That Smashing Magazine stunt really angered me. I've always been a big promoter of their stuff in the past (especially their great new book) but seriously, talk about losing respect for their customers. You don't make claims about having serious financial issues, shutdown the website to push a paid for PDF that has old articles and then relaunch the website with a retraction disclaiming that there wasn't really much of a problem in the first place. If Smashing Magazine needed more money, why have they still ignored the thousands of pleas from their visitors to offer a PDF version of their book for purchase - for those who don't want a paperback book. It's insulting to their users to encourage such a scheme which act's purely in the capacity of "begging for money" and then upon getting lots of support from their obviously caring visitors they pull a 180 spin and throw out the trust of the people who gave them money out of the idea that the site may be under serious financial distress.
You want a public relations example of how not to run your website... use that for an example, because it seems clear from the mixed messages, poorly implemented scheme to get money out of visitors and then the aftermath (the barrage of visitor comments complaining that they were mislead - effectively a "pooch screw" of their client base), not to mention their inability to deal with the needs of their visitors has left a bitter taste in most peoples mouths. Yes they got free publicity (which has now gone sour), yes they got money (which will probably result in fewer future sales as several people stated their lack of trust in the brand will now determine their unlikeness to purchase from them in the future) but all in all, a very poor way of treating most of us that gave a damn about them.