Audit notes: Blodget’s anonymous Zuck fans, Ongo no-go, social news apps

New York cover story dispenses with named sources

Here’s the sourcing in Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget’s New York cover story on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: “a colleague of Zuckerberg,” “another early colleague of Zuckerberg,” “one Silicon Valley veteran,” “one Valley veteran,” “A Zuckerberg confidant,” “one insider,” “a former Facebook employee,” “a former Facebook executive fired by Zuckerberg,” “A longtime Facebook exec,” “some Zuckerberg skeptics,” “One former Facebook executive,” “a colleague,” “a ¬≠Facebook source.”

They’re not slagging the Zuck, mind you. Almost all of their comments are positive, even gushingly so.

Now here’s the umber of on-the-record sources: zero. Unless you count a conference quote from Business Insider investor Marc Andreeson, which I don’t.

I get that Facebook is in a quiet period because of their IPO, but you can’t anybody to go on the record?

— Poynter’s Steve Myers notes the closing of a subscription newspaper-aggregation cite and asks “What killed Ongo?”

My guess is: How many people ever heard of Ongo (I myself just learned that CJR was on it)? It’s hard to sell something if people don’t know about it, and I heard very little about the venture.

But there were other big problems from the get-go, as Nieman Journalism Lab’s Adrienne LaFrance reports:

From the start, Ongo was hurt by a confusing pricing model. A basic Ongo subscription gave you access to content from The Washington Post and USA Today — but only “Top Stories” from Reuters, “Selected Content” from the Financial Times, and “Picks” from The New York Times. If you wanted to add more publications beyond the core offerings, those came at significantly varied prices — 99 cents a month for Slate, Salon, or Engadget; $3.99 for the Christian Science Monitor; $9.99 for the Chicago Tribune or The Miami Herald; either 99 cents or $14.99 a month for The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, depending on how much of it you wanted; and so on.

Add to that the fact that most of Ongo’s content was available for free on the web — and the fact that many of its news orgs have chosen to focus on building their own paywalls — and Ongo was an uphill struggle from the start.

— I wrote a while back about the ethical implications of news organizations’ Facebook apps, which tell friends what you’ve been reading.

These “frictionless” apps tell your friends what you’re reading, and very often users don’t know that their reading habits are being shared.e

Which is how we get headlines like this, from Consumerist:

Oh Look, My Friend Is Reading About Vibrators. Thanks Facebook!

And thanks, Yahoo. Maybe Kali really wanted to let all her friends and family know that she was reading that article. If so, more power to her. But here’s betting she didn’t.

Seriously, people. Turn off those social reader apps.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,