May 17

Evolve or Die: Content Sharing and the TechCrunch/Fortune Debacle

So Fortune released a book entitled The Facebook Effect and asked Michael Arrington from TechCrunch to endorse it. Which he glowingly did because he respected the author.

Before asking, the people at Fortune gave Arrington excerpts from the book to use in his post. When he published the post, the author and some others at Fortune thanked him for it. Then suddenly, they proceeded to ask him many times at very random hours to take down the post, as they had not intended to have the full excerpts published on the web. Then they sent in the attack hound lawyers on him, which prompted him to write this scathing blog post to them.

To me, this seems a case of the people at the bottom at Fortune executing an order, thinking things were done. Then the higher ups (and probably more traditional folks) looked at it and freaked out. The people at the bottom didn’t want to fight it and just complied by sending in the lawyers.

Would protecting these excerpts sell enough books to justify the negative press in both TechCrunch and the Huffington Post, which are arguably the most powerful online publications in the world? Does this incident make you believe that Fortune truly understands the social web and therefore applications like Facebook? It just seems so senseless. Who knows–maybe they get more press regardless this way to sell more books. Maybe they are smarter than they look and this is just an effort to bring attention to the fact that the author David Kirkpatrick wrote a good book. It certainly doesn’t reflect very well on Fortune though.

Do people in senior positions at major publications just not understand the concept of Creative Commons? Can we educate them before the cheapness of web publishing makes their paper magazines go away or will it just prompt a changing of the guard? I like good content and would just assume open it up the way the web lends itself to anyway.