I like Sarah Lacy’s writing. She’s funny, entertaining, and also a hard worker. Her pieces usually make it clear that she spends ample time researching the topics at hand. I wouldn’t go as far to say she’s my favorite tech reporter (today that distinction would go to Kara Swisher), but I was very happy this morning to learn of the launch of her new site, PandoDaily.
It’s interesting that a tech news site raised venture funding from a very impressive list of investors. To me, this means that it must be an extremely ambitious enterprise. They are aiming to build something much bigger than Techcrunch. Some of the funds and investors on the list won’t write you a check if you’re not swinging for the fences. This makes sense; If I were in Sarah Lacy and Michael Arrington’s place, I’d be out to create a larger megaphone than the Huffington Post just to one-up Arianna Huffington. Given their recent history that could be a powerful motivation, and it will be fun to watch how this develops.
There is one problem with taking money from an array of investors who collectively have a stake in a significant chunk of the Silicon Valley ecosystem: the obvious conflicts of interest that will arise. Gawker shares their opinion on the difference between PandoDaily and what Techcrunch used to be:
Lacy, in contrast, will spend a lot more time covering her owners. At least she’s “unashamed” about that, as she put it. And points to the longtime Valley reporter for knowing how to appeal to tech titans’ vanity. Ever since the changing of the guard at TechCrunch, they’ve longed for a more deeply intertwined publication that will cover the Valley with the fervor of a supplicant. Lacy just sold them one. It’s not clear if the seventeen different stakeholders will be able to effectively block stories they don’t like. But then it’s not clear they’ll even need to.
To which Lacy responds:
We’re being up front about who invested in us; it’s up to the readers to decide how much that conflict bothers them.
Right off the bat, critical readers will see that one of their first articles is a PR piece for a sister portfolio company, Wealthfront. This startup provides wealth management for people who recently made some money and don’t know much about investing. I checked out the service and it looks useful. However, I do believe that in the interest of reporting fairness Lacy should have mentioned other options besides Wealthfront. There must be some competitors out there, right? A quick Google search brings up Covestor and Collective2.
I strongly believe that the first thing anyone who makes some money should do is educate him / herself. When I first sold some Inktomi stock in 1999, I immediately bought a copy of Burton Malkiel’s A Random Walk Down Wall Street. I read it as fast as I could to prepare for the incoming zombie invasion. I wouldn’t rule out using the services of a firm like Wealthfront, but only after having learned the basics. Paul Buchheit explains all this very eloquently in a from post almost two years ago, titled “What do do with your millions.”
Reading PandoDaily will be an exercise in critical thinking and agenda detection. This is a good training ground for a critical reader, because connecting the dots should be relatively easy. Everyone has an agenda but not everyone discloses it… and that includes me. Hint: brains.