Why Internet Fame Is Worth a Warm Bucket of Spit
Fame has always had its downsides. But Internet fame, like the kind TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington has accumulated, provides all the downsides and very few advantages. Now he wants to go into hiding.
Yesterday, someone spat on Arrington at a conference in Munich. For the self-crowned king of startups — which is worth a Twitter follower list that numbers in the thousands and a bobblehead doll made in your likeness — that was an unforgivable act of lèse-majesté. So, he wants to abdicate. "In the past I've been grabbed, pulled, shoved and otherwise abused at events," he writes, "but never spat on. I think this is where I'm going to draw a line."
Arrington has encouraged a fantasy among his followers: Get written up in TechCrunch, and your startup will get funding and you will become rich. Arrington himself rather expected the same would happen to him — that one of his VC buddies would plow millions into TechCrunch, or one of the dealmakers he lionized would snap up TechCrunch for a large media company. His hoped-for exit never happened — and likely never will, now that the Web 2.0 bubble which TechCrunch was founded to chronicle has evaporated.
Instead, he's stuck with a dream deferred, and a nightmare realized. Over the summer, Arrington attracted a mentally unbalanced stalker who made violent threats, and he went into hiding at his parents' home in Washington state. He ended up paying $2,000 a day for private security on TechCrunch's office, which is also his home. Is there a better example of the costs of being famous, and how few benefits attach?
The only answer is to go into hiding, which Arrington is doing. But only after he attends the World Economic Forum in Davos.