After a week of drama and confusion over the future of its influential blog TechCrunch, AOL has finally made public what is happening with its controversy-stirring editor-in-chief:
“Michael Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch, has decided to move on from TechCrunch and AOL to his newly formed venture fund.”
TechCrunch, which posted the statement from AOL, hinted that Arrington was forced out: The title of the blog post has the word “deciding” in quotation marks.
Today’s announcement, welcomed by some who saw constant tensions between AOL and its media chief Arianna Huffington, along with a blogger uprising at TechCrunch itself, marks the end of a protracted fight between an establishment media mindset and a content-generating new media.
Arrington himself appeared at TechCrunch Disrupt’s conference today wearing a snarky t-shirt saying “UNPAID BLOGGER” — seen by some as a dig at Huffington, who had offered to let Arrington contribute to TechCrunch as an unpaid contributor. “It’s no longer a good situation for me to stay at TechCrunch,” he said, while pledging continued support for both the blog and its famous conferences.
AOL had already announced that it would put $8 million into a venture capital fund started by Arrington, who had been a prominent venture capitalist in Silicon Valley before starting TechCrunch as a side project in 2005. TechCrunch, however, grew into a major tech journalism presence, and its coverage could make or break a startup.
In September 2010 AOL bought TechCrunch, and months later the blog fell under the editorial control of Huffington, whose eponymous online newspaper The Huffington Post was bought by AOL in February. AOL had promised TechCrunch that it would retain full editorial independence from The Huffington Post, but that changed quickly under Huffington’s leadership, with Arrington at times writing about his conflicts with AOL management.
With the announcement of the CrunchFund, however, questions arose over whether a tech blog could fairly cover a startup in which its own founder had a financial stake. (RELATED: Famed venture capitalist clashes with old, new media in fight over TechCrunch)
Many analysts are speculating that Huffington was the reason Arrington was thrown out, pointing to her public statements contradicting Armstrong and AOL’s positions immediately after the announcement. Citing these concerns, she claimed that Arrington would no longer edit TechCrunch, and even demoted him in recent weeks to a role as an unpaid contributing writer.
Arrington himself remained unsure of his own future until today, posting ultimatums on TechCrunch and at one point attempting to purchase TechCrunch back from AOL, according to Forbes magazine.