TechCrunch writer takes on AOL chief Tim Armstrong
A TechCrunch writer has called out AOL Chief Executive Tim Armstrong over his handling of Michael Arrington's new venture firm, the CrunchFund. And he did it in a blog post on TechCrunch's website, which is owned and operated by AOL.
And what does AOL have to say about it?
Wait for it… Nothing.
AOL is not returning our phone calls or responding to our emails.
But one person is talking. In a profanity-laden post titled "The CrunchFund: Actually, Tim, We Don't All Have 'Different' Standards," Paul Carr says he's more than a little upset that Armstrong told the New York Times that TechCrunch has different journalistic standards than the rest of AOL's media properties.
He calls the statement preposterous and he is openly questioning Armstrong's judgment.
As Carr rightly points out, in the media business, perception is everything. And this media spectacle is creating the kind of perception that has the potential to taint the work of TechCrunch staffers.
"Apparently the business side of AOL sees absolutely no ethical problem with a TechCrunch-affiliated fund. TechCrunch, after all, is a well-respected brand in the tech community and, as such, it will attract some pretty amazing deal-flow and, as demonstrated by the list of partners involved, some high profile investors. From AOL's point of view, calling it anything else would be a waste of a business opportunity. Far from wanting to ring-fence Mike's investment activities from TechCrunch's editorial output, Armstrong and others are actively encouraging the conflation of the two," Carr wrote.
That conflation is already creating problems for TechCrunch writers, Carr says.
"We're already hearing off-the-record rumblings from founders who are concerned by the consequences of not allowing the CrunchFund to invest. Will they be black-balled from TechCrunch? Of course the answer to that question is no — absolutely not. Again, TechCrunch writers have no involvement with the fund, and Mike has always been most critical of the companies he's closest to. But the important thing is that there's a perception of risk in not taking money from the fund. And there's a perception that taking investment from the fund will result in positive coverage. The fact that neither is true is not the point."
Carr does not spare Arrington in his rant. Nor does he spare the Huffington Post's Arianna Huffington, who appointed Erick Schonfeld as interim editor while AOL chooses Arrington's permanent replacement. He points out that a year ago, when AOL bought TechCrunch, it "vowed not to interfere with TechCrunch editorial."
"Mike Arrington created TechCrunch, Mike Arrington is the reason why many of us joined TechCrunch (and why some of us would take a bullet for TechCrunch) — and Mike Arrington should be the one to choose his ultimate editorial successor. Meantime, Tim, Arianna and everyone else at AOL should remain true to their word and stop interfering in TechCrunch editorial," Carr wrote.
As for TechCrunch founder (can't strip that title from him), Arrington is going fishing. He tweeted: "I'm going out on my boat to go fishing with my dad for the rest of the afternoon. Please direct all press inquiries to @paulcarr."
At least that was a comment.
-- Jessica Guynn
Photo: Tim Armstrong, chairman and CEO of AOL, talks at a media summit in March. Credit: Mark Lennihan / Associated Press