Powerful Media, the independent start-up formed by Kurt Andersen, Deanna Brown and Michael Hirschorn, has been performing a delicate balancing act with the press over the past few weeks.
Powerful Media, the independent start-up formed by Kurt Andersen,
Deanna Brown and Michael Hirschorn, has been performing a delicate
balancing act with the press over the past few weeks.
The trio has attracted a lot of unwanted attention with its new Web site
for the entertainment in-dustry. Newsweek recently wrote about
Inside.com, but editor-in-chief Hirschorn says his company is trying to
avoid the usual pre-launch hype. Instead, Powerful Media is
concentrating on reaching potential paying subscribers through
interviews with a selection of handpicked trade magazines.
Public relations professionals are just one potential audience of the
site. Inside.com has already attracted dollars 5 million in funding from
investors (including Flatiron Partners) and has caught the imaginations
of the brightest brains from the biggest books.
Even before the early May launch, Powerful Media has lured staff from
Variety, Rolling Stone and Advertising Age. These journalists will work
alongside newspaper reporters from The Wall Street Journal and USA
The idea for the site came from Andersen, who launched the satirical
magazine Spy, was editor-in-chief of New York magazine and last year
published a novel. Andersen says he chatted to friend James Cramer,
co-founder of TheStreet.com, about providing something that catered to
media enthusiasts in the same way finance and sports sites do for those
Hirschorn, a former editor-in-chief at Spin magazine, had a similar
idea, and the two, who had previously worked together at New York,
decided to plot their professional destiny in cyberspace.
It is a bold move, considering that the Web does not lack for media
Powerful Media is located in a pitiful district on Manhattan’s West
The building on 11th Avenue may be surrounded by urban degradation but
the elevators carry a chic crowd to dot-coms on three floors. Inside.com
shares the building with Screamingmedia.com, the content site of
advertising guru Jay Chiat, and Martha Stewart’s Web operations. On the
13th floor, Inside.com’s reporting team (the site intends to hire about
50) taps away on fruit-colored iMacs with each position separated by
steel angle-poise lamps.
At the far end of the room, next to the only window, Andersen and
Hirschorn unveil their work in progress. The opening page offers a lead
story of the day and carries six options down the left-hand side: TV,
film, media, music, books and digital news. These allow people to dig
deeper into their respective industries while gaining a perspective on
what’s happening in the communications field at large.
For those interested in the media industry, Inside.com will carry
statistics revealing the number of ad pages carried by individual titles
plus the latest circulation figures. The site also carries a Cappell’s
circulation report and a TV news column, penned by Andrew Tyndall, which
discusses how many minutes individual anchors and their subjects receive
on the nightly newscasts.
There is a section that details the latest mergers and acquisitions
activity, also enabling readers to keep up with so-called ’co-opetition’
agreements (companies that compete but are also involved in
A segment called Daily Digest will act as a meta search engine,
providing links to the main trade magazines’ Web sites as well as
compressing news stories carried by industry fax and newsletters.
There won’t be any executive profiles as such but Andersen says if PR
pros want to offer a particular CEO viewpoint, there will be a Q&A
Inside.com won’t be all homework either. Andersen and Hirschorn have
plans to keep subscribers entertained with sections like Mogul
Astrology, featuring the professional prospects of top industry figures
on their birthdays, and Insidedope.com, a gossipy feature with juicy
bits of information on each industry.
Pros are encouraged to send contributions to another segment, the Party
Pictures page, though Inside.com will have a dedicated photographer
combing industry events each night. Pros should also be thinking of how
they’d pitch to be part of a monthly Power Index, which will rank the
top people in everything from PR to music. ’PR pros need to send us
everything,’ says Andersen. ’There are a lot of ways they can partner
The site will also carry a calendar of events such as book, film and
record release dates, though Andersen is not planning reviews. ’We will
have links to these companies’ sites. This should be the portal, nothing
should be absent,’ he says.
Andersen says graphics will be limited - it is mainly a text-based
service - but as things develop there may be some use of streaming video
and audio to show things like the latest Budweiser commercial or a hot
These past few weeks, the Inside.com reporters have been penning
features to feed the beast once it launches. Drew Kerr, founder of PR
agency Four Corners, which represents magazines and dot-com clients, is
encouraged by what he’s heard and would consider breaking news with the
site. But first he wants to see for himself what it’s all about, he
Inside.com launches in May, but Kerr makes the point that it will get
his subscription money only ’if they are quicker, faster and better than
anyone else.’ The price of a monthly subscription is dollars 19.95, with
an initial offer of dollars 12. Kerr, for one, says he is yet to be
convinced of the need to spend the money.
Andersen is coy about predicting how many people are likely to visit the
site on launch. But he admits that he and his colleagues are hoping for
a modest 30,000 after the first year and 100,000 after year four.
Chris Taylor, director of public relations at Bloomberg, says her firm
has already proven that you can get people to pay for information if
it’s unique. ’I am very much their target audience as I represent
magazines, radio, TV and newspapers.’ While Taylor is ready to sign on
the dotted line, she adds: ’I won’t be dropping any trade magazines.
They will always be my first read.’
While Andersen is reluctant to discuss the post-launch second phase, he
says the site intends to reach out to international audiences with
coverage of what’s happening in the entertainment business scene in
London and Sydney at a later date.
While many Web entrepreneurs include exit strategies in their business
plans, Andersen says that’s not part of his thinking: ’We want it to be
profitable. Anyone who talks about an exit strategy is not talking about
profit.’ He says that the most likely scenario for Inside.com is to be
acquired, either partially or in full. ’But who knows?’ he adds.
For now he’s concentrating on the Web product and looking very seriously
at the prospect of a print weekly and a TV show.
601 West 26th Street
New York, NY 10001
Tel: (212) 937 0100, Fax: (212) 937 0101
6100 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Tel: (323) 634 8560, Fax: (323) 930 0606,
Co-chairman: Kurt Andersen
Co-chairman and editor-in-chief: Michael Hirschorn
President and CEO: Deanna Brown
Editor-at-large: Michael Cieply (Los Angeles)
TV editor: Kyle Pope
Music editor: Craig Marks
Books editor: Sara Nelson
Media editor: Lorne Manly
Film editor: Chris Petrikin
Business editor: Richard Siklos.