Tech News, Fire Hoses, and Techdirt

by on December 21, 2006 · 4 comments

Related to my last post, it occurs to me that there are a lot of businesses that drink from one fire hose or another, and then sell the resulting expertise to people who are too busy to drink from the fire hose themselves. Free software firms and college professors are two such examples. It occurs to me that our friends at TechDirt are an example of the same phenomenon.

Their “fire hose” is the the world of tech news. Between formal news sites like CNet and ZDNet and the blogosphere, keeping up with the conversation about technology, business, policy, and the like is more than a full-time job. I spend a couple of hours a day reading blogs that focus on tech policy, and I’m nowhere near keeping up with all the worthwhile tech policy blogs out there. And I don’t even try to keep up with sites that focus on tech business and Silicon Valley gossip. You can get a sense of the size of this particular fire hose by perusing TechMeme, a site that aggregates the most popular stories in the tech blogosphere at any given moment. It would be a full-time job just to read every post that gets linked to from TechMeme.

Obviously, corporate executives don’t have time to do that much reading, yet keeping abreast of that discussion can be extremely valuable for a technology company. That’s where TechDirt comes in. They’ve got smart people who have become experts on the tech blogosphere, and they sell that expertise to companies. TechDirt Corporate Intelligence provides succinct, well-organized summaries of the day’s tech news tailored to the interests of a particular firm. TechDirt Insight Community sells access to the candid advice of bloggers who are themselves engaged in the tech news community. (Full disclosure: I’m one of the bloggers they’ve approached about participating in the community)

Although the main TechDirt blog doesn’t generate much revenue directly, I suspect it’s as vital to their business strategy as giving away software is to a free software firm. News summaries are only useful if you have some assurance that the guy preparing them is competent. The fact that a lot of people read them and link to them suggests that they’re probably good at what they do, in the same way that having a widely-cited paper or a widely-used piece of software demonstrates your credibility in academia and the software industry, respectively.

So when Mike rides his hobby horse about ads being content and vice versa, he speaks from experience. It’s an idea on which he built a successful business.

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