2 min read

The lessons of Danny Sullivan

I am not a search-engine expert.
But I know a fair amount about search-engine optimization.  I can hold my own in a conversation on the topic. I can help editors improve their search results. I can teach a little bit about writing headlines and title tags and such so that Google and the rest of the engines will rank a site highly.

And everything I know about search engines I owe to one guy -- Danny Sullivan.
And I have never even met him.

Danny is the genius behind Incisive Media's "Search Engine Watch." And last week he announced he was leaving the company because he and Incisive could not reach an agreement on compensation.
The news hit the search-engine world hard. No one -- NO ONE -- is more important than Danny in the search industry. And everyone seems perplexed that Incisive would let him go, including Danny, who was quoted as saying "I can't understand why [Incisive Media] would expect me to stay with them if they can't give me a long term incentive to build their business."

Longtime readers of this blog know that I've been warning B2B publishers for quite some time that they are vulnerable to competition from their own staff. The anyone-can-be-a-publisher software used by bloggers means that key editorial people no longer need their magazines.  I've predicted a rise in entrepreneurial journalists -- most of them the key editors that become synonymous with a magazine's brand. I've predicted that they will quit their jobs -- or, more likely, accept early retirement -- and start running their own online publications, usually concentrating on a very small niche.
In a sense, Danny is the perfect example of what I've been talking about.
At the same time, Danny is an extreme case. He's already been an  entrepreneurial journalist. He actually co-founded "Search Engine Watch" in 1996 and sold it to Jupitermedia a year later. But Jupitermedia knew that what it was really buying was Danny. And things went smoothly until Jupitermedia sold "Search Engine Watch" to Incisive last year.
So what's the lesson here?
If you're a B2B publisher I  would urge you to look long and hard at the folks in your newsroom. In particular, look at that guy who has been around forever, the guy everyone in the industry you cover knows, the guy that "is" your publication.
And then ask yourself, and ask yourself honestly -- am I too dependent on him? am I doing enough to keep him? what do I do when he quits?

For more on Danny's departure, take a look here or here.

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