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JetSmarter tries to extort journalists for positive coverage

JetSmarter tries to extort journalists for positive coverage

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Oh, the beautiful people
Oh, the beautiful people

We’ve seen plenty of aggressive requests from companies that want positive coverage, but perhaps none as absurd as what we just got from JetSmarter — a startup that’s been called the “Uber for private jets.” In exchange for a demonstration of the service (a round-trip flight in the US), JetSmarter sent us an agreement that demands an uncritical puff piece.

The rub? JetSmarter wanted the credit card number of a Verge reporter, so that it could charge them $2,000 if they didn’t publish a positive story “within 5 business days.”

Upon the execution of this Agreement, Journalist shall provide Company with a credit card and a copy of an ID of the credit card holder (“Credit Card”) and shall authorize Company to charge the Credit Card in the amount of $2,000 should (i) Journalist cancel the trip on the date of departure of the outbound flight or in the event that Journalist fails to arrive at the departure location at the scheduled departure time or other unforeseen delays or (ii) in the event Journalist fails to post the article described above on the first page of this agreement.

JetSmarter defines that article as “a full-feature article on flight and positive experience with JetSmarter, highlighting the concept and services.” In other words: write something nice, and fast, or you’ll pay!

JetSmarter, founded in 2012, has been backed by an eclectic group, including members of the Saudi royal family and Jay Z. As TechCrunch reported, the company raised $105 million in December, pushing its private valuation to $1.5 billion. In January, JetSmarter president Edward Barsky resigned after being arrested for embezzlement.

JetSmarter bills itself as the “fastest growing private jet company in the world,” and charges $10,000 a year for membership. The service offers members free one-way flights on scheduled shuttle routes, deals on spontaneous flights around the world, and private and pooled charter flights.

A sponsored article from 2016 may give clues about what JetSmarter would have liked to see us write. “Imagine how great life can be with unlimited free flights on private jets,” it says. “Now picture a membership program that’s designed to make flying private accessible to the 1% — not the uber-privileged .01%.”

We’re pleased to say we failed to sign this agreement, take this test flight, or post the article described on the first page of JetSmarter’s agreement.