The TechCrunch effect

With daily audience of about 80,000 e-mail and RSS subscribers, TechCrunch is clearly a successful tech news destination. But while that readership is fairly robust, this environment proves that it's not about the numbers, it's about the engagement.

With daily audience of about 80,000 e-mail and RSS subscribers, TechCrunch is clearly a successful tech news destination. But while that readership is fairly robust, this environment proves that it's not about the numbers, it's about the engagement.

Web 2.0 companies - essentially those that are marketing software that fosters organization, collaboration, or a way of doing things more efficiently or in a more interconnected manner - look to TechCrunch as a encyclopedia of their startups and product launches, fixes, and updates.

TechCrunch creator Michael Arrington and his staff publish between six and eight posts a day on topics varying from reviews to tech commentary to news. It is the new product and company reviews, however, that prove an instant branding shot for startups. The Web site claims that, beside the e-mail subscribers, there are about one million unique visitors per month.

Elias Roman, a cofounder of digital music e-tailer Amie Street, says the company didn't reach out to TechCrunch before it was in its alpha stage, because her team didn't think they were ready at the time.

The company had noticed that Arrington signed up for the service, but had no contact from him during his trial period with Amie, nor any inclination if and when he would write about the service. When the post went up on July 23, 2006, the CTO called the founders up at 10:30pm to let them know.

Roman though the review was great, but was even more impressed about how, when people raised questions in the comments, Arrington went further to explain the concept.

"He's a bright guy; some people missed the concept, and he went to bat for it; explaining the deeper concepts," Roman says, noting the Arrington purchased a song and really tried out the service. "He didn't just go through the motions."

The result was immediate and astounding, Roman says.

From 10:30 to midnight of the day the piece ran, the Web site's daily traffic increased tenfold. By the end of the next day, Amie Street had 40,000 page views, and hits kept coming in from Japan and Western Europe. The result is that the Web site is now experiencing four times the traffic it did before being featured in TechCrunch. The company, which is working with Flatiron Communications, also began receiving calls from PR agencies, VCs, and artists.

The other indirect effect is that Amie Street's user base has been flooded by techies suggesting additional features and bug fixes.

While Amie Street received a wonderful unsolicited review, Arrington and his staff take PR pitches. Arrington did not return requests for an interview.

Matt Shumate, account executive for the Max Borges Agency, pitched Arrington for his (now former) client eJamming, an online studio that allows users to "jam" with other musicians online. Shumate said that Arrington was immediately responsive.

While Shumate does not have exact traffic increases, the Web site's Alexa ranking (which ranks Web sites based on tracking from an opt-in toolbar) skyrocketed around the article's publication date. Shumate said that TechCrunch's readership is enhanced by the fact that some people will invariably blog about the service they read on TechCrunch, spreading the news further.

Scott Niesen, director of marketing at Attensa, a company that creates enterprise RSS feeds, says he started paying attention to TechCrunch when the company launched in June 2005.

Niesen has been in repeated contact with Arrington, giving him a launch interview and apprising him of updates along the way.

Niesen says that Arrington is now becoming a sought-after speaker at Web 2.0 and technology events, due to the popularity of TechCrunch among influentials. But with that heightened platform, Arrington has had to defend his position on a number of topics, from his relationships with companies (his Web site has a disclosure policy that lists investments and board relationships with particular companies), to scrapes with other Web 2.0 leaders. But, despite controversies and questions of whether a journalist should invest in start-ups, no one has found any improper act.

Even though Attensa maintains good contact with Arrington, Arrington did not initially cover its most recent product developments. Instead, he covered a competitor, and Attensa CEO Craig Barnes left a comment on that post, which led to a subsequent review.

"Every time we announce something, Tech Crunch [is] in our top-10 contact points," Niesen says. "Whenever we get coverage, it accounts for 25% of our overall Web traffic - it's just a huge media outlet for us."

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