Tech.eu: embarking on a new journalistic journey with a couple of friends

When The Next Web “asked me to leave” back in July, I did one of the smartest things I’ve ever done: I essentially took a long vacation to enjoy my (and my family’s) last 5 weeks of living in lovely Barcelona.

But, evidently, you can’t just turn off your brain and not think about what comes next, especially when you have a family to support. So I considered joining another big tech blog or starting my own small tech blog, and I also entertained a bunch of other offers and possibilities, such as joining a PR firm or working in a marketing or business development type role in a tech startup or even a large corporation.

I also considered writing for different publications and various clients on a freelance basis, which I actually ended up doing for a while because it was good fun and a welcome way to keep the lights on at home.

Ultimately though, I didn’t want to think about it too much. Until one night I started pondering about what was missing in the European tech media landscape, which in my mind was a heck of a lot.

In mid-August, most definitely on a whim, I purchased the domain name tech.eu with a sizeable chunk of what was left of our savings. The domain was available, and I figured I could use it if I ever decided to start my own tech blog, or I might be able to sell it without a loss in case that didn’t pan out.

At that point, I didn’t really know, though I started to miss writing.

A meeting of minds

As Alanis Morrisette so eloquently put it, life has a funny way of sneaking up on us.

At some point, at some conference, I started a conversation with my good friend Alex Barrera, and it turned out he and some other people had also spotted a huge gaping hole in the European tech media landscape, which was in-depth coverage on a broader scale than other publications are currently doing.

One thing led to another and I ultimately banded together with an amazing group of people, some of which I’ve known for many years and others I’ve only met in recent months.

tech

I’ll give you some (but not all, for your sanity) the details of why it took so many more months to get where we are today: the public launch of Tech.eu, or at least the first version of it. Sure, go ahead, tell all your friends.

In a nutshell, it takes much more time and effort to build a digital publication with at least something of a solid brand identity, formulate an editorial strategy, and to do a million other things nobody really cares about but are essential to get done before a launch.

But today’s the day of our launch, and even though I know there’s lots of work to be done on a multitude of levels (design, content, partnerships, hiring, you name it) I’m very pleased.

I’m pleased because we’ve managed to agree on an editorial and commercial strategy that we believe will benefit the broader tech ecosystem in Europe and beyond. As I write in our launch post, we truly believe there’s no one currently doing what we plan to do, and we also think it’s much needed.

While some seem to think the only way to ‘win’ is to go for easy and lots of traffic to monetize the shit out of it with advertising, we think there’s an unmet need for something else – something more.

On a mission to create great content

We’re not being hypocritical: we read, like and share the same listicles and animated GIF posts and fucking slideshows just like everyone else appears to be doing these days.

We also see that there’s an audience for that type of content, as well as fast but ultimately shallow ‘news’ articles, back-of-the-envelope analysis and ‘reports’ based on thin air at best.

We realize that this is what makes a Buzzfeed, Upworthy, Mashable, Business Insider and, increasingly, sites like The Next Web and TechCrunch tick. We realize full well there’s a good reason for it (give people what they want etc.). It’s just that we don’t want to be part of it.

We also see the value of, and appetite for, original, unique and long-form content pertaining to the European technology industry. We think qualitative and data-driven analysis is a good way to build a (small but valuable) audience that can be effectively ‘monetized’ – it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, always have to revolve around the sheer number of page views a publication can trick readers into.

We see the trend of niche media startups – ‘entrepreneurial journalism’ if you will – with experienced reporters like Kara Swisher / Walt Mossberg, Sarah Lacy, Paul Carr, Jessica Lessin, Rafat Ali and Bobbie Johnson starting up lean digital publications, and attempt to think and act differently.

We also can’t not notice that, in Europe, the very diversity and fragmentation that defines the continent makes for a hotchpotch of tech media: there are great English-language local blogs and networks such as Rude Baguette, VentureVillage, Netocratic, ArcticStartup etc. being started and maintained in an effort to highlight innovation in a certain country or region.

That’s absolutely fantastic, but at the same time: who really has the time and resources to weed through all of them to get some bigger perspective on what’s happening in the European tech landscape?

Well, we do, and more importantly, we care.

Stay tuned for more, and go subscribe to Tech.eu.

Advertisements

On leaks and family matters

Family-Matters

My friend and former TechCrunch-accomplice Roi Carthy (now a managing partner at VC firm Initial) has published an interesting blog post to lament a recent report in the Israeli business press about Apple’s supposed acquisition of PrimeSense.

The problem is that, apparently, the deal was/is not yet signed and done, leading Roi to suggest whoever leaked the news was being irresponsible and possibly impacting “hundreds of people’s livelihoods”:

“People’s livelihood in jeopardy because of a leak, is a state of being I have a problem accepting.”

I think it’s a bit ridiculous to state that this sort of leaks can people’s livelihood in ‘jeopardy’ – it’s not like it’s literally putting folks in a life-or-death situation. Too strong a word any way you slice it.

But as a journalist that has also dabbled in entrepreneurial ventures, I understand his position. Leaks can spike business deals and ‘rob’ people (not just founders, but their employees and investors) of financial reward, job security, and more. That sucks, and I totally get why that makes people ticked off at the leaker(s), whoever they may be or regardless of their agenda(s).

It may not to be the wisest thing to say as a journalist, but I do agree that leakers should sometimes be more thoughtful and careful when passing on crucial business information to the press or peers.

What I vehemently disagree with, however, is Roi’s stance on how the Israeli business press should have handled the leak.

Roi pleas for them to make a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ between them and “do the right thing”, which is apparently to stop publishing reports based on leaks. That is not how an independent media is supposed to work, of course, and the reality is that it would only take one rotten apple to ruin the whole thing. And if everyone miraculously sticks to the gentleman’s agreement, a new apple will fall from the tree and start publishing reports based on leaks anyway. It wouldn’t, and I argue shouldn’t, ever work.

Referring to the Israeli ecosystem’s journalists and startups as a “family”, as Roi does in his post, is dangerous and detracts from his stronger point, which is that the leaker is acting irresponsibly.

Coincidentally, I’ve had this conversation before, also with a well-known member of the Israeli startup community, who argued that leaks about the Facebook-Google bidding war for Waze would kill the deal and (there we go again) deprive a lot of Israelis of substantial financial reward for their hard work over the past few years. Except, of course, the rumours didn’t kill the deal at all.

If I were running a business like PrimeSense and a leak happened before the dotted line gets signed, I’d be pissed too. But I’d be angry at the leaker(s), not the press whose duty it is to report on business happenings, whether they’re ongoing or finalized.

Leaks have occurred for ages, across industries and the world (try reporting politics instead of tech for a real taste of behind-the-scenes ‘information sharing’). They’re not going away. Deal with it, basically.

Attempting to dictate when a journalist can report something is a very slippery slope, and pulling the ‘family’ card has a averse effect in my mind. An independent media should decide for themselves what and when to publish, and the public will choose to pay attention or ignore it on the basis of its authenticity, accuracy and accountability.

They shouldn’t be put in a position where they would have to defend their way of working because they are ‘part of the ecosystem’. They don’t have to go on the defensive and argue what they have to gain from publishing reports based on leaks – it’s not just about being first or beating the competition, it’s about doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. Blaming them for botched business deals is wrong.

The media’s role is to stay as neutral as possible, and journalists should stay on the sidelines to the extent where they can report on business deals without having to consider “people’s livelihoods”.

That’s on the leaker(s).

They are typically part of the ‘family’ Roi refers to – not the journalists, in my opinion.

Behold, a Buzzword Filter for Chrome – No need to thank me, fellow journalists.

I often do presentations / workshops for startups to try and explain how best to approach and deal with media, and why they should pay attention to the ‘packaging’ of their message when pitching journalists.

One of the things that really get me going is the insane amount of hyperbole – which, by the way, I just recently learned to pronounce correctly – that is often found throughout press releases or blog posts.

Thus, I tend to urge people to avoid meaningless buzzwords that somehow find their way in most every news announcement, such as ‘leading’, ‘next-generation’, ‘cutting-edge’, ‘ground-breaking’, ‘award-winning’, ‘breakthrough’, ‘innovative’, ‘game-changing’ and all that other gibberish.

When you have to read a lot of announcements on a daily basis, it gets very tedious to weed those out mentally, as almost every journalist quickly learns how to do. But now there’s a better solution.

The friendly developers over at Woorank (a great, bootstrapped Belgian startup co-founded by my buddy Jean Derely) have been nice enough to develop a Google Chrome extension especially for me.

Dubbed Buzzword Filter, it does exactly what you’d expect: install the browser plugin, and you’ll be able to create a list of words you don’t like to read.

Click the icon whenever you’re on a Web page with too many of those words, and bam, they’re gone (you can easily toggle it on and off). Simple and useful. Just the way I like my software.

Before

Demand Media Announces Key Executives and Name for Proposed Domain Services Company   EON  Enhanced Online News

After

Demand Media Announces Key Executives and Name for Proposed Domain Services Company   EON  Enhanced Online News (1)