Tech Blogs Turn From Hobbies to Businesses

"Om (Malik) and I love scotch," Michael Arrington says. "But we never drink anymore."

The two friends no longer have the time or energy, in part because they're too busy competing with each other.

Both run influential technology blogs that are helping drive the current Internet boom— and making Arrington and Malik tech luminaries in their own right.

Arrington, 37, is the force behind TechCrunch, a blog chronicling the rise and fall of Internet start-ups. (They're often called Web 2.0 companies.) Malik, 40, runs GigaOm, a slightly more scholarly blog that looks at all things techy.

GigaOm has readers numbering in the hundreds of thousands, and TechCrunch's audience tops a million. But that doesn't accurately reflect their far-reaching influence. TechCrunch is the fourth-most-linked-to blog on the Internet, says Technorati, a blog search engine. GigaOm ranks 34th, a still impressive number given that Technorati tracks more than 86 million blogs.

TechCrunch's impact could soon be as great as Silicon Valley's major newspaper, The San Jose Mercury News, says Paul Gillin, author of blog guide The New Influencers. "It's one of the first things I read every day," says David Cowan, a venture capitalist for Bessemer Venture Partners. "It's hard to describe the extent to which I rely on TechCrunch."

GigaOm may not have quite as much pull, but it still has a long list of powerful readers. Malik is "a really smart guy, and he makes me think," says Roger McNamee, a prominent venture capitalist with several Silicon Valley firms. "He's really significant," says Max Kalehoff, a vice president at research firm Nielsen BuzzMetrics.

It's high praise for two blogs that started as hobbies. Both Arrington and Malik say they're surprised at how quickly their side projects became businesses — and obsessions. The two friends seem to be always working, often posting in the middle of the night. They look tired.

"I scheduled a conference call with a (public relations) person at 2:30 a.m.," Arrington says.

"Sleep and I have broken up. Coffee and I are having an affair," says Malik, cup in hand.

From Hobby to Job

Both men have roots in the original dot-com boom of the late 1990s. Arrington worked at famed law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati before trying his hand at several start-ups. None went far.

When evaluating potential jobs, Arrington found it tough to find reliable information on start-ups. He started TechCrunch as a side project in 2005.

His audience and advertising revenue grew, and the hobby-blog turned into a job. He began hosting parties at his house, a well-worn rental in a swanky Silicon Valley neighborhood. Chad Hurley, co-founder of a then-tiny start-up called YouTube, came over. Guest lists swelled to 150, then 550.

Suddenly, TechCrunch could make or break a start-up. Entrepreneurs swarmed Arrington at conferences. Several showed up at his house one morning and banged on the windows until he let them in, he says. He hired five full-time and 16 part-time employees, and broke the news that Google was acquiring YouTube.

The more powerful TechCrunch gets, the more controversial it becomes. The companies Arrington covers are also his advertisers and sponsors. He's invested in a few Internet start-ups.

"I disclose the hell out of (the conflicts of interest)," Arrington says with a shrug.

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