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Michael Arrington discusses TechCrunch and Start-ups at Mesh2007

Posted by Jeffrey on May 30, 2007

Techcrunch was started in 2005 because Arrington was interested in the internet and particularly start-ups. At the time, there were a few sites like technorati and bloglines but not many others. It was started because there was no single blog that covered new start-ups. At the beginning it wasn’t thought of as a business, but just something to do for fun.

He realized the site was taking off about the time he was getting more reads to stories than 4-500 per day he was reading using Bloglines. It was a full 6 months after that before ads ran on the site.

From an overseas perspective, TechCrunch France is largest blog in France and TechCrunch Japan is a sizable blog in that market. It wasn’t too hard to find foreign correspondence. Most get in contact online and express an interest in reporting on start-ups for TechCrunch. In fact the reporter who covers France is a guy living in TelAviv.

Each story is primarily a discussion and although Arrington gets the first say, he feels the best comments are in the feedback and that is something he can also participate in.

Arguably the impulse to be first to post a story is a fundamental journalistic imperative. The advantage to being first is that you don’t have to be intelligent, insightful or witty. That responsibility is for the later writers as you must contribute to the conversation.

In fact, he often prefaces the post title with the term “breaking” and only fills in the first sentence and fills in the rest of the post later. Does traditional publishing have a problem with this? Perhaps and he freely acknowledges that there are some problems in New Media reporting, but they correct themselves as more people contribute to the conversation.

The SF Chronicle has been on death row for years cutting staff etc in relation to the evolution of ‘New Media’ but do you want to hear only their viewpoint on newspapers vs. the new technology? What about others viewpoints and this is where bloggers really add value; broadening the conversation rather than restricting it to a few journalists’ viewpoints.

A simple response to this is to blame online news aggregators, but is it really Google’s fault? It is a fundamental misunderstanding of what Google is doing for news, and failure to evolve in the traditional media space. Google news has no assets and it is generating no revenue off of these stories. It is however sending traffic back to other sites. The content is actually the start of the conversation and to seed these conversations TechCrunch does is give away content as RSS feed because it establishes very loyal users who feel passionate about the stories they read.

In fact, blogs are eating traditional media’s lunch. The traditional argument is that blogs are fast and not very good at reporting, but readers don’t just return to sites with crappy content. There is the same imperative to do quality reporting to get return visitors and build credibility.

Perhaps one of the things that traditional papers can do is to allow all its writers to start their own blogs. Arrington commented that the best journalist can make more money on their own by starting to write on the side and building their own brand.

Given what happened to Engadget around their reporting of the hoax around Apple’s delay of the iPhone, would TechCrunch have reported this story? They would have reported it as the email appeared to come from Apple’s own email service and seemed credible. He would have posted it as fast as he could, based on the logic above. The credibility of Engadget suffered but perhaps shouldn’t have. Apple’s PR should have responded to him and denied the story. Does someone writing too fast have consequences? Yes, but having many more bloggers writing and contributing is more beneficial.

What would Arrington do if he was running traditional newspaper? Maybe stop printing a paper version, and make all stories available free online. These newspapers’ archives must be available free and able to be searched by consumers. NYT doesn’t get the traffic because they don’t make their stuff available to crawlers.

In the Social networking space Arrington believes that the next generation is Virtual reality… like WoW. Once the hardware catches up to what we think we should do, it will be the equivalent of SecondLife versus.

As far as traditional web-based social networking, Facebook looks like it is here to stay, because they understand Web2.0 principles like sharing, openness. MySpace probably will survive but they are doing something wrong; they don’t understand really understand the principles and are trying to close access to applications and the eco-system.

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