Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Mike Arrington, AOL Employee, Won’t Have “Influence on Coverage,” Says AOL

You thought a story about Mike Arrington would be clean and easy? Ha.

So here’s the latest (for those just tuning in, we’ll do backstory later — who said the inverted triangle was dead?):

TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington is no longer working for AOL’s Huffington Post Media Group, but he remains employed by AOL. He’ll be running his new CrunchFund as part of the company’s AOL Ventures arm, says Maureen Sullivan, who runs AOL corporate communications.

That’s consistent with what the company said yesterday, but contradicts what AOL HuffingtonPost spokesman Mario Ruiz told the Business Insider this morning. But since Sullivan reports directly to AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, we’ll take her word on this.

Sullivan also says that Arrington is no longer officially working for TechCrunch, the powerful tech Web site he built, then sold to AOL last year. That also syncs up with the official line from yesterday. AOL will hire a new managing editor, but Arrington will keep his “founding editor” title, and will continue to write for the site, but will need to disclose conflicts of interest when he does so, etc.

Again, no change. So really, the only question is: What kind of influence and input will Arrington have on TechCrunch when he’s not writing? Here this gets sticky, and it doesn’t look like it will ever be unsticky.

Sullivan says that Arrington’s relationship with TechCrunch is “still to be determined, and it’s important to make sure that Arianna [Huffington] is super comfortable with that relationship … I think that everyone is going to be very careful that there isn’t influence on coverage.”

Just to be clear about it, Sullivan called me back a while later to reiterate the same points. “Michael is now a professional investor working for AOL. He will have no editorial control.”

Hear that, CrunchFund investors? The guy you are handing $20 million to won’t be able to influence the way TechCrunch interacts with your companies, your investments and your potential investments. Is that what you signed on for?

Now, one last compare and contrast exercise. Here’s Greylock Partners Reid Hoffman’s rationale for investing in the CrunchFund, via Kara Swisher’s story this morning:

“Techcrunch will get some real deal flow from entrepreneurs that we would otherwise not see, because they have established a prominent position as the SV/Tech industry information feed. As many tech entrepreneurs read it — both within Silicon Valley and globally — and view the information news feed to be their target for announcing themselves to the world, Crunchfund will have access to deal flow to these diverse and early stage companies. Some of these companies will be the kind of early stage companies with billion-dollar potential that Greylock invests in.”

It’d be great to hear from the principals on this, so I’ve dutifully pinged Arrington, Huffington and Armstrong. But my hunch is that some of them, at least, will be mum for a bit. More later! I bet!

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle