You know when you flush the toilet, and for a while the water is circling, spiraling downward, and then there’s that moment of silence right before the flush is completed? That’s where AOL/TechCrunch is.
Mike Arrington has enabled all of this. He brought in Heather, he brought in Erick, he brought in the rest of us. He built TechCrunch out of thin air. He’s made enemies along the way. He rubs some people the wrong way. But there is no question that the entire space is better because of what he’s built. And there’s also no question that what he’s built needs him.
TechCrunch is a different property and they have different standards.
Tim Armstrong, chief executive of AOL, to the New York Times in response to news that TechCrunch founding editor Michael Arrington has started a $20 million venture fund that will invest in technology startups.
TechCrunch is an AOL property.
Arrington, and TechCrunch by extension, has often come under fire for conflict of interest. Arrington’s response is usually that he’s transparent about his investments in technology companies that TechCrunch covers.
Still though, say what, huh? Transparency is a key value in today’s news environment but running a leading technology publication while heading up a venture fund that invests in technology companies is, how should we say, beyond problematic for TechCrunch as a trustworthy brand.
Perhaps sensing that, Business Insider just reported that Arianna Huffington has told them that Arrington no longer works for TechCrunch and will not report to her at the AOL Huffington Post Media Group.
However, Business Insider says they are getting mixed signals about the veracity of that claim.
Update: Kara Swisher chimes in at AllThingsD:
And so it goes in Silicon Valley.
In fact, the creation of a $20 million investment kitty that Arrington has dubbed CrunchFund is simply the formalization of a long-standing arrangement that has already been going on since he founded his popular tech blog.
That is to say, in which the basic standards of journalism are first warped by calling it newfangled truth-telling and then endlessly corroded by using a wily and unusually aggressive combination of favors and threats to extract, from start-ups and VCs in need of press, both exclusive access and information.
And now, inevitably, money.
by TechCrunch’s Jason Kincaid…
…It’s called The Civil War Today and was put together by A&E Television Networks (which owns the History Channel) and developed by Bottle Rocket. It isn’t a game or social networking app or anything else even remotely sexy.
It’s a daily newspaper that’s over 150 years old.
The premise is simple: you get to relive the Civil War as it unfolded. Every day, you fire up the application and are presented with a handful of news stories that actually appeared in newspapers exactly 150 years ago — along with photographs, maps, quotes, and a running tally of the casualty count so far. The application will be updated every day for the next four years.
It’s amazing to me how wrong The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times were on their Twitter fundraising stories last week. All claimed multiple independent sources, but everyone got the story wrong in the same way…
…I don’t remember a time when the big guys were all throwing around “multiple sources” so freely and all zeroed in on exactly the same wrong story. It makes me think the FT just flubbed it, and the WSJ and NYTimes, eager to get their stories up, just found some source who told them what they wanted to hear.
Did newspaper subscribers ever really pay for content, or were they just paying for the paperboy to deliver news to their homes?
Today fewer people are willing to pay for home delivery of the news and they can get only the information they want online, free, whenever they want it. Increasingly this news is coming from blogs and niche sites, or is steered to consumers through referral sites that curate the best of the Web.
Startups like, StumbleUpon, Digg and Reddit are playing an increasingly important role in the news business, driving huge traffic to content sites, and they are essentially becoming the paperboys of the 21st century.
StumbleUpon in particular has seen remarkable growth in the past year, delivering 700 million pageviews to publishers in December, and increasing its own traffic 20 percent, according to TechCrunch.
This year Digg shed one third of its traffic, dropping from just shy of 8 million monthly viewers in December 2009 to 5.2 million viewers in November 2010, the last month for which Compete stats are available. Pageviews to StumbleUpon grew 73 percent during 2010, clocking in almost 4 million visitors in November, according to Compete.
While the purpose of StumbleUpon is to generate traffic for other sites, Digg has long tried to capture traffic for itself, before sending visitors offsite to the original content. This further masks the rise of StumbleUpon versus its competitor. And because much of StumbleUpon traffic is generated through its link shortener su.pr, which takes advantage of microblogging site Twitter, it employs multiple modes of generating traffic.
However, audiences are even less loyal to link referral sites than they are to imperiled newspapers, as the saga of Digg illustrates. And just because people stumble onto content, it doesn’t mean they’re going to stay there, as the commenters on the TechCrunch story pointed out.
But while individual referral platforms may rise or fall, content creators should be working on strategies to leverage these trends, and get in on what amounts to a ton free traffic.