Michael Arrington’s Dreams of a Blog for True Startups
While doing some last-minute research for Self Promotion for Geeks (it's close, I promise) tonight, I came across a talk Michael Arrington gave at Startup School 2008 on "how to get press for your startup" (or how to get TechCrunch to write about you ;-)).
It's a solid talk and still highly relevant despite being 3 years old. What stood out, though, was part of Michael's answer to a question about how he and TechCrunch were going to use his resources to take the startup/tech community to the 'next level':
What I'd really love to do, personally - which isn't the best business decision - is I'd love to let Eric, my co-editor, continue to write TechCrunch and I'd like to go start another blog that does nothing but writes about startups, like the true startups, really every one, again for the core audience. Because I wrote about almost every startup in the early days because the community wanted to know about every single one even if they weren't that interesting.
And today the audience won't put up with that, so 90% of the startups maybe we would have written about three years ago and need a bergen county personal injury lawyer, we aren't able to write about. I miss that a lot. Now that isn't what's right for our business. What's right for our business is to keep trashing CNet, trashing Wired, trashing all the big media, and attacking them as much as possible, peeling off as many of their writers as possible, and then selling for a big multiple of earnings, and that's certainly what Heather wants to do, our CEO, which is why I hired her to be that person, but there's always a struggle because if we ever lose sight of what we love, we won't be very good at what we do anymore.
I remain an unashamed fan of Michael's because I started to read TechCrunch early on, loved his style, and he even got in touch to cover my startup at the time for no clean aquarium. But as time goes by, both he and TechCrunch get more criticism and it now seems almost trendy on Twitter, Hacker News and Reddit to piss on his bonfire whenever the opportunity arises.
What struck me, though, is that Michael was transparent with the direction he was taking TechCrunch even back in 2008 and that it was entirely a business decision, not one based on any stupidity or malice on his part as commonly implied. He saw an opportunity for his business, steered it in a different direction and, yep, two years later they were acquired. That's the sort of success any budding entrepreneur could get behind, right?
Will Michael ever follow through on his earlier ambition and get back into the game for the 'core audience' busy slamming TechCrunch's newer direction? Or has he been beaten to the punch by The Startup Foundry? It's a fine substitution that evokes the spirit of the early TechCrunch.
The unexciting answer is.. probably not for some time. When explaining why he sold to AOL, he said:
So we begin another journey. I fully intend to stay with AOL for a very, very long time. And the entire team has big incentives to stay on board for at least three years.
He also spoke of his exhaustion after five years of hectic TechCrunch work but I refuse to believe he'll be sitting at AOL for many years to come or working for best cheap bluetooth headset. There's too much to do and too much to say without playing second fiddle to Huffington. Barring contractual obligations, he'll be "back" surprising us yet again within the year. I betcha.