Techdirt Goes Corporate

from the put-on-that-suit-and-tie... dept

Okay. Big announcement time (though, not really a big secret if you've spoken to me recently). About two years ago at the height of the "dot com bubble" I started getting weird emails from people who seemed angry with me for not trying to exploit them for money. Techdirt didn't (and still doesn't, and will continue not to) have any ads, and didn't seem to have any way of making money. These people were genuinely pissed off at my lack of money making ability. I gently explained to these people the meaning of the word "hobby" and let them go. However, about 9 months ago, I did some brainstorming with folks who have helped me out on Techdirt to see if there was some way that we could make a living that was somehow associated with Techdirt (I really love working on the site, and being able to do it - or something associated with it for a living would be great). The main requirement in doing so was that it not interfere with the experience of the readers of Techdirt. After a bunch of brainstorming and some random conversations with people who might find the offering interesting, Techdirt Corporate Intelligence was born. It's been going strong officially since March (and was being "beta tested" for a few months before that). Feel free to click "Read More" or "Comments" below to see the story behind all this and what it all means for your experience reading Techdirt (not too much, actually).History
Techdirt started in 1997 as a newsletter/hobby/fun project for me to help keep some of my friends in business school informed about what was really going on in the tech world. It was never intended to be a full time job, and I had no plans to ever make money off of it.

It quickly grew into a website, and in early 1999 started using the Slash code to post stories on a more regular basis, and allow for more of a community aspect to the site.

The Idea
In December of 2000, I was trying to figure out what to do with my career and had a series of discussions with some of the people who have helped me out with Techdirt over the years. They all seemed to think that there was something valuable here that could be turned into a money making operation. I thought they might (or might not) be right, but it was certainly worth looking into.

Through conversations with readers and other helpers of Techdirt, I worked out what people found valuable about the site. They felt that we found news from a wide variety of sources that they couldn't all read. We filtered that news down to the most interesting/relevant/amusing stories for them to read. They also liked the way we summarized and analyzed the news to make it quickly digestable - without being bland.

At the same time, we had developed some informal tools to help us search for news and quickly read through a wide spectrum of sources to find what mattered most. I had also discovered that in reading so much news every day I kept coming across articles that, while not relevant to the Techdirt community as a whole, would be very useful to people I knew at various companies.

I also knew, mostly from experience, the value of finding/filtering/summarizing/analyzing news in corporations that really wanted to remain competitive over time.

We put all of that together to come up with Techdirt Corporate Intelligence.

The Company
The company provides hosted, branded, private "Techdirts" for our clients. We've built (with quite a lot of help) a set of tools that helps us to very efficiently find/filter/summarize/analyze news for companies. We have a great content management system (built from the ground up) that helps us to post the stories to the corporate sites quickly (the corporate sites are completely separate from the main Techdirt.com and use a totally different system for content management). We do thorough, but quick, analysis for each news story, and we make sure that our clients are as informed as they can be about whatever news they want to know about. Companies like our analysis because we don't shy away from telling them what we think. We keep our analysis short and to the point, so there's no way to beat around the bush - and companies find that sort of direct honesty refreshing and extremely valuable.

Obviously, we work closely with each of our clients to make sure we have a very detailed understanding of their needs, and we continue to refine the relationship over time, as the clients' needs change.

The company is entirely funded out of revenue from existing customers, and we see no reason to change that. This company is not designed to take on venture capital, or to flip in the stock market, but to be a fun, profitable, solid business that we all enjoy working for.

What This Means For Techdirt.com
Well... nothing really. This has been a full time company for many months now, and if anything, it's allowed me, personally, to focus additional efforts on the public site of Techdirt.com, since it's a very important part of the business. If anything, expect the site to improve over the next few months thanks to some projects and partnerships we've been working on.

It's important to me that the site remain as a place that people enjoy coming to. I've stated many times in the past that it doesn't make sense to piss off your users (like so many technology businesses) and I plan to stand by that. Techdirt.com should remain a fun site that you find useful.

The only noticeable differences will be a link to the Techdirt Corporate Intelligence site, and the fact that we may (occasionally) mention it on the main site. Other than that, there's no reason to expect the site to be any different.

What Can You Do To Help?
Glad you asked. ;) As a small business that survives entirely based on the revenues we bring in (and so far it's been going great), we do need to continue to steadily grow our customer base. We have a strong pipeline of interested companies that we're talking to as we continue to support our happy base of current clients. However, we're always looking for more customers who think they could benefit from the service.

We don't believe in the hard sell. There are some companies that don't think they need this service, and we wish them the best of luck (even if we might snicker behind their backs when we find news they would find useful, but probably don't know about). There are other companies that (times being as they are) feel they can't afford the service. As one of our clients recently pointed out, they think it's laughable that anyone couldn't afford the service, since the information they've received through us has allowed them to make many times the cost of the service. However, we understand that companies are trying to save money as best they can these days. We believe that using Techdirt Corporate Intelligence does save a company money is more than likely to pay for itself very quickly.

If you're a regular reader of Techdirt, you know the sort of depth and insight that we can provide. If you think that your company could use this service, please contact us, and we'll see what we can do to help you out.

Sincerely,
Mike Masnick
President, Techdirt Inc.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team


Reader Comments

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  • identicon
    Michael Clouser, 5 Sep 2001 @ 7:54am

    Best of Luck

    Excellent Mike.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tim, 5 Sep 2001 @ 8:35am

    No Subject Given

    Congratulations. Glad to see that the public site will remain up.
    You hiring?
    Thanks,
    Tim

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Marvin Chang, 5 Sep 2001 @ 10:08am

    Congrats

    Ditto Clouser's comment

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      sb, 5 Sep 2001 @ 10:25am

      Re: Congrats

      > I worked out what people found valuable about the site. They felt that we found news from a wide variety of sources that they couldn't all read. We filtered that news down to the most interesting/relevant/amusing stories for them to read. They also liked the way we summarized and analyzed the news to make it quickly digestable - without being bland. < br>----
      I hate to rip on my own favorite site, but in the spirit of techdirt itself, here goes:
      Wow, so people come to techdirt to read your comments and links to filtered news ? Go figure! I figured it was all those OTHER things that are on the techdirt site that attracted viewers!
      Maybe Exxon should also take a poll. "What our customers like the most about our gas stations, is the fact that they can fill their cars w/ gas. And here we thought they were stopping by to use the soda machine ! We will now incorporate this knowledge into our corporate direction. Thank you"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rich Skrenta, 5 Sep 2001 @ 10:34am

    Good service

    Congrats Mike on finding a way to build a
    successful business model around the Techdirt service.

    From what you've mentioned to me in the past
    it sounds like you provide good value for your
    clients and I wouldn't hesitate to use Techdirt
    given the need.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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