Scoble Heads to Fast Company
Ahh, Andy Plesser broke my career news again (he was the guy who broke my news about leaving Microsoft too). Louis Gray got the story first, though, I think, although I told dozens of people at the BlogHaus last week at CES.
First of all, thanks to John Furrier, James McCormick, and the entire PodTech team. I grew a lot over the past year due to the opportunities they gave me and that turned into hundreds of interviews on ScobleShow.com.
Wednesday (today) Rocky Barbanica and I are moving to work for Mansuetto Ventures. They are the producers of Fast Company and Inc. magazines. What will we be doing? Helping to build a new, interactive, online video community called FastCompany.TV which will open on March 3.
Back when my career moves were leaked over on TechCrunch I said I was considering another option. What was it? Starting my own business. Here’s why I chose FastCompany.tv instead.
But, first let me back up and talk about what I’ve learned about the media business. Here’s the four things you need to have to see success.
- Content. This should be obvious, but you’ll see where I’m going with this point later. Key here is to make content that no one else has. Content that’s better quality. “Special” in some way. Gets viewers access to something they couldn’t otherwise get access to.
- Revenues. If you don’t have them, it’s hard to buy cameras, lights, microphones, or take the time to do things right. Yeah, you can bootstrap for a while like Rocketboom did in its early years, but at some point if you don’t have cash coming in you’ll need to find a real job and stop working on media production.
- Distribution. If no one sees your videos you won’t get revenues, so getting viewers/participants is key. Now, you can either get viewers by doing stunts (like Gawker Media did at CES) or you can get it by making deals to distribute your videos into places that have high viewership. Revision3, for instance, has reportedly made deals to distribute its videos into several airplane video systems. Mansuetto’s magazines have more than a million readers, which will make it easier to get people to come visit the new network.
- Scale. The SuperBowl has all the above three, right? But the place it really makes sense? Is part of a network. Why? Because then there’s more for audiences to engage with than just one football game a year. Also, there’s economies of scale since the camera crews can work on other stuff while they aren’t working on the Super Bowl.
As I considered job opportunities I kept these four things in mind. Could the new company we’d join deliver on all of these? How about working for myself? Could I be successful? Both Mike Arrington and Om Malik (and others) urged me to start my own company. But, when I looked in the mirror I just didn’t have that passion for doing it all myself. Why not?
- I don’t love doing much except for interviewing and blogging and my family. I’ve run the books at UserLand Software. I hated that. I’ve tried managing people at PodTech and found that I wasn’t particularly interested in doing more of it (which is one reason why Rocky’s going to play a key role in the development/production of the network — it’s important that we build a strong team, but I’d rather focus more of my energies on getting great content than on finding and keeping great people).
- Building a diverse set of income requires a sales crew and attention to client happiness. It’s one thing to take care of one sponsor. It’s a whole nother thing to make magic happen for a wide range of sponsors. That takes a team of professionals. I don’t have the time, nor the skills, to build a world-class sales team and if I took the time that’d cause me to take my eye off of doing my videos, which would be the life-blood of the organization.
- Setting up a business requires a ton of other tasks. HR. Banking. Invoicing. All the other drudge work that takes time away from doing interviews, going on photowalks, reading feeds, hanging out and networking with industry leaders, etc that leads to great content.
- Doing a business is stressful on everyone involved. Om Malik’s heart attack had an impact on me. So did Marc Orchant’s death. Life is too short and if that means I leave a few million on the table because I gave up equity in my own thing, so be it. I’m happiest when behind a camera talking with someone like Doug Engelbart or taking Patrick, my son, to MacWorld. Anything other than that I’m going to outsource, ala “the Four Hour Workweek.”
- Brand extension is hard when running your ass off to build your own business. For instance, I want to build communities that lead to interesting events. But if I did my own business, running an event team would have to wait until I got my business on solid ground. That could be a year or more. That would mean opportunities lost. Fast Company and Inc have awesome event and marketing teams — I’ve been to their events and if I wanted to build a team like that it’d take capital, time, and talent that I don’t have.
- Getting access to things, when running your own business, is tougher. Yeah, I can get access to a lot of things, but did Steve Jobs invite me to attend his keynote at MacWorld? No. If I was part of a bigger team with a more established brand, would it be more likely that I’d get invited? Yes.
So, why FastCompany.tv? Why not something else? Several reasons.
- Fast Company (the magazine) has seen a resurgence in the past year. The content has gotten better. Ad sales were way up. They have new offices in New York City (I won’t be moving, rather staying in Silicon Valley).
- The editorial team at Fast Company and Inc. Magazines is getting cover articles that few others are able to get and the whole team will drive a lot of great content that’ll show up on my show and on the network.
- They have invested in a major new social networking site that’ll be revealed soon. Fast Company was one of the first magazines with a social network, called “The Company of Friends” and the new site, built in open-source Drupal, excited me because of the distribution and community it brings.
- They are working on a new magazine aimed at startups, too, which obviously I’m interested in.
- They have a sales team that’s already successful in selling to clients outside the tech industry (getting diversity is important to protect independence and also to bring fresh approaches to events and advertising).
- They liked my participatory style of video better than other companies and want to expand it. Excited about technologies like Qik, Kyte, Seesmic, Mogulus, DotSub, etc. Other people/companies I talked with had blank stares when I talked about these technologies and how they might change the media business.
- They have a tech team who understands how to integrate various Web technologies together. My column’s page on Fast Company , for instance, has a calendar from Upcoming.org and a feed from Google Reader integrated into it along with video interviews and other things. We’ll expand that kind of integration on the new network.
FastCompany.tv is not just me. They made a commitment to getting a great lineup of other stars in the industry to be part of the network — my show won’t be the only one on FastCompany.tv and we’ll be adding more shows even after our March 3 start date.
Anyway, what’s next? FastCompany.tv will start on March 3. Between now and then we’re working on finding some great content (I’m working with editors of the magazines, as well as looking for the hottest emerging tech companies along with leading business executives/strategists and visionaries). I’ll be going to the World Economic Forum and then to LIFT in Europe to find stories that are outside the United States and the “tech bubble.”
We’ll have lots of surprises too, and will be stepping up the quality of my shows — Rocky’s already working on that as we speak. But most importantly I haven’t seen a business network that treats viewers as partners. See, most of the TV (either mainstream, like CNBC, or “new” like that from Revision3 or elsewhere) treats viewers as, well, viewers. The thing is that the new technology lets you PARTICIPATE with the people who are in front of the camera. You got a taste of this while I was walking around CES with a cell phone and you could ask questions WHILE I WAS FILMING LIVE. That really changes the equation a lot and that’ll be a key differentiator on FastCompany.tv. After all, if we’re talking to Fast Companies, why shouldn’t they answer YOUR questions live as well as mine?
Anyway, to wrap this all up. This was the best “win-win” for you, for me, my employers, and for my sponsors. That’s why I’m proud to be a member of the Fast Company and Inc. families today and I’m looking forward to participating with you on March 3 on fastcompany.tv.
In between now and March 3? I’ll continue to post videos (yesterday alone I posted about a dozen videos on my Qik channel from MacWorld conference) and other items I see in the industry on my blog on scobleizer.com.