What do you get when you mix a tottering giant from the InterWebs' formative years with the new breed of post-first-ask-questions-later news blogs? We're about to find out, now that AOL has swallowed up TechCrunch.
Yesterday AOL chief Tim Armstrong announced the deal at TechCrunch's own Disrupt Conference, confirming rumors that -- interestingly enough -- originated not on TechCrunch but on GigaOm. The blogosphere has been thrumming with the news ever since.
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According to TC founder and spokesmodel Michael Arrington, this won't change how his site operates. If anything, he's afraid TechCrunch might go overboard in criticizing AOL to make it seem more impartial:
Tim [Armstrong] told me ....it was important that we feel free to criticize AOL when we think they deserve it. And the agreement we signed with AOL fully reflects this. In particular, we used the Twitter document scandal as a test. If the same thing happens with AOL in the future, we should feel comfortable posting those documents. And in that unlikely event, we will.
The last thing we want to happen is to end up with same cuddly relationship that the Wall Street Journal has with its sister company MySpace, for example.
In the end, we’ll probably have to create internal checks to ensure that we aren’t more critical of AOL than we otherwise would be just to prove our editorial independence.
The problem with this argument? The AOL deal already has changed the way TC operates.
TechCrunch has built a reputation for publishing every rumor that crosses its transom, founded or otherwise, which means it has both broken some major stories (like Google buying YouTube) and completely intercoursed the pooch on others (like Google buying Digg).