OK, Gawker, We'll Engage in Your Link Bait for Just One Post

By Sarah Lacy , written on January 16, 2012

From The News Desk

The water cooler chatter from early this morning in PandoDaily's virtual offices (aka email):

Sarah: "We don't want to reference 'accusers' before we have them."

Trevor: "Well by the afternoon, we will have them!"

See, that's why I hired Trevor. He can predict the news before it hits the blogosphere. Of course, Gawker is also highly predictable. The site is saying we're conflicted, because we have investors.

We addressed this point this morning here and on our about page and I discussed it with all the news outlets that actually reached out for comment. But to err on the side of over-disclosing, here it is again:

"I’ve also raised a bunch of cash from some of the people I respect most in the industry. This includes: Marc Andreessen, Peter Thiel, Tony Hseih, Zach Nelson, Andrew Anker, Chris Dixon, Saul Klein, Josh Kopelman, Jeff Jordan and Matt Cohler, all investing as individuals. Also investing are a handful of seed funds including the CrunchFund, Greylock Discovery Fund, Accel’s Seed Fund, Menlo Ventures Talent Fund, Lerer Ventures, SV Angels and Ooga Labs.

It’s a long list. And there is a simple reason we spread the syndicate widely: This is a news site built for the startup community, so the more of them that are a part of it, the better. Some people will call this a conflict. Even though it’s become standard for tech sites to be backed by investors they all cover, it’s certainly messy. But things were already messy for us. We are unashamedly part of the startup community. We love it and are advocates for the best parts of it, while we’ll aggressively call out the worst parts of it.

Sometimes our investors will be in the first category; sometimes they’ll be in the latter. I mean, they’ve already written the checks, so it’s not like they can take the money back, right? Either way, we’ll disclose everything.

Another note on conflicts: I won’t be investing directly in startups, nor will the staff-writers of PandoDaily. But we have plenty of contributors and opinion columnists who do, because frequently those people are informed enough to write the best stuff. And that’s no different from the policies of many old media brands like BusinessWeek and Fortune who’ve paid investors to write opinions and columns for years. News is news, but great opinion pieces are supposed to have bias and a point-of-view." Like most entrepreneurs, if I were independently wealthy, I would have bootstrapped the company. But I'm not, so I did what almost every other tech site and new media company does: Raised money from investors.

PandoDaily isn't a hobby. We're serious about building a long term business that pays reporters fairly for doing a very demanding job. It's fine to criticize us for it; everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. But you also have to criticize VentureBeat, GigaOm, The Verge, and BusinessInsider.

The reality is nearly every business publication is owned by somebody. It was uncomfortable when I worked at BusinessWeek and McGraw Hill was embroiled in the Google Reader lawsuits. It was uncomfortable when I did a show for Yahoo! and Yahoo! was exploding all around us. And, yes, it was uncomfortable when TechCrunch was owned by AOL and AOL was busy being AOL. I'm sure Kara Swisher shakes her head about the various News Corp. scandals, and then, like any journalist, she writes a scathing post about them, overlords be damned.

We're being up front about who invested in us; it's up to the readers to decide how much that conflict bothers them. I think our team has more than earned the benefit of the doubt. We're not exactly push-overs. In fact, I got to know both Jeff Jordan and Tony Hsieh after trashing their previous companies on my personal blog.

It should go without saying, but in case it doesn't: None of our investors have editorial control, and none will receive favoritism. The CrunchFund is the only VC taking a board seat, because with Mike's expertise building a tech blog, I'd be stupid not to have him on the board. (Angel investor and former VC Andrew Anker is also joining the board.)

Having recently left a company where the corporate overlords had the right to fire the editor-in-chief, I feel just fine running a company where a small amount of equity is spread across more than a dozen angels and seed funds.

Now back to legitimate stories.