Two folks, I follow on Twitter got into an exchange about media coverage of startup funding. The conversation caught my attention to the (somewhat rare) extent that I felt compelled to weigh in — mainly to offer some historical perspective from what I learned during my days as a professional blogger and journalist. 

The biggest change blogging brought to the media landscape was that it atomized news. What would previously have been a long news story got broken up into constantly updating components. One of these components was “funding news.” Other than acquisition, a possible public offering, or a new product launch, this was pretty much the only news that came out of startups. And no one covered pure funding news better than the folks at TechCrunch — quick, concise, and usually exclusive. That was what made them the first read for everyone.  

I told my tweeting colleagues that my approach back in the day was to think of funding news not just as a one-off event, but instead as an opportunity to dive deeper. I should admit that this was not necessarily a novel idea — I had learned it on the job. As I previously recounted in a many years-old post, when I was a young reporter, “my then editor would often chastise me for focusing too much of my time on investors. While investors & investment dollars are a good barometer when measuring the story worthiness of a startup, they aren’t the story, because what really matters is the company: its product, its technology, its founders, and the business they are trying to build.”

News flash: investors are never the story. (Not surprisingly, this is not the first time I have ranted about this topic.) 

Think of funding news as a notification on your iPhone: a chance to bring more attention to the startup. As a writer, you could dig into a company, what it does, why it matters, and how it redefines the competitive landscape. Money is just a means to an end. That end goal is what’s important.  Of course, this approach means that a writer has to really understand their coverage area — be it cloud, climate, online video, connected devices, the emergent web, or mobile ecosystems. 

Even today, whenever I see a news story about an event, I hope the story will inform and educate me about the company and its potential. Instead, I often get some meaningless drivel about the investors. The sad truth is that the “funding news” story as we know it has largely become a PR event. It’s just theater. In most cases, it isn’t even news — the funding likely happened many months ago. Furthermore, these days, media attention is more or less reserved for big funding rounds, focusing on how much cash some megafund puts into a company, how much the company is valued, and whether or not it is now a unicorn.  

To some extent, this is understandable. The sheer amount of money pumping into the ecosystem, and the gigantic scale of the startup ecosystem, means that the media folks have to use rough filters to focus their attention. Still, I will stand by my earlier argument: funding should be a trigger to tell a bigger story about the role of the company and the opportunity this event is likely to unlock. Additionally, by stepping back and paying attention to a range of funding news releases, a reporter can see common themes emerge, revealing shifts in the landscape and interesting market trends. This is fertile ground for finding optimism and excitement in the vast expanding technology landscape. 

The world as we know it stands on the precipice of massive change. We are transforming from an industrial society to a digitally enabled planet. How we live, work, consume, and create is changing. This shift has corporate and cultural implications. For instance, the workplace and the very definition of work is changing. Simultaneously, we are facing a planet-wide existential climate crisis. Against this backdrop of this change, we need to have optimism and enthusiasm for entrepreneurs and startups. To do so, we must go beyond the press release and the headline to determine the relevance of a startup to these pressing challenges.

Sometimes, funding news is not just funding news. 

PS: How to write a good blog post

July 12, 2021. San Francisco

Protocol is live

Protocol, a new online publication from the house of Politico is live. It wants to bring a new dimension to coverage of technology, which has gone from being a curiosity to the necessity to now becoming a foundational part of modern existence. ” Technology is no longer just an industry; it’s a global power center … Continue reading Protocol is live

My Top 25 Daily Tech Reporters

I often get asked — who are your favorite technology journalists. I don’t know how to answer that question: they are all good on any given day. Some are great at writing features. Others are just fantastic on a day-to-day basis, displaying a broad sense of understanding. Some are just a great combination of all those characteristics — and here my current top 25 favorite reporters, neatly curated as a  Twitter List of my top 25 reporters who cover technology.

Why? Because they keep me informed on all aspects of the technology industry on a daily basis. They create a comprehensive, 360-degree view of the industry. I have not included subscription-only services such as The Information — I don’t subscribe. I did at one point but wasn’t reading it that much. I also excluded people who didn’t share work of other writers. These 25 people do a good job of being selective and judicious in amplifying and sharing essential reads. This is a role every successful modern journalist has to play. (Related: Amplification and the changing role of media.)

When creating this list, I was looking to recreate the “technology section” of a daily newspaper with the reporters who got the important stories pretty much on a daily basis. The right way to improve this list is to include folks who dig deeper into the financial aspects of companies and the impact of changes in technology on public market equities. But there aren’t many in the tech-media game who are doing that on a daily basis.

I am always open to adding more people, but I find that by forcing myself to pick 25, I am getting a better signal. There are three ex-GigaOmers in the list — that’s not bias, for there are about 15 other ex-GigOmers who are not on the list. They are just good.

Follow my list of the top 25 reporters to stay on top of the latest technology news, trends, and analysis.

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