I know I'm remiss in getting on with the series on the profession of journalism and I apologize for that. But the discussion I started with this blog over a year ago is starting to do one of the things I hoped it would do... bring me in some business. (Yes, Ron W, I admit the blog is an effort to increase revenue for the PR side of the business, but then that's always been the point).
What is exciting about the business opportunities has been where they have come from, and it is not where I expected. In the past three weeks I've talked to law firms, accounting firm, representatives of Consul Generals from various countries, venture capitalists, real estate developers and CEOs of chambers of commerce from different parts of the country. All of these really interesting people are looking for ways to do communications differently.
So it has sucked up a lot of time, plus I have clients that want me to do something for them from time to time... and then there is New Tech Press. I hope to get to part four next week, but in the meantime, courage. Things seem to be moving up and to the right.
Really busy week. Not much time for thought. But read an article in the SF Chron about Berkeley Breathed shutting down his comic strip, Opus, this Sunday. His primary reason, other than being disillusioned at the rancor in political discourse, is that the young people he is trying to reach with Opus don't read newspapers, and the only people that remember his previous strip , Bloom County, are not the people he wants to reach.
We all know this is true, but here's the real irony:
My 19-year-old son started reading the Chronicle for the Opus strip, reading the rest of the paper after he had finished it and using Breathed's perspective to put the news into context. Opus is more responsible for my son's politics and social view point than any political leader. Now he says without Opus, he has no desire to read the Chronicle.
Breathed's reason for quitting has become a self-fufilling prophesy.
Why am I doing this?That's a question I get a lot.There are also people who think thy know why I doing this blog and New
Tech Press and the VC communications program, etc., etc.It occurred to me today that I haven't
really stated why.
I no longer believe in the effectiveness of the public
relations practices that we are all used to.I no longer believe 99.999 percent of the news releases put
out everyday have any value.I
cannot see how media and analyst relations practices that have developed over
the past century can possibly bring awareness of small, innovative
companies.I believe that
everything has changed, from the way information is distributed to the way it
is consumed; from the way information is gathered to how that gathering is
For the past 12 months, I have not taken another client that
wants to do business as usual.I
have told dozens of companies that what they want to hire me to do will NOT do what
they want to see happen.I have
told them that even if they find someone to do what they want and they get what
they expect, what they expect will NOT produce the outcome they hope for.
There are a lot of small PR agencies and consultants that
will take money to do what is asked of them.They will do the job very well and produce the results the
companies want to see.But those
same consultants will face a dissatisfied client in 12 months because he can
see no growth in his business, no additional awareness of his company and no
real hope for continued investment in his innovation.
I do not want my company to be another one of those
agencies.Something new has to be
done.I think social media
approaches are more effective.I
believe sponsored media coverage has greater reach.I know that the approaches I am promoting actually do some
good for the companies that are exploring the possibilities.
Basically, I'm saying I am all in with the gamble on new
forms of media and information.
I am not going to compete with PR consultants and agencies
for traditional business.I will
work with those agencies to help them be better at what they do.
I'm saying all this for you to be prepared.You are going to be hearing from
us.By us, I mean me, Joe and
Ozzie.We are bringing you the
truth about the present situation and what you can do about it.We know that the past no longer is. We
don't know exactly what the future will look like, but we have a pretty good
idea and we're going to take some good companies there.And it's going to benefit everyone:
startups, media, analysts and the market.
We will probably be talking about you, too.There are many influential people and
organizations who are asking us who is in and who is out.We'll be praising companies who get it
and revealing those who don't
Along with the furor over Cadence senior exec turnover, tiny little LogicVision also announced a shakeup. They dropped their CFO, VP of marketing and VP of operations and replaced them with new beancounters and engineers.
LogicVision has been struggling in the market for almost a decade, primarily because their competition has made a greater investment in marketing than they have. LogicVision actually has a superior product and one that is uniquely suited to large, complex semiconductor design. The competition has been squeezing out as much value of old technology as possible, but gets their message out much more effectively than LogicVision ever has.
And every year, LogicVision decides to reduce their effort to communicate with the market, fight holding actions on their remaining market share, and ... replace marketing expertise with engineering.
Can't be done, folks. The best technology ALWAYS loses to superior marketing,
Yesterday, San Jose Magazine came out with a glowing tribute the Cadence Design and it's leader Mike Fister. Today, Cadence announced that Fister has resigned. The WSJ coverage also pointed out that Cadence is lowering guidance prior to the October 22 financials.
Sam Whitmore reported that Wayne Rash, the tech analyst that oversaw eWeek's Knowledge Center was lid off in connection to a site redesign. The "center" was the place where contributed content resided. It's still on the overall site but the tab has disappeared from the home page. Loring Wirbel, in an email, reminded me that Wayne had been at CMP for many years before moving over to eWeek.
Besides losing another good journalist the decision to downplay contributed content on the site is ominous for traditional PR. Without sufficient editorial staff, a publicist doesn't have anyone to pitch stories to. That leaves placing contributed articles. But publications are backing away from that content now. So all you have left to work with is news releases.
Over at Greeley's Ghost, Brian Fuller is predicting the end of PR as we know it. I don;t think he's far from wrong.
You may have noticed an exchange between me a well-known
tech journalist last week.He and
several other editors in his publication have taken extreme exception to the
philosophies, practices and predictions on this site, most specifically related
to New Tech Press.
I have a pretty thick skin.The only people that actually get to me are those that I
respect.So I want to go on record
as identifying that this journalist and ALL the journalists at this
organization are of the highest quality.They consistently win awards and deservedly so.They do NOT deserve the treatment they
receive at the hands of the non-human financial demon we have all been enduring
since the turn of the century.I
also want to go on record as saying the publications in their media house are
some of the finest in the world and should receive significant advertising
support from the industry so they could continue their tradition of great B2B
In a perfect world, advertising revenues would continue to
climb and their newsrooms would swell to appropriate sizes to handle the level
of work they would need to put in to fill the pages of their publications and
The problem is, it just ain't gonna happen.
What I reported last week was not a bashing of the company
that owns the publication.It was
simply an observation on news reported by another solid organization (Reuters)
that things were not going well for the company financially.There are two reasons for this.First, the credit market is in
shambles, which makes financing very difficult.Second, and most important, is that advertising revenues
continue to decline.The
publication went through several serious rounds of layoffs in the past year,
which saw many very fine journalists put out on the street.This is a statement of our times, not a
We can continue to complain about the state of affairs and
how good it was 15 years ago, or we can do something about it.As Edmund Burke once said "all
that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing."
So last year, we decided to do something.It was new.It was different.And it freaked a lot of people out.Apparently, a lot of people are still freaked out. Are we
successful yet? Nope.I'm not
making a ton of money on this effort but I am putting a lot of effort into it.
Why? Because we think the concept of objective journalism is important enough
to do whatever it takes to keep it alive.Even if it means making a significant investment, damaging our own
traditional business model, and taking shots from people we respect.
Funny thing is, the damn thing works.It doesn't follow the same financial model
that everyone is used to, but the product looks, sounds and operates like real
journalism. In the past few
months, we've covered only a few stories.In each case, the subject matter was something that was outright
rejected by the established tech press.After 40,000 page views and hundreds of click-throughs, apparently
someone was interested in reading or viewing the subject matter.And that's the plan.New Tech Press covers the stories the
traditional press has neither the time nor the inclination to cover.We do it with experienced journalists. We
take great pains to make sure the coverage is balanced. And yes, companies directly
sponsor the subject matter, because no one wants to advertise in the sectors we
cover. And as they say, if it walks, talks and sounds like a duck…
This grand experiment has not been done in a clean
room.We have been talking to
journalists, publishers, venture capitalists communications professionals and
tech marketing people for over a year.I've asked for input from lots of people and made adjustments as
necessary.Most everyone was
skeptical at first, but just about all of them have come around to the opinion
that this silly thing just might work.In fact, the only ones who still don't like the idea have never accepted
any invitation to make input.They
just make nasty, dismissive remarks.
I guess you just can't win them all.I really hope I'm wrong. It would be
great to go back to the old ways.I know what I'm doing in that old paradigm and am pretty good at
it.But I can't keep telling
start-up tech companies that they can get them significant press coverage
because their just isn't enough press for them to compete with established
companies.They have to do
something truly earthshaking to get a traditional journalist to pay attention
and most tech advances are incremental.
My work now is helping technologists learn to communicate
with smaller audiences using available technology, and creating a new kind of
journalism that follows established ethical principals but still turns a
If that is a bad thing, let me know.Always open to input.
Two bits of news on Reed Business Information (RBI) coming in within days of each other demonstrated the paradox of modern publishing and why something has to be done to change the model. .
First, RBI last week received the AOP On-line Publishing award for, among other things, it's newsletter program (I receive several and they are all outstanding). Today, Reuters revealed that declining advertising revenues caused the financing package to keep the publication unit afloat to fall through.
RBI has been on the auction block since February and had several suiters bidding up the price. But in September, some investors got cold feet and backed out after the second round. Again, the reason was declining ad revenues.
So we have an award-winning media business, lots of people reading the publications, and fewer companies want to support the effort with advertising. There has to be a better way to maintain a free press.
Sometimes you have to think about what you wish for.
Last week I tossed off a post about an industry group asking for and RFP and I said we would take a pass because we didn't think it could be done the way they expect it to be done for the budget they proposed
Well, late last week I got a call from them. I expected to be chewed out. I didn't get chewed out. They apologized for not being clear. They don't want to do things the way they have always been done. They want to try something new. And they really want us to come up with an idea.
Do I have ideas? Oh yeah. Have they ever been done before? Oh no.
But the gauntlet has been thrown down. It's time for me to put up or shut up.