AOL + TechCrunch One Year Anniversary: A Look Back And A Look Forward

“So we begin another journey. I fully intend to stay with AOL for a very, very long time.” – Me, one year ago.

A year ago yesterday we announced the acquisition of TechCrunch by Aol. But it wasn’t until September 29 that the deal officially closed. Today marks the one year anniversary of that acquisition, an important milestone both psychologically and contractually.

Congratulations to everyone at TechCrunch who made it to the one year mark. As I said on stage at Disrupt a couple of weeks ago, the thing I’m most proud of is the team we built at TechCrunch, and the fact that we managed to keep that team together post-acquisition. It is the most talented writing team I have ever seen, led by the most talented CEO I’ve ever met.

Unfortunately I’m no longer there. Neither is Paul Carr. And over time more people will leave. TechCrunch will evolve into whatever it’s supposed to be when it grows up, and I hope that it continues to be something I’m proud of.

One thing is certain, though. It has been a very, very good year for TechCrunch. As of the day I left the company revenues were up 50% year over year from 2010. Profits had more than tripled. Unique visitors are up 25% (12.2 million) and page views are up 30% to over 42 million.

Congrats to the TechCrunch team and also to Aol on what is most certainly a successful business acquisition.

With the exception of a very large faceplant over the last several weeks Aol kept their initial promise not to interfere with TechCrunch’s editorial process. The problem is that I don’t think that was just a one time hiccup. From what I can tell right now (as an outsider), Huffington Post is actually becoming more involved, not less, in TechCrunch’s day to day editorial decisions. Public executions of leaders tend to have a severe chilling effect on whoever takes over, and Arianna Huffington is, without a doubt, the current editor in chief of TechCrunch.

It is my sincere hope that over time TechCrunch is able to carve out some level of independence for itself. Because, as a reader, I want TechCrunch to live on. And stay the voice, however controversial, of Silicon Valley. Tranparency, Truth and Bias. The TechCrunch way.

ps – The logo above is the very first TechCrunch logo from 2005. It didn’t last long. Fred Oliveira redesigned the site and the logo and by 2006 the site looked like this:

59 thoughts on “AOL + TechCrunch One Year Anniversary: A Look Back And A Look Forward

  1. Good post, Mike. Honest and thoughtful. Thanks for the insight. Think you will continue to do great things. :)

  2. I’m with you, I hope that team stays together and The Huff stays away. While people will say what they want if someone looks at the track record of people leaving Aol blogs (Engadget mass exodus) it shows that there is a common denominator in all of this. Then again, most people suck at math and won’t figure it out.

    • Steve says:

      It’s already too late. The posts there are being marginalized with her agenda. The numbers will begin to prove a dive into the tank.

  3. The fact that you are not behind TechCrunch is itself something that will be considered an aspect, behind the downfall of TechCrunch, not today, but definitely in the coming times. Everyone knows, TechCrunch is what we see today because it was led by the leader like you. No offence. Goodluck to the new people in TechCrunch office! Peace.

  4. mike- i sense a profound nostalgia when you write about techcrunch in recent days. i can only imagine how tough it’d be to leave after having created, nurtured and grown the site. Best wishes in your future endeavors- techcrunch was, hopefully, just a jumping-off point.

  5. Matthew Ruby says:

    Good luck with Uncrunched and Crunchfund Mike. I’m really looking forward to watching the progress and staying informed. Hold on to this one!

  6. jerryrizzo says:

    Very genuine. Rooting for you with your new endeavors. Cheers!

  7. It was this day last year when my TechCrunch offer was still in the works and I wasn’t sure if it would even happen anymore (as can happen with some acquisitions). Two days later, on Oct 1st, Heather sent me my offer letter — on my final day at Qualcomm.

  8. Akhsar kharebov says:

    Well what you say in your post is correct. Yet it is natural or I guess normal for aol to do with TC what their doing now. I am pretty sure they think it would workout fine for several years for them.

  9. DaveK says:

    Reason for TechCrunch success in the last year, AOL and Huff Post referrals !!

  10. Things were fine after the AOL acquisition of TechCrunch but merger of Huffingtonpost with AOL was the problem.

  11. gregorylent says:

    arianna boo, arrington yay .. my takeaway from the last few weeks.

  12. Joshua Bolin says:

    Hi Mike-

    Would you consider writing a post about your thoughts pre-acquisition as in before you were approached and after you were approached. And maybe some thoughts post acquisition?

    Ultimately, I am curious as to your thought process as a fellow entrepreneur; and as someone who might have to deal with issues pertaining to should I sell or should I go it alone.

    Further, I have often wondered why Techcrunch was acquired as opposed to purchasing and or buy additional blogs/media companies. A few years back I remember a post you wrote which to paraphrase said something like: [this is a] proposal of several large blog companies getting together to in essence compete more effectively (too lazy to search for the link).

    Still sad I have to read more than one tech blog,

    josh.

  13. Alas and alack … I preferred my TC extra-crunchy.

  14. I know something is going to happen post TC-AOL era. I still don’t understand that You sold 100% of your ownership to AOL, without considering users interests and the future of TC

  15. Jack says:

    I wonder how differently things would’ve worked out for Techcrunch if Aol hadn’t bought the Huffington a few months later? Reading between the lines, my guess is that the TC team would’ve remained intact a heck of a lot longer, there would’ve been a lot less misplaced talk of editorial standards, and essentially Techcruch would have been left alone to thrive.

    Aol’s initial phase of TC management was surprisingly well handled, essentially because they seemed to recognise the uniqueness of the property, and that the laissez faire approach was the only way to tame such a beast. It’s worth remembering that it was only after Arianna’s intervention when things feel apart. Here’s hoping TC continues maintains it’s cutting edge and swagger(©Wilson) going forward, but you can’t help but wonder if Arianna’s mismanagement has run the risk of neutering what was/is the most important blogging voice in tech.

    Incidentally, from a reader’s point of view, it’s a win win. We still get Techcrunch and now we have you blogging independently with no overlords overseeing “editorial independence”. Those that stayed at TC clearly have enough talent for the most part to ensure their futures either way, plus the site simply has too much momentum to fail. As for Huffington? Well it seems she’s essentially in control of any content that fall under Aol’s umbrella now and forever more. You can’t help but wonder if the only real losers in all of this are the reputations of certain senior execs at Aol.

  16. kaka says:

    lol… so many firsts… why dont you use the same fuckbook comment system?

    errr.. i mean phasebook

  17. Hongbo Zhang says:

    Mike, time to make the comment area look a little bit more pretty.

    The theme you chose is Good. But the comment area, the gray color of the comments just makes my eyes not even close to comfortable to read.

    The followings are some good example for COMMENT

    (1) http://roobo69.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/the-one-where-robin-visits-a-factory/

    (2) http://aviatrixkim.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/all-cats-are-sociopaths/

    I think very simplest way is to use Typekit font for it. Of course, you can do some more fancy stuff for it.

  18. kosso says:

    Since seeing MG increase posting activity on his personal blog recently, I’d almost put money on him being next… but only after he’s attended next week’s Apple event for TC. ;)

    A cunning plan, if ever there was one.

  19. Love your work Mike, next time don’t sell to a company that *you know* will destroy it.

    IMO There is more to this whole thing than money.

  20. I can only imagine the type of knowledge you acquire having gone through an experience like this. Good luck to you on your future projects!

  21. Good to know you started TC 2 here,well actually you are not taking traffic away from TC1 you are giving readers something to read while TC1 prepares for something to tell. I should write a blog post about you on my blog http://www.miemagazine.com and I should call it” Lessons for European startups” starting with zero Euro or should I say from “zero to the next millions” ?. Keep it up and good luck because I know this will be another exciting and inspiring journey for you. All the best

  22. Tkins says:

    I still can’t believe that you think you would have been able to run TechCrunch with any level of journalistic integrity while simultaneously operating a VC fund. It’s insane.

    • That’s a load of garbage, Tkins. EVERY blogger/writer/journalist/social media/PR person out there has some sort of bias. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Even if we don’t actively think of all of the ways in which we are in favor of or against whatever we are writing about, those ideals are still in the back of our minds and still are reflected in our words.

      The funny thing here is that Mike is likely THE most honest person I’ve seen when it comes to openly admitting his disclosures and such. Take a good hard look at many of the other top SV people. I guarantee you won’t find one who goes as far as Mike always has to let us know when there is something at stake, something invested in and so forth.

      To those constantly claiming that it’s so morally wrong I ask you to think about this: if Mike were planning to give favorable coverage to a company he is invested in with the hopes of them making him more money… WHY would he TELL you about it? Don’t you think he’d keep it quiet or be more subtle in his writing? Hell no. He’s in your face and up front about it. Hell, he’s often much harsher on companies he invests in than he is on those he does not. That tells me that he absolutely positively is as unbiased as is possible for ANY human being to be. :)

      • DMC says:

        Kay, that total integrity that Mike lives by must be the reason Arrianna told him that the conflict of interest he was creating would not be tolerated at AOL and he had to choose TC or his VC. Who’s “public execution” do you think Mike was talking about? I guess his love of money won out over his loyalty to any team or brand he had created. …and now he is being a total class act by trash talking what he left behind.

        • mack says:

          “his love of money”? Really?

          Let’s assume you’ve built a company to the point that some huge company wants to buy it for the kind of money you’ve only dreamed of. If you knew you were set for life (and let’s not forget that TC staff were also shareholders and got a piece of the pie), would you not take it? And if you say ‘no’, you’re either a liar, stupid, or one of the most rare human beings on the planet.

          It’s not about loyalty, it’s not about brand, and it’s not about nostalgia. One creates a company to make money either through profit, sale, IPO or acquisition. Just because you and your buddies haven’t created anything valuable enough for anyone else to want to buy, doesn’t mean that Mike didn’t make the best business decision on the table for TC at the time, and it doesn’t mean that your “loyalty” to your partners while you’re broke and unwanted won’t evaporate.

        • Perhaps Arianna saw this for an opportunity to get rid of Mike by claiming that there were conflicts, eh? Why is it people are overlooking that simple fact? As long as Mike stayed on as TC editor, Arianna was not in control. Win-win situation for her – losing side goes to the TC writers/staff and of course to Mike.

        • Mack – Kudos for an excellent response. The only issue I have is the part about TC staffers receiving a piece of the pie. They have all stated publicly many times that they did NOT receive any type of compensation from the AOL buyout. None of the writers or other staff received a single penny.

  23. Incredible that it has continued to grow. It’s a great resource for us.

  24. eknirb says:

    This is all well and good—-but Mikey, you decided to sell to them, right? You made the decision that “I want all this cash in exchange for my site.”

    No one put the gun to your head?

  25. darylgibson says:

    It’s funny that Huffington would be characterized as the great journalist that saves the world from conflict of interest. Their website has got to be one of the more biased “journalism” sites around.

  26. dedos says:

    honestly, for me is a sad day…. it took one year to destroy what it took 5 years to build….
    I hope one day someone can buy the site back and make it independent… ( I don’t care who )

  27. Gwan says:

    Arrington will probably be crowned as editor-in-chief again.

  28. Howard Lerman says:

    Happy Anniversary!

  29. Ethan stock says:

    Mike, I’ve still got a T-shirt with that original logo ;-)

  30. Quora says:

    For a decade, Arrington will go about doing other things outside of Techcrunch, while TC deteriorates and almost kills it’s own spirit. After a decade, Techcrunch will be in shambles, on the verge of closing down, when in a rare moment of sanity, Arrington will be brought back as the CEO of TC. Arrington will launch awesome new products and go on to make TC the largest and most valuable company in the world. Have we seen this movie before? Who else (apart from Arrington) is dreaming about it?

  31. Acquisitions are hard.
    Before we sold the company, we had negotiations with multiple companies, with many of them it was obvious that there is a big culture gap. And even after we sold it, in the end of the year most of the team was not there anymore. The move from a small, quick entity that can command it’s own destiny, to a bigger organization that needs to get approval for everything is very hard.
    As a founder, for me it was even harder. Suddenly I don’t have the last word. When both you and the new company have the same vision, things are going well. But when this vision goes to different ways, it is very hard to stay. I kept thinking on this as my company and wanted to lead it to where I thought it should go. It was hard to realize that it’s not my decision any more.
    Good luck with your new venture!

  32. Man, I miss the early days of when you started Uncrunched. Things were real back then – remember that, when posts were just headlines, and no content. That was awesome – I really miss that time.

  33. Give us more, I say! More!

    You have a follower in me.

  34. Mike when are you going to share some stats regarding how many people are now reading uncrunched since it’s launch?

  35. Can’t wait to see where uncrunched go from here!

  36. I do have to disagree with your comments, I just don’t believe all the “truths” are precise. I do enjoy reading it, so keep at it!Forward Mail

  37. I like this web site so much, saved to fav. “I don’t care what is written about me so long as it isn’t true.” by Dorothy Parker.

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