10 years later… lessons from the SAR/@NY battle.

10 years later Jason Chervokas of @NY is still complaining that I kicked his ass–I love it!!!

It’s a great lesson in publishing. Back in 1996 Jason and Tom had 10 years experience on me in journalism and I was 25 year old nobody. They had a weekly email called @NY and I came out with a magazine called Silicon Alley Reporter. Silicon Alley Reporter became a $12M a year business with 70 people that is still considered the bible of Silicon Alley. @NY was sold, their founders threw in the towel, and the @NY brand was forgotten. SAR gets mentioned in every Silicon Alley story, @NY never gets any credit.

I remember the day I figured out how to kill @NY. I was sitting by the pool in Tribecca and had a print out of their newsletter. They were great journalists, and they loved doing long thought pieces. These guys were a lot better writers than I was (probably still are), but they had no personality and even less hustle. They were academics and they thought that they would beat me just because they had been around longer. Then it hit me, I should don’t try and beat them at their game, I should start a new game: daily coverage.

Silicon Alley Daily launched and I bet the farm on it. I hired four real journalists to write it, and I stepped back and let them go to work. People said there wasn’t enough news for daily coverage but we forged ahead. We scooped them on nine out of 10 stories–even if we didn’t do it with 1,000 word thought pieces. People didn’t want 1,000 word pieces, they wanted the news as quickly and frequently as they could get it (email newsletters were in many ways early blogs). By the time @NY’s weely came out people had already read the news in Silicon Alley Daily 1-6 days earlier. @NY was so concerned about looking like they were following SAR that they waited a year–a year!!!–to start a daily newsletter. An ego move for sure, and while they held their ground we lapped them–over and over and over.

Sure, many people read both, but we became the thought leaders. They spoke at events, we hosted events. They wrote for other magazines and we grew our own. We were in multiple mediums, they stayed in one slow medium.

So many lessons I learned from that competition. For one, being first into a space is a total handicap, it gives you this false sense of security. Second, multiple mediums beats one medium (duh?!!?). Third, smarts aren’t as important as hustle.

Now, Jason and Tom are great guys and I consider them friends. Heck, they are much smarter than I’ll ever be. However, I love the fact that I beat them so bad that Jason still can’t get over it. That is what competition is about–getting inside the other guys head to the point at which they take their mind off the game. I *tortured* these guys for five years and ten years later they are still throwing stones (I wont even get into the amazingly lame Alleycat newsletter which we trounced–they were so bad I never even considered them competition). Nick Denton fell for the same trap, getting obsessed with everything we did at Weblogs, Inc. to the point at which every one of our friends in common would say “why is Nick obsessed with you?” … but that’s another story.