The Gizmodo Trap: Don’t Fall Into A Negative Blogging Tailspin

by Robb Sutton

Over the past couple of days, Gizmodo – a reputable tech blog on gadgets – has been on a tear trying to rip apart the new iPhone 4 during its initial release. This all stems back to the prototype iPhone 4 leak and Apple not inviting them to the iPhone 4 release or making a review unit available for their site. Now…while that is the bare bones of the history between Apple and Gizmodo over the previous weeks, what has happened over the last couple of days is something that you need to pay close attention to as a blogger. Gizmodo has decided to take their fight with Apple public and go on a tear trying to discredit the iPhone 4 and…by doing so…has sacrificed some of their credibility in the industry.

Unfair Bias Leads To Credibility Decrease

No one will ever really know what goes on behind closed doors, but during the span of your blogging, there are going to be times that you get into disagreements with other bloggers and companies. The initial ego reaction is to use your spread online to bash and attempt to bring down the other participant in your disagreement because you feel you are right and other people should know. However, by doing this, you are destroying your credibility and losing subscribers by showing an unfair bias and prejudice against one individual or firm.

The first couple of articles that Gizmodo published on the new iPhone 4 (I have 2 of them by the way!) addressed some issues with the initial release. Now, they were not the only ones covering this part of the story as other Apple related blogs were also following suit. At this point in time, it was more of a reporting atmosphere on the initial units and not an online bashing argument. Like most gadget/electronic redesigns, there are going to be those that love it and those that hate it. With a couple of small issues being reported amongst early adopters (specifically the signal and screen issues…both of which do not affect my 2 units), Gizmodo used this opportunity to publish content that was being searched for on a second by second basis.

Then something changed…

All of the sudden, the Gizmodo articles moved from reporting issues to multiple articles in succession that were pure flame war styled publications. Whether it was an attempt at humor or getting their feelings hurt over the past couple of months, Gizmodo decided that this would be a good time to stretch their jaw bones and try to take their chunk out of the Apple. Take a look at some of the responses…

Gizmodo is becoming the Apple bashing site- how many people are reporting this- everyone I know, including me, with iPhone 4s has not experienced any problems…. It’s not good journalism to create inflammatory headlines when the real story is much simpler.

giz is so noob. they are just apple haters. remember, they didnt get ticks for othe last keynote? anyway, intelligent people dont get convinced about this noobish site, which isnt credible!

Alright, I get it. Gizmodo hates apple and has a big axe to grind.

Giz calling apple users a cult is going a little far me thinks. Especially after being kicked out of the cult so recently. Have you no class?

Used to love gizmodo. But ever since they were raped over the iPhone all they do is bash apple.

Of course…the flipside to these comments are the readers that get entrenched in online drama and love to get in on the bashing ring. But, the reality is that Gizmodo has not shown this much negative attention to anything else in the past.

Gizmodo Forgot The #1 Rule In Marketing

While Gizmodo may have thought they were being funny or “revealing the truth” as they say it, they forgot the #1 rule in marketing that will actually get you the opposite result you are looking for if you go down this same road.

Even bad press is good press.

By going on this tear online, Gizmodo is not achieving the goal they have set out. They are…in reality…actually selling more iPhone 4’s for Apple than they are hurting sales. If there is one true thing in marketing, it that even bad press is good press. Now, even people who had no interest in the new iPhone 4 are wanting to check it out to see if Gizmodo’s articles are true…and this comes at the expense of some of Gizmodo’s credibility.

When you start to jump into EGO blogging, you might feel good for a split second, but you are sacrificing all of the hard work you have put forth to try to win an online argument. And guess what…no one wins online arguments.

How To Avoid The Negative Blogging Trap

Feeling like you need to vent online? Here are some tips to bring you back down to reality.

Remember You Are Running A Business

Are you willing to throw all of your credibility on the line and possibly lose everything? By taking the flaming path, you have to be ready for backlash that will inevitably ensue afterward. Personally, I am not ready to throw away years of hard work to try to show how cool I think I am online. I run online businesses and I treat them that way. When was the last time you saw Coke make a political like flaming to Pepsi? You don’t…why?…because that would actually make Coke look bad instead of bringing Pepsi down.

Honesty Does Not Mean Flaming

Blogging is built upon the principle of honest opinions. But there is a difference between your honest opinion and biased flaming. It is all in the delivery, so even as you have negative things to say about a product or service, deliver that message in a respectful, fact based manner and you should keep your integrity/reputation in tact while not pissing off the company and your readers at the same time.

Think Past Today

Do you actually think Gizmodo is going to have a good working relationship with Apple after this incident? Even if they do, it is going to take a lot of work to get that trust built back up again. As you look at the temptation to flame online, take a serious look at how it will affect tomorrow and not just today.

Take A Deep Breath

Draft up your article and then walk away for awhile. After you have had some time to calm down, go back a re-edit the article. You might be surprised what kind of perspective you will have after you get out of the heat of the moment.

What Kind Of Readers Do You Want?

Do you really want the kind of readers that feed off of that kind of controversy. As you look at the most successful blogs online, can you count on more than one hand the ones that take that tactic? I can’t. Controversy blog readers are typically the least profitable. They are more interested in controversy and online arguments than they are with value and consuming your products, services and content. When you are trying to make an income online, you need readers that will value your content and products to make money online.

The Gizmodo Aftermath

Will Gizmodo lose all of their readers and fall off the face of the Internet. No…probably not. With a blog that large, things will appear to go on as normal even if they do see a small subscriber decrease. In the world of blogging, it is much easier to weather those types of storms the larger you become and they are probably justifying any decrease with ego.

However, as you look at your blog with 100 to 1,000 subscribers or even up into the 25k range, are you willing to throw it all on the line by taking a similar stance on an issue in your niche?

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10 comments

Nabeel | Create Your First Website June 28, 2010 - 8:20 am

Great insight to the Gizmodo-iPhone episode Robb.

The Gizmodo episode drew many responses and discussions. And the way events unfolded, were even more damaging to the credibility of Gizmodo.

You made a very good comparison to this episode to blogging. I agree with your views.

“Even bad press is good press.” This is absolutely true. And this did indeed happen with the iPhone 4G!

Nabeel

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Aaron June 28, 2010 - 9:46 am

Robb,

Finally something you and I disagree on!

First let me preface this comment by saying I agree with you that negative blogging is the wrong way to go about things. Giz has gone overboard with the iPhone-bashing.

That said, the aforementioned “leak” was a pretty big deal. Chen had his front door beat down and personal property confiscated because of the “leak.” I’m pretty sure the bashing has a lot to do with that fiasco.

Second, say what you will but the fact remains that the iPhone 4s design is flawed, even if some aren’t experiencing the signal degradation. By exposing the antenna, it just invites reception issues. Engadget has said, repeatedly, their review unit didn’t display reception issues and in fact they noticed stronger signals than the 3GS. Still, Steve shouldve known the design had the *potential* to have reception issues.

Lastly, Gizmodo is not and has never been “Apple bashers.” Quite the opposite, actually. Giz pretty much set the standard for Apple fanboy-dom. So much so, I unsubscribed from their RSS and stopped following them on twitter during the 3GS release. The blog was nothing but Apple love. The commenters saying Giz is anti-Apple obviously aren’t regular readers of the blog.
Imagine this Robb – you get word of a hot new frame being released by Specialized. I mean, there’s never been more hype surrounding a frame release in MTB history. Its gonna be huge. Through your network, you actually acquire said frame and post it on mtb198.com. Days later you come home to find your home and stable ransacked and much of your gear is missing. You come to find out that Specialized was behind it. How would you react?

Walk a mile in the other man’s shoes.

It looks to me like Chen has a vendetta and through the design flaws of the iPhone 4, he’s acting out.

Since its personal, he shouldn’t be using gizmodo.com as his voice. And that’s where you and I see eye to eye on this one.

Good post and it should stir some people up!

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Robb Sutton June 28, 2010 - 10:06 am

Supposedly…the new iOS upgrade is supposed to get rid of the signal reporting issues. We’ll see though…but I honestly can’t get either of mine to replicate it at all. And the signal strength is better than both our old 3G and 3GS.

The example above is to more illustrate a point than specifically target out Gizmodo and this situation. There are two sides to each story obviously (technically…police have the right to confiscate stolen property and the same would happen to you if you bought stolen goods. Sucks…but that’s just the way it is.), but the reaction Gizmodo is taking is overboard as you mentioned. Is it really worth losing subscribers over? In the end, you are just hurting yourself and providing more press for the people you are trying to hurt.

That said…I don’t believe in the gushing over a product either. Like you just stated…it can have the same affect in the end.

How would I react in the Specialized situation you mention? Not like Gizmodo did for sure. Would I be pissed? Sure! But would I sacrifice my business and credibility for it?! Hell no.

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Priya Florence Shah June 28, 2010 - 11:01 am

I’m not into gadgets and I’ve not been following the iPhone thing, but I’ve been online long enough to know that it’s bad for a marketer/blogger’s rep to bash other people’s products. Tomorrow the shoe may be on the other foot and if you’ve burnt your bridges with others, you’ll be the worse off for it.

I like to believe that if you can’t say something nice,say nothing at all. Whatever you give your attention to, whether in a negative or positive way, you give a bigger role in your world.

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Jean Sarauer June 28, 2010 - 11:11 am

A little bashing goes a long way.

While I believe in honesty, too much ranting in general or regular rants aimed at a single source can quickly redefine a blog and throw previous branding efforts out the window.

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Robb Sutton July 1, 2010 - 2:20 pm

It can throw away those branding efforts really quickly and make them extremely hard to get back. Not worth it at all…

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Jimi Jones June 28, 2010 - 4:32 pm

All good advice, but none better than “Take a Deep Breath”. Getting out of the heat of the moment is always best. Much like email disagreements, when you have a look at what you have written a bit later, you may wish you had never hit the send button.

It is often not what you say, but how you say it. Make your position known and let it go. Ranting, regardless of who has the better position, always detracts from the ranter.

Interesting article.

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Robb Sutton July 1, 2010 - 2:19 pm

Taking a deep breath has gotten me out of a lot of jams in the past. I can have a short temper really easily if I am not careful.

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Paul Piotrowski June 30, 2010 - 12:27 am

You’re totally right. If you start flaming, you’re just going to attract an audience who does the same thing to you. 🙂

-Paul

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Robb Sutton July 1, 2010 - 2:19 pm

Exactly…and that is never a buying audience…

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