Shand & Co caught up with ArciMedia director Antony Reeve-Crook for a chat about starting a new enterprise and the importance of a clear business plan.
Hi Antony, tell us what you do?
I'm a journalist and editor, the author of Where Markets Meet and founder of ArciMedia Ltd, a company dedicated to generating discussion on markets with intelligent coverage and editorial in all media.
What was your motivation for starting out in business?
After editing several trade magazines, latterly in the global business events industry, I became aware that the decline of newspaper and magazine revenues has led to increasing poor standards of editorial, and a shift in power to advertisers. Today we see this in every fake news story, or thinly veiled piece of corporate promotion dressed up as useful editorial. I set up ArciMedia as an antidote to this, another approach for those who wish to win trust and loyalty from the markets they serve.
What challenges have you faced, and how did you overcome them?
Sadly in publishing, access to the big stories and interviews tends to be dependent on ongoing commercial relationships with either the subject, or their representative body. The advertisers we work with often enable access. (The case is different for newspapers backed by trusts, such as the Guardian, however considered in isolation, the Guardian makes no money.) In my case, I could visit a city to write about as a destination for events, but the city would pay for the flights and accommodation rather than the publisher, which was unable to pay these costs. So there was an expectation on the article being essentially promotional. If you dismiss the advertisers, then where does the money – or the content – come from?
Soon I realised that all stories, either promotional and editorial, can justify themselves by communicating information that enables decisions to be made. A good piece of PR can still convey useful information, even if there is an obvious bias. On the other hand, an earnestly written piece of editorial can still contain no useful information at all.
I overcame these obstacles by looking at what the client (and in my case, audience) actually wanted, and wrote or filmed material that I knew would provide them with genuine value, regardless of where the money comes from. The important thing is to retain credibility and provide value.
What has been the toughest decision that you have had to make in your journey so far?
Taking myself out of a salaried position at a time when we were trying for a child.
To what do you attribute your success?
Not giving in to advertiser pressure, and making sure I write for my audience rather than the people commissioning the material. And fundamentally an understanding that the world will always listen to a good (comprehensible) story, no matter the subject.
If you had one piece of advice to give someone just starting out, what would it be?
Don't believe your own hype. Make sure you have asked the market you're after what it really wants, and see if it likes your idea before you tell it what that idea is. If you tell someone your idea and ask them if they like it, they'll invariably say yes. Tell someone 'an' idea and ask them if they like it, and they'll be more honest.
What book inspired you and/or changed your way of thinking?
I'm always drawn to Yossarian's character in Joseph Heller's Catch-22 as an example of a guy caught up in a seemingly mad system he can't escape, but I keep re-reading The Origins of Virtue by Matt Ridley for its explanation of the economics of human nature – why we do what we do and how to see things coming before they do.
If you could pick 3 guests to be at a dinner party with you, whom would you ask and why?
(They can be alive, dead, fictional, famous, colleagues, family or friends – anyone.)
Stanislav Petrov, the man attributed with averting nuclear war just to be walked through that mind-blowing decision making process. Muhammad Ali to see what drove that phenomenal inner confidence, and witness the charisma first hand, and Hitler just to try and see if he was capable of reasonable discussion. And also to have someone to point at when I knock Ali's wine over the table, and not feel in the least bit bad about it.
And finally, do you have a favourite quote, motto or saying?
I have many and abide by almost none of them, but my current favourite at the moment is John Dewey's "Politics is the shadow cast on society by big business." Things are rarely what they seem, the wheels are usually being turned by something far more significant.
Antony Reeve-Crook is a regular contributor to several publications, and has written for a variety of predominantly trade-side titles in the television, automotive, live events, business travel and tourism industries.
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