Monday 1 March 2021
Home      All news      Contact us      RSS     
- 1 month ago

Andreessen Horowitz is not the only VC firm building its own in-house media machine , top VCs tell us.

Summary List PlacementAn analysis by newsletter writer Eric Newcomer on Andreessen Horowitz s (a16z s) strategy to stop talking with tech journalists and instead publish its own news and content directly made waves in the venture world last week. This was in large part because it discussed a16z s powerhouse communications pro, and party-thrower extraordinaire, Margit Wennmachers. But VCs tell Insider that a16z s strategy is neither new or unique. VC firms have been building out their editorial and content strategy with and without tech journalists for decades, the most famous example being Sequoia Capital s billionaire partner Mike Moritz, who was once a journalist at Time Magazine. The only way to fight negative press is by having your own media content, a former journalist turned venture capital investor who declined to be named for this article told Insider. Specially, Newcomer wrote about how a16z has essentially cut out the press by going direct with an in-house media strategy led by Wenmachers. She s directing the firm s strategy and hiring former journalists and other content creators, including appointing Amelia Salyers as managing editor and Sonal Chokshi as editor in chief. On Monday, Wennmachers announced her lastest hire on a16z s blog Maggie Leung who previously worked for the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and as a senior editor at CNN. Every piece of content you see or hear has been shaped and edited by the editorial team, Wennmachers wrote. It is not a new strategy for companies to hire journalists away from news organizations for corporate writing jobs to help craft their own public image. With such hires, a16z has managed to churn out hundreds of hours of content, including articles, video interviews, podcasts, and newsletters (some of which are shared with and published by Insider). What they are doing is, they ve managed to control their PR and public image to change the narrative and that is very, very smart. All of their articles and podcasts only help to enhance the reputation of the firm, said the former journalist turned venture capital investor. First Round and Andreessen Horowitz have built enviable media machines that are immensely helpful to the startup ecosystem. That s not new. What s new is an approach to circumvent traditional media and only use owned channels (blog, social, corporate podcast, in-app messaging, community forums), ex-Robinhood s communications head Jack Randall told Insider. However, such a tactic is risky, Randall says. I don t recommend this strategy to startups as traditional news outlets have larger reach, lend credibility, and, when things get difficult, having relationships with reporters is important. In response to some of the criticism about a16z s growing in-house media strategy, Wennmachers also wrote, having this direct channel to express our thinking was powerful: Entrepreneurs felt that we got them, their tech, and their industries. Big companies found it was useful to learn about the new technologies and trends, as well as how these newfangled modern companies were being built. Bad news conundrum Controlling the narrative may work to support positive founder stories and celebrate company milestones, but what happens when there s bad news? As seen in the recent example of Coinbase trying to front-run The New York Times by publishing a comment ahead of a story publication, having control over your messaging does not necessarily mean you can avoid the negative news cycle. That story, which highlighted the cryptocurrency startup s difficulties with retaining diverse talent, broadened the divide between the tech media and Silicon Valley, at least in the eyes of a few prominent VCs. Founders: Stop giving free content to the NYT company. They are rooting against you and against the positive sum nature of what we do. Build your own media arm, hire an EIC, and go direct, tweeted Joe Lonsdale, the general partner of venture firm 8VC. Lonsdale also told Insider that his tweet was focused on specific media companies he feels perpetuate false narratives about tech companies, and that he appreciates the work of many good journalists. Sarah Cone, the founder and managing partner of Social Impact Capital, also encourages founders and VCs to go direct, telling Insider she believes journalists can oftentimes be unnecessarily hostile towards certain topics within the tech industry. At the same time, she highlighted the importance of needing journalists to be watchdogs, especially as more venture firms and startups adopt a16z s strategy. a16z will likely produce great tech-positive journalism which we need more of. We also need the critical pieces, so we ll have to figure out that business model as well, Cone said. Blurred lines Another area of note with a16z s strategy: the VC firm is increasingly attempting to blur the lines between content marketing and news. For instance, A16z publishes a podcast called 16 minutes on the news, described as a short news podcast covering the top headlines of the week, why are these topics in the what s real and what s hype? On a January 16 episode, topics included a conversation on Section 230, a law that protects social media companies for being sued over the content they host posted by their users. It discussed the responsibility of social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to perform content moderation. What was missing from the podcast, however, was a disclosure that Andreessen Horowitz is an investor in Facebook, and cofounder Marc Andreessen has been on Facebook s board of directors since 2008. (Andreessen Horowitz also invested more than $80 million in Twitter in 2011 by purchasing stock in private secondary markets). Read more: How Silicon Valley banished Donald Trump in 48 hours Such disclosures are required for journalists and media outlets. For instance, because Bloomberg has an investment arm called Bloomberg Beta, Bloomberg news anchors and reporters regularly have to disclose that their parent company is an investor in a company they are covering. I still think there s value to working with journalists and for company stories to be told in a legitimate news publication, Rebecca Buckman, VP of Marketing at Battery Ventures, told Insider. News is written by an objective reporter who s trying to get at the truth — so to me, being covered by a real journalist can confer legitimacy on a company or person. Buckman, who was a former journalist at Forbes and the Wall Street Journal prior to joining Battery Ventures in 2013, added that Content marketing is very valuable but really completely different. The journalist to VC trend has held up over the years, with the latest example being TechCrunch s editor-in-chief Josh Constine joining VC firm SignalFire as a principal investor and head of content last April. Other famous tech journalists who have joined VC firms include M.G. Siegler at Google Ventures and Om Malik at True Ventures. Content is a way to give all early-stage startups access to some of the value SignalFire offers portfolio companies around hiring and go-to-market strategy, SignalFire s CEO Chris Farmer told Insider. SignalFire has invested in Lime, Clubhouse, and Grammarly. It s about helping founders, not sidestepping the reporters who are vital to keeping our industry honest. As for a16z, this latest executive editor addition is only the beginning of a hiring spree to beef up the firm s media ambitions. As Wennmachers wrote, We ll be launching our expanded effort into contributed pieces later this year, with more announcements to come...And of course, please keep checking our jobs page for current openings. Join the conversation about this story


Latest News
Hashtags:   

Andreessen

 | 

Horowitz

 | 

building

 | 

house

 | 

media

 | 

machine

 | 

Sources