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Survival of the Fittest
 

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Greetings from sunny Florida. I wish I could say I've been spending a lot of time poolside with a margarita in hand, but most of my trip so far has been spent in a subterranean conference center at the Radisson in Miami, home to the Editor & Publisher/Mediaweek Interactive Media Conference & Trade Show. That's a fancy name for this annual who's who of the online journalism world. And while journalism was the common theme that brought us together, what I saw on full display was the classic challenge/opportunity scenario faced by so many companies we cover at Inc.

Aside from an awards ceremony honoring the nation's best media websites (more on that in a moment), the conference also brought together editors and publishers for a much-needed conversation about the state of our industry. More specifically, the lightning-quick pace at which it's changing. You see, in case you haven't heard, journalism has changed a lot in the past few years. Heck, journalism has changed a lot in the past five minutes. The Internet has given us an incredible, living, breathing platform on which to tell our stories, and more and more people are choosing to get their news, sports, entertainment, and almost everything else online. If you're reading this blog, you're with me. Just think about how much your own reading, listening, and viewing habits have changed in a few short years.

The problem -- at least if you're working for a big media company -- is that it's also opened the door for literally millions of new competitors. Seasoned reporters are now scooped by pajama-clad bloggers. TV networks are losing viewers to the likes of YouTube. Anyone can get into the publishing game these days, and that's terrifying plenty of people in my industry. I certainly heard a few woe-is-me cries from my fellow conference attendees (usually the ones working for old-guard media companies). To think, these are supposed to be the industry's visionaries.

The good news is that those Chicken Littles were the exception, at least at this particular gathering. What I saw more of were people who, for lack of a more eloquent term, get it. Like smart entrepreneurs, these journalists see a challenge -- considered by some to be the biggest this industry has ever faced -- and they're transforming it into new opportunities. The ones who don't are accepting buyout packages. So one of your readers canceled his newspaper subscription? Maybe he prefers videos and blogs. People are finally becoming comfortable with an important concept -- quality content, whatever form it takes, is far more important than how its delivered. The conversations I had at this conference reinforced my feeling that this is a fun, albeit scary, time for journalism. Kind of like a roller coaster, I guess.

I also left the event reminded of why it's great to not only write about fast-growing, independent companies like the ones many of you run, but indeed to work for one as well. Mansueto Ventures, which owns Inc. and Fast Company, is home to people who, as I described above, get it. And I'll be coming back from the Sunshine State with hard evidence to prove it. During Thursday's ceremony, I was proud to accept the EPpy Award for Best National Magazine-Affiliated Web Site on behalf of FastCompany.com, which edged out Newsweek.com, and believe it or not, Inc.com. Two nominations and one win -- I'd like to think we're doing something right.

Last updated: May 25, 2007




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