In-Depth, Ethical Reporting and Breaking News Drive Broader Editorial Focus at VentureBeat

Dec 02, 2014 Jason Morris

I had a chance to sit down recently with Dylan Tweney, executive editor of VentureBeat, to chat about the evolving focus of one of the tech industry’s best known media properties. The brand might cause some to mistakenly think of VentureBeat as simply an online news site covering venture capital news and investment trends, but it actually has a much broader, more diverse scope.

However, before diving into some of VentureBeat’s particulars in terms of focus, there is definitely another message that was loud and clear from my discussion with Dylan. He takes tremendous pride in accentuating the integrity that underscores VentureBeat’s reporting.

“We don’t invest in the companies we cover and we stress ethical reporting in everything we do,” he said at the outset of the discussion. “We take objective reporting and analysis very seriously.”

When he told me this during our meeting in mid-October, I’ll admit that I treated it as a throwaway mission statement. As when companies say “customer service” is what sets them apart, it’s a hard thing to prove quantitatively.

What makes Dylan’s ethics statement more interesting now versus when he first said it is that with the recent “Ubergate” scandal involving an executive touting the potential merits of opposition research on journalists and singling out a few prime targets, you have to wonder if this message has become more than a mission statement. I am definitely not implying that any VentureBeat competitors are in any way unethical. The vast majority of journalists we work with are highly ethical, strive for objectivity and balance, and are discerning about the stories and companies they cover.

However, journalism is like politics in that often the appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest can be as bad in the realm of public opinion as actual wrongdoing. So in an age where media outlets share investors with the companies they cover, it inevitably draws immature mudslinging by executives who work for companies outside of that portfolio even in the absence of any evidence.  That was part of the poor explanation for why the Uber executive attacked a specific journalist—the media outlet shares an investor with Uber’s top competitor, Lyft.

Bottom line: ethics and objectivity are important in journalism just as understanding what makes a good and balanced story is important in public relations. Unfortunately, questioning someone’s integrity without merit is oftentimes easier than fixing what is being criticized.

Other things worth relaying from our discussion:

  • In-depth reporting—another point hammered on by Dylan was VentureBeat’s focus on telling a more in-depth story. In an age where it seems like speed trumps depth in storytelling, it’s good to hear that there is a media property trying to tell more complete stories. What this means for PR people is that there is an opportunity to go beyond the executive interview and provide data, third-party validation (users, analysts, investors) and additional context to help get across a more nuanced message.
  • Increasing commitment to breaking news—when asked what competitor he respects, Dylan cited Re/code as an outlet that gets a lot of stories before the crowd and does a good job reporting the details of those stories. Along those lines, VentureBeat has made recent news hires in New York and Toronto as a commitment to breaking more stories. This breaking news focus, combined with a commitment to going more in-depth means that VentureBeat could be an attractive place for more exclusives.
  • VB Events—VentureBeat recently announced its 2015 event lineup with an emphasis on gaming, marketing technology and mobile. The events are well attended by investors, market disruptors and other technology industry stakeholders, and are open to outside speakers.
  • VB Insight—the recently launched research side of VentureBeat generates reports targeted at marketing, sales and business-development audiences. With former VentureBeat editorial contacts and some newly hired analysts, Dylan expects the Insight side of things to grow quickly and to stress the same ethical approach as the editorial side of things.

Overall, Tweney made it clear how committed VentureBeat is to in-depth, ethical reporting that goes a step further than one-off news stories. If you can bring something interesting or additional that goes beyond “Acme Tech announces…” you have a good shot to at least get the ear of a VentureBeat staffer.

Topics: Public Relations, Journalism, PR
Jason Morris

Jason is president of InkHouse and leads operations from the firm's San Francisco office. His singular mission is to debunk the myth that people can't be happy long term on the agency side of PR where he has spent more than 20 years working with companies in technology and consumer.

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