As I’ve mentioned, I’m working with a new media startup that “reverse publishes” blogs into print.
We distribute a free full-color publication in four major cities in “beta,” with ad rates that are cheaper than traditional newspapers or magazines. We pay the bloggers from the advertising. It’s a profitable business model, not a “legacy” one.
We’re also generating some “buzz,” with write ups in the New York Times, Editor & Publisher and some other publications, with no p.r. staff.
We definitely have the wind at our backs. A recession is an ideal time for a startup, too. My experience with CNET, a successful startup that was sold to CBS last year, is a good learning experience. My longtime experience in newspapers helps too — knowing all the pitfalls.
It also means some travel time, however. Being a startup inevitably means a trek to Silicon Valley, home of the VCs, law firms and other businesses that you need for support.
We’ve signed up a lawyer from Wilson Sonsini, who respresents Google, as our lawyer. He will help with corporate governance and copyright issues, in return for a stake in the firm. Our printer (and an investor) is a longtime major printer in Chicago, among the nation’s largest. Our ad guy runs a big L.A. firm.
We’re also hooking up with VCs, including the guy who helped launch Yahoo and Google. I have many contacts from my years at CNET and The Chronicle that are coming in handy. People remember you.
Throughout my adult life, I’ve watched Santa Clara County (with its fruit orchards) grow into Silicon Valley.
I graduated from Saratoga High in the late ’70s. Newspapers were more in touch with their readers then: My photo ran on the front page of the San Jose paper for winning a $500 high-school journalism scholarship at San Jose State. Nowadays, papers probably wished they didn’t abandon that strategy.
Silicon Valley (once called Santa Clara County) has changed too. My dad worked for Stanford Research Institute, so I also am familiar with Sand Hill Road and how it grew up. My grandma lived in Campbell, still one of the area’s more affordable communities.
When I head back “up the hill,” however, I’m happy to call Grass Valley home. We have a lot of potential to bring more high-tech and green businesses here, with financial support from the Bay Area (not just retirees who move here and tourists).
Trouble is, the area has a reputation for being too far off the beaten path. Having lived here for four years, I can see the problem: The long timers want to “run the show.” We’re an insular bunch and not very welcoming.
My hope was that the local newspaper could provide an independent voice of reason and insight. But it’s struggling as much as any business, so you pull in your horns and become more predictable.
In short, what we need is some leadership — from government, civic and business leaders — to help raise our visibility.
It’s possible to embrace the positive aspects of places such as Silicon Valley (innovation, risk and “out of the box” thinking) without suffering from the “oh so negative” (traffic, runaway housing prices and long commutes).
Attracting a business such as Huntington Labs from Mountain View is a step in the right direction. I’m proud of Gil Matthew of the county Economic Resource Council for his efforts in this case, a behind-the-scenes story that has been underplayed.
We just have to be open to change.