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Arianna Huffington

TechCrunch is not “Too Big To Fail”

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TechCrunch certainly has been dominating headlines recently. I’m having a hard time keeping up.

The quick run-down for those of you also having trouble staying up-to-date: Mike Arrington quit. Or was fired. Or was forced out. No one seems to have a straight answer on that one, but in any case, he’s gone, but he already is sparring with new editor Erick Schonfeld and talking about his next project. Writer Paul Carr quit in what is either a blaze of glory or grandstanding, depending who you ask, by posting his resignation letter on the blog. Schonfeld accepted his resignation in what is either a justified response or unprofessional virtual middle finger, depending who you ask, by posting a response on the blog. Arianna Huffington lashed out at the Wall Street Journal for “shoddy journalism” when covering the TechCrunch drama. By the time I’m done writing this post, who knows what else will happen. There seems to be no shortage of people who want to make news.

The opinion I find most interesting in this crazy story, though, is that of MG Sigler, who has been writing for TechCrunch since 2009. He remained silent for a while, watching the craziness unfold over the past few weeks, but finally felt the need to post his point of view on his personal blog in a post entitled “What Needs To Be Said” – and I find myself agreeing with much of what he writes.

But there’s one part in his post that I keep reading again and again, and it highlights what I think everyone involved is missing:

“Many of you are watching TechCrunch unravel before your very eyes. That sucks. It sucks for me too. But TechCrunch is also too big to fail. One way or another, it will live on. Try as hard as AOL might, they can’t totally f*** it up. That’s just the truth.”

The bold-facing is my work, not Siegler’s. The censoring is mine too, for the record, though that’s not as important. What is important here is Siegler’s assertion that TechCrunch is too big to fail. That seems to be the mindset of most of the people involved in the TechCrunch drama, and even most of the people around the web talking about TechCrunch.

I assure you, TechCrunch is not too big to fail, the same way the Titanic was not unsinkable. Nothing is too big to fail. Ask MySpace. Ask Borders. Ask Circuit City. Ask the Romans.

Was TechCrunch’s sale to AOL a good thing? Is all this drama Arianna Huffington’s fault? Was Erick Schonfeld’s backdoor deal shady or justified? These are all topics we hope to cover in future posts here at the BlogWorld blog, but what I know for certain right now is this: A lot of energy is going into this drama. Imagine if that energy was instead harnessed and channeled into making TechCrunch more successful.

Public problems like we’ve seen with TechCrunch would kill lesser companies. TechCrunch has survived because of their size, and they’ll continue to survive even as employees and ex-employees continue to bicker. But for how long? Certainly not forever, no matter how big they are. Just because they are surviving right now doesn’t mean their survival is guaranteed. When you are wrapped up in your own drama, you lose sight of what you’re doing – providing news and opinions to your community. No community sticks around if they’re ignored. Even the most rabid fans will only put up with shenanigans for so long.

And furthermore, is “just surviving” good enough? Isn’t the goal of any company not to survive, but to thrive?

The fact of the matter is that most TechCrunch readers really don’t care about all  this BS. Sure, it’s entertaining to watch all the drama happening for the same reasons people rubberneck at a car accident, but if TechCrunch can continue to provide the content its community wants, most people don’t give a you-know-what who’s working there. You’ll have hard-core Mike Arrington fans or Paul Carr fans or Huffington haters who will boycott the site, but even the readers who are being vocal will continue to read TechCrunch if the blog focuses on giving the community what it wants.

If they continue to instead focus on the drama, that readership will eventually fade and the site will fail. People don’t go to TechCrunch to see public outbursts. It’s only entertaining for so long before it starts to get annoying. When a company is too wrapped up in internal affairs, it is like a slow trickle of water, which might not seem very powerful until you remember that a relatively small river is responsible for the Grand Canyon.

In my opinion, saying that any company is “too big to fail” is basically saying to the community, “it doesn’t matter what we do because you will never leave us.” I don’t think that’s what anyone at TechCrunch intends to say, but the message is there every time people makes the decision to post nastiness about one another on TechCrunch rather than posting real news. Any community will leave if pushed away for too long. So I hope that TechCrunch stops pushing. Otherwise, the giant will begin to crumble and overtime, it will fall.

Arianna Huffington Says “Nobody Forces People to Blog on the Huffington Post”

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During a visit to Montreal on Thursday, Huffington Post creator Arrianna Huffington spoke at an annual media event hosted by Infopresse.  The publication focuses on advertising and marketing.

Huffington covered a number of topics such as print and how she believes it still has a place in this world, but it must evolve in order to stay afloat. She also commented on why she thinks the Huffington Post has done so well. Because of the way they engage the community, which she also believes is what has led to the success of Twitter and Facebook.

“Self expression is the new entertainment,” Huffington said. “That’s why editors and curators are more important than ever.

Another interesting topic brought up was about freelance bloggers and journalists. The journalists are paid, the freelance bloggers are not. Why is that? Because not paying for opinion has always been the company’s policy.

“We pay journalists very well, but not bloggers because we see blogging as something different,” she said. “Bloggers can blog where they want and when they want in exchange for distribution and comment moderation. Nobody forces people to blog on the Huffington Post.”

After reading her comments about bloggers not being paid and why, what do you think? Is that fair? Do you understand her reasoning behind it? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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Do the Huffington Bloggers Deserve to Get Paid?

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Today, I am saying something that I thought I’d never say: freelance writers don’t deserve payment. Before I start getting hate mail, let me explain. I don’t mean all freelance writers – just the ones in this story.

Earlier today, former Huffington Post blogger Jonathan Tasini filed a class action lawsuit against The Huffington Post, AOL, and co-owners Arianna Huffington (pictured at left) and Kenneth Lerer on behalf of thousands of writers who have blogged for the online publication over the last several years. He’s asking for $105 million, about a third of the site’s sale price in the recent AOL deal, which comes out to about $11,500 per writer (if split evenly, though I’m sure it would be based on post count). To date, they haven’t seen a dime.

The Huffington Post does have a staff of paid writers as well, who are not as part of this lawsuit as far as I know – this lawsuit it specific to the blogging “staff” (or better put, the blogging volunteers).

According to Tasini, the bloggers working for the site “are merely slaves on Arianna’s plantation. We do all the work and she won’t share a dime.”

Here’s the key point he’s missing, though: slaves are forced into labor. Not a single blogger at The Huffington Post was forced to write anything or, as far as I know, led to believe that they would ever get paid. I actually looked into getting a blogging job with them several years ago and decided against it for that exact reason – they weren’t offering payment.

What The Huffington Post offered bloggers was exposure. They gave writers the ability to blog about topics they enjoyed at a site where there was built-in traffic (i.e., the site already had traffic, it wouldn’t be like starting a new blog where you’re relatively invisible). In my experiences, “exposure” is rarely worth the work you do, but that’s a choice everyone has to make for themselves. I’ve certainly taken jobs at lower rates than I would normally accept because I knew it would be good exposure or look good in my portfolio. Doing so doesn’t mean that I have the right to sue later because I see someone making money from my work.

Look at it this way: Let’s say that I’m building a restaurant and I find someone willing to sell me beautiful tiles for $100 when it would typically cost several thousand. Years later, if that restaurant is a massive success and business is booming, in part because people like the decor, that tile seller doesn’t have the right to come back and demand more money. He named his price. I paid it. Transaction over. That’s capitalism – buy for the lowest price possible, sell for the highest price possible.

The Huffington Post bloggers, by agreeing to their contract, named their price: nothing. The Huffington Post paid it. Transaction over. Do I believe that it is right for a writer not to get paid for his/her work? No – unless you agree to work for free.

I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know how this will end, but I actually hope that the writers don’t get any money. It’s not fair, in my opinion, to agree to do something for free and then send and invoice later. What if, for example, I accept a guest post from somebody and later they come back and demand payment? It’s not a far stretch from this lawsuit, and that scares me as a site owner.

What do you all think about this lawsuit? Do you believe that the Huffington bloggers deserve to be paid?

Photo via Flickr from Pete Wright

The Most Diverse Conference in the Blogosphere

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This post was inspired by a Lena West post over at Lip-Sticking. Lena approached me after the Mark Cuban keynote this year and asked about speaking in 2008. (I haven’t forgotten you Lena). In the post Lena ask:

Really, where are all the female web 2.0 rock stars?

Well a lot of them were on the stage at last year’s BlogWorld & New Media Expo.

I couldn’t help taking the opportunity to tout our record on involving women and minority speakers at our inaugural event.

I must give Dave Taylor who served as our Education Director full credit for bringing this to my attention. Early on in planning the event he told me we needed to make a concerted effort to involve female speakers. Until that point it just wasn’t on my mind but as soon as he said it I knew he was right. If we really wanted to be attract the most diverse group of bloggers the world has ever seen, then we needed to consciously reach out and include women in the same way we were reaching out to dozens of communities like milbloggers, political bloggers, godbloggers, sportsbloggers, etc.

Like Lena and so many of you I have seen the same old boys club of speakers over and over again. Many of them are great, but hearing the same talk, or the same message from the same folks every couple of months gets old.

With that said, here is a list of great women who spoke at the first BlogWorld & New Media Expo last November:

Stephanie Agresta
Paula Berg
Toby Bloomberg
Sue Bohle
Butterfly Wife
Jennifer Cisney
Anna Creech
Jory Des Jardins
Maggie Koran Fox
Vanessa Fox –
Amy Gahran
Mary Katherine Ham
Lynne d Johnson
Rachelle Jones
Marjorie Kase
Kathie Legg
Carla Lois
Charlotte-Anne Lucas
Mary Jo Manzanares
Taylor Marsh
Jeralyn Merritt
Dawn Olsen
Wendy Piersal
Daniel Phung
Sarah
Robyn Tippins
Denise Wakeman
Debbie Weil
Leora Zellman

Charline Li was originally on the schedule but had to bow out due to a conflict and was replaced by her colleague Jeremiah Owyang. Leesa Barnes had a last minute conflict and was replaced by Jason Van Orden. Arianna Huffington was scheduled to give our second keynote but had a conflict.

You can add to that list at least a dozen other women that we approached to speak but were unable to attend for one reason or another. It turns out about 30% of our speakers were women. We didn’t have a particular number in mind just that we needed to make a concerted effort to include great female speakers.

I would argue there is no other event that even comes close to attracting the diversity of bloggers that we were able to draw to the first BlogWorld.

I remember reading an issue of Wired shortly before the show where they had this pull out map of the “blogosphere” with major bloggers from different communities being the planets and similar popular blogs in those communities depicted as moons.

I knew we had achieved our goal when I saw most of blogs in their blogosphere were attending or speaking at our show.

Our goal for 2008?…

reach even further and get even more communities to participate, hold their own meet ups during the event and draw an even more diverse group both as speakers and attendees. To that end if you know a great blogger / speaker who you would like to see but who never seems to get their moment in the spotlight, please let me know rick@blogworldexpo.com.

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