Blog Post

Michael Arrington’s Road to Millions

Earlier this week, AOL (s AOL) snapped up TechCrunch, a technology blog network started by former attorney Michael Arrington, for an undisclosed amount of money. The final price is said to be somewhere between $25 million to $60 million. The acquisition has sparked a lot of conversation, especially among his peers.

To me, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the past decade and the evolution of blog-based media. Gawker Media and Weblogs Inc., have been the torchbearers of this new fast-paced, slightly quirky, highly passionate form of media.

Michael and I, along with my dear friend Rafat Ali, were early converts to this new kind of media. Like Arrington, I learned much about blogging from Dave Winer and Doc Searls. I married blogging to my analytical and old-school reporting skills, and it turned into GigaOM, the company. Rafat took his love of media and content and started PaidContent, which was acquired by The Guardian. Michael took his doggedness and heart-on-sleeve passion for all things startup-related and turned it into TechCrunch.

Michael is a somewhat complicated man, one who often elicits a very binary emotional response. He can be both a ruthless competitor and an extremely loyal friend, and I’ve been on both sides of that equation. We are competitors, but not enemies. From my vantage point, he worked extremely hard, sometimes too hard, to make TechCrunch something a big, New York company would pay millions of dollars to own.

As I looked back over the past five years, there were some seminal moments that helped shape Michael’s — and thus TechCrunch’s — destiny. With the help of the folks from Column Five Media, we created this infographic, which is the story of TechCrunch.

Earlier this week, when he announced the acquisition, it dawned on me what a pivotal moment in the history of blog-based media entities it was. Five years ago, we were the upstarts, the outsiders and the crazies. Today, we are the media. Go figure!

Related research from GigaOM Pro (subscription req’d):

37 Responses to “Michael Arrington’s Road to Millions”

  1. No slide when TC posted all those stolen Twitter documents? Or when they decided Apple coverage drove more traffic than their Web 2.0 roots? Those were turning points for me as a reader… who tunes in less these days.

  2. Very nice timeline. It’s interesting looking back at this now and seeing myself in that first TechCrunch meetup photo in Mike’s backyard. I brought the fire pit for the event.

    I think the most pivotal moment for TechCrunch was in 2005 when I crashed at Mike’s place during the Web 2.0 conference. We both marveled that his RSS subscribers jumped from less than 3,000 to 7,500 over the course of the conference. That was THE moment that Mike realized that TechCrunch could be more than just a hobby.

    A lot has happened since then to create value. GigaOM, could you be next?

  3. I just followed a link from

    I remember you Om from Twiistup 007, where you applauded Richard Rosenblatt for calling the LA Times a charity.
    When Demand filed for it’s IPO we saw who was really in the red asking the public to float a charity.

    Just my passing thought.

    I have no comment about your story, only that the infographic doesn’t do it justice.

  4. Vivek Wadhwa who contributes on TechCrunch commented recently that he alluded to Mike Arrington as part Oprah, part Howard Stern; and I thought that was quite appropriate.
    Om can be compared to the late Tim Russert, they both have their own place in this industry…

  5. The best move made was clearly the hiring of the writers from B2.0. I agree with that Om.

    I am little lost as to the impact of a two month period at the end of 2009 that 22 posts, the Scamville portion. In the grand scheme of posts over the history of TC, the percentage is of course very small. Why do you think those posts got your attention of what eventually led to the buyout? I am missing it.

  6. Oh you forgot to include his moving to Seattle. There was a lot of talk back then that the reason he was moving was because he wanted to sell TC off..(Seattle apparently has a more tax-friendly structure)

  7. Chan Chi Sang

    OM would be interesting to get your perspective on whether blogs such as TC and GigaOM should raise funds or not. TC did not, whereas you raised 4.5M – I guess that means that a potential acquisition of Gigaom would need to exceed 50M to make it meaningful for your investors, does that sound about right ? in hind sight to raise or not to raise that is the question. I think MA’s main accomplishment was scaling TC without raising funds and giving up equity…

  8. Martin Linkov

    I am extremely disappointed by this chart! Where is CrunchBase, Mobile Crunch, TechCrunch Europe & Japan?

    Also where is Mike Butcher, Marshall Kirkpatrick, Evelyn Rusli and all?

    TC Discrupt NYC, The Europas, The Nords…

    Very mediocre!

    • Martin

      As I explained earlier, these are what I think pivotal moments in the life of TC which essentially helped firm-up their grip on their domain — breaking tech news. As far as other reporters, well, I think there impact is more recent. Marshall left pretty early on, so over a longer context, it is hard to judge his role.

      • How?

        Most of the actual articles are quite poorly written rewrites of previously disclosed material on the web. Every one who actually bothered to do any type of monetization on the web knew Zynga et. al copied each others games AND used all types of scuzzy monetization practices.

        Techcrunch’s real success was access (thereore speed), location — just like for politics– the stories themselves are quite often weak and poorly done.

        Traffic –>
        Mashable > Techcrunch > Gigaom

        Quality –>
        GigaOm > Techcrunch > Mashable

  9. This just proves that the bigger the a-hole, the bigger the eventual payoff. The guy was a colossal jerk, and now he’s made his millions. So what?

    No one is talking about the fact that TechCrunch is effectively over now it’s been bought by AOL, or the fact that Arrington will undoubtedly be pushed out within a year or less.

    The sad part is with nothing to do and all that money, he’ll probably be geezer trolling the internet for the rest of his life.

  10. Paul Kaihla

    Om, an extremely thoughtful and well-executed post.

    Question: you focus on media coverage in your chronology. I always thought that CrunchBase was the site’s underlying SEO magic. Is there a reason you didn’t flag its release/launch?

  11. “Rafat took his love of media and content and started PaidContent, which was acquired by The Guardian”

    I wondered why every paidContent article sounded like it was written by Microsoft Propaganda HQ. Now I know.

  12. Some very interesting insights. But I think Mike’s previous days before TC should have been highlighted I mean that’s how he gained access to much of the news and insights in the first place. It played a big role in him becoming media.

    • Absolutely, MA had access and could “trade favors” given he was resolutely a blogger and “not a journalist.”

      However, as far as actual analysis and coverage GigaOm’s almost always been far better. However, AOL is buying based on getting buzz amongst MA’s connections, not just on the basis of Techcrunch’s potential.

  13. Awesome and interesting Infographic, well done Om! I’m a bit tired of all the Michael Arrington coverage though, can we move on the actual stories now? Yes, Techcrunch got acquired by AOL. Yes, this is a big move. No, I don’t care anymore :)

    That being said, the infographic was very informative, and will have me googling for a few minutes to check up on some of the milestones I missed. One big thing GigaOM has over TC is just fast load times. That sounds dumb, I’m sure, but on older computers, or work computers, etc etc, it means the world. Add in the amazing writing talent on board here, and I’m now a believer. I’m a fresh convert, sure, but I’m sticking around! Keep up the good work guys, and please no more TC or Michael posts, I beg you!