The TechCrunch Machine

Yesterday, the frequently polarizing Michael Arrington wrote a postabout how TechCrunch often “blindsides companies” by writing breaking news about them without reaching out to the entrepreneur or company itself first. Of course, at the center of attention this time, is Caterina Fake and her most recent startup. Despite Arrington’s reaching out to her to ask about a round of financing she supposedly raised, Fake decided to break the news herself on her own blog. While Arrington has done a lot of great things for startups, it’s nice to finally hear of someone “standing up to him” (even if that wasn’t Fake’s intention).

When TechCrunch first launched, not only was it a fantastic resource for readers but also entrepreneurs. Readers, particularly outsiders to the startup world, could gain “insider access” and learn about the happenings in the Valley. Entrepreneurs were able to get exposure for their startup. However, over time, the mission of TechCrunch has been lost, in my opinion.

Yes, it still is a fairly good resource for people to learn about tech and startups (but there are numerous other blogs which do this comparably well). However, I feel as though the site has become “too commercial.” There’s a reason the “What’s Hot” bar at the top of the page includes: Android, Apple, Facebook, Google, Groupon, Microsoft, Twitter, Zynga. The little entrepreneur has been pushed aside for the most part. An appearance on TechCrunch has become more about marketing than anything else, and the up-and-coming startup has become an afterthought. However, startups are very much afraid to “bite the hand that feeds them” because they don’t want to become the next Fake in the eyes of Arrington.

The other main flaw with TechCrunch is more a symptom of our society now than anything else. However, it featured prominently in Arrington’s most recent post, so I feel it’s worth addressing. That is, the idea of “breaking news.” In our 24/7 news cycle Twitter world, everyone becomes a journalist who can scoop any story. Not only is TechCrunch competing against every other tech blog and the entrepreneurs themselves, but they’re also competing against you and me. If I hear of an amazing new startup in NYC or a crazy development at a startup here, I could potentially break the news before Arrington. And frankly, that scares the shit out of him because his competitive advantage has long been that he has the most connections. Granted my audience is microscopic compared to TechCrunch’s, but losing out on a scoop damages one’s credibility, especially if that’s what you hang your hat on. Consequently, Arrington’s trigger finger has become quicker and quicker over time to the point that he’s almost adopted the phrase, “ready, fire, aim.”

Despite all the TechCrunch / Arrington bashing, I still continue to follow both on Twitter and check the site on a daily basis. I just wish they’d go back to their roots, rather than continuing to evolve into this TechCrunch Machine with Arrington at the helm.