I’m sorry to see Gigaom go under.
The media property produced a quality product in the form of journalism with fresh takes. Anyone can provoke. Gigaom provoked with intelligence.
It was fitting that Gigaom communicated the news with raw honesty:
“Gigaom recently became unable to pay its creditors in full at this time. As a result, the company is working with its creditors that have rights to all of the company’s assets as their collateral. All operations have ceased.”
There’s also a selfish side to my disappointment. We have clients who fall under the category we affectionately call “deep tech.” The number of journalists who both understand “deep tech” and can write about it for people who don’t have Ph.D.’s in molecular physics has been declining for some time. Gigaom’s Stacey Higginbotham is part of this exclusive club.
In a time when the media gravitates toward shiny objectives that trigger clicks, Stacey wasn’t afraid to tackle the most complex of companies and technology with the gusto of a meter maid about to make quota. While being the furthest thing from a cheerleader, she was OK with letting some of that gusto seep into her stories.
You can see an example of this in how she covered one of our clients back in 2013:
“I’ve been amped up about SuVolta for a few years now, and am excited that its technology is gaining ground with big name companies such as ARM. We’re placing computing in more places, but without new breakthroughs in battery life, those computers will have to have wires or compromise compute for battery life.”
Gigaom wanted to “to humanize the impact of technology.” That’s exactly what Stacey did, often in places — like SuVolta’s construction of a CMOS transistor — that don’t exactly exude humanity.
Hopefully, Stacey lands with another publication with deep tech as part of her beat. In the meantime, she started blogging with her first post titled, “Wait. Was I Just Fired?”
Many have been quick to analyze Gigaom’s death and call out the business model as flawed. I’m not ready to go down that road.
There are so many judgment calls made for any fledgling company on how to generate revenue and where to invest finite resources. It’s not only what the outside world sees like Gigaom’s use of sponsored content and striving to mainstream research. It’s also the decisions to NOT do certain things that chart the course for any company.
The reality is that we don’t know if Gigaom as a business was run well, run poorly or something in between. How did the publication balance principles with economic pragmatism? Again, we don’t know. Certainly, to be covering the Apple Watch and other news like any other day and then hang the out-of-business sign in front of a shocked staff does not constitute a soft landing.
Here’s what we do know.
Just because every company is a media company doesn’t mean that every company will make a profit from media. Ever since Craigslist demolished the newspaper revenue from classified advertising, the publishing industry has been under siege.
When an industry is fighting for survival, change happens, sometimes of the radical variety. With nothing to lose, companies experiment. And venture capital is there for startups who can articulate a convincing argument for a better way (which Gigaom did nine years ago).
Amid chaos and shutdowns like Gigaom, I see an industry still in the throes of reinventing itself.
This is a good thing in the long run.
I’ll leave you with the words from Gigaom’s founder, Om Malik:
Every founder starts on a path — hopeful and optimistic, full of desire to build something that helps change the world for the better, reshape an industry and hopefully become independent, both metaphorically and financially. Business, much like life, is not a movie and not everyone gets to have a story book ending.