Like most people, I’ve read Biz Stone’s answer to the bad press Twitter got recently, which started with the Fortune cover. I actually really liked another piece, on Techcrunch, by MG Siegler, where he basically says that Stone avoided to talk about any of the real issues, and just try to distract attention by saying that all companies are treated like this by the media.
Twitter and the press
It got me thinking (hey, don’t laugh!). At Yahoo!, in the early days, we had so much good press. Anything we would do was gold. Companies were dying to write a press with us. I remember working on a deal for Yahoo! Sports and Quokka Sports in Europe. When the deal was announced (they would be a content provider for the America’s Cup), their stock price went through the roof in one day (I don’t actually remember exactly by how much, but I remember being so surprised that my work could have such an impact). Even during the 2000 crash the press was quite nice with us. Of course there was always the occasional “Yahoo is dead”, but overall, it was very positive. Right after the crash, as Yahoo! came out of it in a good shape financially and in terms of market share, it was even better. Then suddenly, as Google started to grow, things started to get nasty. The press decided that there was no more love for Yahoo!. Whatever we would do was bad. I’m always amazed that Gmail is still known for its unlimited storage while they actually technically don’t offer that service, while Yahoo! Mail does. It basically took Yahoo! 10 years to start to have a majority of its coverage being bad press.
Google benefited from the same treatment in my opinion. It’s only been recently that we started to see pieces very negative about the search giant. Facebook did to Google what Google did to Yahoo!. With “social” growing, and Google’s inability to execute in that space, folks started to look at Google differently and look at Facebook as the cool kid. It probably took the same amount of time for Google to start to get more bad stories.
Today, things are different. Facebook, even though the darling of the web, got bad press from very early on, especially around privacy concerns. Remember the “beacon” episode? And now, Twitter, even though a super fast growing company, is not adored by everybody like Yahoo! was in the early days.
I believe the huge difference there comes from the press itself and the emergence of the blogs. Very few people were reading blogs 10 years ago, and their “influence” was limited to a small amount of people in the industry. There were also less blogs in general. So most of the press were big mainstream media like Reuters, Bloomberg, Business Week, CNN etc… They have to appeal to the mass, and have to stay very high level. Today, things are very different. Blogs like Techcrunch have a huge readership and can expose any topic. They’re also conversation starters. If what they write gets picked-up by more people, mainstream media will probably pick it up too and a story will emerge as opposed to a blog post.
Finally, I also think there is a higher interest in everything technology. Facebook and Twitter sell well. Just look at the number of people who went to see the “Social Network”. There are more people who haven’t known a world without the internet and they are fascinated by things surrounding them. Facebook is part of everybody’s life at all times, while this was not the case of other internet services 10-15 years ago.