Techcrunch and Microsoft: Two WTF? moments…

Two items appearing in my Google Reader subscriptions almost led to me exclaiming WTF? on a crowded Monday morning commuter train. (Post now updated due to more info – see below)

First up was the strange experience of seeing Michael Arrington and Techcrunch complain about someone posting a video of the Crunchpad which ‘was not a sanctioned or official video‘. And which has since been taken down. The video was of the CEO of Fusion Garage, who are partnering with Techcrunch on the Crunchpad, unboxing the last prototype.

Let me repeat. Techcrunch has complained and taken down video which was ‘not sanctioned or official’.


On the plus side, it’s relegated the Mike Arrington call to end handshakes to the second most bizarre thing I’ve read on Techcrunch.

On a more positive note, Techcrunch also revealed a major Microsoft marketing blunder.

If you download Internet Explorer 8 through this specific site, Microsoft pledged to donate 8 meals per download to a group called Feeding America.

As MG Siegler pointed out, there’s a slight problem. For each download, Microsoft pledged to donate $1.15 to a maximum of $1 million.

‘Only complete downloads of Windows® Internet Explorer® 8 through from June 8, 2009 through August 8, 2009 qualify for the charitable donation to Feeding America®. Microsoft® is donating $1.15 per download to Feeding America® up to a maximum of $1,000,000. Meals are used for illustrative purposes only. Meal conversion is effective until June 30th, 2010.’

Which means that each ‘meal’ would be $0.14.

*update 1pm*

As revealed in the comments below, the figures for the cost of meals is actually directly from Feed America’s figures, so it’s incorrect to state that Microsoft set the cost of a meal at $0.14. Rather, it’s bloody impressive Feed America manage it!

I’d still argue that $1 million is a relatively small commitment comparative to the other marketing campaigns etc which Microsoft is running – and that the IE8/Feed America donation is definitely part of a marketing plan.

Oh, and for the record, I’m an MS fanboy if anything as a PC person over Macs, and an Xbox fanatic!

*end of update*

As MG has gone on to explain in an update, it’s a good thing that Microsoft has pledged money to a good cause – it’s just that $1 million is somewhat dwarfed by the $80 million that is being spent on Bing promotion – and linking it so tenously to the number eight is marketing gone mad.

You can imagine the meeting:

“Why don’t we do something with social responsibility – how about donating some money when someone downloads IE8?”

“Yeah, but how does that promote us? Where’s the brand? Hang on, why don’t we donate 8 meals per download, and that way it promotes IE8”

“That will cost us a lot, though”

“Yeah, but if we limit it to $1.15 in the fine print, noone will notice, and we’ll look like we’re as nice as that company who do no evil”

Lesson 1:

If you’re going to embrace the idea of social responsibility properly, it’s probably better to be honest and open about what you’re actually doing, and build on that goodwill, rather than trying desperately to tie it into your brand message and then looking like a bunch of cheapskates.

Lesson 2:

And as a journalist, I’m well aware of the need to offer companies a ‘right to reply’, and the benefits of going through official routes to fact check etc – but I’ve also lost count of the Techcrunch stories which get put out as quickly as possible, and then updated as facts are checked to ensure speed of information, and a fast placement on news aggregators.

If you’re going to live by the sword of fast tech blogging or social responsibility, then you also have to be willing to accept a few flesh wounds…


  1. The Techcrunch article is getting blasted beyond belief. It looks like you jumped on the wrong side of this one. It's TC that is getting the bad PR. The only ones siding with TC are already MS haters anyway.

  2. There is no false advertising or any deception here. Microsoft is simply using the numbers that Feeding America provide themselves:

    From their own math:

    25$ donated = 175 meals = 7 meals per $1 donated

    $1.15 donated = 8.05 meals

    Whether Microsoft is being a “cheapskate” or not is entirely subjective, but my take is that $1 million donated to help combat hunger is still better than $0 donated. If there is any marketing benefit gained from that, I'm sorry – they earned it.

    IMO, it’s “articles” like that one and writers like MG Siegler that make TechCrunch more of a tabloid than an actual news source.

  3. Cheers for the comment – and the link to Feeding America figures. I should have though to have a look on the charity website (but didn't as I was writing using wifi on the train to work and it's painfully bad sometimes!)

    I'd agree that some money is better than nothing, but to question whether there's any marketing benefit? It's part of a big promotion for their new internet browser, and will have been planned and discussed as part of their marketing plan.

    Compared to the money being spent to promote Bing, or the good work that Bill Gates has done for charity, it's pretty tiny.

    (Just for the record, I'm generally pro MS – I'm most at home with Windows, I have a general dislike of Macs, and I'm an Xbox fanboy (original and 360!) )

  4. Beyond the billions that Bill Gates has donated from his personal fortune, via his foundation to charity, “since 1983, Microsoft and its employees have given more than $2.5 billion in cash, services and software”.


    That seems reasonably responsible to me.

  5. Beyond the billions that Bill Gates has donated from his personal fortune, via his foundation to charity, “since 1983, Microsoft and its employees have given more than $2.5 billion in cash, services and software”.


    That seems reasonably responsible to me.