It takes a brave man to get in the middle of TechCrunch's bloggin' VC Michael Arrington and PaidContent founding editor Rafat Ali as they duke it out over the future of their micromedia empires. Timesman Saul Hansell is nothing but brave. In a Bits blog post, he quotes Rafat Ali's new hired hand Nathan Richardson saying that PaidContent differentiates itself from TechCrunch, Silicon Alley Insider and our own Valleywag because it "has not gone down the road of following personal foibles." Then, towards the end of the piece, Ali himself suggeests that Arrington is thinking too small by gunning for CNET:

The big market for us is the trade media. Companies like Reed Elsevier, Nielsen, Incisive and Informa play in this market, not these blogs.

But are these publishers so evenhanded? Trade publications have a history of being self-interested boosters for the markets they cover.

And Ali is putting forward this odd ambition even as Hollywood solons are looking at an industrywide downturn, and their spokesrag Variety is for sale by Reed Elsevier. To quote another So. Cal.-based journo who's made a name for herself chasing personal foibles on a blog, Nikki Finke, "[W]hat if someone buys Variety and turns it into a real news-gathering operation and not just an echo chamber for the powers-that-be that control showbiz?" Seems both Ali and Arrington are aiming for the weakest members of the herd.