Bootstrapped Media Companies That Focus On Business Are Rising Up Through The Cracks

In a topical convergence Ad Age is running a Nat Ives’ piece on the “harsh reality” faced by business magazines, while David Carr of The New York Times describes the business beat as “defeated.”
Some of Carr’s prose on the matter:

While the business of business may be back, the business of covering it with heroic narratives and upbeat glossy spreads most certainly is not. And probably never will be.
…It’s not that the public has lost its appetite for stories about handsome men in three-piece suits who clink whiskey glasses at the end of a long, not-so-hard day while talking smack about their female co-workers. But “Mad Men” pretty much sates that need. The businessman as Colossus is by now a nostalgic impulse.

Nostalgic impulse, yes. But lets not forget that people in America still want to get rich and are typically fascinated by those who are rich, particularly if they recently became rich via their own ingenuity and a degree of luck.
Part of what’s happening in this economy is a shift of gravity. California is where the money is today. Carr rightly mentions Apple, Twitter and Google in his essay. Not a pinstripe among them.
The business press is located in New York City, but “the story” is west of the Hudson River. Way west. Time Magazine understands this. Hence their project in Detroit, where embedded reporters have set up camp to dig for an explanation, or preferably an answer to that city’s “business” problems.
Let’s look at another of Carr’s passages:

Business coverage has been, at its heart, aspirational, a brand promise that suggests that if you clip the right articles, internalize the right rhetoric, then you too will end up as one of the shiny, happy people striding boldly across the pages of magazines with names like Fortune, Money, Fast Company and Wired. But nobody is going to read, let alone aspire to, magazines called Middled, Outsourced, Left Behind and Clobbered. It’s as if American business has lost custody of its own story.

This is fascinating material Carr’s providing. Is business journalism about delivering good news? Is any journalism outside of the sports page about delivering good news? It seems to me that the fall from grace, a.k.a. cycle of destruction and rebirth we’re now living through is one hell of a rich storyline.
Why did it happen? When will it be over? Whose fault is it? We go over and over these very questions–as they relate to media and marketing–day in and day out here. What’s wrong with the agency business? Who is prepared to fix it and when? At the same time, I know what Carr means. People turn to the business press for a competitive edge. It’s a purposeful act, reading the business section, or even a site like this.
I’d like to believe that AdPulp readers extract real value from these pages. That’s certainly what these pages are here for. One of the key messages I bring as an “ad guy” to my clients is the idea that we’re all in the media business now. Given that I provide this counsel, it makes sense that I also live it. And doing so has changed my creative services offering, from purely advertising to advertising plus content. In other words, my own evolution, and most likely yours, is mirrored by and driven by the changes in the marketplace.
Writing about, thinking about and talking about business isn’t going away, now or tomorrow. The venue is changing and we’re all adapting to the new environment. For sure, the big titles in business news are struggling along with big city newspapers. But out on the edge, new media companies are being built–sometimes in a guy’s house, as is the case with Michael Arrington and TechCrunch.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.