For the most part, I’ve really enjoyed reading all the various takes on TechCrunch’s acquisition by AOL this week. Some are good, some are bad, some are just sad. But two have stuck out to me as being decidedly full of shit. Interestingly enough, both are by Robert Cringely.
Okay, yes, I know that the name is applied to multiple people these days. Still, it’s impressive that both could dish out the same type of asshatery.
The first one, posted on Wednesday of last week (the day after the deal was announced), is entitled “AOL swallows TechCrunch — but can they keep it down?" and it is filed in the InfoWorld column under Cringely. The very first sentence sets the tone by calling TechCrunch the "new breed of post-first-ask-questions-later news blogs”. That’s fine, at least the contempt is clear.
It then quickly dives into a thesis that despite us saying otherwise, the AOL deal already has changed TechCrunch. The example? Because it was GigaOM and not TechCrunch that broke the news of the deal.
TechCrunch has built a reputation for publishing every rumor that crosses its transom, founded or otherwise, which means it has both broken some major stories (like Google buying YouTube) and completely intercoursed the pooch on others (like Google buying Digg).
First of all, the notion that we publish every rumor that we come across is laughable. If he really thinks that, the number of rumors we actually hear about might just cause him to shit his pants.
Just the other day, three of us were looking into a rumor that one public tech company was talking about buying another company for a price that would have been in excess of a billion dollars. This rumor would have set the Internet on fire. The only problem? As far as we could tell, it wasn’t true. So — no story.
This happens more often than not. In fact, it happens almost every day.
Secondly, the fact that the article cites Google buying Digg as one of the rumors we “intercoursed the pooch" on is interesting. The reality is that the deal was inches away from happening. Anyone with any semblance of a connection in Silicon Valley knows this to be the case. It’s hardly a secret. Google walked away at the last second. These things happen. So who is screwing what pooch here?
The assertion that TechCrunch was only writing about that deal because we write about every rumor that comes our way is pathetic. The details were accurate, the deal just fell through.
Further, the notion that us not breaking the AOL/TechCrunch talks is proof of us changing is ridiculous. We’ve been over this. There are plenty of times we hold on to information if it’s going to kill a deal and screw a startup. It just so happened here that we were the startup.
Yes, that makes things a bit odd — but the holding of information is something we deal with on a weekly if not daily basis. And we’ve lost plenty of stories because of it.
The article then notes this won’t be the last time we kill something on AOL’s insistance. But here’s some food for thought. The day they announced they were buying us, AOL also announced it was buying Thing Labs — makers of Brizzly. Of course, the world already knew this because we broke the story a couple week prior to the announcement. Does anyone really think TechCrunch and AOL weren’t talking at that point? And was I told to kill that post? Nope.
But my favorite part of the InfoWorld piece has to be how hard it is to navigate the author’s clear contempt for blogs amid InfoWorld’s in-content ads (made to look like content) and ridiculous page break after a whopping five paragraphs.
Say what you like about TechCrunch, but at least we don’t pull that nonsense on our readers. Classy column there, Cringely.
The other Cringley post, “Crunch Time at AOL”, went to the I, Cringely blog. Believe it or not, this one is even more ridiculous.
This time, Cringley focuses on the idea that TechCrunch is actually only worth $7.5 million. How does he know? Because he says Mark Cuban tried to buy his blog for a number less than that, and based on the traffic numbers, he’s putting TechCrunch at $7.5 million.
Never mind the fact that he’s not saying where he’s getting the traffic numbers from — or even what his are. And never mind the fact that he’s completely discounting a number of other things we do besides TechCrunch itself — like say, our giant technology conference which is held three times a year. The latest one of which just ended last week. Perhaps he heard about it as the AOL deal was announced there. But conferences weren’t brought up once in the post.
Also not brought up: revenue. I won’t go into TechCrunch’s financial details, but if you go with the information out there, Cringely is suggesting that TechCrunch should have sold for less than 1x of yearly revenue. Fucking brilliant.
I’d like the buy Google for $1,000. I think that’s what they’re worth. Revenues be damned. What do you say Larry and Sergey?
The rest of the post is about how AOL had to buy us cause we’re cool and they’re not. Yadda yadda. Oh and this is really all some big conspiracy to get Google to buy AOL someday. That’s according to an unnamed source of Cringely’s — the exact same type of sourcing derided in the first post.
I’m looking forward to a third Cringely post on the matter. It’s fantasy on the scale of The Lord of the Rings. Minus all the good parts. And with more trolls.