14 December 2006

TechCrunch UK Gets Crunched

I don't normally comment on these kind of in-house spitting matches, but I can't help feeling that five years down the line, this will turn out to be quite a pivotal moment.

The Editor of TechCrunch UK, Sam Sethi, about whom I know nothing, has been fired by the TechCrunch god, Michael Arrington. You can get the official TechCrunchy story here; speaking as a UK journalist, ex-publisher and nascent blogger, I have to say it is about as convincing as Tony Blair's explanations of why we need ID cards. But what's really interesting is that it touches so many nerve points.

For example, we have the rather droll sight of Arrington accusing his employee of "crossing the line" on ethical behaviour. Since TechCrunch is one of the most supine blogs in the Web 2.0 world, I can only assume that this means it crossed the line by becoming too critical. Judging by the very restrained comments about Le Web 3, this certainly looks to be the case: as a Brit hack, I have to say this is very mild stuff about what seems to have been a pretty poor conference.

Moreover, as several of the more perceptive comments to Arrington's post point out, there are important cultural, not to say legal issues, here: you can't just fire people on the spot for anything less than gross misconduct, which certainly hasn't taken place as far as I can tell, and using all normal definitions of "gross".

The whole affair is particularly amusing because Arrington has managed to break three cardinal rules of blogging. First, you don't delete blog posts. It just isn't done, unless there are legally compelling reasons to do so. Second, you certainly don't try to defend your deletion in another blog post, since this will only amplify the maladroitness of the initial action.

And finally, you must never think to punish a really a good blogger by firing them, for the simple reason that they will simply go elsewhere and do it on their own (benefiting from all that lovely free publicity you've just given them), leaving you looking stupid, and them clever.

The fact that Arrington seems not to understand these issues speaks volumes about the exclusive world of venture capital-backed blogs - and the fact that in the near future, some of them are going to come a cropper, as good bloggers find that managing other bloggers ain't so easy. Not so much the beginning of the end, but certainly the end of the beginning.

Update: Michael Arrington has more on his side of the story.


Mike said...

Great write-up. I also resigned over this: http://mbites.com/an-open-letter-to-mike-arringtonmaxim114

Glyn Moody said...

All rather sad.

Good luck with the new blog - I just hope you stick to the UK rather than the US traditions of tech journalism....