As reported in today’s New York Times,
Bloomberg said the functions that allowed journalists to monitor subscribers were a mistake and were promptly disabled after Goldman Sachs complained that a Bloomberg reporter had, while inquiring about a partner’s employment status, pointed out that the partner had not logged onto his Bloomberg terminal lately.
There is no excuse for what the Bloomberg reporter is accused of doing, but it doesn’t surprise me that Goldman Sachs was the one to complain. Back when I was a Product Manager of Factiva.com, a news database where Goldman was one of our clients, I remember an IT person at Goldman telling me that they would run 100 different searches against our database, throwing all but one which was what they were really interested in. The other 99 were chaff.
There’s no doubt that the lines are fuzzy when a media company (including my employer, GigaOM) reports on the news while also running a website where they can see who is reading what. Secretive companies involved in funding, acquisitions, and IPOs have every right to be paranoid. Several times the product team at GigaOM has been briefed on upcoming features that we were under NDA not to tell our colleagues on the editorial desk. In this new world where lines are blurry, your honor & word are all that’s left to keep that ethical line straight and true.
I remember thinking, when the GigaOM Principles were published, that I’d hate to have Om invest in my company because that means that he would never write about my company. But it’s the right thing to do, there’s no other way to look at it.