Stealing from Rolling Stone, Stealing from McChrystal; All’s Fair in Love, War and Traffic

One week of hindsight brings a few new angles on Rolling Stone’s virtual ouster of General Stanley McChrystal.

The story was a huge success, a comeback of sorts, for Rolling Stone, bringing extraordinary traffic to the magazine’s website — 2.2 unique visitors in two days last week, compared to the site’s monthly average of 1.6 million, so said Wenner Media — and moving five times as many copies off the newsstand as an average month (and bringing in some opinions from one Graydon Carter!).

Even so, the magazine was outflanked by competitors who (briefly) siphoned off traffic by publishing the story before Rolling Stone had a chance to. David Carr wrote about the theft in The New York Times today:

It was a clear violation of copyright and professional practice, and it amounted to taking money out of a competitor’s pocket. What crafty guerrilla site or bottom-feeder would do such a thing?

Turns out it was and Politico, both well-financed, reputable news media organizations, that blithely stepped over the line and took what was not theirs.

It’s almost surprising to see established companies operating under the assumption of “better to ask forgiveness than permission,” but the scrappiness is not surprising at all. A Time Inc. spokesman said CEO Anne Moore thought of it as an “honest mistake.” Sorry (but not really) that we stole all of your traffic.

Other interesting stories to come out over the weekend from The Washington Post: Mr. McChrystal and reporter Michael Hastings were not on the same page about what was on the record and what was not, and the fact-checking for the piece skirted some of the tougher questions.

From now on, nobody trust anybody else!