Lessons from an Entrepreneurial Editor
Former Fortune editor David Kirkpatrick on launching Techonomy.
In 2010, former Fortune editor David Kirkpatrick teamed up with other ex-Fortune colleagues to form Techonomy, a new media business aimed at convincing leaders from all sectors that technological and social invention is critical.
âIâve been a wage slave at larger media companies and the journalists who donât have one of the very few high-paying editorial jobs have to be entrepreneurs,â he says. âFor people in journalism today, it shouldnât be, âhow do I get a job,â itâs âhow do I create a business.ââ
Kirkpatrick actually owned the Techonomy URL for 15 years before launch (he acquired it from an acquaintance whose business folded).Â The original vision for Techonomy was a hybrid of original reporting, opinion, aggregated content and contributed long form journalism, as well as a combination of publishing, teaching, consulting and partnerships. The startupâs debut conference took place in August 2010 featuring speakers such as Bill Gates and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
Live Events Key To Profitable launch A successful live event can be the building block for an editorial venture. âLook at some of the startups out thereâTechnorati, paidContent, GigaOMâall started as blogs and became very successful but they initially werenât highly profitable because itâs hard to support quality digital journalism with digital advertising,â says Kirkpatrick. âIt wasnât until they added a conference component that they became profitable. Conferences are a good business. They can be profitable from the start with minimal capital investment.â The second Techonomy conference will take place Nov. 13-15.
While the initial show was a success, Kirkpatrick had to reassess the model going forward. âWe had five equal partners and the decision-making process was structured on a consensus basis,â he says. âThe democratic model doesnât really work.â
Kirkpatrick said heâs been approached by number of media companies seeking partnerships (and one interested in acquiring Techonomy). Last month, Forbes Media struck a strategic partnership with Techonomy, taking a minority investment in the venture. The partnership with Forbes includes media sponsorship of the Techonomy 2011 conference. Other partners in Techonomy Media today include former Fortune publisher Mike Federle, and Simone Ross, former program director for Fortuneâs conference division.
Going forward, Kirkpatrick wants to create more conferences for additional verticals and bolster the content side of the business (with help from Forbes), with a mix of blogs, video and other channels. For Kirkpatrick, one of the most impressive tech content models out there is IBMâs Smarter Planet initiative, which offers articles, rich media, data reports and more across a variety of sectors.
âFor content to be successful it has to be well-created (if itâs video, it has to be well-produced),â says Kirkpatrick. âYou need to think about whatâs useful, whatâs most likely to be picked up. Itâs not just about producing the best content anymore but producing things that will be repurposed.â