Update on the Benjamin-Talk Show-Gruber Controversy.

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 | Opinion

So there has been more information revealed this week about the whole controversy which I posted about earlier. If you want a different summary, take a look here.

First, Gruber’s second episode of the Gak Talk Show he finally opened up about what happened. CandlerBlog has a post with a transcript that says

Dan, the co-host, is obviously very popular and extremely talented. He’s extremely good at what he does and I’m super proud of the work we did together. And I think we had lots of good shows and some great shows. Dan, the owner of a podcast network, I have longstanding disagreements with. Came to an end. Why did I take The Talk Show with me? Because I love it.

Candler is a little more deferential to Gruber, acting like now that Gruber talked about it everything is hunky dory. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

So what’s the disagreement about? Well, Gruber just posted a star story about the New Talk Show. In it he writes that he is selling sponsorships directly. As Space36 writes,

So it sounds as though the suggestions made at the time were pretty much accurate: a fundamental disagreement over the cut of sponsorship money, etc. with Gruber able to earn significantly more from the podcast by taking it to Mule.

CandlerBlog agrees. Which is interesting, but I think not that damaging to Gruber. While sad that Gruber was leaving behind a great show for more money, its not that rare, and in any case its not why this whole thing blew up. It was because Gruber and Benjamin said nothing when it happened, and then after fans starting reacting, Gruber and his cronies started attacking, insulting, and mocking the fans. That’s what drove people crazy.

Benjamin then pretty quickly put up a podcast response, and you can tell he he was blindsided and hurt by what was done. People latched onto that and the attacks and just went on the offense against Gruber. This lead to very bad iTunes reviews, and I’m guess poor sponsorship requests. The first two shows were sponsored without hearing the episodes, and most likely without the PR disaster surrounding the show. I know that Daniel Jalkut of Red Sweater Software and Rogue Amoeba got hammered for their support (rightly or wrongly).

Since Gruber has shown he cares more about money than fans, this is a huge problem. So he was forced to respond for damage control. But just like any other scandal (think politician cheating, who denies it at first), responding this late makes it seem he only cares about fixing his image instead of sincerely caring about the fans. That’s what really damaged Gruber’s reputation.

If this post immediately followed up after announcing the new Talk Show, we all would have speculated, and if Gruber and his cronies did not respond harshly to the critics, this would have blown over in a day (which is really short in internet time). Instead, its almost two weeks late and its still being talked about.

This serves as a great lesson for managing splits and managing PR. Though it should be common sense, apparently its not. I think the three things to learn are:

  1. Don’t attack your own fans who support you, even via advertising
  2. Control the message yourself by releasing an honest statement, don’t let others speculate
  3. Control the message early, not waiting until its a big drama

However, I’m sure Gruber won’t be the first to ignore that advice.