The media has had a lot of fun over the past week watching AOL, Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and Mike Arrington figure out how to move on. I feel badly for the TechCrunch crew including MG, Erick, Sarah, and many others. They are awesome at what they do and I feel that they've been left dangling as this soap opera has played out.
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.
But TechCrunch is a big question mark. If AOL can keep the rest of the team together, then TechCrunch has a bright future. No company is so reliant on one person that they can't survive that person's departure. But if others move on, including the people I mentioned above, then TechCrunch could lose its swag, as my son would put it. Yes TechCrunch gets scoops. That happens because it has a huge audience of the right readers and people in tech choose to leak to TechCrunch to reach that audience. But TechCrunch also has a voice, a swagger, a "fuck you" attitude that comes from Mike. That can also live on without Mike if AOL allows it. They need to keep the remaining team, the voice, and that attitude if they want to remain at the top of the world of tech media.
There's also a super awesome asset inside TechCrunch that doesn't get much attention. It is Crunchbase. There have been many attempts to build premium databases for the venture capital and startup world. All of them suck. But Crunchbase, which is free, almost open, almost peer produced like Wikipedia, is fantastic. Whatever happens to TechCrunch AOL, please don't mess up Crunchbase. It is the premier data asset on the tech/startup world and an incredible example of how free beats paid in the online world we live in.
If AOL can't retain the TechCrunch team, can't maintain its voice and swagger, then TechCrunch will cease to be relevant and the audience will move on. Most likely to a new media property which most likely will be started by some number of ex TechCrunch employees. That's how it goes in media these days. Big companies don't control media assets as strongly as they used to. It doesn't cost much to publish news these days once you know what the news is. See Dan Frommer's Splatf for a great example of what can be done by one person working part time.
So I'm hoping that TechCrunch remains vital and the remaining team stays on. But I'm not terribly worried about it. The TechCrunch audience, including me, will find new sources of news, information, and entertainment elsewhere if that's what needs to happen.