The news is all over that TechCrunch Founder and Editor Michael Arrington may step down from running the blog not just to operate a new venture capital fund, but because the rumor is he was fired from AOL.
What’s so weird is to read blog posts and articles that are dancing all over his grave, but forgetting that, as much as Michael may rub a lot of people the wrong way – journalists, venture capitalists, self-proclaimed former girlfriends, friends, bartenders, bloggers, politicians, and so on – had Arrington not been so successful, there would be no TechCrunch to talk about. Moreover, tech startups may have remained largely ignored by the media.
For AOL to even allow talk of firing Michael to surface is down right stupid. Any one could have seen the day coming that Michael, who’s already a VC, would not only formalize his role, but want to remain as an commenter anyway.
Michael Arrington’s not the only quasi-VC with a blog – Fred Wilson, the “the Managing Partner of two venture capital firms, Flatiron Partners and Union Square Ventures,” has a widely read blog, and no one jumps on him about it. Well, OK, Fred doesn’t spend a lot of time blogging about startups, but manages to sneak in a mention of a start up from time to time.
The point is, some writers took the chance to jump on Michael Arrington as if he were the Barry Bonds of Silicon Valley. And if you consider his legendary spats, occasionally boorish behavior, and moody way, that’s a fair description.
But legendary spats, occasionally boorish behavior, and moody way, are what we’ve come to expect from Michael. Truth be told, the secret is this: Michael Arrington is really a nice guy who fakes at being mean because it’s his shtick.
There. I said it.
If you take Arrington’s approach too seriously, as I once did, you’ll suffer from a massive misconception about him, that really isn’t his fault at all. I’ll say this: the more secure you are with yourself, the less Michael bothers you. If you read that as me saying I’ve become more secure with myself, you’re right to think so.
If, by that, I mean to say people who are bothered by Michael are insecure, that’s exactly what I’m saying, too. It’s a bitter pill, but one you have to take in order to effectively deal with Michael.
Its this insecurity that has governed a lot of these posts of late. Take this CNN Money example by Chadwick Matlin. Mr. Matlin writes…
Startups needed a champion, and they found one in the blunt Arrington. Traffic soon jumped, which brought the magazine profiles wondering whether someone as unpredictably temperamental as Michael Arrington could be a force for good. Arrington willed TechCrunch into a thriving site and business, sucking up so much oxygen that few other independent sites were able to challenge him.
“Sucking up so much oxygen.” Where the hell did that come from? I’ve been in Michael’s orbit and never found breathing to be a problem at all.
If by that Matlin means Arrington’s energy brings a of attention to himself and his blog, so what? It’s not Michael’s fault others don’t have the security of self required to promote what they do.
And show me a person who criticizes others for promoting what they do by using a perjorative term like “self-promoter” and I’ll show you a sad-sack of a person who’s never ran anything of note in their life.
Fortunately there are secure folks like Mr. Wilson, who blogs..
I do not feel badly for Mike. He’s a bigtime player in silicon valley and he will be fine. Contrary to what many in the media say, he does not need TechCrunch as a platform to be influential. He is influential becuase of who he is, not where he writes. His reputation is made and as long as he finds his next platform, be it a venture fund, a blog, or both (how can anyone have both a blog and a venture fund????), he will remain a hugely influential force in silicon valley and tech.
Whatever happens, like other types of energy, Michael will just transform – find a way to do what he’s done with TechCrunch, but in a different way. The question is, can AOL operate TechCrunch well without Michael.
The answer is a flat-out no. TechCrunch is Michael and Michael is TechCrunch, and that’s no slap to Erick, Sarah, or anyone else. But facts are facts, and stupidity is stupidity. You don’t chase away the force behind a successful operation just because he or she does things in away you don’t like – you find a way to make it work and move forward.
If what I’m hearing and reading is true, AOL’s not long for this World if it keeps up this kind of “my way or the highway” decision-making for long. Even if Michael elected to “take the highway” AOL should do all it can to make him stay at home.