Tech blog company GigaOm is starting a subscription research service to drum up cash; some think TechCrunch could soon follow. It would seem everything old in tech media is new again: Bloated dot-com magazines attempted this same tactic amid the popping of the last financial bubble.
John Battelle's Industry Standard hired research analysts near the height of its hubristic expansion c.2000. Former Red Herring editor Jason Pontin recalled that his magazine, the thickest of the dot-com bibles, attempted the same. He writes in an email:
We hired and built an entire research division: some of its material found its way into the print and online products. I do not believe they ever succeeded in selling much in the way of proprietary research...
You need to understand that there are really two kinds of research products. The first, which we tried to do and failed at, I completely supported as the editor at the time: expand our editorial products into higher-priced subscription research on the model of The Economist Intelligence Unit.
The second is truly proprietary research bought by a single client or group of clients: I wasn't sure that was a great idea, because it was an entirely new field for us requiring a new infrastructure and staff, and we failed at that, too.
Not coincidentally, perhaps, GigaOm publisher Om Malik is a Herring veteran, and made his bones on Wall Street, where proprietary research is common. His current effort is relatively inexpensive ($80/year) and targeted at broad groups of readers. It also has some sort of Web 2.0 twist involving outside contributions.
Hopefully for Malik, those differences will be enough to keep history from repeating itself.