After 30 years of working for traditional media including the Miami Herald, Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and most recently, Businessweek, I have decided to strike out on my own to pioneer journalism 3.0. I have to believe there is a business model that will support good journalism and I intend to try and figure it out. My sector is experiencing a paradigm shift and I figure there are three choices: entrust your future to traditional players and risk going down with the mother ship, throw up your hands in despair or roll up your sleeves and pitch in to find a solution.
The choices take me back to my first newspaper job right out of college at a small newspaper owned by the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain. I was hired over the phone. I arrived in South Florida at midnight and started my job eight hours later. At 8 a.m. the city editor handed me a very challenging assignment. He told me to report it and write within two hours. “Sink or swim,” he snarled. I chose to swim then. I am choosing to swim now.
I am luckier than many of my colleages because I have a speciality: tech. Over the last 23 years I have reported on all aspects of the technology sector — electronics, computing, mobile, Internet, biotech, medtech and green tech. I covered the deregulation of the telecoms industry in Europe and the births of GSM and the Internet. What makes me different from other journalists in my space is that I have spent my entire career as a tech reporter covering developments outside the U.S. I am convinced that the next Google, the next Microsoft and the next Intel will come from outside Silicon Valley. New tech giants will be born in Europe, in India, in China, in Latin America and in Africa. My mission at Informilo is to tell you about those companies before you hear about them anywhere else, to benchmark them against the global competition and to put their innovation into context. Why does what they are doing matter?. How will this company move the needle, changing our daily lives or the way we do business? How will it disrupt the industry?
Today, there is no one go-to place to get deep dive analytical pieces about tech developments worldwide. Yes, there is a place for blogging and sites that give the headlines about who just got funded. But I want to deliver quality journalism on-line, the kind I have been delivering for print for the last 30 years. That is why there are three color coded categories on my site. Green is for news bulletins that impact the tech sector. Blue is for in-depth news analysis and profiles of companies and entrepreneurs. Red is for commentary: my blogs and guest columns. Informilo will always clearly identify what is opinion and what is fact. Unlike other sites we will never mix the two. The aim to deliver objective reporting. We will be tough but fair, rather than mean and arrogant. Being an entrepreneur is tough enough. No one needs or deserves to be treated nastily.
Hopefully launching my own company and becoming an entrepreneur myself will ultimately help me be a better journalist by giving me a clear understanding what it is like for one person to be CEO, COO, CTO, CFO and CMO all the same time. My last day at BusinessWeek was on December 23. The four weeks that followed were incredibly intense. I had a hard deadline: I wanted the site to be live in time for the DLD tech conference in Munich, which started on Jan. 25 and to be able to report live from Davos. I am very grateful for the aid of Michel Dahan, a partner at Paris -based Banexi Ventures. He introduced me to the team at Rue89, a Paris-based online newspaper. They have done such a good job building their own site that they now have a side business building sites for other media. Once I had an estimate from Rue89 in hand I was able to approach people in the industry who have known me for years and ask them for help. I would like to express my gratitude to all of my sponsors. I am very grateful to Geneva-based Endeavor Vision’s Sven Lingjaerde, the founder of the European Tech Tour Association, for his counsel and to the tech tour for its financial support. I would also like to thank Philippe Pouletty, co-founder of Paris-based Truffle Capital for all of his aid, including urging additional sponsors to pitch in to help me raise enough money to build the site. (Thank you France Biotech, Alize RP and Carmat) A big thank you also to Philippe Collembel from Paris-based VC firm Partech for his wise counsel and for giving of his time over many months to help me think clearly about how to approach this new adventure.
A special thanks also to Israeli Internet guru Yossi Vardi, who went out of his way at the DLD conference in Munich and in Davos to promote Informilo. In Munich he jumped on the stage and made the entire audience repeat: “We love Jennifer. We will visit Informilo.com this week.” At a private nightcap in Davos for the digerati he again urged everyone to support Informilo. No one could dream of a better way to launch. I am eternally grateful.
Thank you also to EBAN, the European Trade Association for Early Stage Investors, for promoting Informilo to your members and to long time contacts Alcatel-Lucent CEO Ben Verwaayen, Internet doyenne Esther Dyson and tech entrepreneur and angel investor Martin Varsavsky for taking part in the stories posted for Informilo’s launch.
I would like to emphasis what a terrific job the guys at Rue89 did in building my site, with the help of design firm Upian, which did a great job on the design and HTML integration. The team at Rue89 are the true pioneers of the next phase of journalism. Founded two years ago by four veteran journalists from the French newspaper Liberation, Rue89 today has about a million unique views a month. The back office of its site was conceived for journalists so it was the perfect platform for Informilo. Congratulations to Damien Cirotteau, who spearheaded the development of my site. His daughter Louise was born at the same time as Informilo, yet he still managed to be there for me when I needed him to ensure the site went live for the opening of DLD.
I was deeply impressed by the dedication of the entire Rue89 team. They work out of offices in an incubator run by the city of Paris. At lunchtime they sit in a tight circle in the open-office newsroom, eating sandwiches on their laps, speaking passionately about their scoops and how they can use every possible form of new technology to best deliver the news. While there I felt as if I was in the trenches of the new journalism. May they go from strength to strength.
When I interned at Time Magazine in Jerusalem in 1978 my stories were sent to New York via telex. When I started my first full-time journalism job in South Florida in 1980 I wrote my stories on a manual typewriter. We glued pages of paper together and copyedited our stories in pencil. I moved on to use Atex, an early form of dumb terminal, then to PCs. It was only in the last year and a half at BusinessWeek that I started to podcast and to blog, using Moveable Type. In January I bought myself a MacBook Pro and learned to shoot, edit and upload video and trained to become my site’s Webmaster.
I plan to strike deals to use quality content from other sites and to push Informilo’s content to other sites. And, as soon as I raise some more money, to hire journalists in India, China, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Within a short time I also hope to launch the next phase of my site: a social network that will help connect big corporates with start-ups. In a downturn corporates are slashing their R&D budgets and need, more than ever, to bring in innovation from outside. Start-ups won’t be able to go public in the current market and so must count on trade sales to bigger companies. I want Informilo to be the glue that brings them together. The site will aim also to be the place where different disciples interact.
Like the journalists at Rue89 I want to tell stories on any new medium that comes along. I count on you, my readers, to alert me to good topics and to let me know if I am doing a good job. Sign up for my RSS feed and my newsletter. Help me to get traction and figure out a business model that works. Tell me what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong. I look forward to hearing from all of you.