Blogs have become an extremely popular and lucrative enterprise. The immediacy and interactivity with which the most popular examples operate has garnered hundreds of thousands of hits each day. One of, if not the most popular blogs in the technology sector is TechCrunch.
With great power comes great responsibility though, and this weekend TechCrunch made the kind of error that highlights the issues of publishing online. Essentially, their European branch wrote a story concerning James Whatley, head of social media at Spinvox. In it TechCrunch suggested that he may leave his role in the coming week.
Unfortunately this news was still far from confirmed and was based around talk within the industry. The blog post in question was only supposed to be saved as a draft, hidden away until such time that confirmation could be sought or that the news eventually broke. Somehow though, it slipped through the net. The story was published and swiftly made its way around the blogosphere.
With the popularity that TechCrunch holds this news wasn’t simply distributed to a few people here and there; it was on the RSS feeds of thousands and subsequently continued to grow. Of course with the natural amalgamation of blogs and social media, notably Twitter, the erroneous news that Whatley was leaving had imprinted itself everywhere. That kind of coverage can’t be withdrawn; once it’s out there, sadly there isn’t a great deal anybody can do to rein it in.
Of course the most unfortunate outcome of this entire comedy of errors is that there is a man’s livelihood at stake. Whilst he’s been feeling the heat a little with the continuing conflict between the BBC and Spinvox over the efficacy of their service, this latest unconfirmed leak will do little to subdue the flames.
It may be a storm in a teacup; but once again the potential dangers of online publishing are laid out for all to see. You have to be sure of your content in any medium, regardless of the reach of your immediate reach. News can spread like a wildfire across the Internet, leading to the humbling kind of apology that TechCrunch Europe had to issue this morning.