Say Media CTO on building a brand and a platform

“Media and technology companies used to be separate, but the lines have started to blur”. The New York Times, Hearst Magazines, Forbes and Condé Nast are examples of companies that are becoming “techy”, as Lerman put it, whereas Yahoo, AOL, Netflix and Amazon are “moving decidedly into media”. However, there is also a category of companies that are “in the middle”, such as Medium and Vox. 

Say Media explained

Say Media has had a presence in the industry for the last twelve years, starting out as a pure technology company when Six Apart and VideoEgg merged, but deciding to also delve into media and ultimately, going back to their roots. They built one of the first technology platforms for publishing, called Movable Type. “We were one of the early influencers in the advertising space”, Lerman said. 

Early blogs were in the middle of the spectrum 

According to Lerman, in the early blogging days, “you had to have something to say and you had to be a content creator, but also a technologist who knew how to get content online”. 

Say Media, back then Six Apart, was doing well in the market, but once other players like WordPress emerged, it started to shrink, as digital publishers started building their companies on top of the blogging software. “Getting your content online is not that hard, but creating a business around it is”, Lerman added. 

The best of both worlds

The company’s scope was to bring the together the best elements of a media company, a publishing company and a technology company. “We now see media companies who are becoming tech companies again because the tools haven’t kept up”, Lerman said. “You have to be an expert in everything and build the tools yourself”.

Say Media became a publishing company three years ago, after it encountered failure with merging the media and technology aspects, partly because of the  fundamental cultural difference between the two – in a media company, “editors are king or queen and everything revolves around the content, as it should be”, Lerman pointed out. From a financial point of view, for a start-up to hire editorial staff is very costly, particularly as the cost of technology and development was between US$15 and $20m.

A tool for the future 

After their decision of reverting to being a technology company, Say Media built Tempest, a tool that was then sold to publishers. “We approached publications by saying, look, we have a technological solution to your problem, what do you think?”, Lerman mentioned.

The shift occurring within the industry now is the same as it was ten years ago – publishers still have to be good both from an editorial and technology standpoint, but Tempest’s aim is to help  media companies focus on their editorial and publishing goals without worrying about the technology side. 

“In the next years, media companies will go back to doing what they do best and that is creating content”, Lerman concluded. 

Story by Madalina Ciobanu.

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