Revenge: A Jason Calacanis-inspired Techcrunch Disruptor?

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American Internet entrepreneur and blogger Jason Calacanis used to be a good friend and business partner with Techcrunch founder, Mike Arrington. Together they launched a conference series but fell out and took different paths.

Jemima Kiss at Guardian Unlimited reports: Jason Calacanis: Revenge is a new editorial project to rival TechCrunch

“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.

“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.”

There is plenty of news out there but not much analysis. That’s because it is difficult.

The challenge with writing good analysis is that it can’t be done by rookie writers. It’s easy to find writers that can quickly write up an announcement/press release but there’s few that can understand what it means and put in the right context.

Analysis requires considerable sector knowledge, it can take years to develop — which means such writers are rare, and thus more expensive. I hope Calacanis doesn’t confuse opinion with analysis because the two are very different. Everyone has an opinion.

An interesting tidbit in the Guardian story is that Calacanis doesn’t want to share brand with his writers. This is a potential show-stopper.

Jemima Kiss reports that: “He wants his writers to file once a week under one collective voice, like the Economist.”

That won’t work. The Economist gets away with it because it is The Economist and people in the know, know its writers.

The invisible writers on “Launch” won’t benefit much from the success of the publication. They won’t be earning much money because there isn’t much money in online media and they also won’t benefit from building a name for themselves — Calacanis wants all the brand equity to himself.

Writers capable of longer, analytical posts, won’t sign up for that type of arrangement. It’ll be unknown writers who don’t understand they will be losing an opportunity to build personal brand. Not the smartest bunch of candidates for the job. Not the smartest start to a new venture.

If Calacanis really wants to exact revenge on Techcrunch then he should recruit some of the Techcrunch writers with recognisable names such as MG Siegler and Erick Schonfeld in the US; Mike Butcher and Robin Wauters in Europe.

I doubt that these writers are tied up in lucrative inducements to stay at Techcrunch.

It would be a big blow to Techcrunch, and endanger Arrington’s earn-outs from the AOL deal if they were to leave.

And they would leave with large audiences attached because of their personal brands. But Mr. Calacanis will have to ditch the no byline policy on “Launch” and be generous to his writers.

Techcrunch is vulnerable to anyone that can come up with a way of luring its best writers (and those of VentureBeat, GigaOM and ReadWriteWeb) to a new publication. Salaries and equity deals could be made alluring and difficult to turn down or match; it would build an instant editorial team with high traffic straight out of the box.

It wouldn’t take long to parlay that into a deal 18 months down the line with a nice profit and just rewards for the writers.

I’ve always wanted to launch a “Silicon Valley Hack Pack” staffed news site – recruiting a dozen of the best journalists covering Silicon Valley — if I had the resources. Calacanis potentially has the resources to do something similar but focused on the startup community in Silicon Valley and beyond. Success is the sweetest revenge and “Launch” could succeed if done right.

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