Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

5yrs: Lessons And Insights - Meeting Cisco's Dan Scheinman and Realizing Every Company Is Now A Media Company

Posted by Tom Foremski - August 20, 2009

[Five years ago I left my job as a reporter and columnist at the Financial Times to become a professional journalist/blogger. The first two installments of my story are here: Part 1 and Part 2.]

After I left the Financial Times I wondered if I would still have the same top level access. I was used to speaking with the top executives of the largest companies in Silicon Valley and beyond. But now I was a "blogger" writing for my own web site. I was just a guy with a laptop working from a home office. This wasn't the Financial Times with its worldwide reach and a trusted reputation built up from over 100 years of publishing newspapers.

To my great relief, nothing changed. I still had the same access to top executives as I had before. I still got pitches from the same people I worked with when I was at the newspaper. In fact, I now had an additional element of exotic notoriety, which helped in my transition.

A suitable transition...

But, some PR people, and also some journalists would sometimes look at me in a strange way. Five years ago, it was poorly understood what a "blogger" was. Some people asked if was still a journalist? Did I keep embargoes? What were the rules of engagement with a "blogger"? I tried to reassure everyone that I was still working as a professional journalist. Just because I used a blogging platform (Movable Type) to publish my articles did not change anything about me or my job.

That's when I started wearing suits. I didn't wear suits when I worked at the Financial Times, but I started wearing suits when I became a journalist/blogger because I wanted to project a conservative image, I wanted to reassure people that nothing had changed, that I was still "Tom the journalist." (I now have ten suits, Hugo Boss is my preference.) And it was true -- nothing had changed. I was still reporting on the business of Silicon Valley and pursuing the same types of stories I had when working at the FT.

Head of M&A and Head of Corporate Communications

DanScheinmanTomForemski.jpgOne of my favorite interviews on Silicon Valley Watcher was meeting with Dan Scheinman, who was at the time, head of mergers and acquisitions at Cisco. This was one of the most powerful jobs in Silicon Valley because of the tremendous number of acquisitions Cisco has made - and continues to make. (Here's the list.)

What was extra interesting about Mr Scheinman was that he was also Director of Corporate Communications. I found this combination of two very important jobs fascinating. He could use the considerable might of the Cisco communications machine to make sure that entrepreneurs were working on developing technologies and companies that Cisco needed to fuel its tremendous growth. (IBM does something similar - its VC group led by Drew Clark also let's entrepreneurs know what technologies it needs. It's a VC group that makes no capital investments.)

I had no idea that our meeting would reveal some fascinating insights into the nature of media and the new roles that companies now played in the overall "mediasphere."

[email protected]

Mr Scheinman was particularly proud of the [email protected] team. This is a large editorial team staffed by former journalists and top editors at newspapers and magazines. It produces content focused on Cisco and its customers. This is a team that produces top-notch quality media in a variety of formats that meets the highest journalistic standards. It's not a typical comms department pumping out press releases and white papers.

Also, Cisco was already using media technologies such as RSS, it already had more than 200 RSS feeds in early 2005! And when Mr Scheinman shared with me traffic figures, I was shocked. Cisco was getting higher traffic to [email protected] than any of the top IT publications, such as ComputerWorld, InfoWorld, and many other huge computer trade publications. I was amazed.

Cisco is a large media company...

I realized that something truly phenomenal was happening here. This was an example of a corporation as publisher and publication. Cisco makes network gear but it is also a media company -- one of the largest in the world.

I realized that every company is now a media company. It doesn't matter if it makes network gear or diapers, every company needs to publish to its various communities, its customers, its staff, it's neighbors. It needs to know how to produce compelling content, great video, podcasts, etc. And now with this emerging two-way Internet it also needs to learn how to listen, how to get involved in online discussions, how to behave on Facebook or Twitter. Every company needs to master the media technologies of RSS, blogging, and more.

But how does a company know how to be a media company? Companies know how to do what they do, to make diapers, steel, provide healthcare. They are experts at doing what they do. But how does a company know what it takes to be a media company? It's not easy being a media company.

Companies need to do what Cisco does. Companies need to bring in media professionals to help them be media companies. And this is something that I'm expanding as part of my work, advising companies how to be media companies, how to master the many media technologies that are available, help companies develop media strategies, and much more. [I'm a member of the Intel Insiders, a small group of people advising Intel. I am also a founding fellow of the Society of New Communications Research, a Palo Alto based think-tank, which works in this important field.]

Mr Scheinman is now head of Cisco's Media Solutions Group. He is also helping companies become media companies, by making sure they have the hardware and software they need for this role.

I will be writing more on this topic because it is one of the most important insights I've had, and yet it is only now, nearly five years later, starting to be recognized by others.

The fact that every company is a media company is extremely important because this is what will drive tremendous amounts of sales of hardware, software, and services of all kinds. This will increasingly become the point of the spear in terms of driving new business for Cisco, IBM, HP, Intel and a host of other tech companies. And it goes beyond tech...

- - -

Photo: Dan Scheinman and the back of my head from Cisco New Media Summit. Photo by Jeremy Pepper from POP! Pr Jots.)

Come back for the next installment in this series - 5yrs: Lessons and Insights.

Please see:

Interview: Dan Scheinman Cisco's head of M&A and corporate PR

5yrs: Lessons From A Blogger/Journalist - The Start of A Series

5yrs - Lessons And Insights: Where's The Disruption From The Internet?

Also, from Cisco's chief blogger John Earnhardt:

Video of Cisco New Media Summit Now Online

Watch Cisco Media Solutions Group's GM Dan Scheinman talk about the Social Media Explosion. Watch Tom Foremski talk about "Foremski's Law." Watch and learn about Second Life from representatives from BMW, Intel and Cisco. Learn about the ROI of Social Media, Best Practices in Internal Communications and more.

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