07:00 AM

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

It was about five years ago that I left my job as a reporter and columnist for the Financial Times in the San Francisco bureau. And it's been a tremendous journey.

I didn't realize at the time that I would become the first reporter to leave a major newspaper to make a living as a professional journalist/blogger. It puzzled a lot of people as to why I would give up one of the top jobs in my industry for an uncertain future.

I did it because I could see that there were a lot of changes happening in my industry. I could see that staying in newspapers would mean staying on the sharp, pointy, business end of the disruptive forces that were starting to be felt. I believed it would be better be on the other side of the disruption, afterall, things would not get any better for newspapers, but would gradually get better for online publishers.

I could also see that the management of newspapers, not just mine, didn't see what was going on.

I remember a dinner in early 2004. Our US editor, Lionel Barber (now Editor of FT), was in town, and we were sitting at a table with CNET co-founder Halsey Minor, and leading Silicon Valley investor Roger McNamee. Lionel was talking abut the Financial Times, and saying how profitable the newspaper normally is, and that once this current business cycle had turned around, it would be tremendously profitable again.

I remember thinking, my god, doesn't he realize this isn't a business cycle?! The changes in the economics of the newspaper industry aren't part of a business cycle, they are part of something much larger. The game had changed and it wouldn't go back to what it was.

I didn't know, (and I still don't know what the new economics of the newspaper business will be) but I knew that something fundamental had shifted and it wasn't coming back.

Soon after, I decided that maybe this would be a good time to strike out on my own. After all, I had done it before. I had published a local newspaper in the Haight. I had set up and run a news agency delivering news editorial packages to publications around the world with my business partner Doug Millison. I knew the sky wouldn't collapse if I didn't have a regular job.

But, I had absolutely no idea about what I was getting into. (I usually find that's the best way otherwise I might stay with the devil I know.) I had never blogged, (and I had the attitude of many of my colleagues in mainstream journalism, I never even read the damn things) despite my two good friends Om Malik and Dave Galbriath, both pioneer bloggers, continually telling me I should start to blog.

Next up in this series on 5yrs of lessons from a journalist/blogger: I almost faint as I'm walking along Geary street because of a fundamental insight into the nature of the Internet...