Wednesday, February 15, 2012

No more Tech Blogs, I'd like a Startup Blog

I've read far too many posts about mobile addressbook permissions, a red herring in a privacy debate that I firmly believe readers of tech blogs do not care about at all. What's funny is that it's still refreshing to see coverage of startups rather than public companies on tech blogs, no matter how inane the posts may be.

The current state of tech blogging reminds me of the most recent available episode of Downton Abbey, in which Thomas loses all of his money on the black market and it changes his attitude from snarky to earnest. This is something that I see happening in the world of tech blogging soon.

Why do I think that? Well to me the current unravelling in the tech blogosphere is not a matter of bloggers being suddenly too concerned about page views, because frankly it's been about page views since before the Aol acquisition of TechCrunch. MG Siegler had it right, the scope of what tech bloggers are writing about today as compared with a few years ago is far too broad. I like the Pando Daily credo, that they are the journal of record for Silicon Valley. That mission is a tigher scope than any other tech blog out there right now, but I'd actually appreciate an even tighter scope. A geographic focus is nice, but I'd like to see the main focus to be about technology startups only. I know of no blogs anymore whose stated mission is to write only about startups. Correct me if I'm wrong, but what we have in the market is a set of blogs that all try to cover everything vaguely resembling 'technology'.

The analogy goes like this: tech blogs have been dealing in a black market, better known as the stock market. In my mind, covering public companies is the surest way to lose focus on what matters in the technology startup space. The lure of focusing more on public companies is not a growing pain of Web 2.0 just at the point where it is having a few IPO successes, it came a couple of years ago from the success of the Business Insider. That blog literally started including $GOOG and $AAPL in their posts to catch investor eyeballs. The Business Insider's focus on public companies rather than startups was a differentiation at first, but it became the drug that tech blogs could not resist, and so our TechCrunch, GigaOm, ReadWriteWeb, VentureBeat set increased their amount of posts to make sure they were writing as much about public companies as they were about startups.

Here's a wishlist mission statement that I'd like from a true tech startup blog:
1) No posts that generally cover the content of earnings calls
2) No posts on patent infringement lawsuits
3) No posts about dividends, buybacks, balance sheets or mergers of two public companies

I'd also appreciate: since Engadget, Gizmodo and the Verve cover gadgets just fine, you can stop writing about every Android device as it comes out. Sure, if you want to cover an OS feature that might impact app startups fine, but please leave out the wholesale unboxing of every gadget that hits the market.

Finally, a true tech startup blog would not have writers who are tasked with writing about public companies, even if that company is Apple. Yes, some public companies create ecosystems that shepherd a lot of startup activity, but the stories you write should not be about the public company that created the ecosystem, but about the startups in the ecosystem. How is Tim Cook going to use Apple's cash? I don't know, you don't know and I don't care about your speculation. I'm not saying tech bloggers shouldn't listen to the earnings calls, but it's not my job to read their obligatory posts even if there's nothing relevant in those calls.

To me the public markets are to bloggers what the black market was to Thomas in Downton Abbey. The bloggers who realize the folly of trying to write about everything that an investor would care about should learn from Thomas. Once he realized he was bankrupted by the black market he went back to his core competence in order to survive.

I believe that tech bloggers will find their way soon. Until then, keep calm and carry on.

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