It's rough out there. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. But waiting for everything to come back the way it was is certain catastrophe.
Let me remind you of the way it was as little as 10 years ago. Media was in the ascendancy with the popularity of the web, investment money flowing, Big Business doing the heavy lifting in subsidizing the market and getting the benefit of start-ups doing the R&D. Everyone was getting rich.
Then Big Business believed it's own press and said: why do we need the media or even these annoying little start-ups? Some smart people started asking when was the internet actually going to make money? Not so smart people started looking for subprime loans to refinance their over valuated homes. Media companies started laying off staff as ad revenue dried up.
As magazines and website media went out of business. Investors no longer had an objective, third-party view of the start-ups and stopped investing in whole segments. Big Business started pricing out the start-ups, driving down evaluations and buying the small companies at pennies on the dollar.
That's where we are today. The economic ecology is unraveled and most everyone is waiting for someone to put it back the way it was…. except for some smart people.
There is a nascent "re-understanding" of the symbiotic, though sometimes combative relationship between business and media, but that relationship can only be reborn outside of the realm of Big Business. Small business, especially the technology start-ups, have the most to gain and lose in both the short and long term in supporting, i.e. subsidizing media.
Bottom Line: Small business needs to subsidize free journalism to keep valuations high and to compete in the market against big business. If there is regular discussion in the media of the relative merits of new technologies or innovative approaches to current technology, the investment community and the customer has better reason to invest and try with small business has to offer. That increases sales, attracts potential employees and eases the path to investment.
Earlier this week I recommended the idea of a large group of small companies taking out a single one-page ad in any publication they choose as a way of increasing editorial space and hiring journalists. That's an in-the-box idea. In an out-of-the-box mindset, my corporation has been working for several months to bootstrap a new type of publication that offers direct sponsorship of articles that are shared through a media network. The latter idea is finally gaining some traction thanks to the absolute dearth of mid range news coverage in B2B media.
Embracing either or both of those ideas is a leadership position, but for those who are reluctant to take the plunge, there are other options. TechInsights (the former CMP) has a wide variety of sponsorship and subscription programs that provide support for the media. TechInsights' CEO Paul Miller has spoken of these possibilities in several venues. Extension Media, IB Systems, SOC Central and the RTC Group all have similar outreaches beyond just advertising and all of them support the media for various technical markets.
But partnership is a two-way street. It is not just sending money into media houses that solves the problem. The media houses themselves have to recognize the potential of working with small companies with small budgets and they need to create programs and packages that work within very different constraints than Big Business budgets.
Big Business has retreated into walled fortresses, running audience-captive trade shows, user groups and internal media programs. The B2B media needs to recognize that they now have a major, antagonistic competitor that once was their largest customer. The opportunity to partner with the small businesses in the tech community has the potential for greater profit, growth and innovation.
There is one more issue to be discussed that will open up the future of media and the growth of technology companies. And it rests on the shoulders of the media. But that is the next, and last part of this series.