About European tech media business.

As I have built and sold a media company in a different life, media industry is a subject close and dear to my heart. I find it fascinating to follow how the companies, small and big, new and old, are still struggling to adapt and figure out a sustainable business way.

In the European tech media - the English speaking one - we’re seeing a transitional phase from ad-based, optimized-for-traffic media rooms to a leaner, based on a subscription model, thinking. Add into the mix the multi-language and 27-country fragmentation of the market and you have a difficult business problem to solve and market to conquer.

On one end, there are providers such as EU-Startups and Tech.eu, mainly acting as aggregators of press releases given away for free as *media* and making money from either selling reports or events. Tech.eu also has a soft sub model, charging for a more complete aggregation sent by email, I would be surprised if it has more than a few thousand subscribers though.

On a higher end, there is sifted.eu, subsidized by FT, aiming to create quality content which it still gives away for free. Still waiting to see where it is going, as there is no free lunch and quite curious whether reaching breakeven will justify keeping up the pace of writing great content.

But this positioning buys them a good brand building process in the market, helpful when and if they will start monetizing the content. Still think they are searching for their North Pole, but it is an exploratory process, there is no recipe on how to do it right, just gut feeling and experiments, and in Europe a rather singular model on this vertical.

Notably, FT also acquired TNW last year, which owns one of the better tech events from Europe. There are obvious synergies and a bigger picture in place (FT’s mother company has a similar strategy in Asia) but also rather disparate expensive efforts at a cost of focus - probably it makes sense to cross sell and bundle in one or more packages, together with FT’s proposition. We will see rather soon, creating great content is expensive and not really sustainable if you just want to live off of selling it.

There’s also Techcrunch, which has a good brand name backed by veteran journalists, and more oriented towards scoops and better-documented articles - still, difficult to assess how profitable the European operation is, market estimates indicate that overall TC makes north of $20 million a year.

However, TC looks more like a dinosaur living off of its inertia, good brand and lack of real competition in Europe. And have you checked their website and mobile app? Simply terrible, come on, it is already 2020.

And in the middle there are a lot of small outlets, either small, English-written brands or in a local language-written, bigger fish in a small one-country pond, usually owned by the larger media groups.

Quite sure this is an incomplete picture but fact is that as the European investment ecosystem becomes more mature, competitive and border-less, there is a need of good sources of coverage and insights.

The question is how much is the market willing to pay for it. EU Startups’ valuation can be an indicator. A back-on-the-envelope calculation starting from Sifted’s payroll can also point to how much is FT is investing.

It is obvious though (to me at least) that in the years to come, media will not be won by the outlets with the highest traffic or social media following but by the ones with the better brands and smarter product strategy.

Conventional media thinking from the past 10-15 years, ever since media business discovered the internet, is long outdated, probably the best example of a good media biz done for the 21st century is Skift.

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