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Is There a TechCrunch Without Arrington?

Arrington
….or, for that matter, is there a Huffington Post without Arianna Huffington or a GigaOm with Om Malik?

After reading a Fortune story yesterday about how Michael Arrington is the “wizard of Web 2.0″, one thing that struck me is how synonymous Arrington is with TechCrunch. He is TechCrunch. He’s the owner, the main writer, the PR machine and the brand. If Arrington, for whatever reason left TechCrunch, is TechCrunch still TechCrunch?

Frankly, I think the answer is “no”. This isn’t a slight against TechCrunch’s other writers such as Erick Schonfeld but the reality is TechCrunch is so closely aligned with Arrington that it would be impossible to envision TechCrunch being TechCrunch without Arrington actively involved.

I would argue the same goes for the Huffington Post and GigaOm because the founders behind them are the brand’s living, breathing persona. You take them out of the equation, and it’s just not the same.

It means that Arrington, Huffington and Malik are married to their online babies for a long time. While Arrington talks about the idea of perhaps selling the business at some point, how much is TechCrunch really worth is Arrington walks away to start something else? The easy answer is far less than it’s worth with him involved.

It’s not that I expect Arrington to sell TechCrunch any time soon but it does illustrate the advantages and disadvantages of having such a large and strong personality at the helm of a company where the entrepreneur and the entity as so closely intertwined.

Update: 24/7, which put together a list of the 25 most valuable blogs, suggests TechCrunch is worth $36-million based on traffic (uniques and pageviews), demographics, monetization and risks (including the dependence on star founders).

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  • http://socialstrategist.com Jay Neely

    I don’t think Mr. Arrington can be called the main writer of TechCrunch anymore. Most of the time, there’s a single post on the front page by him, maybe two. Usually there’s not even a distinction in importance of the posts that he writes versus what Erick or Duncan are writing. And because of the benefits associated with being featured on TechCrunch, there are few scoops or exclusives that TechCrunch could get from Mike Arrington’s connections that TechCrunch couldn’t get on its own with someone else at the helm.

    Does TechCrunch need *someone* to be the embodiment of the brand? Absolutely. Startups are small group endeavors, where personal connections are the main route for information flow because of preference as much because there aren’t many other routes(who’s heard of a startup with a PR division?). Networking at conferences is much more successful when networkers aren’t looking for *a* representative, but *the* representative of your group.

    So respectfully, I disagree. Arrington will always have a cult of personality for as long as he seeks to maintain it. But TechCrunch will continue to succeed so long as it *has* personality.

  • http://www.mappingtheweb.com Aidan Henry

    I agree. A blog is nothing without its original publisher. I wrote a similar post in October 2007 when people were discussing TechCrunch’s valuation…

    http://www.mappingtheweb.com/2007/10/03/techcrunch-valuation/

    Cheers,
    Aidan
    http://www.MappingTheWeb.com

  • E Guy

    I disagree. Any small business (like a blog) is one and the same with the owner. However, as the business grows, it develops a life of its own and has associated value not necessarily tied to the owner. If not, then it remains a small business and the value IS tied to the owner.

    Techcrunch’s opportunity is to build value in the blog via other assets and in so doing will build entreprise value not just value associated with Arrington.

    This transition is key to most entrepreneurial organizations becoming successful beyond their initial value proposition which is almost always tied to the original founder.

  • http://skypejournal.com Jim Courtney

    I think with GigaOm a situation is being forced on a “personality identified” business where we can see that GigaOm can survive Om.

    As most readers will know Om suffered a heart attack between Christmas and New Years. On coming home after a week in the hospital he has been able to write a few posts but my network tells me he still needs more recovery time. This means he can’t be out agressively researching stories or talking to his network 16 hours a day.

    In the meantime, while doing a guest post, I have had the opportunity to work with some of his staff and found an operation that is both professional and well enough organized to ensure that quality posts. appear. A lot of this ongoing success has to be attributed to Om’s having built a true business organization with delegated responsibilities and motivation to build on GigaOm’s reputation and values.

    GigaOm continues the tradition and remains a “must read”, transparent to Om’s personal health situation.

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  • Banker

    Mike Arrington is actively trying to sell techcrunch site. He has a problem. No one wants to buy it. No VC wants to fund him.

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