Aol's Techcrunch is in disarray. Last week Aol/Techcrunch announced a venture fund that would finance the kind of start-ups it covers. That made lots of people cry foul. Now Mike Arrington's out of a job. What does it all mean?
After Aol CEO Tim Armstrong initially said the company was cool with Mike keeping his current role, Aol's editorial lead (and ostensibly Mike's boss) Arianna Huffington stepped in with the shenanigans broom and said no way. Conflicting stories have been flying back and forth ever since. Mike finally wrote a post on TechCrunch demanding that Aol either grant the company "editorial independence" (presumably from Arianna) or sell the company back to him. Either of which would essentially mean Armstrong had to hand over his balls to Mike Arrington.
The latest news is that Mike appears to have been sacked altogether and is in severance negotiations. There's also a possibility that he will launch a competing site, and take his writers with him. (Hey, it's happened before.)
It's all highly dramatic! But what does it mean for you? We have answers.
How will this affect me?
It won't. That is, unless you are an Aol shareholder. It's not a good sign for Aol as a company under Armstrong's leadership. No matter how this shakes out, it sucks for Aol. There's no way it comes out of this looking anything other than poorly-managed.
What does this mean for the future of journalism?
Nothing. The controversy revolved around Aol-Huffington Post-TechCrunch covering companies it also finances. Of course, Om Malik, of GigaOm, does the same thing. So does NBC, for that matter. All kind of media companies invest in industries that they also cover. But Mike has a reputation for being a bully who (very publicly) trades access for coverage. That's why this thing blew up in his face.
What about editorial independence?
Again, nothing. This wasn't about that. That's a stalking horse Mike used to try to get his way.
Well, does it say something about the state of the industry?
Yes it kind of does. There are no more rules. There is no consensus. The reason the fund was controversial is that we're trying to shake things out. This is all a back and forth now.
What will happen to TechCrunch?
MG Siegler, Sarah Lacy, Paul Carr and most of the rest of the TechCrunch crew are great reporters. They'll be okay. So will Mike. He's rich, and powerful, and influential. People will still fete his fat ass like it's made of money, which it actually kind of is. Aol/HuffPo will maintain the brand. And in a year, you'll have forgotten all this bullshit because other than being a spectacle, it doesn't fucking matter.
Is there some sort of lesson here?
Yes. Mike Arrington is an asshole. So is Arianna Huffington. This was a power struggle. She won, he lost. That's all.
[Photo by Randy Stewart / blog.stewtopia.com]