Gigaom logoAs I’m sure most readers of this blog already know, tech media company Gigaom shut its doors earlier this week. Stalwarts of Gigaom’s public-facing news site such as Stacey Higginbotham, Derrick Harris, and founder Om Malik have already offered personal perspectives on their own sites, and I expect others to follow in due course as they digest what happened and chart their own next steps. A strong team of knowledgeable, conscientious and respected journalists and support staff lost their jobs this week. I wish all of them luck in finding something new. But there was another side to Gigaom’s business: one with which I was involved for a number of years, and one that we should miss just as much as the “universally respected” public blog.

It was around the middle of 2009, I think, that Michael Wolf first contacted me about contributing content to a new subscription research service, Gigaom (then GigaOM) Pro. The core proposition, as Om Malik described it at the time, was interesting to me, and I was happy to be involved:

“GigaOM Pro is a new approach to research focused on delivering timely, high-value reports and analysis for technology innovators and insiders at a fraction of the cost of traditional market research vendors. Organized around technology verticals, GigaOM Pro provides subscribers with in-depth market research on emerging technologies, including Green IT, Infrastructure, the Connected Consumer, and Mobile, as well as daily insight into developing trends and events.”

The Gigaom team delivering this research service was initially small. It grew, of course, adding Research Directors, editorial specialists, project managers, sales staff, and the other pieces required to support existing clients and customers while attracting new ones. But almost every analyst contributing to the site (including myself, even at my most involved) remained freelance. Across a pool of several hundred analysts, Gigaom and its clients could draw upon a wide range of perspectives, backgrounds and skills. When a specific project was commissioned, Gigaom’s staff identified a suitable analyst and then worked with them to ensure successful delivery. Analysts remained independent of Gigaom and its clients, and neutrality of mindset was actively encouraged.

I, and others, wrote reports, ran webinars, delivered analysis and consultancy in person, in writing, and on the telephone. For a year, in 2011, I curated what was then called the Infrastructure section of the site. That ended in 2012, as Jo Maitland (now at Google) joined Gigaom’s expanding permanent staff and worked with her colleagues to  continue growing this subscription-based business. One of the aspects of that role I’d particularly enjoyed was providing a short perspective on the day’s important news. That lives on, more or less, as the One Short Thought I share over on Tumblr each day. Nowadays, though, I try pretty actively to avoid the ‘main’ story of the day and settle instead on the one that’s most interesting.

More recently, my involvement with what came to be called Gigaom Research shifted to focus far more on underwritten research papers. Never sponsor-loving white papers (despite the misunderstandings of more than one client over the years!), these offered a useful opportunity to associate an underwriting company’s name with carefully neutral consideration of a market segment relevant to their business. Done right, these were a good way to provide Gigaom commentary on trends and issues that might not attract sufficient eyeballs to justify the investment of non-underwritten analyst time. Underwriters could rely upon being treated fairly, even if the final result didn’t always paint their product in quite the rose-tinted colour they might initially have wished. More than once, Gigaom’s Research Director for Custom Publishing, Matthew Spady, had to intervene to remind clients that we weren’t writing about them. But they always ended up happy. And, more than once, I was involved in projects where fierce rivals were willing and able to contribute their perspectives to papers notionally paid for by ‘the enemy.’ That strikes me as a good thing for all concerned.

Gigaom as a whole should have survived. It’s still not entirely clear why it didn’t, although I and others have theories. Some of those sharing their theories are even in possession of a relevant fact or two. The Research business, which was in the process of tightening its focus and emphasising its core value proposition, struck and strikes me as valid, viable, and profitable. I hope that someone sees the value in building upon that foundation, finding ways to bring the best of the Gigaom Research model to an ever-wider audience.

Until then, it’s time for me to find some other projects to fill the gap left in my schedule by a number of Gigaom reports that will presumably never be delivered.