Why I left behind my sweet journalism gig…

Posted by on January 18th, 2011

I had an imaginative boss, a decent salary and time to work on magazine features. My employer was an aggressive pursuer of audiences on the Internet and television, so I had a spot as a panelist on a television show and a blog. Why leave? Yes, to finish a book, but why become a communications consultant?

I saw the media was undergoing a once-in-a-generation revolution. Not everybody likes to look at the big picture, but I do. And very simply, I wanted to be one of the folks who took the red pill and now gets to wear the shiny leather duds and sunglasses.

Say a person wants information—he wants to read an article or watch a video or whatnot. Or say he wants to disseminate an idea, by purchasing an advertisement or calling a reporter or writing a letter to an editor. He doesn’t just pick up his dog-eared copy of Readers Digest anymore. He’s now confronted by an infinite number of places where he can do either.

Nobody just sits down with a newspaper and a couple of magazines. They use the Internet to grab clips from 20 different magazines and newspapers. Sure, they still need trusted sources like the New York Times or Wired or Forbes. But they may devote just as much attention to a favorite blog, often supported by ads and brilliantly written by experts that in an earlier era my colleagues and I might have regarded as sources, not competitors.

In this environment, advertising has become brutally efficient. Reporters are all working twice as much for half as much. Publications are going bankrupt everywhere—yet most somehow continue to publish.

For capitalists who rely heavily on the media to communicate with their investors, customers and rivals, all this is exciting but confusing. It’s cheaper than ever to advertise, yes, but readers are more inured than ever to traditional ads. There are more reporters than ever to pass an idea to, but they’re all overstretched and none commands the vast audiences they once reached. Meanwhile, every manager, entrepreneur, lawyer, banker and investor is finding out that he or she is expected to be able to speak up for themselves.

Everywhere you look in the communications field, there are problems. And they’re the kind that are difficult and expensive to fix, because the whole field is plagued by a dearth of trust.

Ding. I realized that it would be exciting and lucrative to work on the solutions to those problems. I think I have a few fixes partly worked out already. I picked my backers with some very specific criteria in mind. I wanted fellow entrepreneurs. And I wanted creative communicators who take their craft seriously. I needed partners who had earned my trust over the years and who command tremendous respect from their business clients. KCSA was the one firm that I knew fit the bill. I’m a managing director with KCSA now. And I am also managing editor of a separate venture, in which KCSA is a partner.

What are we up to? Some of it is just very good communications work executed with a high level of proficiency. But I’m keeping a few details on other things we’ll do quiet for now. I promise you it will develop in the coming year and beyond, and I think the results will speak for themselves.