“If you had told me a year ago today that we were going to sell 3,000 ad pages in 1999,” says Industry Standard founder, CEO, and president John Battelle, “I would have said, ‘What are you smoking?’ “
Last January, IS was just another new magazine struggling for must-read stature. But 450,000 unique visitors later, the weekly has lived up to the promise of its name: “We paddled out to the right spot and caught a very large wave,” says Battelle, still astonished that his site is now drawing 4.7 million page views a month. Both Valley and Alley venture capitalists use IS to get intelligence on the competition; hedge-fund managers and arbitrage guys think it’s a handy map to the undulating topography of this new territory. And it was a validating moment when CNBC’s Ron Insana grabbed the issue with the story of Toysrus.com’s problems and held it up on camera.
“I don’t think business magazines understand how to provide readers with the information they need in the Internet economy,” says Battelle, who started the magazine in April 1998 with $15 million from information-technology conglomerate IDG. “They’re vulnerable. Just like Merrill Lynch is vulnerable to E*Trade and Borders is vulnerable to Amazon.”
Living Dangerously “We had a really hard first six months,” says Battelle. “We got our asses kicked. You should have seen how thin the magazine was.” Drafting the L.A Times’s Silicon Valley specialist Jonathan Weber as San Francisco-based editor-in-chief proved the ballast IS needed. And surprise, surprise: The Standard now hopes to follow in the tracks of so many of its subjects and hit it big with an IPO. Battelle knows it can be a bumpy road. His last employer, Wired, stumbled there twice before darting under the Condé Nast umbrella.
Moneymaking Mantra “To cut through the standard hype and marketing bullshit that’s so prevalent in this business,” says editor Weber.
Where It’s Headed In 2000 Battelle wants to leverage the red-bannered mag into a new-media empire and projects year 2000 revenues of $85 million. “You’ll see new magazines, new Websites, and new services,” he says. Meanwhile, the twenty-person New York bureau, headed by ex-Village Voice media columnist James Ledbetter, is moving up by moving downtown, from an office tower on jarringly unhip 52nd Street into a former art gallery on what Ledbetter calls “the outrageously-priced-shoe block” – West Broadway between Prince and Spring. It’s a lot more convenient to Silicon Alley – even if Ledbetter hates calling it that. “It only exists to rhyme with Silicon Valley,” he explains. “It assumes a metaphoric backseat, and we don’t have a backseat anymore.”