There’s a certain amount of, well, let me call it self-pitying whining going on in some quarters about how hard it is to run a tech content site in Britain. Oh, it’s expensive. Oh,
“£30,000 (my personal investment into this business) doesn’t get you very far in media.”
Well, cry me a river while I play the world’s smallest violin. (Let me also ask: where exactly has that ££30,000 gone? My understanding is that pretty much nobody who worked on the early site setup got paid, and that the continuing web hosting is provided at, well, generous rates.)
Because you know what? There are plenty of people who are making media, and tech writing, work in Britain. Yes, startup tech news sites in Britain. How do they do it? Not by insulting the people they’re writing about, or flying the most ludicrous (and proven-by-time wrong – now six months) stories, but by making contacts, understanding the market, and working hard, and being prepared for it to be a real slog.
Want some names? Stuart Miles, creator of Pocket-Lint – who is a fantastic journalist: first – as far as I know – in the UK with details about the Nokia Lumia 800 having a micro-SIM. about the iPhone 5 having a nano-SIM, about Orange/T-Mobile/EvEv having iPhone 5 with LTE. And that’s just off the top of my head; someone who knows the site’s, and his, output better could doubtless name more.
How did he manage it? By knowing people, knowing the industry, making friends, listening, talking. And all this while being a father to a young child too. (The latter is the really tough part.) Oh – and he didn’t hire people on vague promises of money. He just built the site until now it employs multiple staff. And is a charming guy as well as being very good at his job.
Or how about Tom Warren, creator of WinRumors? How on earth do you create a site writing about Microsoft and all of the wrinkles of Windows and everything else when you’re situated in the UK? By being determined, and prepared to slog away at it, that’s how. I haven’t met Tom – only know him through Twitter – but have been constantly impressed by the fact he could spot the nuances in announcements, or see the angle for his audience in something everyone was covering, or just get in there with a rewrite of something that was running, and get the story up. Was Winrumors a gigantic money-spinner, or money-sink? Neither, as I understand it; I think Tom was doing another job while running the site. Often, it’s just sheer determination to post that makes the difference in the modern world. Tom has since been picked up by The Verge, which is well-funded; but if anything were to go wrong, you can be sure another site would pick him up rapidly. Or he could do his own.
Or – there are tons of these – Rafe Blandford of All About Symbian? It’s an impressive-looking site – and he also grabbed All About Windows Phone when he saw which way the wind was blowing, Nokia-wise.
Want another? How about Electricpig? And not forgetting the granddaddy of them all, The Register, which started in 1994 (yes, really) when you’d only have broadband – or perhaps any internet connection – if you were in an office. It’s a good employer and quick payer (at least in my experience; I wrote for it as a freelance in 2005, and only have good memories of the experience).
Or of course Mike Butcher at TechCrunch Europe, who ran it pretty much as a one-man show (and before that had his own mbites offering) for a substantial time; it’s hardly as if Michael Arrington was leaning over his shoulder or pouring money into his bank account.
There are tons of sites like them – British tech journalists, doing stuff their readers want, making contacts, breaking news, remembering the adage that news is “stuff you care about, and/or stuff you want to pass on“. (Give me some more names in the comments, I’ll add them here.)
Which is why journalism is done best when it’s done with the readers in mind, and when it’s not trying to annoy for the sake of annoying but instead with the aim of shaking up the reader’s expectations. For while there are plenty of companies that find The Register’s style irksome, they can’t deny that it gets facts in front of readers. Lots of readers.
So yeah, it’s hard, but it’s not that hard as long as you don’t have delusions of grandeur, and approach it in the expectation that it will be really hard. I haven’t created a tech site – though as a freelance (twice) I’ve had a mortgage to support, and the second time kids as well.
Equally, starting a blog has never been easier. You just have to bring some quality to it if you’re going to make money at it.