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New tech media models

Sarah Putt, Contributor. 11 October 2018, 1:25 pm

Media was arguably the first sector to be massively disrupted by the internet, and tech media has been no exception. But, for those of us addicted to our daily fix of tech news, it's not all been doom and gloom and in recent times new business models have emerged to support tech journalism.

Some of best sector-based journalism is funded by subscription content, and two examples of Silicon Valley media that I subscribe to show how it's possible to grow a loyal audience that is quite willing to pay for content they find useful.

The first is a daily newsletter called Stratechery. It's written by Ben Thompson, an American who lives in Taiwan and who has previously worked or Apple and Microsoft. His niche is writing about the product and business strategies of big tech companies, and he emails his subscribers four updates a week. While many people have an opinion about tech, very few can make a living out of it. Here's the first paragraph of today's update:

If the first stage of competition in consumer technology was the race to be the computer users went to (won by Microsoft and the PC), and the second was to be the computer users carried with them (won by Apple in terms of profits, and Google in terms of marketshare), the outlines of the current battle came sharply into focus over the last month: what company will win the race to be the computer within which users live?

The second subscription-based outlet is The Information, which was started by a former Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Lessin. It specialises in writing in-depth investigative articles about Silicon Valley companies (often complete with an org-chart). The business model is a mix of subscription and events, in which it attracts the likes of Kevin Systrom (Instagram founder who just left Facebook). They also hold conference calls for readers in which a journalist interviews company CEOs on a topic and readers can ask questions. I attended one last week on micromobility, and it was a lively discussion.

In New Zealand, Freeman Media, which was established by Matt Freeman in 2002, operates a similar model, serving the Energy sector with a mix of subscription-only content and events. The journalists on these publications are immersed in the sector and are therefore able to provide indepth news and analysis. It's not my area of interest, but I absolutely cheer on Freeman Media for creating a thriving news outlet that serves it readership. Telco readers will remember that Freeman pioneered the idea in New Zealand with The Line in 2000s, which has since become part of the Australian-based publication CommsDay.

Of course, there are those tech publications that have been successful by sticking to their knitting, such as Reseller News NZ and CIO NZ.  In 2013 when Fairfax resigned the licenses of these publications (owned by IDG), their fate appeared far from certain. Picked up by the Australian arm of IDG, the print versions were retired and the websites converted to the Australian template.

CIO hardly missed a beat in the transition, due to its editor Divina Paredes who completely understands her market and continues to serve it well with a mix of online content and events. Reseller News has James Henderson as its editor and it appears to be thriving, with fresh New Zealand content each day targeted to its readers, and an events programme that includes an Innovation Awards attended by 450 people this week.


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