Michael Arrington is officially out at TechCrunch and Erick Schonfeld is in as editor. So says the AOL statement, available on AllThingsD, which also says Arrington’s departure was his decision, calls the TechCrunch acquisition “a success,” and teases more editorial changes in “the coming months.”
Even with that resolved (perhaps), there’s still the problem of making all of the brands beneath the AOL umbrella one cohesive, working unit.
“Since Tim Armstrong took over the struggling Internet company in 2009, AOL has acquired more than half a dozen companies in an effort to shake off its reputation as an Internet has-been and become an ad-supported destination for news and entertainment content on the Web,” the Wall Street Journal writes. It may shed that old reputation, but with the company’s internal problems making news, it’s new rep could be just as bad.
Sites like The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Engadget, and StyleList are strong brands in themselves with a devoted following, which David Carr says, in The New York Times, may be the new norm where niche sites are preferred over general ones. Carr’s analysis also suggests that these smaller setups are better for business.
AOL is obviously still working out its business and internal issues. In the meantime, it needs to work hard not to let its reputation get too tarnished by missteps — ethical, business, or otherwise — at the leadership level.
Commenting on the statement, CNN Money writes, “Couldn’t AOL have had the Carol Bartz-like bluntness to say what actually happened: Arianna Huffington didn’t realize the PR blowback that would be caused by CrunchFund, changed her mind and ultimately won an internal power struggle with Tim Armstrong (after intense negotiations that nearly were successful late last week)?”
Everyone at AOL needs to get on the same page and get there fast. Once they do, they can work on building whatever sort of reputation they see fit. At the moment, the ongoing internal strife is becoming the company’s public image.