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  98. Where you Honest? Did you say what you think is the truth?

    Then I am tired of the assumption that no once can like Microsoft unless they are paid off…

    I worry that this kind of “when did you stop beating your wife” accusations will actually hurt fair reporting on both sides.

    Will we see people looking to see if chances to appear on conference panels were traded for positive Linux quotes etc.

    If you said what you believed and it was positive for Microsoft. I am sorry to see you running away from that.

    I assume you did what you thought was right then, does what is right change when people make accusations.

    I would have been more impressed if you said, “I told the truth. Microsoft liked it and valued my opinion, and I stand by it. I will not change how I work because of unfounded accusations.”

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  99. Om,

    Tell you the truth, I am new to your blog having read about this elsewhere and I have to say its not that big a deal from an outside point of view.
    So long as you still bash Microsoft when they need to be bashed and this campaign doesn’t hold you to a anything, then who cares.

    Now if you’re next 15 blogs were about how great Microsofts stuff was with no basis, then I may be worried. I will be watching:)

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  100. Even a conversation starter like “people ready” has the power to effect the blogsphere specifically because its been engineered and ranked by the SEO mavens. After all, you can check out http://trends.google.com to see that MS has been marketing engineering the term for more than 18 months.

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  101. Even a conversation starter like “people ready” has the power to effect the blogsphere specifically because its been engineered and ranked by the SEO mavens. After all, you can check out http://trends.google.com to see that

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  102. “if participation in Microsoft’s advertising campaign”

    IF??

    don’t you know whether or not you did??

    Who writes your posts with your name?

    Bill Gates lackies?

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  103. Scary when the Apple Mafia turns on one of its own huh? The only reason this ‘story’ is of any significance because it involves Microsoft.

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  104. At this point in American history it is great to see ethics discussed at all.

    What a relief.

    I was worried we had forgotten.

    -Srini

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  105. Guy With A Bike Thursday, June 28, 2007

    How could anyone think payola is ethical in the first place? It’s not a “conversation”. Goodness. That’s the silliest marketing-ese I’ve seen in months.

    Hooray for journalistic integrity!

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  106. you should shut down your site Thursday, June 28, 2007

    you have no shame.. ! And your post makes no mention of the cash that you’ve made out of it … Why not work out how much you made from it and then donate 100x that much to charity as a sign of how much you value your integrity.

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  107. OM,
    You did nothing wrong.
    MS is the industry leader, if a few geeks can’t handle that then it is their problem!

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  108. coward-from-bs-and-hypocrite-deptt Thursday, June 28, 2007

    “In the future I shall focus on what I know best – reporting and writing.”

    When a journalist becomes an entrepreneur, he starts a newspaper — you know why?

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  109. Don’t worry about it Om. You didn’t do anything wrong. If people misconstrued what you said, then there’s nothing you can do about it. Besides it happens all the time. It’s the media.

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  110. We are coming out of the normal time of year when we have flu circulating in the UK so we don’t really know what size of epidemic there may be in the next couple of months.

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