Jason Calacanis is angry. You can tell he’s angry partly because he talks even faster than normal, but also because he’s (still) spitting feathers about TechCrunch founder (and now AOL (NYSE: AOL), employee) Mike Arrington.
Calacanis claims Arrington froze him out of his chunk of the TechCrunch 50 event, but rather than wage full-on warfare, Calacanis is retaliating by aiming to beat TechCrunch at its own game.
Calacanis is launching his own startup editorial project – called Launch – and event as a direct challenge to TechCrunch, he told The Guardian. Quite how much damage that will do to Arrington – who has now made his big money in the deal and is likely to be out within six months, if you ask Calacanis – remains to be seen.
Beyond the revenge, Launch is interesting. TechCrunch is arguably too dominant in the tech startup space, entrepreneurs will admit in private; not the fault of TechCrunch but of its rivals. The direction of tech coverage over the past few years has been to compete for faster, harder news – which is fine if a site breaks a story accurately, but not fine if an echo chamber of blogs all rewrite the same thing without adding any useful analysis or context.
Arrington recently explained his points system for breaking news – fine, if that news is balanced by publishing longer, in-depth, analytical pieces that explore trends and can help set a different agenda, rather than purely reactive reporting. So is that the plan for Launch?
Calacanis says the thing he enjoys the most is writing, and that’s where he’s putting that angry energy. The common theme in Calacanis’s startups has always been editorial, from Silicon Alley Reporter to Weblogs Inc and Mahalo. He’s picked up on the state of the tech blogging scene which, he says, is in a race to the bottom and is dragging mainstream media down with it.
“When I started with Peter Rojas blogging was a new format that was faster but still had quality and insight,” he said. “Now it’s even faster but it has lost that quality and insight. You have a bunch of people writing short stuff with no research and knowledge base. They have no credibility.”
What the market needs, he says, is depth, knowledge and thoroughness. Launch will take the form of an email publication which might seem against the grain, but is something Calacanis is convinced suits a more exclusive, more engaged audience.
“If you get people to commit to an email relationship, it’s the deepest most intimate relationship you can have online. Much deeper than Facebook and certainly more intimate than a blog,” he says.
“I want high-quality insider information, a celebration of entrepreneurship and taking risk. I want it serious and insightful rather than salacious and link-baity.”
He wants his writers to file once a week under one collective voice, like the Economist. Launch will kick off after Calacanis has found four suitable editors, and he’s already selling tickets for startups to attend the event in February where Launch will, um, launch. “Until then I’m listening to the audience and testing what they like. But I’m going for something that doesn’t exist in the market – not a blogger writing the story in two hours. The world really wants deeper stuff right now.”
This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.