I went to a roundtable discussion with Tom Foremski tonight. Tom quit
the Financial Times after five years covering Silicon Valley to start
his own publication online. It was inspiring to hear him talk about the
energy, thrill and mystery of starting one's own media brand on the Web.
In many ways, the Web publishing community today feels as energized as
it was in 1994, when the Apache Web server and the banner ad were both
born at HotWired.com in San Francisco and all manner of cranks dreamt of
becoming modern-day Thomas Paines.
Print media looks positively pathetic in terms of momentum. Everyone is
shrinking. The LA Times won close to 13 Pulitzers in one year and was
rewarded with roughly 5 percent decline in circ. Worse still, most
publishers have shriveled in the face of competition, offering Internet
half measures and belated bloated acquisitions while jealously guarding
against any so-called "cannibalization" of their traditional businesses
-- textbook example of the "Innovator's Dillema."
Foremski struck out on his own. It sounds like he's still figuring out
the financial details, and above all banking on the advantage of moving
first and fast. He was the first journalist at a major newspaper to quit
for the Web, beating Dan Gillmor's much ballyhooed departure from the
San Jose Mercury News by several months. And within months he was ranked
as one of the three most influential Webloggers, right up there with
Wonkette and Dave Barry. My gut tells me Foremski is wise to jump into
the Web publishing fray early.
Foremski's example, along with Paul Graham's sage
advice, is ample ammunition for young journalists hunting for
opportunity. Take a chance and strike out on your own. You do not need a
printing press any more. You just need a lot of talent, a lot of speed,
a lot of versatility -- and some major balls.