AOL, Tech Crunch and the Rules of the Game

Posted on September 7, 2011 by Tony Uphoff

The latest controversy between AOL and Michael Arrington is a fascinating story. Strong personalities with strong points of view, editorial ethics, management missteps, and big company culture versus small company passion make this a particularly juicy drama.

Arrington has made an ultimatum to AOL: Give us “editorial independence” or sell us the site back. By “editorial independence” Arrington means that Tech Crunch can continue writing about companies that he invests in via his Crunch Fund. All of a sudden AOL has realized that this might possibly pose a conflict of interest.

Give me a break. When they bought Tech Crunch AOL was buying a page view engine, not quality journalism. Internal AOL memos show that the acquisition of Tech Crunch was all about content automation, not the content itself. Naming Arriana Huffington, the ultimate brandividual, as head of content demonstrates that AOL management thinks search rankings and posts per hour metrics suffice as editorial management. AOL itself was going to put money into Crunch Fund. And anyone who spends time in the Silicon Valley knows Michael Arrington's story; a clever journalist with an out-sized flare for the dramatic and an extraordinary talent for self promotion.

Let me know your thoughts. Did AOL not really understand what and who they were buying? Or are they genuinely concerned about quality journalism and editorial ethics?,

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