Man, the money was good! (I can say that because I started with zero:) We were on top of our game at the PR firm I founded almost 30 years ago. Most people I know thought I was nuts. They still think I am :) And they were probably right.
But when you have the "starter’s mentality" in your blood, you gotta follow your instincts. And that's exactly what I did. I had to. I needed to “scratch that itch” that told me interesting things were happening outside of the PR field and I needed to go find out what they were.
And so I worked on my own exit. Fortunately it worked out well with my firm (they are thriving without me :) and I was back in startup mode.
One of the strongest things I sensed while in the PR biz was a fundamental, and completely disruptive, change in the air. The industry had thrived with the existence of a healthy media which in turn kept professionals glued to their mail (yes mail) or email for the latest industry trade news. My world was all real estate news, but there was an underlying trend that began in the late 2000’s that impacted every major business news vertical. When content went online and became free, the party was over for most of the media. Declining readership meant declining ads. And the rest unfortunately, was history.
I saw this coming. Obviously, many others did too. So what was going to be the role of the PR professional and media strategist in this new environment? Many firms have pivoted successfully, but for me, I just made the personal decision to flip to the other side of the business and get involved with digital media from a content aggregation and creation standpoint. I just felt that the real innovation was going to happen there.
And so I launched my first startup, The News Funnel in 2012 and now have over 150,000 industry professionals using it to get their news via mobile or desktop. And have launched/acquired several others since then (CRE // Tech, Real Estate Tech News, The Content Funnel)
For me, I saw that the coming media revolution was going to be all about brands and professionals actually BECOMING THE MEDIA, THEMSELVES. I knew this was going to be a game changer. It just made so much sense. Why go through "filters" when you can tell your own story, educate your own audience directly and position yourself and your company as thought leaders?!?
Jon Schultz does it. So does Jeremy Neuer. So does Coy Davidson. Allen Buchanan is a pioneer in this stuff. And of course, Duke Long and many more. They are the trailblazers. They were the first to get this.
This is why I built my platform. In anticipation of all of this content that was going to be created, there needed a site to host and distribute all of it. And to curate it so the industry could get only the most actionable and relevant content.
Along the way, one of the really interesting trends we saw was that so many individual professionals and companies started to want to express their own thoughts in the form of blogs and share with the industry in our platform. And there was the birth of our new business model. Writing blogs for people and companies. And yes, for $175 by an expert team of real estate writers. With over a hundred blogs being written by our team, our revenue is doubling every year. And what that tells me is that the industry is waking up to the fact that "brands as media" is a real thing. Not a fad, but a massive sea change in the way industry professionals market themselves.
So while I did leave a lot of money on the table to start from scratch again, I don't regret if for a second. I know myself and my amazing team are on the right side of history and that this trend will only accelerate in time. And, just as important, having a blast doing it!