May 22, 2007
Silicon Valley BUZZ Dilemma
Arrington's post on Silicon Valley needing a downturn really resonated with me. Part of why Mike is feeling it at a deeper level is that he is getting HIT, PITCHED, SOLD TO, who knows, perhaps even bribed on a daily basis. He says that CEOs have called him in tears. Tears? For not covering them?
In Mike's second career, he has very quickly moved into what PR flacks have always referred their cream-of-the-crop influencer list to as top-tier. Fellow top-tier blogger Scoble did a follow up piece on how he feels about what's happening in the Valley now too and he, like Mike and others are feeling overwhelmed. Scoble points out that he has a folder of 1,000+ things he 'may' blog about someday. I wouldn't be surprised if a former or perhaps existing client of mine may actually be sitting there :-)
Established top-tier traditional media guru Kara Swisher who covered all things Internet in the first boom responded to Mike's angst. Say No, she says. Having worked at the #1 media outlet on that flack top-tier list, she has had years of practice saying no like many well known reporters with high circulation numbers, reach and prestige.
Try telling this to a client regardless of their size. They often expect you to pick up the phone and a few minutes later, a meeting is scheduled and days later, an article appears. It's 2007 and this plea is no different than what I've been hearing from execs for the past 15 years. I'd have a hard time calculating how many times I've heard a CEO say, "get me the WSJ." And often if you don't, you're out the door.
This is obviously short-sighted, for those who hire well, understand that its a process, a process of building a solid relationship. When its the right time, that ground work turns into gold that is sustainable. Just because you have moved from stealth to public beta and you think you have a cool idea, it doesn't mean that the Arringtons, Scobles, Swishers, Needlemans, Mossbergs, Delaneys, Wildstroms, Maneys and Maliks of the world owe you coverage.
That said, I go through my own frustrations when I see companies without a lot of traction, users or funding get more love than they deserve and sometimes they're a competitor to a client. I have a client now that gets less media love than many of the other services and yet their registered user-base in just over a year is above two million with well over 10 million uniques a month. Go figure. There are always inside deals in this business, always has been, likely always will be. Harry McCracken's recent act of honor was a great example of ethics winning over money.
When I first moved here not quite three years ago, I had companies beg me to take them on, requesting that their coming out party be at Mike Arrington's house. "That's your idea of a PR strategy?" I asked. It didn't seem to matter that Arrington's audience wasn't one that some of these companies needed to reach.
Even though I'm not a old or new media mover-and-shaker, I get pitched by ideas daily, some of which I can't figure out how to use, hate the UI, don't understand the business model, or how I would sell it to others. And other times I ask myself over and over, "what is compelling about this idea?"
Sometimes, the market is so crowded, it just doesn't make sense. I used to think that I thought more like a journalist than a flack. Now I think more like a VC, which is hardly surprising given how much of my life is saturated by start-up energy. Now if only I knew the trick to those term sheets!!
I wasn't living in Silicon Valley during the first boom but I was most definitely an integral part of it. Through an ugly acquisition (Dragon Systems), there were layoffs, the situation turned into an Enron-like disaster, people lost stock, and there were plenty of tears.
During this process, there were VC meetings, partnership deals and weekly trips to Sandhill Road. We met with analysts, made frequent trips to Frys (a novelty for us East Coasters) and attended numerous overhyped, champagne-flowing parties from 1996 to 2000.
I was also courted in those days by companies offering me VP of Marketing jobs that included a ton of stock, a salary that quadrupled the one I had at the time, my own private driver, a PR budget I'd kill for today and an office with a view to brag about.
Yet, despite the exotic trimmings of the last Bubble, I turned all of them down: the start-ups, AOL, the large agencies, etc. The fabricated life I saw from where I sat just didn't seem real and many of the start-ups who made these offers had names I couldn't pronounce, services I couldn't figure out how to use, and founders who were too arrogant to put in front of press.
Like Robert, I'm not sure I agree with Mike that its better to go back. What I do agree with is the need for stronger BS meters and listening to opinions from those who don't drink 'technology and Web 2.0 kool-aid. In other words, a reality check. I asked a well-read friend of mine who is a partner at KPMG and lives in Manhattan what he thought of Wired Magazine and TechCrunch and he looked at me with with a confused look on his face and said, "I've never heard of them."
It's a great thought provoking piece. It appears that others think so too - 172 comments so far and its only mid-day.
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