The Minyanville Migration: A Small-Business Story
Navigating the dynamic media landscape.
Editor's Note: Todd posts his vibes in real time each day on our Buzz & Banter.
I woke up this morning expecting to share my take on the financial markets; it’s the start of the New Year and everyone is chock full of predictions and prognostications.
I will profess that my 2013 outlook hasn’t codified, and I'm not going to force it for the sake of page views, so please bear with me as I see both sides, assimilate crosscurrents, and attempt to identify advantageous risk-reward in an ever-changing probability spectrum. We do that all day, every day; it's a blessing and a curse.
An investment theme has begun to materialize—think classic Styx—but it’s not fully baked yet so I’m gonna let it marinate over the weekend and take today’s vibe in a different direction. I want to talk about running a small business, navigating the media landscape, and believing in dreams.
In the wee hours of Thursday morning—I've had trouble sleeping, for what it's worth—I sat at the desk in my home office to write, not really knowing why; it wasn't an article or an email, they were just thoughts that flowed seamlessly through my fingers. Forgive the non sequitur, but this is what popped out:
We've officially arrived in the land of information deflation; between Twitter, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Google+ (NASDAQ:GOOG) LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD), blogs, websites, and other social sharing tools, quality content seems to be swimming up a gushing waterfall, and if you don't know where to look, you're gonna swallow a lot of salt.
As a fledgling financial media company, Minyanville has reinvented itself several times. If we were a pure advertising-based media platform, we would have been toast a long time ago. Instead, we've operated with several guiding principles that saved our skin: use obstacles as opportunities, view problems as possibilities, and adapt—but never conform.
Through those lenses, we believe financial media has a competitive advantage versus the broader media sphere as folks will spend money for more-informed or timelier information (regardless of our mission, MV is still a business). We often use the basic cable-HBO model as an analogy; there's an entire universe of content at our fingertips but many will pay to watch Entourage (or Californication as the case may be).
Plenty of folks in media have experimented with how to monetize content in the face of this watershed information deflation; Andrew Sullivan embarked on an aggressive—and perhaps binary—experiment in announcing a paywall for his blog. This, of course, is on the back of similar experiments by the New York Times (NYSE:NYT), the Wall Street Journal (NASDAQ:NWS), and others; in short, there's a mad scramble to monetize the industry formerly known as media.
In this digitally dynamic time, we've continued to adjust and adapt. We embraced a tiered-content approach long before it was in vogue, offering free content that we (attempt to) monetize through advertising, as well as premium content (such as the Buzz & Banter) that we license (along with other products) to broker-dealers and individuals (in bulk or as individual subscriptions).
Still, something was missing from our corporate equation—it was more than an opportunity—it was, and always has been, THE upside call option in our business. We used to say that “you gotta make bread to bake bread,” but somehow, in our efforts to make enough bread to pay the baker, we took our eye off the oven.
Some may recall that Hoofy and Boo won the 2008 Emmy award for New Approaches to Business and Financial Reporting (for my Sally Field moment, click here). It was the perfect media prize—it was shiny, looked great, and had absolutely zero revenue attached. But that element of our brand was never about the awards; those critters, truth be told, were the reason I created Minyanville in the first place.
It hasn’t been a straight line; in fact, I can envision an 11-year chart of Hoofy and Boo, both in terms of their relevance to our business and as a beacon of light that kept me going when my fingers hurt and my brain ached. I believed in them—and perhaps I needed them so I knew that Minyanville wouldn't be just another financial website that faded into the ether.
While Hoofy and Boo find their way—stay tuned, it’s gonna be good—you can never bet all your chips on a single hand and expect to stay in the game long enough to win. So we adapted our creative offering to service blue-chip clients in their efforts to distill information in an engaging way—and we found that some of the world’s largest companies want to dabble at intersection of credibility and creativity.
Why do I share this? Because I, like every other small-business owner in the world, wake up each morning in an attempt to navigate one of the most complex periods in the history of mankind (I'm not prone to hyperbole—I genuinely believe this to be true; our grandchildren will one day study this period). It is scary, exciting, dangerous, rewarding, overwhelming, grueling, and in select fleeting moments, perfect.
I've written about the light at the end of the tunnel that isn’t affixed to the front of a train— The Upside to Anger and The Millennial Revolution—while acknowledging the time and price necessary for these dynamics to ferment. All the while, we, as business owners, Americans—as people—have been forced to stick and move through societal acrimony, political infighting, regulatory revolts, and socionomic headwinds as we search and strive for that ever-elusive balance.
You know it don’t come easy.
While I spent the last few weeks under the weather—in bed resting rather than on a honeymoon with my beloved—I used the time wisely, for it remains our most precious commodity.
I mapped 2013 strategies, fortified enterprise relationships, shaped the MVP pipeline, and ideated concepts for MV Studios with our talented team. And you know what? I realized that one of the oldest adages in business wisdom rings true: If you do what you love, you’ll never work another day in your life.
Yes, Minyanville has adapted over our decade-long journey; we were dealt bad hands at times, endured strenuous stretches, said goodbye to friends, and had a slew of streaks of luck that ran both ways. But as I peer back—and look forward—I can honestly say that the mission of Minyanville has remained the same as when we started this journey, and there's something to be said for that.
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Todd Harrison is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Minyanville. Prior to his current role, Mr. Harrison was President and head trader at a $400 million dollar New York-based hedge fund. Todd welcomes your comments and/or feedback at email@example.com.
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