“You can’t just quietly slip out the door,” I’ve been told by too many people I trust. So okay, fine, here’s this post!
Since you asked, TechCrunch is in a really good place right now.
The various numbers we use to measure ourselves — from traffic to revenue to some leaderboard provided by a tech news aggregator site whose name I forget — are once again quite healthy or even record-setting.
That’s despite widespread predictions of doom a couple years back, about the time I took the co-editor job.
But measurements are a means to find the essence of something, they are *not the essence itself*. That’s particularly true for a qualitative craft like news.
The essence, of course, is writing great stories that help people make better decisions in life and in work, that create accountability in the world, and that maybe even delight and entertain readers from time to time.
My goal from the start has been to build a new system for greatness at TechCrunch. To put the writers in front and create something that could survive any number of staffing changes while getting better and better.
This has happened, gradually at first, but faster over time. From gadgets to tech policy, long-time TechCrunch writers and a whole bunch of new people have come together and formed something new and strong.
Today we’re publishing posts like Ryan Lawler’s exposé of a startup that was screwing over its investors, or Kim-Mai Cutler’s first-person exploration of Silicon Valley’s boom-and-bust cycles over the years — and a lot more that you’ll just have to find on the site, or wait for in the coming weeks and months (I am privy to what’s in the pipeline).
Beneath the surface, we’ve added about as much editorial structure as the team would collectively tolerate. This has meant normal newsroom stuff like a fleshed-out weekend plan and mandatory vacations, and more aggressive journalism efforts like allowing writers to take lots of time away from the day-to-day grind to go after the big stories.
For me, though, it’s time to try something pretty different. I’ve been in tech since everybody wrote it off as a dying industry town about to be fully outsourced, to a scarily mainstream phenomenon. Back in the old days when my media-tools startup got covered by TechCrunch, or over the years when I’ve competed against this publication, we all seemed a little innocent, hopeful and idealistic.
The dreams came true. Almost too true.
Now the industry has to ask itself the baroque sorts of questions normally reserved for politicians, celebrities, old-line industry executives and the rest of the traditional elite.
As engineers say about a server melting from too much traffic, this is a good problem to have.
How can the tech industry use its incredible power to do good? (I mean beyond the good it already does with the products it creates.)
How can it benefit all people in the world, most of whom still live in poverty? That includes people who live and work in the Bay Area, who are ending up with more of tech’s costs than benefits.
How will the industry preserve the dignity of citizens while working with governments to keep them safe?
The list of these sorts of questions keeps growing. The global scrutiny is only going to increase from media, from governments, and from normal people who just want to know what’s going behind their favorite apps and devices.
The industry has been too caught up in the boom — which is understandable when it’s all you can do to keep your servers from melting. But it’s not 2009. And unlike the last boom, the users are real and so are the revenues, and tech as a “thing” is here to stay.
Now is the time for it to take a step back and listen, and have conversations with its critics, and think of creative new solutions.
TechCrunch’s role, first as the original tech blog back in 2005 and now as a tech media mainstay, is both to support the great things that tech builds *and* to wrestle with the big global issues of the day.
The team, I’m happy to say, is already in the middle of this big new challenge. Knowing what I know about their ambitions and abilities, well, you’ll have to keep reading.