> TechCrunch: The End of an Era

TechCrunch: The End of an Era

Posted on Saturday, September 17, 2011 | No Comments

There are key moments in my life when I’ve been so sure that things have come to an end and that those things will never be quite the same or as good again. For example, Chris Evan’s leaving the Radio 1 Breakfast show in 1997, Russell Brand’s departure from Radio 2, the very last episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, Bill Gate’s exit from the computer industry and now the decline of TechCrunch.

To explain why this is so significant to me, we must go back to the start….

As a younger man, UK Technology website “The Register” was my source of all my insider tech news and reviews, and I read religiously a large percentage of everything they published. Once such article they published was a extract from a new, up and coming book called “Bringing Nothing to the Party”, by a guy named Paul Carr. The extract hooked me straight away, I loved the writing and I enjoyed the content and I just had to find out more.

In the modern day world of the web though I didn’t have to look very far, printed at the bottom of the article was a link to Paul’s site, which was a blog site and I started to read, adding the site as a favourite and subscribing to the RSS feed. 

Controversy wasn’t far away though with Paul Carr and a disagreement between him and one of the writers at El Reg caused a spat – Mr Carr as I’d quickly learnt was able to put his points across in a reasonable and cohesive argument that was difficult to disagree with. It was at this point Paul Carr’s new blog on The Guardian – “Not Suitable For Work” – was announced, my reading habits quickly changed and El Reg was dumped in favour of following Carr’s antics and his own take on the technology scene.

NSFW was an outrageous blog and Carr took every opportunity to put ‘his voice’ and stamp on every post. Meanwhile on his personal blog, he was hosting an American business reporter in the UK who was promoting her first book. That American business reporter was no less than Sarah Lacy.

Carr had mentioned TechCrunch in a couple of his Guardian articles and after UK start-up Spotify was reportedly involved in turning over customer data to the RIAA, TechCrunch published the story. Carr fought the story and set out to put the record straight on what exactly happened, as his sources had revealed a very different version of events….

I was hooked: following an incident involving a ‘reader’ spitting in the face of TechCrunch founder, Mike Arrington he’d decided to announce a two week sabbatical and that non-other than Sarah Lacy would stand-in as the acting Editor of TechCrunch. The site was added to my RSS feed and I read every word Ms Lacy posted on the site and I started to read some of the other stories too – Arrington’s story was equally interesting and his unconventional approach to writing articles was refreshingly truthful and full of real-life.

Sarah completed her two week stand-in, but I was already in too deep and I tweeted TechCruch, Arrington and Sarah Lacy to get together and sign a longer term contact with each other. Ms Lacy did actually re-tweet me a couple of times and I know I’m not able to take credit for her hire, but it was most pleasing when Sarah was announced as a continuous fixture to the sites writing staff.

Meanwhile, some time later, the financial crisis had hit and old media struggled like most other companies and The Guardian was forced to closed down Paul Carr’s NSFW column. The Guardian’s loss became TechCrunch’s fortune as Arrington swooped in with an offer to Carr to transfer his blog to his site (if you read Paul Carr’s book ‘The Upgrade’ you’ll learn the full story of what actually happened).

For me, TechCrunch was my new place of worship and for the past three (maybe more), years I’ve read just about everything they’ve ever written and followed a number of the writers on Twitter. I've learnt more about the Valley and the characters involved on the Tech scene from the site than anywhere else; Arrington, Carr, Lacy, MG Siegler (ParisLemon), Heather Harde became the A-Team of tech writing on that site and I enjoyed everything they produced.

Almost one year ago, Arrington stood on state at “TechCrunch Disrupt” (the annual conference), that he was to sell TechCrunch to AOL. One year later and bringing this story up to date, Arrington had been ousted from TechCrunch by Ariana Huffington (of the Huffington Post, which AOL also acquired), and today Paul Carr has announced his resignation from the site.

Without Arrington, Paul Carr, Sarah Lacy and MG in my mind TechCrunch will no longer have the voice and swagger of the last word in tech and start-ups. With Carr gone, I believe its only a matter of time before Lacy, who is currently on maternity leave from TechCrunch, will quit the site in similar fashion. MG, who is also an avid Arrington-supporter is also on watch for a potential ‘jump ship’ moment, leaving AOL with nothing more than the ‘TechCrunch’ brand, which will become worthless without the talent.

Paul Carr and Sarah Lacy are my inspiration for my start in blogging and their insight and knowledge (ok, Lacy’s insight and knowledge and Carr’s disregard to playing by the rules), are the source of my understanding of the modern day web 2.0 world and the companies involved in that world.

I always hoped that one day I could write something worthy of submission to TechCrunch and be published alongside those great names of regular writers – now I realise that that will probably never happen and I can only sit and wait to find out what these fine writers do next and follow them in which ever project they embark on next.

My dream scenario would be for the creation of a new tech blog and reuniting the team for something special, but that seems like too much to ask and a dream that seems out of reach. It’s the end of an era and it feels like one of those key moments of change.

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