By November 18th, I’ll have been consulting full-time to the online news industry for eight years. That work has taken me around the world several times and given me clients on four continents. I’m proud of it. I’m likewise proud that my livlihood since 1996 has come solely from the net profits of my consulting invoices, living without any salary or paychecks.
Yet, I’ve become bored with running an online publishing industry consulting company. Eight years is enough. I’ve felt this way for about year, and its now time to move on. I’ve four reasons:
First, I’m simply tired of doing the same things month after month, year after year, for eight years straight. Most good people get promoted while working that long for someone else, but there’s no such change when you work for yourself. Just more of the same.
Second, only about half of clients actually implement a consultant’s recommendations, no matter how good those recommendations are. That ratio is normal for consultants, and in earlier years I didn’t mind it particularly if the clients paid well. For instance, one media corporation paid a monthly retainer that itself subsidized about 90 percent of my company’s costs during the late 1990s. That company retained me mainly to attend its weekly executive committee meetings and to recommend strategies that would extend its business into new-media. Its executives liked hearing my recommendations (advice such as, “No, I don’t think that having your corporate website automatically play the company song whenever anyone visits it is a good idea.”) and they liked being able to say that their company had hired (and could afford) outside expertise, but never during all those years did they implemented any of my recommendations. Yes, the money they paid was very nice, but I can’t be proud that such companies have been my client. Over time, such clients’ neglect of my recommendations, and the marketplace problems that neglect creates for them, have begun to trouble me more than their handsome payments are worth.
Third, the majority (perhaps 90 percent) of the consulting assignments that news media clients give me are to solve old, even obsolete, problems. For examples, I’ve this year received two inquiries from newspapers that want to decide whether or not to publish obituaries online. In July, the publisher of a venerable, special-interest magazine that’s printed bi-monthly asked me to propose a plan for how it can switch its online publication from bi-monthly to daily. These would have been wonderful new problems to solve in 1994. Or acceptable everyday problems to solve in 1999. But these are woefully old problem to be solving in 2004. It’s become almost impossible for me to develop any enthusiasm for those assignments. The consulting industry