Living a “Gutenberg Moment”

Larry KramerOn Sunday, I caught up with an excellent podcast with former MarketWatch CEO founder Larry Kramer that was posted in late September.

Kramer is a reporter turned editor turned entrepreneur who still loves journalism and believes content is king.

He is interviewed by Gregory Galant on the VentureVoice blog. Since focus of Galent’s site is not about entrepreneurs, journalists and Old and New Media executives may have missed this one, but it’s worth your time.

Kramer sketches out his journey from journalist to CEO, his ride on the Internet economy rollercoaster, and journalism, inlcuding paid content.

On paid content, he pointed out what happened when his site, what was known as CBS MarketWatch, pursued a multiple streams of revenue strategy mostly dependent on advertising while Jim Cramer’s rival site, TheStreet.com, pursued a paid content model. There’s some lessons in that for today in the renewed paid-content discussion.

Kramer’s take: Don’t be a purist in either camp. He notes Cramer’s paid-content strategy with theStreet.com prevented it from becoming a mass brand.

He points out the content the companies he was involved with could most easily sell to consumers was “actionable” information, stock information for active traders, and sports odds and information for sports betting gamblers.

He also talks about the role of journalists in curating the Web. “There are new roles we need to learn to take,” he said. “In journalism, one of them is curation.

“We were always curators in that we get 100 press releases at the paper, we’d pick the two to write about. The difference today is everybody gets the hundred press releases. We still have to help our customers, our readers to determine which ones are worth reading.

“We don’t the distribution system anymore. But we do own, what we hopefully own, is an intelligence, and an  ability to help our customer or the people that work with us to get what they want out of life.”

Kramer said we’re still in an “Gutenberg moment” with the Internet in which every industry will be changed, much as the media business is already changing.

“The biggest problem we have is people trying to protect their business model,” Kramer said, “not their product. not what they do.”

Good stuff from a guy who was involved in “digital media” before the consumer Internet.

I also found this Beet.tv video with Kramer from earlier this year as well as mediabistro.com piece.

(Photo from Beet.tv)

2 Replies to “Living a “Gutenberg Moment””

  1. Jack, what a great find!
    Larry is a smart guy and a treasure, and I say that having worked for him at the S.F. Examiner from ’89 to ’93.
    Just a quick note to elaborate on a point in your piece.
    At TheStreet.com (where I was in senior management from ’99 to ’03) we did both tiered subscriptions and advertising, from the get-go. We had a very active advertising staff that successfully sold everything from auto brands to American Express ads.
    We also made innovative use of sponsorships, including getting a high-end vodka brand to sponsor a weekly live audio interview show we called “Martini Happy Hour.” (It wasn’t a family newspaper 😉
    It’s correct that TSC did not become a mass brand, but it did do something more important: It had positive cash flow by 2Q 2003, and turned its first annual profit in 2005.
    So, you can make money while committing serious journalism online!

  2. Thanks, Charlotte-Anne, for your clarifying details. They are greatly appreciated. I find the history of both Kramer and Cramer’s businesses to be a fascinating story. And making money doing journalism is definitely a good thing and something to be proud of. I wonder if you have some thoughts on other lessons from the history of these two for newspapers or journalists today?
    — jack lail

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