TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington presents "tactical-level advice on getting press for your startup" in this full-length video from Omnisio of his Stanford speech Saturday. His level of candor (or "transparency" in Valleyspeak) surprised even me. He openly admits to playing quid pro quo with his sources — you supply the exclusives, he provides the fawning coverage to show investors. Journalists might sniff at Arrington's ethical judgment, but it works for him — as long as startups play by his rules. All this reminds me of Europe's last great monarch.
Update: Like any good court Jester, we've recontextualized Arrington's remarks to serve our own postmodern fun-poking purposes, excising much footage for brevity — and playfully misrepresenting what was left of his earnest advice for hilarity.
Louis XIV, the French king, gathered the nobles of France to Versailles, rewarding them with attention while robbing them of real power. For those outside the Web 2.0 scene, Arrington's rules must seem as baroque as the Sun King's court: Link to TechCrunch relentlessly on your blog and follow Arrington on Twitter, and he might grant you the imprimatur of a TechCrunch mention. Watch the whole speech, but replace Arrington's oft-repeated invocations of "community" with "noble court" — it makes much more sense. What's the fate of those who transgress against his sense of proper manners, or worse, refuse to kowtow entirely? No guillotine; he just blocks you on Twitter, a punishment which he believes to be the ultimate in ruthless dismissal.
Arrington's delusions of grandeur aren't so worrisome — a dash of humility and a vacation on another continent would fix that. What's scary is the collective fantasy shared by entrepreneurial true believers who honestly think they're destined to save civilization by monetizing pageviews on social networks. Decisions made in a bubble, whether it's the royal palace in Versailles, or a TechCrunch comments thread, veer toward groupthink, engender cults of personality and end in wild speculation and heavy losses. The Sun King's scheme worked for a while, but didn't it end with a monarch losing his head?