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Life in the Emerald City of Media Startups -- or So It Is Postulated

Joe media



Content marketing czar Joe Pulizzi has already enticed thousands of visitors to the windswept shoals of Lake Erie for his annual Content Marketing World conference -- this year's keynote: John Cleese -- but that's not all he's done to preach Cleveland's gospel. He's teamed up with a couple other media companies in Cleveland to put on a one-day extravaganza for students and young professionals to convince them that Cleveland is the perfect town to begin a career in media (or to launch their own media company). Naturally, we were curious. We chatted with Joe by phone to talk about #MediaCLE next week and to get his take on the media climate here in Northeast Ohio.

Sam Allard: So the whole premise of #MediaCLE is that Cleveland's a great town to start a media company. You might have to convince me.

Joe Pulizzi: Well, the first thing is that yes, you can start a media company, there are lots of opportunities. But also, this event is for anyone looking for opportunities in existing media. I think both of those are prime if you're a student or a young professional. Honestly, most of the young professionals we talk to don't know the wealth of publishing tradition in Northeast Ohio.

SA: What traditions are we talking?

JP: They don't know that it's one of the largest B2B [Business to Business] publishing towns in the United States, third behind New York and Chicago. They don't understand the number of editorial and journalistic resources in this area. I think more than anything, we're just trying to get out the idea that you're in area with an abundance of content-creation resources to launch a media property or to get a job with anyone of these companies, whether that's new media like your STACK Media or the Content Marketing Institute; or your old-line media companies like the NEOMG.

SA: And what's the pitch to current students? I don't wanna put this too harshly, but schools, in their curricula, still aren't really talking about new methods of content creation or social media or the opportunities to build new content platforms. We're looking at this day as an intensive day to teach students in journalism programs, but who aren't getting that kind of training. It's also continuing effort to get this sort of programming into the university structure.

Plus I see on the schedule that there's plenty of networking.

JP: Oh yeah, it's definitely meet-and-greet. If you go from the education side, you'll learn a couple things. You'll learn about the opportunities from some of the industry leaders. You'll learn about the transition from older-line media to new media. And then, if you're willing to go all the way, you'll learn how to create your own media property. That's what I'm talking about anyway. The good news is, we're going to have both students and media entrepreneurs and older line folks. They're looking for talent. Hopefully we can provide some on-site dating, if you will.

SA: When you look at Cleveland's media landscape, do you see any glaring holes? What type of media company would you recommend for Cleveland right now?

JP: It's not specific, in my opinion, to anything Cleveland has to offer outside of the talent. The talent can't be overlooked. And the second thing, honestly, is that it is still incredibly inexpensive to launch any sort of company here. Actually today is our eighth anniversary at CMI.

SA: Congratulations.

JP: Thank you, but the point is, if we were to have started this business in NYC, Chicago or San Francisco, I don't think we'd be around today. I don't think we would've been able to make it through the first three years of losing money. But we kept our expenses low. You can really attract good talent at lesser price as well as office space, if that's what you're interested in. You just can't do that in San Francisco. Look at GigaOM, they're a really good example.

SA: GigaOM's the tech blog, sort of, right?

JP: Was. [They ceased operations last month]. GigaOM had a fantastic model, but they went under. I don't think the business model was flawed. I think the expense model was flawed. If you put GigaOM in Cleveland, they're still going. But everyone's like 'Oh, you've gotta launch a media company in NYC or Silicon Valley.' That's absolutely not true anymore. Actually you don't want to launch there. The cost structure's just too prohibitive.

SA: Is there really the necessary infrastructure here?

JP: Look at straight B2B for a second. You could make the case that, from the commercial side, if you're launching a fashion magazine, say, you've got to be on Madison Ave. or close to it. I can see that case. But if you're in B2B, look at the publishing resources here. You've got Penton and Babcox and GIE and Meister Media and the remnants of Advantsar. It just goes on and on and on. It's very hard to find that elsewhere.

SA: So, what? More jobs?

JP: Sure. You might say that means a lot of competition, but what it also means is there's a lot of editorial talent here, a lot of people who understand trade publishing really well who are always looking for new opportunities.

SA: This reminds me of how the Greater Cleveland Film Commission encourages filmmakers to make their movies in the Cleveland area.

JP: It's the same thing, that's absolutely true. When we started Content Marketing World five years ago, I gotta be honest with you, I was a little concerned that we couldn't get people to Cleveland, but because of social media and because of the reach and the no barriers to entry, it simply doesn't matter any more. If you have really good content, people will get it however they need to get it.

SA: Well, it sounds like you've got a hell of a day cooked up.

JP: I hope so. It's not like we're making money on this. It's more of a thing that we felt somebody needed to do. I don't think there's enough of this out there.

SA: Any goals for attendance?

JP: Right now it's trending well. I'd say if we can get 100-plus students to attend, I'd call that a success.

#MediaCLE will be held April 15 at the Renaissance Hotel. Cost is $20 for students and $95 for young professionals. Contact Heather Centorbi ( for details.

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