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Brands as their own media

Context

Blog on 25 Jan 2021 by Margit Wennmachers who has been behind a16z's media dominance (she encouraged Marc Andreessen to write the now historic 'Why Software is Eating the World' op-ed) and is now spearheading an in-house media platform.

Key points

If we got the same question from entrepreneurs and their teams over and over, time to blog about it! If we found ourselves with a unique point of view, we would share it, as in Software is Eating the World.

Having this direct channel to express our thinking was powerful: Entrepreneurs felt that we “got” them, their tech, and their industries. Big companies found it was useful to learn about the new technologies and trends, as well as how these newfangled modern companies were being built.

Not one of us recalls exactly who came up with the podcast back in 2014… No matter, we started a podcast. It was a lot of experimenting and trying out different things. Then Sonal joined and made it into the powerhouse that it is today. The response was just as powerful and positive as with our posts. In fact, it expanded the audience globally and far beyond the tech community. Just one example is a United States senator contacted us saying he was going to draft legislation based on a podcast he heard and wanted to meet the entrepreneur who promoted the idea. It has worked so well that we now have a growing network of podcasts.

So we are doing just that: we are building a new and separate media property about the future that makes sense of technology, innovation, and where things are going — and now, we’re expanding and opening up our platform to do this on a much bigger scale. We want to be the go-to place for understanding and building the future, for anyone who is building, making, or curious about tech.

Further reading

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Profile of Margit's work (published few days before the above post)

Key points

The firm had been building up a media operation of it own. In 2014, Andreessen Horowitz hired Sonal Chokshi who was an opinion editor at Wired magazine. Chokshi serves as the firm’s editor-in-chief, running an expanding fleet of popular podcasts.

Today, roughly 10% of the 200-person firm works on its marketing team. The company is expanding its editorial operation.

Companies and venture firms have long tried their hands at content marketing — that’s what all those Medium posts are for. The thing that’s unique about Wennmachers’ and Chokshi’s operation is simply that they do it well and at a greater scale. Their podcasts are actually interesting. And since the media has adopted an extremely negative posture toward the tech industry, there’s a big appetite for coverage with a more upbeat slant. Andreessen Horowitz can fill that market demand.

Wennmachers understands the media like few others do. But she’s also seen its dark side. When the tech media wanted utopian fables, she saw how eagerly they took her calls. And now that the press has soured on tech, her brand of media molding is less powerful. Now that reporters are stuck on a narrative that she doesn’t like, she’s come to the conclusion that she doesn’t need them anyway.

She might well be correct that non-cooperation is a good strategy for Andreessen Horowitz. The firm has the tools to speak directly to its audience. But is her strategy good for the world? Isn’t there value in engaging with an independent press?

I talked to Wennmachers for over an hour for this story on the condition that I wouldn’t quote her. She asked me to write that she strenuously disagreed with many of this story’s characterizations and facts.

I wish I could tell you what else she had to say.