Keep it Classy, Yahoo and TechCrunch
It's been a hell of a week in high-tech land, unless you're the CEO of a tottering Web 1.0 empire. Then it's been just hell.
First, there's Yahoo. The Carol Bartz experiment is now over. After 30 months and a lot of F-bombs, the most visible woman in tech is back on the unemployment lines (though with a salary of $12 million last year and $47 million the year before, we suspect she can hire someone to wait in the lines for her).
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Unexpected? Not really. But calling Bartz and giving her the news over the phone is kind of like breaking up with your girlfriend via voice mail: "Sorry babe, it just wasn't working for me. But I'll always think of you as a friend. Is this still recording?" Classy move there, Roy Bostock.
Yes, Yahoo is a mess. But I don't blame Bartz. It was a mess before she got there, and it will continue to be a mess until Yahoo either does a final pirouette into the dust or gets snapped up by some other Web giant for a fraction of its one-time value, and then sliced into gyro meat.
I'm not sure what miracles Bartz was expected to pull off or if anyone could have done any better in her position. At least we didn't go through the Microsoft go-away-we-hate-you/please-come-back-we-didn't-really-mean-it drama again. She cut a deal with Ballmer and moved on. It just wasn't a very good deal from Yahoo's standpoint.
Meanwhile, over at AOL, the TechCrunch saga just keeps getting better and better. This plotline has had more twists and turns than a Spanish soap opera. First AOL announced that Michael Arrington was giving up the day-to-day oversight of TechCrunch to start a venture fund backed by AOL, but would still contribute editorially to the site, including writing about companies the fund invests in (aka ethics, schmethics).
The New York Times had the money quote from AOL chief Tim Armstrong: "We have a traditional understanding of journalism, with the exception of TechCrunch, which is different but is transparent about it."
Mr. Crunchypants himself followed up with this howler: "I don't claim to be a journalist," Arrington said, though he breaks news and writes prolifically. "I hold myself to higher standards of transparency and disclosure."
Higher standards, indeed -- that news didn't sit well with the staffers at TechCrunch, who spent the weekend alternately fuming about the absolutely impossible position this put them in or whining about how they'll ever survive without Mikey to hold their hands.
Then Arianna Huffington "clarified" last week's announcement by Armstrong, saying that Arrington won't be allowed to write anything he damned well pleases after all. Then Arrington demanded either "editorial independence" (that is, the right to write about companies in which he has a financial interest) or the right to buy back the company he sold to AOL for $25 or $30 million last year. Now, finally, Arrington is done. Out on his keister. Axed.
Again, this is not exactly surprising. The Gobi desert isn't big enough to contain the egos of Huffington, Armstrong, and Mr. Crunchypants, let alone the boardrooms at AOL. Last September I wrote a blog post titled "AOL swallows TechCrunch -- but can they keep it down?" Today we have the answer: No, they cannot. At least, not with Arrington on board. And without Arrington, what is TechCrunch? Yet another tech blog struggling to get scoops, but this time without Mikey's VC buddies on line 2.
The fact that this situation is all blowing up in spectacular fashion in public for all to see is, well, deeply satisfying to some of us.
I'll have an extra helping of schadenfreude with some bratwurst on the side, mein fraulein. Danke.
My prediction: Arrington a) sues AOL, mostly to salve his bruised ego, and b) starts up a new tech blog, luring away any of the TechCrunchers who can still stand to be in the same room with him. And then ... who knows? Starting and building up a news blog now is much more difficult than it was back when TechCrunch started, thanks to all the competition. Welcome to the blogosphere 2011, Mike.
Meanwhile, AOL has to find somebody to replace Arrington. How about Carol Bartz? I understand she's available.
Who should run Yahoo -- or TechCrunch, for that matter? Nominate your candidates below or email them to me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, "Keep it classy, Yahoo and TechCrunch," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.