Tuesday, September 06, 2011

AOL v TechCrunch -- Parent v Child, From the Child's Perspective ... and It Ain't Pretty

Strange times in TechCrunch land. A few days back, it was announced that Founder/Editor Michael Arrington has left his baby to start his own AOL-backed VC fund called CrunchFund. Seemed quite simple really ... and not entirely surprising. I had assumed that things certainly weren't nearly as "fun" for him under the watchful eye of behemoth AOL no matter how hands off AOL always vowed to be.

But, then things got a bit weird. Everyone involved in the news -- AOL, TechCrunch, Arrington -- were hit with a barrage of criticism, much of it understandable. How could TechCrunch ever stay neutral to its coverage of CrunchFund portfolio companies? These concerns were similar to those voiced by many when AOL acquired TechCrunch -- i.e., how could the child ever be truly editorially neutral in the coverage of its own parent (as well as those interacting with its parent)?

Well, apparently there is much trouble in TechCrunch-land -- and much much behind the scenes. MG Siegler of TechCrunch just posted a remarkable piece about the current state of affairs ... and it ain't pretty (click here to read this post). First, apparently no one really knows what is going on inside the machine -- including what is happening with Arrington. Second, the child is angry ... very angry ... at its parent. No, I really mean it -- very very angry.

Here's the deal. TechCrunch DID revolutionize tech journalism. That means that Arrington revolutionized tech journalism. Everyone -- I mean everyone -- in the tech and digital media worlds follows TechCrunch ... and follows them closely. That includes me (as you readers of my blog well know). For me -- as my PR team knows -- one of the biggest "gets" is TechCrunch. And, it ain't easy to get, because everyone else wants the same thing ... i.e., love from TechCrunch. Happily, my company, Sorenson Media, recently penetrated the beast with a major feature piece (click here to read and see that one, since I was also interviewed via TechCrunch TV). That was a significant victory. Brought smiles all around. Still does ....

I met the TechCrunch team up in the Bay Area when I was interviewed. And, let me tell you this -- the entire team couldn't have been more gracious (especially Jon Orlin, who hosted me throughout my couple hours there). They fed me lunch. I spoke with many. And, I met Arrington for the first time. Many have preconceived notions of Arrington -- as did I -- but after a few seconds we connected. As I left, he unexpectedly gave me a generous "friends of TechCrunch" gift that I still display proudly on my office bookshelf today. Yes, he is brash. Yes, he is controversial. Yes, he is polarizing. But, one thing you can't say about him is that he lacks passion. He poured his heart and soul into TechCrunch -- and his persona permeated everything -- every post.

TechCrunch will not be the same without him -- as simple as that. And, one more thing is a near certainty. After today, MG Siegler likely will not have a job .... But, you know what? He probably doesn't care.