TNW is a multi-faceted business that has given rise to other tech businesses including PressDoc, Paydro and Twittercounter. On the publishing side, TNW sits in the top ten of aggregator TechMeme’s leaderboard as an authoritative voice in tech news.
We got to chat to de Laive ahead of the US leg of The Next Web Conference. For the serial entrepreneur, tech is a passion and there really is no more exciting place to be — so the many tech companies make sense.
TNW (the publishing site) has made some startling moves lately, stepping away from its news-driven format to become a more tech feature focussed site. According to de Laive it’s not really a case of moving away, more a case of giving less attention to news and becoming more concerned with original content and editorials. The tech news publisher believes that companies should think about focusing their energy on original content rather than simply summarising and reposting the work of others.
Memeburn: The Next Web appears to be shifting focus away from news and into opinion and analysis pieces. It’s not exactly alone in that. Do you see it becoming a more prevalent trend as companies with limited staff resources battle to keep up with the relentless pace of online news?
Patrick de Laive: It’s not so much that we’re shifting away from news just that we are giving more focus to features, editorial and original news. We’re giving less attention to news that has already broken elsewhere, and more focus to original news that we’ve broken. I can’t speak for other companies but if they’re smart, limited on resources or not, they’d be wise to consider investing most of their time in quality editorial and original news over the reblogging of news that’s already out there.
MB: The way we consume has been disrupted heavily. What are some of the interesting trends you’ve seen with regard to content?
PdL: I think simply the plethora of different ways to access content now is the most intriguing aspect of it all. There’s no limit or restrictions to access. With the likes of Pinterest, Flipboard, Twitter, Facebook, Feedly and the multitude of different devices… Now, more than ever, as a publisher we need to be alert to virtually every aspect of an article.
The site design, the visuals you use that readers will use to share on Pinterest/Google+/Facebook, the quotes and headlines used that people will share on Twitter/Facebook, the layout of the article itself to ensure readability and reduction of bounce rates and above all, the written language, flow, style and choice of story itself… all of it requires more thought than ever due to the never-ending platforms for consumption.
We’re grateful to them though: more platforms means more opportunities.
MB: Which industry do you think is in real need of disruption?
PdL: Ha, you could almost say which industry is not in real need of disruption. There are so many opportunities left and right and so much inefficiency. Retail, medical, legal, education, PR, to name a few are all still very much ready for truly disruptive ideas and companies. There is a lot happening and a lot of new players in each of these markets, but it’s hard to find examples of companies that have cracked the code and are truly disrupting the market on a global scale.
My personal favourite disruptive company in the education sector is Duolingo, an insane smart idea that totally disrupts the whole language learning market. It’s growing super fast and already impacting the way rich and poor are learning new languages. I’m using it myself to learn Portuguese and I had the pleasure of meeting Luis von Ahn at a previous TNW conference.
MB: How different are the headspaces, as a business person, for the TNW conferences and the TNW site?
PdL: The conference is really about bringing people together and doing business. When we started the TNW conference eight years ago, people told us we were crazy, “everything is going online, nobody wants to go to a physical space to meet people in a few years” and we believe the opposite is actually the case. The more business goes online, the more need there is to meet people in person to do business.
That’s what we’re really good at, creating a vibe that encourages people to get the most out of their time at the conference. They want to see new things, learn from others, get new ideas on how to improve their business and meet new and old friends to do business. At an event like the TNW conference you’ll meet at least 15 people who are truly of interest to you, which makes it super time efficient to meet all those people in the same venue on the same dates instead of visiting offices around the globe.
At the TNW conferences we bring people from all different fields and sectors in the scene together: designers, developers, entrepreneurs, VCs and strategic investors, marketers and communication agencies, media companies and thought leaders.
On the TNW site, the audience is very similar to that of our conferences but the big difference is of course is that online we tend to have more transient visitors than we would have at one of our conferences.
MB: TNW has fairly global focus in terms of its content. Was that the goal from the get go or something that developed as a strategy over time?
PdL: That was the strategy from the beginning. We like to write about the World Wide Web instead of focusing only on the US Wide Web. We are not limited geographically but we are on a language level. If something is not interesting to English-speaking people, it’s not interesting to cover on TNW.
MB: You’re a bit of a serial entrepreneur. Would you call it an addiction?
PdL: I’m very passionate about the tech sector and its opportunities. There’s simply no more exciting, influential, scientific — yet creative — a space to be in. I don’t know if entrepreneurship in itself is addictive, but it’s fair to say I’m addicted to my work. Being surrounded by and working with smart and passionate people makes every day another special day.
MB: What motivated the businesses outside of the TNW operations?
PdL: All products and services we’ve built have something to do with TNW. A simple example is that we built our own B2B ticketing platform to handle registrations for our events, because we weren’t happy with the options out there. Don’t get me wrong, there are great ticketing platforms out there, but nobody really solves the problems for B2B events, that’s just a different ball game. When lots of other B2B events were asking if they could use the same solution we turned it into its own product (Paydro) in a separate entity with its own team.
We see TNW as a tech media company. I put the word “tech” first as its essential to our strategy. Aside from great content our dev team creates new tools and services that help the site grow.
MB: How important is it for an online publisher to have a conference component?
PdL: A publisher has multiple business models, one of them can be events and conferences but it doesn’t always makes sense. There are so many events out there, but not many qualitative and financially healthy ones.
MB: Do you think all tech news sites need to be active in the startup space?
Startups are hot and interesting, but 9 out of 10 startups created today are not in business anymore by this time next year. There are a lot of BS companies out there. It’s up to the tech news sites to filter the good from the irrelevant. I think being a startup is actually not that cool per se, being a young and innovative company… that’s cool. Growing it to a billion dollar company… even cooler. The majority of people interested in tech are not interested in startups per se, they do want to know about the startups that have grown beyond the startup phase, so I would totally understand a tech news site that would not be active in the startup scene.
MB: What do you look for in a tech startup?
PdL: No surprises here. Good team, great product, solid business model and passion.
Image: Julia Deboer