It’s Official: Arrington Out at AOL; Schonfeld New TechCrunch Editor (Plus Armstrong Internal Memo Too!)
AOL and TechCrunch founder and editor Michael Arrington have officially parted ways, almost exactly one year from the New York Internet portal’s acquisition of the popular tech news site.
He was replaced by longtime TechCrunch editor Erick Schonfeld.
The company’s statement said that the high-profile blogger had “decided” to move on, which was a decided understatement, given that the negotiations between the pair sometimes approximated a cage match.
The noisy media fight centered on a new $20 million venture fund that Arrington is now running, called CrunchFund, and his editorial status at TechCrunch with the new role.
Many, including myself, had raised questions about the conflicts of interest inherent in the situation, if Arrington had remained influential at TechCrunch. Arrington had argued that transparency took care of that.
The name of the fund, which is close to the name of TechCrunch, will remain, said Arrington onstage this morning at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco.
“This is my baby and I built this,” he said, in an understated appearance. “So, it’s a sad day.”
Before beginning an opening interview with well-known Silicon Valley investor and venture capitalist Reid Hoffman at the conference, Arrington got off a good joke — one of many to come, apparently (uh-oh!) — by wearing a t-shirt with the label: Unpaid Blogger.
It was a humorous poke at AOL content czar and former Arrington boss, Arianna Huffington, who had called him that in one of the many rounds of fighting of late.
It was all in good fun, finally, after not so much fun.
Along with a media firestorm, the fracas included Arrington posting an angry blog on TechCrunch itself demanding that AOL give him editorial independence or sell him back TechCrunch.
AOL CEO Tim Armstrong and Huffington were inclined to do neither and, thus, Arrington had to go.
Here’s a statement that was just put out by AOL:
“The TechCrunch acquisition has been a success for AOL and for our shareholders, and we are very excited about its future. Michael Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch has decided to move on from TechCrunch and AOL to his newly formed venture fund. Michael is a world-class entrepreneur and we look forward to supporting his new endeavor through our investment in his venture fund. Erick Schonfeld has been named the editor of TechCrunch. TechCrunch will be expanding its editorial leadership in the coming months.”
Oddly, Armstrong put the news of the change at the end of his weekly internal memo to staff, in which he noted that the company would continue as an investor in Arrington’s CrunchFund — a $10 million investment — which had started this whole controversy.
Tim, in old-timey journalism that’s called burying the lede, but here it is:
We’re right in the middle of the most important season of our year and we have some critical work to get done. I wanted to share the highlights of what we are expecting to have happen in the next 12 weeks. As I mentioned last week, we have prioritized our focus areas in a concise document.
The main items are below and there will be a steady set of reviews against these and related items at the weekly product reviews and monthly business reviews:
1. Traffic Growth: Full execution of the Bridge and Tunnel Project
2. Display Ads Growth: Premium formats and video growth/improvement in the quote to collect process for customers and sales
3. Video Platform: Launch of new video platform
4. Patch Monetization: Sales allocations/partnerships
5. Expansion of Content Verticals/Platform: Genre verticals in HuffPost/video expansion
6. Mobile: Content & ads priority match/move mobile engineering up the brand food chain
7. Expansion of Devil Network: Increase partners and scale production
8. Paid Services: Increase commerce partnerships
As we have discussed, the fall of ’11 will be about driving organic product improvement and reducing our focus to the high leverage opportunities. Every new opportunity at the company will be compared to our succinct plan. If we are going to add a new idea, an existing idea needs to be removed. There is room for execution and for improvement — everything else needs to be put on the back burner.
Finally, I’d like to announce that Michael Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch, has decided to move on from TechCrunch and AOL to his newly formed venture fund. TechCrunch continues to be a part of the AOL Huffington Post Media Group. AOL will maintain its initial investment in Michael Arrington’s fund and AOL Ventures will oversee our investment in the fund.
Have a great week everyone — stay focused and keep up the strong momentum –TA
Indeed, now that the disruption is over, it is long past time to focus on the entrepreneurs and start-ups that TechCrunch is built on. Here is the link to watch the live stream of TechCrunch Disrupt.
UPDATE: It’s not over until it is over, apparently. In a blog post of her own, Huffington took aim at The Wall Street Journal over its coverage of the internal battle at AOL.
Calling out a Journal story from over this past weekend as “shoddy,” she took issue with its characterization of AOL as having a “culture of clashing fiefs and personalities,” with a focus on fighting between her and Arrington.
The issue at hand wasn’t about personalities. It was about principle; a very simple fundamental principle about conflicts of interest that every journalistic enterprise adheres to — including the Wall Street Journal, as its former publisher L. Gordon Crovitz points out today. But you wouldn’t know that from the breathless opening grafs of the exceptionally misinformed, substance-lite, and anonymous-quote-riddled piece.
Indeed, it takes a full eight paragraphs before the Journal’s reporters Jessica Vascellaro and Emily Steel move away from their gossip girl caricature “clash of personalities” narrative and get to — or at least near — the heart of the matter: Can someone running a venture fund edit a site covering the tech startup scene? This has nothing to do with personalities, either Mike Arrington’s or mine.
If only we could only find a way to also include the doofus-is-not-disparaging fired Yahoo CEO, Carol Bartz, this giant rumble would certainly be complete.
SECOND UPDATE: But, wait, what tweet through yonder smartphone breaks?
It is the Arrington, now seemingly taking a shot at Huffington about their clash of personalities.
Wrote Arrington on Twitter just now: “ok @ariannahuff. Let’s go ahead and talk about how this really played out.”
Oh, let’s — although part of me (and I know this might seem ironic) wants to make it stop.