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Malik, Arrington and Battelle: X-22, come in

Why did a collection of tech publishers and venture capitalists lend their voices to a Microsoft advertorial?

What would possess a collection of online publishers and venture capitalists to pimp a Microsoft advertising slogan?

Valleywag today reported about a site tied to a Microsoft ad campaign where the likes of Michael Arrington, Om Malik and others seemingly lend their support to the "people-ready" catchphrase.

I sent e-mails both to Arrington and Malik and--surprise, surprise--heard nothing back. (Obviously, they are not yet sufficiently "Coop-ready.") Microsoft was still checking for me into whether money exchanged hands. But even if not a single shekel exchanged hands, I must wonder about the absence of common sense. Why would ostensibly independent voices come across as Microsoft shills? If they were hoping for a free dinner with Bill Gates, there are smarter ways to go about it.

The site, ginned up by John Battelle's Federated Media offers brief bromides on how respective authors summoned their people readiness. Check out the site for yourself, but for my money, the most interesting vignette (albeit in an altogether bizarre way) was supplied by majordomo Battelle himself. To wit:

"This may be controversial, but I felt that I learned how best to manage people when I had to go through the wrenching process of laying off scores of people in my business, and when I had to fire very senior managers who were no longer a fit for my company. In the process of doing this, I learned how best to hire, and how best to set expectations, and how best to let people go - it's never fun, but if a person is not working out in your business, it's usually true that your business is not working out for them as well."

Well, my people-ready bubby, can we "tawk?"

Turns out the "senior managers" that you fired (and hired?) didn't have a clue about running a business. Or so thinks your former boss, Pat McGovern, who in this March interview points out that the Industry Standard purchased quite expensive CRM software and had to eat $120 million in fixed costs per year.

"It was a hopeless situation. The gap between costs and revenues was too large...The paradox was that in 1999, we were approached by Time Warner and Hearst, who wanted to buy the Standard for $400 million or $500 million. But [then-CEO] John Battelle had a plan to be making $1 billion a year by 2006, wanted to take the company public, and planned to make a tender offer to buy Dow Jones. It was a plan for world domination, and we should have taken the money from the magazine publishers and run."


So whose fault was that, big guy? Let me suggest a tweak to punch up your touching coming-of-age recollection. Perhaps something along the lines of:

"OK, so I blew more millions in IDG-denominated dough in one of the more mind-boggling failures of dot-com insanity. But hey, those boozy Friday rooftop parties with the fancy sushi were well worth the price of self-knowledge."

In the meantime, I'll be keeping an eye out for more advertorial from this posse.