Helpful Tips For Keeping Your Job As Editor Of TechCrunch

I rarely get writers block, but I’ve aborted multiple attempts to write about the leadership change at TechCrunch yesterday. So I’m going to keep it simple.

I’m exceptionally bummed that so many people have left TechCrunch. Of the top ten all time tech writers according to TechMeme, six were from TechCrunch: myself, MG Siegler, Erick Schonfeld, Leena Rao, Jason Kincaid and Robin Wauters.

Of that group, only Leena remains at TechCrunch. And many other stars have left as well – Paul Carr, Sarah Lacy, Vaughn Brown, Heather Harde and Greg Kumparak.

When I was fired from TechCrunch I at least knew what was coming, and I tried to position it for the best possible outcome. Or at least to avoid the worst outcome. I failed, that worst outcome has absolutely materialized, but I had a fighting chance.

With Erick gone all of the top leadership of TechCrunch, and the majority of the writing talent, have left.

Putting the why aside, one thing’s clear to me. Arianna Huffington seems to enjoy fucking with TechCrunch in her leisure time. She put all her weight behind Schonfeld when I left. But within a few weeks the rumors were that she was furious at him for the way the news broke about MG Siegler joining CrunchFund.

I doubt Erick even realized, but he was a marked man from that day on. Yes, something that petty can piss her off.

So now Eric Eldon is in charge, who joined TechCrunch after I left. I’ve known Eldon for years, and I think he’ll be really good at running TechCrunch. The kumbayah moments have already appeared. The staff, out for blood a week ago with Kincaid leaving, for now, is sated.

But when Jonathan Abrams joked yesterday that “In the future, everyone will be editor of TechCrunch for 15 minutes,” it was funny because it rang true. It’s hard to keep your job running TechCrunch these days.

In the old days of TechCrunch we were pretty good at deflecting the constant gripes from the old school press and the mobs they occasionally kicked into existence.

TechCrunch still has to deal with that, but in the modern era they also have to watch their back, because they have a very touchy psychopath conducting a game of musical chairs to the death. In other words, she has the TechCrunch staff running around in circles, afraid they’ll be the next one out.

As Paul Carr quipped yesterday, a good first move by Eldon would be to refuse to hire a number 2 who’s name is Eric(k). That hasn’t worked out too well for the last two people to run TechCrunch.

But more seriously, Eldon does have a tough job. He has to get page views up, which have declined by around 50% since I departed last year (with Siegler singlehandedly the majority of the loss). TechCrunch has never cared much about page views. But AOL cares a lot about page views. So TechCrunch needs to start caring about page views too.

He also needs to try to keep TechCrunch on the top of the TechMeme leaderboard. It’s an important indicator of the quality of writing, and the number of scoops.

If he can avoid embarrassing Arianna and do those two other things, he should be able to keep his job for a good long while.

Next I could write about how pleasing Arianna and having editorial independence simultaneously is impossible. But I won’t.

I could also write about what TechCrunch could do to bring some of the shine back, but I won’t do that either. I gave my advice on that to Eldon privately by phone yesterday, along with my congratulations. He can take it or leave it. But either way, I won’t take credit, or bitch if they fail. Like Sarah Lacy at PandoDaily, this is his show. His era.

Now, if things do go sideways, I do have some public advice for him. Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight with Arianna. She’s smart and she’s mean as hell and she tends to win her fights. I lost. Erick had no chance whatsoever. The poor guy woke up yesterday thinking that everything was peachy. He went to bed without a job.

Good luck to you.

51 thoughts on “Helpful Tips For Keeping Your Job As Editor Of TechCrunch

  1. Jordan Fried says:

    Awesome post Michael! Thoroughly entertaining!

  2. I remember leaving a comment on TC in like 2006 when it was just you slogging away Mike, saying ‘you should really bring more writers onboard to help carry the load.’ What a ride, someone should do a doco film or something.

  3. The bitterness is (rightly) strong in this one…

    In all seriousness though, TechCrunch has hit the skids big time of late. Good luck to Eric in turning it around.

  4. Amy G says:

    Arianna “huff puff and blow your house down”……is Eric using bricks for his house???

  5. Lucas says:

    Hey Mike, I get the reasons people are so angry at you and some of the TechCrunch gang for the conflicts of interest, etc. I’ve had some heated arguments with an (old school) journalist friend about it. But I have to say, you guys have been taking on the institution of journalism with a true start up spirit, willing to bust some norms and take the heat. And there is probably no hotter hot spot than a media company bucking media conventions. That was, if nothing else, brave. And I would argue the right thing to do. Cheers.

  6. lotrixme says:

    Arianna is a Devil.. She is Ruthless.. She does not care about Tech or Anything Else.. The Only Thing she will ever care is Staying on Top of the Table…

  7. I believe the only reason why Techcrunch is still the de-facto number 1 startup blog is because nobody else really stepped up to take advantage of the mess during the past 12 months. It says a lot that of all the blogs that could have taken the #1 spot on the Techmeme leaderboard (a measure of influence) is a gadget blog, and a new gadget blog at that.

    I have talked to a handful of startups over the past few months about the state of tech blogging and one clear outcome is that the market is more fragmented and Techcrunch is no longer the default go-to blog for startups. To have any chance of restoring past glory Techcrunch and the capable stable of writers will need to re-engage entrepreneurs, startups and investors and re-establish itself as not only the first choice for press coverage but the only choice.

    I think Techcrunch of the past 6 months or so lost sight of its origins in broadening coverage to general tech – a market that may have a larger audience but is frankly boring, crowded and just constant repetition and regurgitation of big company tech news with little insight.

  8. Blackfly says:

    Have you spoken to Erick?

  9. Robert says:

    So are you enjoying your time away from TechCrunch? Its very hard building something up then have to let it all go. How it turns out for Techcrunch in the long run will be hard to say but at least you got out on a high. ps Eric should take Semtex with him instead of a knife to that next fight.

  10. Jackson says:

    Leena Rao, Jason Kincaid and Robin Wauters indeed sir you jest.

  11. Jon B says:

    I vividly recall the days when you were first building TechCrunch and bringing on additional writers. Mashable was heading in the same direction, and over the years I have continued to point out the two very different multi-author editorial approaches and sing your praises in this regard. That said, these are now becoming more and more “digital media” and less of the blogs they began as. And with this very real transition, comes a stronger focus on the “media” side of the business.

    With all the mud slinging in the space, I very much appreciate this well balanced post.

  12. Alan says:

    In Short, Techcrunch is dead .

  13. Name says:

    TC is dead. Has been for awhile. No one can relate to the writers anymore because no one knows who they are. It’s a sinking ship that is half under water already. Already removed from the RSS reader, and the only reason I make it back there is because of techmeme (which isn’t that often)

  14. steve says:

    I considered TechCrunch to be dead as soon as Aol got a hold of it. They still don’t realize that you can’t get pageviews by force. You have to create something valuable, or at the very least original. People are harder to deceive than they realize.

    And I understand you’re attached to the brand, but we readers have no reason to mourn the site. All the writers are still writing, presumably with the same morals and commitment as before.

  15. Mike says:

    When Michael A. left, the site lost it’s soul. He kept the balance of inside baseball to tech news even.

  16. Eric Pennington says:

    In the Harry Potter books there was a curse placed on the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher by the Dark Lord. Every year the old teacher was unceremoniously booted to welcome in a new one who would last only just as long. I feel like the same thing has happened at TechCrunch. First Mike and now Erick. Hopefully Eric Eldon will have the fortitude to break the cycle. And yes, in this analogy, Arianna Huffington is Voldemort.

  17. Mike, you didn’t lose. You had a nice sale of your company and moved on. You sold to AOL and everyone knew the most likely outcome.

    A company is its people. Techcrunch is just a name. Blog software is easy, great people are hard.

  18. You know, in retrospect, me, as a mere reader cant help but think – why would you sell to AOL. Why Micheal, why ?

  19. Maggie says:

    Arrington – Huffington –> 1:0

  20. Given the (likely) desire to push HuffPo Tech and TC ever closer, I think Eric is going to have to have that gunfight to keep the TC brand distinct. The question is what he can bring to that fight.
    I wish him all the best.

  21. Eric Eldon says:

    Thanks, Michael.

    Fixing things is going to be intense but I’m not going to rest until we’re back on track.

  22. Grace says:

    So unfortunate what’s going on at TechCrunch–3 editors in 5 months. You just need to bring all the writing talent over to Uncrunched.

  23. Ive already migrated to Pando. I still have TC in my Google Reader list but I often “mark all as read” without even reading them. I dont know what’s going on over there but when you and M.G. left it pretty much ended my interest in the site. Arianna’s own hubris/arrogance seems to have served her well but its obviously a detriment to blogs like T.C.

  24. As if it wasn’t the case already RIP TechCrunch. Long live CrunchFund.

  25. As long as the full text of the articles are able to be viewed in Google Reader, I’m a happy camper.

  26. Phil says:

    When i think of Ariana I think of a women capable of fucking others because no one will fuck her. Enough said.

  27. Brett Stubbs says:

    TC should start by fixing their comments section. They switched to a new version of FB comments that obviously isn’t working. I can’t get it to work in Chrome or FF. Been like this for weeks. It always says, oops, something went wrong. Oh well.

    Also, how in the hell is Steve Gillmor still there? He started the whole unreadable article trend years ago, and apparently is still running strong on that theme.

    • Eric Eldon says:

      Comments improvements are coming, I’m happy to say.

      • Andrew says:

        Go back to Disqus.

        Problem solved.

        • A.B.M says:

          Y, Disqus was good. Whatever it is, hope it’s “dead simple.”

          The ability to simultaneously post to Twitter/FB with the OPTION of adding (not being forced) as a Twitter/FB extension is also a big plus – don’t see that too often but appreciate it when I do.

          Still love TechCrunch, I don’t care if it’s award-winning prose – it’s still the most comprehensive and up-to-date industry source I follow, with occasional great insights. Too bad about the tyrannical overlord. Good luck, Eric!

  28. Jennifer Caukin says:

    Mike A. – Why not bring your ol gang of writers back together?

  29. Mike Pacific says:

    It’s almost impressive how Arianna Huffington took two of the largest tech blogs around (TC and Engadget) and gutted them.

  30. Imran says:

    As you sow, so shall you reap.

  31. Dan Ellender says:

    Michael, I’m not a techwriter or editor, but I’ve been in business for awhile. I’ve seen a lot of people left bitter about years spent with a company/boss that treated them badly, and want to urge you to get through the bitterness and let it go as quickly as possible.

    Life is just too short and too potentially glorious to let it eat you up with bitterness toward people. It’s a defense mechanism against getting burned again, but the next burn will come from a different direction anyway. (There is always a next burn.) The best thing to do is dust yourself off, moving and looking forward, not back.

    Easily said, hardly done, but hope you can do it.

  32. After sadly mourning the loss of Busniess 2.0 magazine and then finding you smartly hired some of the best of that lot I was hooked. I shied away from the politics but Techcrunch had as you noted, great writers. In 2005, I was asked to write a syndicated column and have been at it since.

    With the recent bloodshed – could you please compile a post with Techcrunch alum and where are they now links? This would help each of us add all the missing alum to our lists/feeds/friends/follows.

    Thanks…keep writing.

  33. Mark Sigal says:

    Michael, I give you credit for keeping it real. Entertaining read, if a bid sad re all of the creative destruction.

    In your closing reference:

    Now, if things do go sideways, I do have some public advice for him. Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight with Arianna. She’s smart and she’s mean as hell and she tends to win her fights. I lost. Erick had no chance whatsoever. The poor guy woke up yesterday thinking that everything was peachy. He went to bed without a job.

    What might that look like strategically/tactically? I’m not Machiavellian enough to be able to play that scenario out in my head.

    Just wondering.

    Cheers,

    Mark

  34. The drama continues. Will Arianna have Eric’s baby? Will the extra-terrestrials take over AOL? Will TechCrunch go to rehab? Tune in tomorrow and every day for all new episodes of “The Young and the Crunchless” with Susan Lucci.

    Personally, I think Arianna should run Wikipedia as her talent for plagiarism is unparalleled.

  35. g.... says:

    I still read TechCrunch but the articles are nowhere as interesting as they used to be. I’m more of a headline cruiser/speed reader now.

    I’m still holding out that maybe you can grab a few of these guys and start a new “techCrunch”. It’s sorely needed.

    And fuck Huff and AOL for screwing up a good thing.

  36. Rob Kennedy says:

    what’s TechCrunch? Is that a breakfast cereal for geeks?

  37. Mumford says:

    Yup, like Compuserve: It died when AOL got ahold of it, too.

  38. Jim Harrer says:

    Can we please stop talking about the past and put AOL and the bitch in our rear-view mirror? I hate to see all this talent, energy and brilliance wasted. Call me, let’s do a startup.

    • Rob Kennedy says:

      hear hear! anything Ahhhhh-riahhhhna (and AOL) touches turns to poop. see also Time Warner. I am convinced she’s a Zsa Zsa Gabor plant from the right wing. Go back and read her opinions from the 90’s. Was she faking it then or is she faking it now?

      The two people I know who should never be on TV are Arianna and Wolfgang. At least Wolfgang Puck can cook (Postrio smoked salmon pizza ftw). Arianna could eff up a pot of boiling water. She’s like a reverse Rapunzel, you hand her gold and she turns it to cow dung. almost instantly.

      Sheep follow sheep, others blaze trails. Grab a few of your former comrades and make something bigger and better. Hell, if I found this place, others will too, soon enough. I’ll even do a guest column for free if you run out of ideas.

  39. Edward Teach says:

    AARRG! Pirates don’t work for no one!

  40. Its sad to see a tech blog that inspired me to juggle between personal rants on my blog and tech stuff is dying a slow death. So sad. MG Siegler is a gifted writer. Like Apple when they fired co-founder Steve Jobs in the 80s, TechCrunch is heading nowhere without the vision and leadership of Mike Arrington who moulded it into what it is. I don’t know what Arriana eats every morning but sweeping editorial independence under the carpet and trading it with mediocrity and personal interests is suicidal. Let’s see how matters unfold here. It will be interesting.

  41. ArringtonSucksCocksForBkfst says:

    If you had not sold TC to Arianna, all these bloggers would still be employed. Ah, right, you would not have all those millions in your bank acct, either.

    What an hypocrite

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