Tuesday, December 1, 2009

About My New Company

There are all kinds of questions I'm getting about my new company from friends and colleagues. So I thought it might be helpful to lay out my answers for everyone to see.

Why C-Change?

For the past five years, we’ve been witnessing nothing less than a sea change in the media business. The media monopolists are dying. More nimble, low-cost models on the web are quickly replacing them. Readers are increasingly abandoning print and moving to digital—on the little screen of your mobile device, the bigger screen on your laptop, and the biggest screen in your home. There’s nothing in the short-term future that will slow this trend down. If anything, analog media brands have only begun to feel the pain. What’s next will be truly devastating and those changes spell unprecedented opportunity for new media entrepreneurs.

Why are you starting your own company?

I passionately believe that the future of media is digital and that newcomers have tremendous advantages over incumbents. Most of traditional media remains in a complete meltdown, dragged down by high costs, old ways of thinking, and legacy work processes. As tough as the past three years have been for traditional media, the next three are going to be nothing less than brutal: more closures, greater losses, increasing layoffs of highly talented journalists and editors.

That’s also why we’re going to see a media boom in the next three years, the launch of tens of thousands of new media entrepreneurs on the Internet. Many of them will fail, but many more will flourish and replace the brands our fathers and grandfathers grew up with. The success of Huffington Post, Politico, Drudge, GigaOm, TechCrunch, and other media enterprises on the web have shown us a path forward. But it’s still very early days and the new followers are going to have lots of advantages over the first movers. I’m thrilled and excited to be part of this revolution.

What makes you so sure you or anyone else can succeed at this game?

I have three fundamental beliefs that inform my thinking: 1) Print advertising will never come back. There are just too many options for advertisers today and too much pressure on rates. Sadly, success in print will be measured in single-digit declines, forever. 2) Online advertising will never offset those declines nor save print. There’s far too much competition online and far too much available inventory; and 3) Users will not pay for content, unless they’re convinced it has immediate and tangible value. Very little journalism meets that standard today. Do we really need 57 versions of a story on Bernie Madoff pleading guilty?

If you agree with these absolutes, they can liberate your thinking about what’s going to happen next in media. Why? Because they tell you that nothing less than radical transformation is needed to survive and to thrive in the analog space. And there’s precious little revolutionary thinking among the traditionalists. That’s why newcomers have great advantage at this time of transition. The great management guru Peter Drucker said it best: "The problem in our lives is not the absence of knowing what to do, but the absence of doing it.” I’m going to do it.

Do you think print is dead?

Hardly. TV didn’t kill radio. Cable didn’t kill the networks. The VHS tape and the DVD didn’t close down all the movie theaters. Newspapers and magazines will survive but there will be fewer of them and they will not be able to rack up the profits they had in the past. I believe that a new generation of print will emerge from digital. Some online platforms will become so successful and so dominating that print products will likely result from them.

Can you be more specific about what C-Change will do?

Not yet. It’s too early to tell everyone what our first products will be, but I do envision more than a single platform. It will be a network of niche products for the business audience with an emphasis on mobile applications. I think there are three core ingredients and all of them start with C which is why my company is called C-Change: content in the form of high quality, original journalism and opinion; curation of new content being published elsewhere in the world; and community based on highly engaged users.


  1. I'd wish you luck, but you won't need it. You are sure to be a success. Congrats on creating what will soon be THE leading business source of our time!

  2. SwAnand Bhava:

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  3. Congratulations John! Best wishes...


  4. Very much looking forward to what C-Change will have to offer.

  5. Great to see you are moving forward! I look forward to seeing what exciting things are to come from C-Change!

    - Liam Rose AKA @Liam_in_SF

  6. As a long time BW fan (and subscriber) I am so glad to see you move to this next level of your work. You are right about unprecedented opportunity. It makes me think of the old Pogo cartoon: "We are surrounded by insurmountable opportunity."

    BTW, I didn't think that you'd mind if I re-posted your self-interview on my own blog: http://www.element22.com/site/post.php?id=565&cat=2. Best of luck. We'll be watching and cheering from here in New England.

  7. Over here in McGraw-Hill Education, we watched the innovation at BusinessWeek with admiration and no small measure of envy.
    Knock 'em dead.

  8. John,

    I wish you the best of luck. Please don't hesitate to drop me a line if I can be of any help!

    Bob Teree

  9. Just want to thank all of you for your generosity and support. I've been extremely lucky to have been at a place where I was surrounded by highly talented professionals and friends. They helped to shape my ideas and articles and opened a world I barely knew existed. I came of age at BusinessWeek as both a journalist and an editor, and I am profoundly grateful for the opportunities the magazine and the website gave me. After 22 years at BW, a record 58 cover stories, eight books, and so many hours, it's time to move on and see what i can do on my own. It's going to be one wonderful and exciting challenge.

  10. I can't wait to see what you do!

  11. Despite being an executive at a large print publishing company, I agree with your sentiments exactly and applaud your desire to contribute to rather than oppose the impending and inevitable "sea change" in the media landscape.

    Please let me know where I can apply for a job at your new company - it sounds much more exciting than beating a dead horse. ;)

  12. John, I've had the pleasure of working with and for your good friend in traditional media during the past ten years. I agree with your fundamental beliefs and I think these are exciting times to be in media. I wish you every success.

  13. We can't wait to track your success -- and I am thrilled that you have finally taken the leap on your own. All the best!

  14. Great. But a design-wise request: Could you make C-Change a little more "See-Change" by not using white type on black background?

  15. Great name! Sounds very exciting.

  16. Well done! You have embraced the very same business model that my colleagues and I are doing on a small scale (we have a digital online business newspaper). All the best of luck.

  17. Your approach to business journalism, mgmt books and the digital media world have been spot on over the years. Agree with your comments and look forward to seeing C - Change Media develop.

  18. It's just so refreshing to see someone really "get" the tremendous financial opportunities in journalism. I was a TV news anchor/reporter 12 years ago, and got out of the business because of its stodgy leadership. For the past year, I have been putting together a new media company that will be based on a completely different revenue model -- not advertising, not sponsorship, and not subscriptions. I NEVER would have come up with the model (which I'm not willing to divulge until my company launches -- in a few months) had I stayed in news and been surrounded by "old school thinking."

    In trying to get partners in my business, I found that unemployed traditional journalists were not interested....They couldn't get their heads out of the old ways of thinking. But Internet entrepreneurs and young kids in college "got" it, and wanted in immediately.

    You're right: There are so many opportunities out there for news. I can't wait to see your new venture, as I am sure it will be cutting edge and fabulous! Good luck!!

  19. John,

    I'm thrilled and excited for you and wish you the best of luck. I'll be watching closely. Exciting times ahead!

  20. John

    Love watching your rebirth. If there is anything I can do to support you simply ask and I'll have an army pulling for you.

  21. John

    I love watching you stir things up and if you need anything count on me and an army to pull for you.

    Stay in touch

  22. John - Really like how you describe the issues in media. I quoted it in a new post on my blog. Good luck with this endeavor and stay in touch!


  23. My favorite part of the post was the following:

    "The problem in our lives is not the absence of knowing what to do, but the absence of doing it.” I’m going to do it.

    You are absolutely right in that print media will never rise from its current decline. Some will survive, but in a diminished state (not as much revenue, not as large, not as monolithic).

    The changing of the guard is a good thing. There will continue to be opportunities for ambitious, passionate individuals like yourself who are able to transfer their print media knowledge and experience to the digital world.

  24. Well done on this post. As a very small business user and reader of print media looking from the outside in I have to agree with your every word. Further to this I think some print media believed too much that the pen is mightier than the WORD and simply lost the plot. Having come through a period of denial it looks like some like yourself are meeting the challenge. As I say I look from the outside in and have no media expertise but it seems exciting whats happening in your industry. Exciting that is if you dont own a massive printing press :).
    One final thought and nail to a a lot of print medias coffin, its futile talking to your newspaper, it cannot record or take notice. Only a minority write letter to the papers but lots comment on blogs like this!

  25. John, no question that much print media will fade. But I wonder if there will continue to be room for quality mags that have always served narrow niches. The circ numbers for The New Yorker, Harper's and The Atlantic are modest, as are their revenues. They survive at the sufferance of indulgent owners. And yet such has always been true, no? The economics of newspapers and mass-market mags, along with business mags, differ enough from these to make them somewhat different animals. Seems to me there will be room for print, just of a different kind.

  26. John, best of luck. Will be watching you. Sounds like you've added a new chapter to your life and career. lgr

  27. What exciting news. It sounds perfect for you and I wish you every succes. I'm anxious to hear more of the details. You were among the first to see the writing on the wall. I hope, however, that it doesn't mean we have lost you to the West Coast.

  28. Welcome to the west coast John.. Would love to show you what we're doing at revision3, we've pretty much made the transition to the world you're talking about - and we're waiting for the rest of the world to catch up. we're in San Fr. too. JIM at REVISION3 dot com

  29. John,

    I wish you good luck in our new media business. I agree with you, in the "next future" no more print media and paid content and I say more, the computers will be replaced by mobile phones completely but this another subject. I will continue following you on C-Change Media Inc.

    Shin Lai

  30. Like the rest, I too wish you well. Have felt BW the last several years was trying to do some good work, e.g. Business Exchange. And I note that the BW web site recently won Web Site of the Year from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. I'm sure your work contributed to that.

    By the way, I echo the sentiment above about the white font on black background. This blog is very hard for me to read. I increased the image in my browser twice and it's still difficult. Black on white is the easiest to read. Why not just do it?

    Oh, will you add a Feedburner app so I can get your blog updates via email?


  31. I spent almost 30 years in the print media in Canada and was laid off a while back. You've given me the push I needed...We ARE surrounded by "insurmountable opportunties". I plan to take advantage of some of those!
    BusinessWeek was always a favorite because of you and the work of your team. Your recognition of them speaks volumes about you and who you are.
    All the best...The business information world will be watching in anxious anticipation!

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