On Wednesday the Washington Post dissed the Causes application on Facebook with a lazy, inaccurate article. Last night, they dissed those of blogging about it, too!
There has been quite an uproar about the lazy article in the Washington Post about the Causes application on Facebook last Wednesday. A lot of people have read and commented on my post about the inaccuracies of the article, the fact that it was a rehash from last year, and the need to reframe the Causes application for which I am very grateful. I have really enjoyed the conversation and learned that I could have been more accurate in my initial assessment in two ways: 1. The incredible growth of new Facebook users who are women over 50 has raised the average age of Facebook users overall to over 25 for the first time (which should be good news for Causes!); 2. The 8,000 Causes users who have partnered with Network for Good are not the only groups that can raise money on the site. Others can sign up for donations as well, however, the reality is that those 8,000 have raised the overwhelmingly amount of donations using Causes.
As these posts and conversations were whipping through the tubes, Michael Ames, the Tech Hermit, took the initiative to reach out to the Washington Post writers directly and ask for their feedback on the inaccuracies in their article and the feeling that the article covered no new ground. He received a startling response, here is the entire email exchange:
On twitter and in the blog world that deals with development and social media, you guys are getting hammered on a couple of points.
1. Old information rehashed. Nothing new here, what prompted you restirring this year old conversation?
2. You focused on wrong stats. Network for good only works with a 8000 causes that have used causes to also ask for donations. 242,000 causes aren’t asking for money, aren’t registered with network for good in order to ask for money. You evaluation is off because you confuse causes with intentional fundraising.
3. You blanket sweep the word “ineffective” with donations being your only metric. The development sysle measures effectivesness in very different ways. Some causes are about advocacy, not donations. Some cause are about both, but don’t use the cause app to ask for money.
Either way, you are getting dismissed.
If you are having trouble finding where the conversation is dismissing you, let me know, I’ll steer you to the most influential of the bloggers who are leading the charge against your analysis.
We’re well aware of the blog chatter out there. We stand by the reporting, obviously, and dispute the alleged factual inaccuracies. While it’s true that only 8,000 nonprofts with Causes pages have signed up with Network for Good, it is incorrect to say that those are the only ones who can raise money through the site — just by having a Causes page, a nonprofit can receive donations through Network for Good without signing up or doing anything special While not all of those nonprofits got into Causes with the goal of raising money (a point we made in the article, quoting the Nature Conservancy), those who DO hope to fundraise through the application have not raised much — thus our point that it’s ineffective as a fundraising mechanism. That doesn’t mean it’s a worthless operation, just that it hasn’t shown a ton of progress on the fundraising part of its mission.
As for the point about it being old news, I don’t think that’s true except among a small number of social media types. I know similar topics have been undertaken on a number of nonprofit/social media blogs for as long as Causes has existed (we quoted the author of one of those blog posts), but the vast majority of our readers don’t follow those blogs, and we thought it was important to bring an analysis to the general readership. Others are free to disagree on that point, but that was my perspective when I decided to crunch some of those numbers.
I hope this is a useful explanation, and I’ll say the same thing to anyone who contacts me. We’re not in the business of responding to criticism on blogs, but if people are interested enough to contact me directly I am more than willing to have a conversation with them. So thanks for writing!
So, the good news was the quick email response. However the response is breathtaking in its arrogance and dissmissal of online conversations. Wow!!! You’re “well aware of the blog chatter” and it’s not old news becuase the only folks who would remember the same article from last year are “social media types” but here’s the real kicker, “We’re not in the business of responding to criticism on blogs, but if people are interested enough to contact me directly I am more than willing to have a conversation with them.”
I’m trying to regain my equilibrium here. Let me walk through this WashPo logic: 1. We’re doing a story on the use of social media to raise money and awareness of causes so we feel free to dismiss those people working in social media. We’re losing our shirt, like the rest of the newspaper world, but we won’t deign to engage in the online conversation. The disdain with which the phrase, “criticism on blogs” is dripping from the screen. So, WashPo writers, you’re above bloggers, which means you’ve decided you’ve above participating in the conversation about your own article. So you write, inaccurately, and then post it, and then walk away but deign to have a few private email conversations (which even you must know will be posted online by the blogger to whom you just sent it) it’s difficult to imagine what business the Post thinks their in — or how they’re going to be in business much longer working this way. I have often wrote recently that my heart goes out to those papers, their employees and communities that are suffering right now — but, boy, these arrogant journalists make it awfully hard!