In a stunning move that caught the blogosphere off-guard, TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington announced Monday that his fast-growing blog empire is acquiring the venerable teen magazine and Web site Tiger Beat from the magazine's parent company, Laufer Media.
Exact terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but Arrington made it clear he intends to shut down the magazine and go online-only with Tiger Beat, which tech reporters covering the news Monday discovered is actually called Bop Tiger Beat. Within the next 30 days, the site will be renamed CrunchKids.
"It's the perfect fit for us," Arrington said in a blog post announcing the deal. "I've always thought Big Tobacco had it right: Get 'em while they're young. But instead of polluting their lungs, we're just going to pollute their minds. And really, at some point, like when they're 14 or so, they'll get tired of discussing teen news and focus on what I can bring to the table: deep discussions about late-round financing of important new Web 2.0 sites, new services, and TechCrunch's dream of a $1 billion payday."
Arrington wrote that he believes there is terrific synergy between his knowledge of social networking sites such as Facebook and MyYearbook and the Tiger Beat editorial staff's knowledge of important pre-teen and teen news such as the hilarious new video posted by the Jonas Brothers on YouTube.
Arrington's post, written at 3:24 a.m., goes on for an additional 2,132 words and outlines his plans for the new company, along with angry words on mainstream media and the tech industry's failure to understand the importance of the pre-teen and teen market.
"When I left Silicon Valley the first time around, I assumed someone would truly innovate around pre-teens and teens. Sure, there have been some efforts, Hello Kitty cell phones and other accessories immediately come to mind. But for the most part it's been hugely disappointing," Arrington wrote. "So screw it. I'm cashing in."
Not surprisingly, TechCrunch's move has roiled the blogging community. "What Tiger Beat does is not blogging; it's gossip news targeting a teen and pre-teen audience," wrote sometime Arrington friend (and sometime Arrington foil) Dave Winer. "It is endlessly frustrating to me that people should want to make money off what they write. And making money off what they write for pre-teen and teen girls is even more offensive."
The Silicon Valley gossip site Valleywag was even more scathing in its careful critique of the merged sites' potential. "It sucks," wrote one Valleywag commenter who was believed to be older than a pre-teen. "Arrington can't go out in the sun without SPF 45. So how's he going to look side-by-side on a Web site with the likes of dreamy Zac Efron and Chace Crawford? That's right, he'll look terrible. This is dumb. Arrington sucks."
But Arrington said in a brief interview with CNET News.com that he isn't discouraged and will go after the pre-teen and teen market with the same gusto he has the technology industry. Already, he has planned meet-ups hosted by pre-teen bloggers scheduled to coincide with 11-year-old Mackenzie Dwyer's slumber party in Chevy Chase, Md., this Saturday night and the junior high dance the following weekend in Oak Park, Ill.
"As you can tell by the geographies we're taking our road show to, we're going after the kids with parents with piles of cash," Arrington said. "Ultimately, the pre-teen market is all about innovation and targeting the right audience, and I challenge anyone--Sony, Warner Bros., even those dinosaurs at Disney--to understand this market as well as me and my new partners at Tiger Beat."
We're going to win this fight," he added. "It will be long and it will be tough. But is Disney willing to get out of bed at 4 a.m. to dig into the rumor that Miley Cyrus was grounded again? I am. I will make that commitment."
Editor's note: Remember, tomorrow is April 1, a day reserved in the U.S. for some levity. Happy April Fools' Day.