Since its first post five years ago, TechCrunch has become one of the most influential media outlets in the tech community. There's been plenty of speculation about how AOL's purchase of TechCrunch will affect the editorial coverage. We decided to survey our community – tech companies, influencers and PR people – to gauge its response and present a collective view of what it people think is next for TechCrunch.
Caging a Tiger?
Perhaps the biggest news is that 70 percent of the total respondents (almost 90 people) think TechCrunch will be less aggressive in their reporting. With a parent company like AOL now responsible for any liability, it may not be the site that breaks the next Angelgate. Not surprisingly, PR professionals were slightly more pessimistic that the site will lose it's aggressive nature (76 percent) than tech entrepreneurs (63 percent).
Many of the survey's comments reflected this concern:
I'm personally concerned about the fact that AOL is a public company and subject to SEC, FCC and other Fed regulations that will necessitate additional checks and balances when breaking new stories/blogposts. It is a natural progression of things when a scrappy, aggressive startup is acquired by a larger, publicly owned corporation.
Really feel like TechCrunch will not be TechCrunch any more. Writing will [probably] be highly curated and restrictive [because] of the parent [company] situation unfortunately... They were an indie that made it and a name for themselves in a few industries and now I'd fear they'll be looked at as corporate sellouts.
Conversely, other respondents looked to the benefit's of AOL's engineering and sales expertise, along with the acquisition of Engadget for how AOL will treat its new property:
Not sure how true, but Mike Arrington referenced all the ""headaches"" of running all of the TechCrunch properties. This should allow them to focus more resources/energy on generating good content.
Engadget has been a part of AOL for years and still remains objective and even critical of AOL at times, I don't see how TC will be any different.
Less Access to Information and A Question About Quality
TechCrunch is well-known for breaking news stories and its ability to get information about companies before the rest of the media. Here's what people think about how AOL's acquisition will impact TechCrunch's access to breaking news and industry scoops:
- 52% of respondents think the site will have less access to early information
- 35% don't think this will change
- 13% expect an improvement in access to scoops
When we break it down by audience, we find the PR community is slightly less pessimistic about the site's continued access to early information than tech entrepreneurs:
- Decline: 57%
- Improve: 3%
- No change: 40%
- Decline: 46%
- Improve: 22%
- No change: 32%
Regarding quality of coverage:
- Only 10 percent expect an improvement in the quality of reporting
- 47 percent expect the quality to decline
- 43 percent said there will be no change
Working with PR
TechCrunch is known for their resistance to covering news that's appeared in other outlets. Overwhelmingly this has resulted in the PR community offering the site exclusives on company news:
- 76 percent of PR industry respondants have offered TechCrunch an exclusive
- 80 percent definitely or will likely offer TechCrunch an exclusive in the future
- 24 percent have never offered TechCrunch an exclusive and 20 percent will not do so in the future
What's next for Michael Arrington?
While the survey didn't explicitly ask about how Michael's presence affects TechCrunch - the possibility he may leave was certainly on people's minds:
Techcrunch's post-AOL success will depend on how Arrington's tenure plays out, and if he stays for the agreed-upon 3 years and successfully transfers his voodoo editorial skills to his successor.
...depends on how long Arrington sticks around -- and, for my part, I don't think he'll last very long. When he leaves, their access to scoops and their aggressiveness will decline.
While nobody can know exactly what's next, the tech community seems to think TechCrunch has a challenge ahead of them, but certainly nothing more daunting than becoming one of the most influential and widely-read technology blogs. Perhaps a survey comment sums it up best:
I would hope with the added support of such a large company behind them, TechCrunch will be able to grow in the right direction. But as history shows, this type of oversight can sometimes stifle the one thing that makes a small company great. I guess we will see.
Thanks to everyone who responded to the survey – it's valuable to get the collective view of the community. If you have thoughts about the results please share in the comments below.
Total Respondents - 89
Self Identified Industries:
- Public Relations / Communications 52%
- Technology 40%
- Other 8%