Content|September 8, 2011| Author: Steven Hodson|Tags: , ,

TechCrunch and getting all sour lemons over discovering you’re not so damn special after all

Aren’t delusions of grandeur and chest puffing self-righteousness a riot to watch take place when you know in the end it’s all just for show.

I mean what else can your take away from this last couple of days of, he said, she said, and then moron to the left chimes in to the sound of chest thumping and proclamations how the rest of us are nothing but a bunch of jealous whining losers.

I am of course talking about the whole TechCrunch / Aol / Arrington soap opera that held much of the tech blogosphere amused while the rest of the real world shrugged their shoulders and went on with real lives.

Now, personally I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the ridiculous mess but today’s post by Paul Carr that came after a gag inducing post by M.G. Siegler; which by the way seemed almost as if it was choreographed.

Anyway, it was the combination of both Siegler’s and Carr’s posts and their claim that by firing Arrington the illusionary concept of “editorial independence”  would be a thing of the past because regardless of what the rest of us smucks might think Michael Arrington operated with a hands off approach when it comes to his writers. Of course the impression we are left with, after these two examples of public letters of resignation if the writers don’t get their own way, is that Aol; who by the way own TechCrunch and ultimately sign the paychecks for these writers, will ruin the so-called editorial independence.

<shakes head and slams it into the desk>

Oh please.

Any illusion of editorial independence, old media or new media, is long gone or at least become a ghost of its former days, whether it is the writers themselves that have crossed the line or publications that look at the chinese walls they create with a wink and a nod. Do you think that people like Walt Mossberg get the kind of access to Apple products without some unspoken handshake taking place over the years. OR how about television networks, like Fox, that have become nothing more that a soapbox for specific types of political views.

As Duncan pointed out in his post earlier about this mess he pointed to his own experiences at TechCrunch (oh ya disclaimer: Duncan use to work for Arrington at TechCrunch).

But there’s a huge difference between the theory and the application at TechCrunch. At TechCrunch, Arrington lets you believe you are picking your own posts (and sometimes you do.) But there are other things that don’t quite fit the model. At TechCrunch, it’s made very clear who you are allowed to write about, and not write about. For example, companies that appeared at rival conferences to TechCrunch 50 (now TechCrunch Disrupt) were off limits. I was often given suggestions by Arrington to write about companies based on his friendships, or people who were friendly to him (and at times sponsors.)

Siegler repeats the classic Arrington line that sometimes we criticize our “friends,” but that’s all part of the show. It is, and always has been the veil of legitimacy TechCrunch has traded on. But I know that at my time at TechCrunch, biting friends was only ever ordered, and only when what they were doing was so blatantly bad it needed calling out.

Any writer, myself included, who says that they have never followed direction from an editor is living in a dream world. In the five years that I worked for Duncan at The Inquisitr I can honestly say that he did give his writers free reign, with two exceptions and they were none negotiable.

We were never to link to any TechCrunch posts unless and only unless we could get no other attributions for a major story but we had better be ready to justify it. The other was some Australian paper but I don’t know the details beyond we were to find other sources.

Even when I worked for a short time at Mashable writers were expected to follow the lead of the editors. Now I had been hired there, and every other publication I have written for; including Medacity, to provide my cranky old prick perspective but near the end I kept butting heads with the editors until the point when the editor on duty told me that we only publish happy stories on Friday’s. Needless to say I’m not working there anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, and this might get me a slap from Duncan, but I admire Michael Arrington. I may not like the way that he does business but I give him props for achieving what he has; but the moment he signed on the dotted line, regardless of any “bonuses” included in the sale of TechCrunch, Aol owned TechCrunch – lock, stock, and barrel.

The moment the ink dried you could almost bet how long before Michael would be exiting stage left so really this latest public spectacle will be nothing more than a great launching pad for whatever Arrington has planned. However it is a different case when it comes to the employees of a blog now owned by Aol.

Sure it might still have the brand name TechCrunch but that is all it is – a brand name. It is now an Aol property, for good or bad, which means those employees are no longer being paid by Michael Arrington but rather the payroll department at Aol.

No longer do the stars of TechCrunch have a direct pipeline to the king of the castle and that probably sucks because there’s nothing worse than going from being the apple in daddy’s eye to some faceless number in human resources. However that is were you are and no amount of pontificating and bellowing is going to change that because this all boils down to money.

For Arrington this is just a minor sidetrack as chances are that Aol will back his CrunchFund (or whatever it gets called) and he’ll still have all his money. On the other side Arianna will have further solidified her position and you will end up having to answer to her; and I got to admit that could be a pretty scary proposition, and TechCrunch will carry with the added bonus of maybe something that does approach some form of editorial independence that the blog didn’t have under Arrington.

But you want to know something even funnier?

Give it a week, if we’re lucky, and this whole thing won’t matter one bit. Tech bloggers will have moved on to the next shiny object, reviewing some cool new gadget sent to them by the manufacturer, or drooling as they write a 1,000 words declaring their love for the newest Apple product.

Arrington will have moved on, probably causing a tsunami as he goes. Tim Armstrong may be looking for a new job, which he should because if anyone screwed the TechCrunch writers it was his ineptitude in handling this. Arianna will still be globe trotting and telling the TechCrunch writers what to do.

It’s done. Get over it.

  • Could be a good time to apply for a Job writing at TechCruch if the writers are going to stand by what they say and do a bunk.

    You know, Steven, I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned the predictions when AOL first bought TechCrunch that Arrington would do anything he could to get out of that contract and be fired “with” his performance bonus (I think it was a performance bonus, it was some sort of bonus anyway)…. Looks like things are going according to plan.