A recent TechCrunch post comparing mobile livecasting services that involved Austin and Flixwagon touched off the heated discussion. Austin’s relationship with Flixwagon was not disclosed in the story (neither was TechCrunch’s sponsorship of Pop17, though that is noted on Pop17’s site). But her relationship came to light in the comment section, with Austin writing:
“I stream with Flixwagon because they support my mobile livecast. I have to pay the bills and don’t see anything wrong with using their service for pay. If they were actually bad I wouldn’t use them. FW is great!”
Austin then wrote a post on her Tumblr saying:
“I find it very interesting to see how I have been criticized for working closely with Flixwagon to help them develop a better service. I consult for many companies who are looking to improve their service, platform and business strategy and I am not alone. Believe it or not, video bloggers often consult!”
She goes on to say that Pop17 is not sponsored by Flixwagon. We contacted both Flixwagon and Austin to find out the exact nature of their relationship. Austin sent us an email saying she was checking with Flixwagon to determine what she could and couldn’t say. Flixwagon had not responded as of this writing.
Pat Phalen, president of Cubic Telecom, wrote a post on his blog about a rumor he heard about Austin’s discussions with rival mobile livecaster Qik to switch to its service. Austin responded to Phalen’s post with the following:
“I told Qik that I would go with them if they offered me a little more money. btw, I don’t have a contract that says I have to be secretive about this, I just think it is better for business not to disclose that I stream with them for peanuts! Don’t tar and feather me for making money. I get paid by many people. You think I use Mogulus, Viddler or Rocketboom for free? How do you think I make money?”
If this all sounds familiar, it should. Austin isn’t the first videoblogger whose work has raised ethical questions. Amanda Congdon ignited her own controversy when she worked for ABC News and starred in a number of commercials for DuPont.
Like with so many of these things, the reaction seems to be a bigger issue than the issue. It wouldn’t have taken much for Austin to disclose her relationship with Flixwagon from the outset. Her audience could have taken that information into consideration and most of them probably wouldn’t have cared.