The relationship between reporters, startup founders, and venture capitalists is ever-evolving and subject to change.
While startup leaders and venture capitalists once looked to woo reporters and journalists with cutting-edge ideas to garner coverage and publicity through traditional avenues, the field of new ideas is more crowded than ever, raising the threshold for what news from startups merits coverage.
Classic features in legacy news outlets and other media sources remain important aspects of the symbiotic relationship between tech professionals and journalists. These opportunities present a way for startup leaders, VCs and industry experts to offer their expert voices in the context of the fast-paced news cycle.
Cultures Vary by Location
Despite this changing media landscape, the general dynamic — at least in Austin — has remained fairly consistent between VC funds, startups and the media.
Companies, firms and organizations in direct competition with each other have maintained a generally collaborative environment, operating by the credo that a rising tide lifts all boats.
Entrepreneurs working in the same sector and VC firms looking to attract the best startups to their respective portfolios have generally stayed away from the more cutthroat culture seen in other major hubs for VC activity, such as Silicon Valley and New York City. These groups are trying to beat competitors but often know one another personally. As far as relationships with the media go, most reporters remain accessible.
Yet, with many people relocating from the coasts to Austin, a culture shift could be on the horizon as the Texas tech hub could take on the mentality of a more toxic competition.
Changing Media Landscape
While those relationships have remained relatively consistent over time, the media landscape has changed. The pace of news has hastened, and the culture of online coverage has become more pervasive.
Pew Research Center’s most recent 2021 “State of the Media” report found that roughly 90% of adults get at least some of their news online, a figure that accounts for readership from both traditional print publications’ online sites and outlets that are exclusively online.
At the same time, only 16% of U.S. adults said they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of trust in newspapers, according to a July Gallup poll. A slightly stronger 37% said they have “some” confidence in newspapers.
This eroding trust comes as the initial shine of coverage that gave carte blanche to entrepreneurs and VCs fades, and startups and investors must now present something unique to garner large-scale attention.
Taking Charge of Coverage
In the interim, some entrepreneurs have looked to create blogs and produce their own content in an effort to remain competitive in the digital news world.
Companies can craft content entirely in the direction of their choosing, move at their own pace and have total control over what information they share. This style of generating content also perhaps offers a more comfortable environment for customers to share their experiences with the company in a controlled, familiar setting rather than bringing in an external party.
In developing this content, companies should consider what kind of value they accrue — and how to measure that value. Otherwise, the effort put into a blog post without much reach could be regarded as a waste of time, money and resources.
However, this approach has its limitations and drawbacks. No matter how rooted in fact the content is, information can seem more credible coming from an outside source. Positive coverage in a neutral outlet always is a stronger vote of confidence than a seemingly transparent marketing effort.
The digital era’s trend toward in-house content does not exclude traditional media, but the bar continues to rise for what merits startup coverage.
Not every funding is worth a news story. Because rounds are currently so large, funding must be significant to prompt reporter interest at most major outlets. Even a $50 million funding round, which was once an eye-popping figure, does not necessarily attract reporters from major outlets if the startup does not also offer news such as a state-of-the-art headquarters, executive-team hires or a disruptive product or service.
With such a crowded playing field, entrepreneurs must ask why their leader or startup stands out — and what makes the venture worth readers’ time.
Bridging the Divide
Perhaps this suggests strength in a combination of content supplied directly by tech organizations and VCs to build companies’ reputations and name recognition with a healthy amount of more traditional press coverage.
It would be risky to rely wholeheartedly on a company’s individual messaging and ignore the expanded reach, more diverse audience and credibility and name recognition of an objective news organization’s coverage.
A combination of more personalized messaging coupled with business reporter stories could present a sweet spot for a robust presence in the news cycle.