The cleantech community was shaken today, including I, when Eric Wesoff announced on his new blog that GreenTech Media was shutting down. While the shock definitely drove anger into many in the community there seems to be a deeper set of reasoning that likely led to the shuttering of GreenTech Media.
Media is expensive to run, especially when attempting to deliver high quality content in volume. If there isn’t a direct path to monetization – it makes it hard for businesses to justify the cost.
The natural reaction many had was anger here – GreenTech Media (GTM) had become the go-to publication for cleantech news and analysis. Every startup wanted to be highlighted in there and every press release was shared with them. Especially now with the major transition occurring in the cleantech space it was shocking to see Wood Mackenzie – the consultancy that owns GTM – decide it was time to call it quits.
Energy Gang, GreenTech Media Podcasts and Meetups Live On
This was a needed relief and makes complete sense.
Sponsorships support the production of these shows, meetups drive networking opportunities for new businesses and the reach of podcasts with GreenTech Media’s Label get significant reach alone.
As a lead generation source, in the eyes of Wood Mackenzie, these specific media assets provide a low cost to no cost opportunity that they wouldn’t consider removing. Media assets at the end of the day still cost money and need to deliver value either monetarily or indirectly through lead generation.
The highly successful investment firm a16z shows how a publication approach can help them attract more investors to their fund and attract startups to want them on their cap table. Wood Mackenzie had similar business intentions with a publication like GreenTech Media.
By shuttering the publication/news site it shows that either:
A: Wood Mackenzie did not have enough resources allocated towards figuring monetization out
B: Began to see a decline in value generated from their website meaning monetization wouldn’t justify continuing to run the site
Monetization is Hard - Quality Content isn’t Enough
As mentioned in Eric’s brief post on GreenTech Media’s demise, media is in flux.
Everyone has a substack, blog, youtube channels and/or podcasts these days. It’s easier to produce, publish and charge for content than ever before. However, 90% of substack newsletters will never get more than 100 subscribers, most podcasts will get less than 10 listens and most blog posts never get seen or ranked. While media is in flux – the algorithms that are powering these networks like Google Search and Youtube Search will always find ways to promote high quality content.
GreenTech Media was just that – high quality energy news and analysis. The only thing missing – a solid monetization strategy that would at least keep the publication at break even.
This is a classic in the startup world – company builds an awesome new consumer technology product and gains a ton of users who love this new tool. Company then realizes it has to monetize to pay the bills and engineers which results in trying frantically to charge for things or create value add features, but realizes the problem they are solving isn’t one that their users would pay for.
From an outsider’s perspective, this is what I believe happened. GreenTech Media couldn’t find a way to monetize and Wood Mackenzie was losing too much money, especially in today’s economic climate, so they had to let it die.
GreenTech Media’s Content Focus Away from Analysis Only (Their Competitive Advantage)
Everyone wanted to be in GreenTech Media. An article in GTM would change the course for the better for cleantech startups.
However, this became a bit of an issue.
GTM still had many gems of analysis published online – which is why I LOVED them – but there was a significant uptick in content that sounded more like a well edited press release than actual analysis on a new announcement.
GreenTech Media had the research and analysts from Wood Mac in their back pocket – which could have provided significantly more value had every piece included more of their insights than just general overviews of a startup milestone or policy change.
Had the team at GTM invested more in curating higher quality analysis pieces even on press releases – it would have made them that much more valuable in the industry.
Imagine reading articles with GTMs wealth of information tied back to companies, trends and policy moves in the industry. A full picture in every article, every day. Now imagine they pay wall locked half of their content with simple messaging – “support our writers by subscribing to GreenTech Media +”.
Knowing this community many would have shelled out $5/Month for that level of quality and that might have been enough to keep it going.
Breakeven Really isn’t Enough
Justifying ROI for media and press is hard – rarely does it directly result in sales or guarantee that it can pay off in any period of time. Website traffic, clicks and Google rankings can prove how well a piece of content performs, but it can’t tell you what revenue it would generate for your core business.
- Charging a subscription also adds additional stress on the business as it has to then optimize for increased quality and subscription retention.
- Running ads might reduce the user experience and slash the number of us that go to the website to read.
- Asking for donations is great for indie writers, but hasn’t been demonstrated to work for large publications supporting writers on staff.
This probably means that any form of monetization strategy would have not justified the time + resource investment Wood Mackenzie would have needed to make to keep things going.
While you might think it would be worthwhile to keep GreenTech Media’s sites and content mill running – even at breakeven via a subscription…from a business perspective Wood Mac has better performing media assets that deliver significant value to the community and make money today.
This move makes sense.
This is Great for the Cleantech Community
It is an opportunity.
When an incumbent publication falls, people begin to search elsewhere for that content. GreenTech Media was a classic situation of not being a business critical operation. It was an advertising/lead generation platform for Wood Mackenzie – when the sites failed to justify it’s costs, the “campaign” is killed and resources are piled into projects that are performing well.
Hence the continued support of their podcasts as mentioned above.
What this has done is create a void – a void that the loyal readers will frantically look to fill. Seeking out other publications providing similar content or following authors that went independent from the editorial team at GTM.
That void is going to be painful enough for some people that more publications will find monetization and charging for their content a lot easier.
There are many great writers out there – with GreenTech Media gone, now you can find a writer or publication who may be providing even more value than what GTM was delivering to you.
Discovery of these smaller publishers will now become easier.
About The Author
Swarnav S Pujari
CEO @ TouchLight | Founder of The Impact
Swarnav is the CEO of TouchLight, a utility backed energy company that develops grid-edge management software for residential and commercial properties.
Concurrently, Swarnav founded The Impact to help provide a platform for operators within the industry to share their opinions about how the cleantech space is evolving. He also is appointed as the Chairman for the Town of Yorktown’s CSC Task Force, where he helps with legislation and sustainability efforts within the town.
Swarnav has a background in building physical products and has been working in the energy space for a decade. He also holds 2 patents and is active in the tech, energy and finance industries.