The publisher of Politico, a US news company that covers policy and politics from the heart of Washington DC, has launched a new publication that uses the same 'inside scoop' formula to cover technology.
Protocol, a standalone brand, quite rightly considers the tech sector as a new global power centre. Just like Politico, it focuses on data and fact-based news over political dogma and partisanship.
"The tech world is increasingly polarised," says executive editor of Protocol Tim Grieve.
"There are people who think tech can do no wrong and there are people that think tech can do no right. I want Protocol to deal with the nuances of tech. It’s not a case of good and evil, so our reporters don’t come into a story with a preconceived point of view but take the story where the reporting leads them."
Reporting from the heart of the tech industry, however, is not quite as simple. While politicians have the interest to talk to journalists, Silicon Valley companies often go to great lengths to keep the press at safe distance.
To break the barriers, Grieve hired some of the best reporters in the field from outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Wired and Yahoo News. Its team of 32 are spread across the United States and the United Kingdom.
So far, this gamble paid off. Protocol has broken some important, in-depth tech stories, such as a recent expose of US law enforcement buying data from mobile apps to track phone locations.
"We’re writing about consumer companies sometimes but not consumer products. There are a million places that do that really well and the world doesn’t need another one of those," says Grieve.
"We’re very much focused on the business of politics in tech and not what’s happening on the consumer side of it."
So many people in the tech world live on Slack all day so that’s a great way to meet readers where they actually are.
To help build an audience of decision-makers, Protocol has worked on establishing a presence on Apple News, "aggressively promoting" their content on social media and producing a morning newsletter - Source Code - which is also available through the work messaging platform Slack.
"So many people in the tech world live on Slack all day so that’s a great way to meet readers where they actually are."
Since launching last month, Protocol has attracted more than 550,000 total unique visitors with a high rate of return.
However, Protocol is facing a unique challenge in launching their tech-focused publication in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. Events that the outlet had planned to cover, such as South by Southwest (SXSW), have been cancelled and tech firms including Google and Twitter have called on employees to work from home.
Whilst the team have not endured any major disruption in terms of productivity, the impact from other parts of the sector has left gaps in its editorial agenda that the team are working to fill. Starting next week, they are launching Protocol Virtual Meetups to provide their influential audience the inside scoop on what they are seeing out in the tech landscape and "give all an opportunity to stay connected in these wild times."
Opportunities often stem from crises, though. Protocol is now planning a series of virtual events to showcase the work of their reporters and provide a chance for people in the tech industry to interact.
"There are a lot of people out there who thought they were going to be spending this week in Austin, Texas for SXSW, so we’re trying to find ways to replicate some of the experiences people might have had in a virtual way.
"It’s something we hadn’t anticipated doing quite so quickly but it seems like there’s both an opportunity and a need for it right now."
Grieve suggested that such moves could end up being adopted as a new norm, citing the late-night ABC news show Nightline, which was the first broadcast to report on the 1979 Iran hostage crisis but has since run for over 40 years.
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