Mike Arrington stars in The Ugly American

It’s been awhile since we had a good “bitchmeme” flare up on Techmeme, so now is as good a time as any, I suppose. In this case, it’s a cross-cultural, multi-continent event involving Mike Arrington of TechCrunch, LeWeb organizer (and TechCrunch partner) Loic LeMeur of Seesmic, and a cast of thousands — or possibly hundreds. The main attraction was apparently a panel discussion at LeWeb in which Mike talked about how all most of the successful Web companies are located in Silicon Valley because they want to win at all costs, while Europeans like to take long lunches and relax (the fun starts at about 17:00). The comment thread on Mike’s post alone is worth the price of admission. Loic LeMeur’s somewhat defensive response is here.

Update: In round two of this match, Mike has responded to Loic’s poll on whether he should be allowed back to LeWeb, calling it “censorship,” and Loic has responded to Mike’s response, saying that he thought of him as a friend “until now,” because Mike threatened not to send anyone to LeWeb next year, and posted a comment about starting his own European conference.

Not surprisingly, Mike is accused of being a stereotypical “ugly American,” who thinks that only American companies can succeed, and that all Europeans are lazy. He in turn points out that he never said Europeans were lazy, only that they have a cultural approach to business that isn’t as hard-nosed as the typical American entrepreneurial approach — and that while there are plenty of entrepreneurial European companies (Skype, etc.), they tend to either move to the U.S. so they can be part of that culture or get acquired by American companies. Like many stereotypes, there is a grain of truth in what Mike says, which is probably why it generates such an emotional response. It’s also possible that Mike likes to get attention 🙂

As someone who has spent the majority of my life in Canada (although I was born in Germany and have visited Europe many times), I can’t claim any kind of real expertise in this debate. In my experience, however, American companies do tend to be more aggressive, and U.S. entrepreneurs tend to be more driven than those from other countries, including Canada — which, as many people know, is an odd sort of mix of British, French and American influences (we’re like the UN up here). But that aggression and drive can also produce companies that flame out spectacularly, and/or wind up pushing the envelope of the law. For what it’s worth, I am also on record as favouring long lunches, so I guess I am a little European in spirit.


Some thoughts from my friend Ethan Kaplan of blackrimglasses.

Arrington and Wired: Keyboards at dawn

I know everyone is tsk-tsk-ing and waggling their forefingers disapprovingly at Mike Arrington for his response to Wired magazine’s drive-by blog attack on TechCrunch and its Washington Post partnership, but I for one am quite enjoying it. I actually thought Mike was pretty restrained in his latest post — and for what it’s worth, I took his Twitter message saying “eff you” to Wired as largely a joke (and apparently one fueled by drinks at the Time 100 party).

For whatever reason, Betsy Schiffman (who as far as I can tell used to be a Forbes real estate writer, and before that was at Associated Press) either has a grudge of some kind or has been implicitly or explicitly told to go after TechCrunch. I mean, come on: a “Butt Munch” category? As far as I can tell, the category applies specifically to Arrington — and Dylan Tweney of Epicenter has effectively confirmed that.

In any case, the Washington Post thing was totally offside, especially since Epicenter is clearly a competitor to TechCrunch. In my view, it was a mean-spirited jab, and I don’t blame Mike for responding the way he did. As far as I can tell, opinion seems split on whether it’s Mike’s fault for escalating things or whether Wired was in the wrong — and some people seem to be voting for both.

Mike Arrington: The quintessential blogger?

Congrats to Mike for being named one of Time’s 100 most influential people (although one wag on Twitter wondered whether this wasn’t just the magazine’s attempt at blogosphere “link bait”). For what it’s worth, he appears in the “builders and titans” section of the list, rather than the “leaders and revolutionaries” section or the “heroes and pioneers” section (which raises the question: if you could choose only one, would you rather be a hero, a leader, a pioneer or a titan?) Arianna Huffington says he’s the “quintessential blogger” because he is:

“intense, passionate, consumed with his subject, opinionated, sleep-deprived, forward-thinking, easy to irritate and apt to air his grudges in public.”

By my count, at least four of those descriptive phrases — “intense,” “passionate,” “easy to irritate” and “apt to air his grudges in public” — are euphemisms for having a temper. Arianna also throws in a description of him as being like Tony Soprano: “a large man, always on the verge of losing his cool.” Is that the quintessential blogger?

(On a personal note, when he came to the mesh conference last year, Mike was unfailingly polite to just about everyone, even someone he had a beef with, despite the fact that he was sleep-deprived).

Blogs and the business of community

It’s been kind of fun to watch the reaction to Mike Arrington’s recent “rambling manifesto” (as Henry Blodget called it at Silicon Alley Insider) about the future of blogs and the wisdom — or lack thereof — in getting venture financing. Among other things, Kara Swisher decoded it using movie metaphors, Tom Foremski said it won’t work because you can’t “roll up egos,” and Howard Lindzon dumped on the idea with his usual panache. And it probably won’t come as a surprise that TechCrunch itself is rumoured to be looking for financing, according to Henry.

Although Howard has plenty of scorn for Scoble as well, I think Robert puts his finger on something (or at least close to something) in his post when he says that killing CNET isn’t the right goal — even if most of the examples he uses, such as the moon landing, don’t really help his argument (which his readers are more than happy to point out). But I think Chartreuse comes the closest to making a real point with his post on the topic, in which he notes that it isn’t about size, it’s about community.

Of course, as with most media it’s about size and community — at least when it comes to trying to make it into a business (Wine Library TV guy Gary Vaynerchuk has a great video about that here). In any case, in the course of writing about that, Chartreuse mentioned a blog network/citizen journalism enterprise in India that I hadn’t heard of before: Instablogs.com, which apparently had a rough start but has since grown into something worth paying attention to. Not only is its primary audience in India (see the co-founder’s comment on this below), but the community that has grown up around the site is remarkable, and the site is very well designed and customizable.

I wouldn’t want to say that “big media” in the context of the blogosphere won’t work, because it’s clear to me that Gawker is working, and so are PaidContent and GigaOm and others. But I think there is definitely some room for the Craigslist approach too: follow the community and the business will (in some cases at least) take care of itself. Oh yeah — as it turns out, Instablogs is raising money too 🙂 Congratulations to founders Ankit and Nandini Maheshwari.

Mike Arrington, Fox Business host?

I watched this clip of Mike Arrington on the Fox Business show Happy Hour, with Cody Willard and Rebecca Gomez, and the one thing that struck me was how smart and reasonable Mike seemed compared with the frenetic — almost manic — Willard and his sidekick.

More to the point, I think Mike’s long-range outlook on Yahoo is correct: the company has to figure out how to grow its online-advertising business, or surrender it to someone who can.