How A Little Editing Inflated Some Web 2.0 Hype
from the that's-all-it-takes dept
Last week, we were among those who were fairly shocked at BusinessWeek’s dreadful coverage of Digg. Despite what some folks at Digg and in the comments seemed to think, our piece was nothing against Digg at all — but it was about BusinessWeek’s reporting on the topic. They claimed Digg founder Kevin Rose had “made $60 million” when he’s done no such thing. A number of others have noticed the same thing. Rather than admitting to really shoddy reporting, it seems that the BusinessWeek team is trying to defend the article or claim that the reason people are upset is the breezy language used in the article. However, one thing is becoming clear: there were a few last minute changes that made this article seem a lot worse than it may have originally been. First, apparently those “higher up” pushed editors to change the cover and throw in the totally made up $60 million number at the last minute, replacing a slightly less ridiculous cover.
However, I just flipped through the paper copy of the magazine, and noticed that the web-based article is different from the hardcopy one — and that might explain some of the confusion. The web-based one that upset so many people has this line at the end of the first paragraph: “At 29, Rose was on his way either to a cool $60 million or to total failure.” That’s the only mention of $60 million. Since the article doesn’t say it anywhere else, most of us figured out the math that the reporters assumed Rose’s stake was valued at $60 million. This was bothersome for two reasons. First, being valued at something (especially when that value comes from anonymous “people in the know” rather than any actual market transaction) is quite different than having “made” something. Second, since the number was on the cover, you’d think the article would actually explain it. It turns out they did a slightly (just slightly) better job in the paper edition. There, the first paragraph ends with this sentence: “At 29, Rose was on his way to a multimillion-dollar future or abject failure.” No more $60 million. No more implication that the $60 million was already in the bank. Next, in the web-based version, there’s this sentence: “Nonetheless, people in the know say Digg is easily worth $200 million.” In the paper version, it’s “Yet all the Valley hoopla gives the company a valuation of roughly $200 million, making Rose’s stake worth a cool $60 million.” So, it’s still a poorly written article from a magazine that is supposedly a “business” publication, but which apparently doesn’t seem to understand the difference between made up valuations and actual money in the bank — but it certainly looks like some last minute edits were made to play up a mythical $60 million without ever explaining where it came from. If the reporters are defending the version from the magazine, they might want to reread the web-based version to see what’s been done.