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Innovators & Influencers: TechCrunch's Arrington Stares Down The Perils Of Growth

It's one of the industry's most influential blogs. Can that survive expansion?
Michael Arrington's heroes are entrepreneurs. He's let penniless ones crash in his California home for months at a time. That respect and interest, he says, is what drives his influential TechCrunch blog. "A blog can be successful as long as you write passionately about something you love," he says. "Startups are something I love."

It worked for TechCrunch, but can Arrington keep up the momentum and the quality? TechCrunch faces the problem of many successful blogs, that of moving from a single personality to a product, while keeping the spark that drew readers in the first place. Arrington employs five full-time writers and five part-timers. "TechCrunch has lost something now that it's more than Arrington," someone recently posted in the comment section at TechCrunch. "There was a charm to TC when it was just MA sledding downhill at 80,000 MPH on the seat of his pants." Arrington appears to be trying to cede some control to others: He says he's taking off most of December to ski and hang out at his parents' vacation home in Washington, though there were three posts from him to start last week.

Barely a year old, TechCrunch is pulling in $150,000 a month in advertising revenue, says Arrington, 36. He worked with startups in a former life as a corporate lawyer, and he leans on his venture capital connections for scoops about Silicon Valley happenings in order to compete against conventional media and rival blogs like ValleyWag. He started the blog as a hobby just around the time everyone started talking up Web 2.0 and venture capital once again began flowing into the parched valley. "I was lucky," he says. "I got in front of the parade at the right time." Since then, TechCrunch has evolved into not so much a personal blog, but a news site covering new products and companies.

Arrington insists there's no risk of TechCrunch turning into a slush pit of rewritten press releases, even with a stable of writers who may not have his valley connections. "I don't cover news unless it's interesting," he says. "I write stories companies don't want me to write," adding that he operates on rumor and insider information.

He has big plans. TechCrunch's network, as he calls it, now includes the gadget blog CrunchGear, and he wants to add blogs to cover vertical markets and eventually hire more writers. As an entrepreneur, Arrington may find himself in the all-too-familiar position of making tough decisions about how to grow while keeping a passion--in this case a love of startups that drove one person to write a blog that stood apart from others.

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