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Apparently TechCrunch hates community and it’s all over for us. Who knew?

According to Umair Haque, your friendly neighbourhood UK digital strategist, we’re all now tired of TechCrunch (apart from TCUK, thanks Umair, I owe you a pint now). His argument is that TechCrunch is “peaking”, it doesn’t invest in the “community” and instead gets its attention by creating division. He calls this “The TechCrunch Effect”. Ouch.

All this is therefore unsustainable since “love is more powerful than hate” (queue John Lennon’s “Imagine”).

I like Umair, have met him several times, and he’s considered something of a leading thinker, especially about ‘edge economics’. So here are my thoughts:

– Is TechCrunch peaking or is it just doing well in traffic? Or maybe January is just a slow month generally? is pretty damn big now at 684,000 readers on Feedburner (RSS/email). As for little old TCUK, subscriber numbers have only gone up since the re-launch last September and recently passed 5,000. Admittedly it competes in the same language (English) as the .com site – which is rather like launching a UK version of a US magazine, when the US magazine is the same price, has more pages and sits on the same shelf at the store. What the UK version has to do afterwards, however, is speak to its community.

– A blog is in fact quite a lot more about community than meets the eye, it’s just that a one person, or maybe a small handful people, is kicking off the discussion.

– In case you hadn’t noticed TechCrunch has recently re-launched CrunchBase. Now, this is a database of startups, globally. This would appear to be an “investment” in the community as a few people ought to find the data it provides quite useful.

– TechCrunch might appear divisive at times, but surely it is stimulating discussion about its industry? One of the problem’s the poorer trade publications seem to have is the sheer level of blandness. Industry sector blogs – if they are any good – don’t tend to have that issue.

– When a startup is reviewed on TechCrunch it might actually get a good review. I know that’s hard to believe, but I did it only the other day. Is this love or hate? Maybe it’s just (hopefully informed) opinion?

Or maybe we’re pissing in the pool?

(My apologies for the navel-gazing post. Normal service will now be resumed).

  • umair

    hey mike,

    i think you guys in the UK are doing interesting stuff, and those are all very good points that i take.

    thx for the response.

  • nick halstead

    first comment from live version of :) sorry for the spam

    sent from: [FID417]

  • Robin Blandford

    TCUK is far more ontrack than US version which is descending into tabloid journalism. Sometimes I groan with the thought 684,000 readers had to read a piece.

    Over here in Singapore – TC gets referenced like ‘the bible’ to get an appearance on. It’s a bit funny ;-)

  • LSF

    TCUK Crunchboard is apparently down though…

  • paulpod

    “…rather like launching a UK version of a US magazine, when the US magazine is the same price, has more pages and sits on the same shelf at the store.”

    sounds like Wired, circa 1997

  • Mike Butcher

    LSF – Yeah the UK CrunchBoard is down pending a new solution. Soon…

  • Feedburner

    How many of those subscriber numbers are real subscribers? Someone told me at Feedburner that over 2/3 are default in aggregators and news sites. So they are not an actual representation of real subscribers.

    From what I hear Mike actually gets around 60k uniques a day average and about 1.5m uniques a month. Not much community there if the subscribers are 684k.

    I wonder if you guys would actually put out metrics. I feel like the numbers are being misrepresented.

  • Philip wilkinson

    one thing you have to give to tech blogs doing news and hype us that at least they ‘understand’ the space in great detail – something mainstream sites often lack.

    I do wonder how they can comment on whether a business will be successful or not – especially as staff writers often have never done one themselves and in my book , not qualified to comment. I for one would never criticize the blog grammar and punctuation – it’s not my field.

  • English?

    “queue John Lennon’s ‘Imagine'”

    “and recently past 5,000”

    the same language (English) you say?

  • preetam


    As much as I request that you don’t take this personally, I find your (and Erik’s) responses to Umairs post on BubbleGen quite strange. And unnecessarily (but characteristically) sarcastic.

    I think your responses(as well as some of the comments on Umair’s blog) addressed the message in his post only at a surface level. It wasn’t about your traffic, it wasn’t about your investments in your community, it wasn’t about how stimulating your discussions are, and it definitely wasn’t about love ‘n hate.

    It was about TC being in touch with its thriving community, and understanding the ground reality of what your community needs(beyond what you guys have down on your business plan).
    A distant third consideration would be to see if TC is actually getting people thinking about its noise-signal ratio.

    Of course, I wish you guys all the very best, and I think you started off solving a real problem, but you are actually raising eyebrows now, and while that might be part of what you need to do as a business, surely you ought to think about whether you are raising eyebrows for the right reasons.

    For starters, check out mashable and readwriteweb, and do a quick study of how easy it is to “belong”, “navigate” , “access”, “find”, “interact” and “explore”.

    Then, ask yourself again, are you pissing in your pool?

  • preetam

    And I’ve also put down some other thoughts on Umair’s list of comments…please feel free….

  • The emperors new clothes

    @Feedburner you are so right. Arrington has been selling his numbers falsely to advertisers for too long. Wake up and smell the bullshit.

    For example TC is the default on several sites like Techmeme, Netvibes (Arrington’s friends – but no disclosure)

    TC is just like MSN who used to claim millions of users simply by being the default on IE and sadly naive advertisers used to believe MSN’s numbers but as we all know most of those users would not be able to change the default homepage and would instead instantly surf to another site.

    So what are the real “active” users for TC? I think it is probably more like TCUK with a generous 10x factor i.e 50k readers NOT 600k+ IF I am wrong then publish your real numbers.

    @Phil Wilkinson I agree, how can you EVER write about startups if you have never been their, seen it and done it yourself. People like Arrington, Butcher, Jemima Kiss, Matt Ingram and many other blog/journalists have never been there, seen it or done it.

    They have never risked house and reputation on creating a business but they are quick to dismiss the work, risk and sweat of others.

    Again Mike if I am wrong tell me the startup you created and the funding process you went through along with the risk you took that might mean your wife and children never got an income if you failed.

    There are two narcissistic people who I can think of in the UK who could better be the editor of TCUK and that is Robert Loch or Paul Walsh. Both have created unsuccessful startups, raised some money and run successful events for other entrepreneurs.

    I do not always agree with their thoughts but at least I feel they have the credibility badge of having been an entrepreneur.

    So Umair is right it is just a matter of time.

  • jamescoops

    it makes me laugh all these nutters claiming you have to have done an internet startup to write about them – that’s like saying you have to have run for President to write an article about Obama … ever heard of something called Division of Labour?

  • jamescoops

    @phil wilkinson – ok i see your point but anyone can give an opinion – it might not be right but that’s what makes journalism entertaining – otherwise TC might as well just print the press release.

  • Mike Butcher

    Dear “Emperors New Clothes”. For the record: I started my own blog in 2006 (, but later joined TechCrunch UK with a guy called Sam Sethi. I was never paid a cent by that guy for that, but I stood by him when he broke up with Mike Arrington in Dec 2006, all when my wife had cancer and I had little income. I then did with him for 4 months while my wife was on Chemotherapy hoping, all the while that we’d get funding for the idea. We didn’t. He went off and did, which you may have heard of, and he was later accused by two of his main bloggers of not paying wages/contracts (something he denies). I was not involved in all that. I took time off to help my wife and two children. I earnt almost nothing during this time. She recovered fully, praise God. Soon after I was offered a real paid job doing TCUK which helped me out and which I enjoy. In other words I believe I have more right than most journalists to critique startups and the “risk” they take. Got it? Good.

  • Sotek

    Blah blah blah. Blogs and sites come and go. Who cares? I’m enjoying the ride while it lasts… and don’t give a damn about some subscriber counts, pageviews and shit like that. I care about the content. Have a nice day.

  • Nick Wright

    Personally, I like to read the articles if they are interesting or relevent and view the comments to guage reactions.
    When I read the Times I really dont care how many copies are sold or how many visitors it has- I read it because it gives me information that I cant get by myself.
    Keep up the good work please Mike and dont let mindless bitching get in the way of carrying out your job effectively.

    share your life, treasure the privacy

  • Sam Sethi

    Hi Mike

    Keep up the good work and ignore the trolls. For the record you didn’t get paid because I didn’t get paid either by “that” other guy. I certainly appreciated starting Vecosys together with you but as you know we did try to raise funding to start our project but sadly we didn’t manage to find an angel, yet I believe we did help a lot of UK & Ireland startups get airtime in the blogosphere. That was especially difficult given your personal circumstances at the time.

    As for blognation, I really wish I had never bothered. I tried to do something to give the rest of the non-US startup world a voice. Sadly raising funding in the UK was harder than I expected and after our experience with Vecosys, I should have known better.

    Yet after a very long 5 months, as you now know, I finally managed to secure funding before a certain ex-editor committed corporate fraud to scupper the deal at the last minute.

    I don’t want to say anymore other than I am working to ensure that all the editors will be paid back, although it may take me another few months.

  • Geoffrey McCaleb

    @preetam: Anyone who accuses Mike B. of not being actively involved in the “community”, is not really involved in the community. Go to any event, regardless of size, and more likely than not you will see Mike there. Be it an angel event, Social Media Cafe (, or otherwise.

    Anyway, how can you trust a guy who doesn’t walk around with business cards or even the oh-so-trendy moo cards? :)

  • Scott

    If people don’t like it, well don’t visit here IMHO. Keep up the good work Mike.

  • Keld van Schreven

    UK Techcrunch is what US techrunch used to be, a tight community of making the stuff happen not just bystanders (apart from the trolls that’s just embarrassing for them to plug like that, have they no shame?).

    Techcrunch brings credibility as its not just a PR front like nearly every other tech news site.

    Techcrunch gets the attitude spot on and that’s why I read it first. Analysts can carry on reading venturebeat and other boring yada newsfeeds.

    P.s. Great ironic journo pork pie hat at second chance mike!

  • Andrew J Scott

    Personally I dont WANT another community site – I dont want to log on to a Techcrunch personal profile and mess around with all the other social wishwash that every site and his aunt tries to randomly add on to their platform.

    Social software is a good thing; but not EVERY site needs to have a burgeoning active profile-driven community. I like Techcrunch because:

    it keeps me up to date with news
    it gives my startup a platform to reach early adopters and enthusiastic users, for better or for worse and hopefully based upon reward for when it get it right and a friendly constructive warning when we’ve got it wrong
    it allows me to quickly and effectively gauge feedback and industry/user views on stories and startups from reading these comments

    I don’t want Techcrunch to try and reinvent itself as a social community; it IS already a community of commentators and people in the industry. I dont want more clutter and crap on the website.

    Techcrunch IMHO does a fantastic job as a news site and I’d like it to carry on doing a fantastic job. Keep up the good work Mike.

  • Gary Reid

    For me UK and US TechCrunch are different beasts, UK is highly relevent to what I do and where I am, I know Mike B. is embedded in the start-up community so I can rely on him to keep me informed about the stuff I don’t get to hear. I think Mike B’s commitment to cover tech start-ups over the last few years is obvious from his comment above, most would have packed their suitcase and gone home.

    US TC is more of a broad brush and I have to say I blogged about the big tech blogs demise back in December as a prediction for 2008, not because of lack of community but because they have grown to such a size I wondered how they could keep such a diverse audience engaged, plus there is always something new waiting to happen and steal your readers.

    We read blogs for opinion, if Mike says a start-up will fail it starts a discussion, that’s what it’s all about, but hang on isn’t that community…

  • 90's dotcommer

    Having been around and sold at least one website for seven figures (and another for £5000), but preferring to keep my anonymity as I am going to be, how shall I say, to the point:

    Mike B is gold and has been drinking dotcommers under the table since he was upset that Davina didn’t ask him to join NetImperative – and thank God, eh Mike? ;-). I only read that site so I can find our what happended 3 days ago.

    Philip Wilkinson does do start-ups, but that doesn’t stop him being an asshole. Don’t you hate it when unlikeable people hit paydirt? He’s been dining out on the pre-Kelkoo shitpit for years. He’s a c*ckmunch and that new one of his is going to tank.

    Sam – we’d forgotten about that, you didn’t do yourself any favours there…

    Lastly – don’t anyone try to raise VC money for online blogs, whatever the vision. They are an ad-based business so walk the talk and grow the traffic by being good at what you are supposed to do – opinion and analysis. When you have the traffic (and there is some advertiser demand), then borrow some cash with a bank loan to fund an ad sales person.

    Here’s the thing. There are loads of great sites out there with poor commercialisation or design or structure or tech (or all, but with loyalty and audience). So: Identify one of these, get the VCs to buy it, with you in charge. Friendly takeover, staff retained, traffic already built, just add the magic. Then sell it for what a propoerly commercialised, marketed, structured online business can fetch.

    I really don’t see anyone doing up old online houses, all trying to build new developments. Such a trick to miss.

  • Philip Buxton

    That we all care enough to comment on the facts and future of TechCrunch – whether UK or US – says more about its place in our ‘community’ than anything else.

    But, as people have already said above, it’s the content in this case that counts. As long as TechCrunch remains the least PR-led tech industry information source around, it will remain the first port of call…

    What’s true is that the line between a blog and a ‘traditional’ publisher is particularly blurred in TC’s case thanks to its success and it’s a line that Mike (an ex-‘traditional’ editor) has to walk all the time.

    This means mistakes are bound to be made – having such an open discussion on the problems or otherwise of TC might or might not be one of them – but that’s all part of finding out where the new boundaries lie.

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