Caruana goes full-time with PR business Media-WizeBy Seamus Byrne in Media News on Friday, 16th April 2021 at 10:02am
In 2018 the start of a consultancy business, Media-Wize, was born and after two years of evolution Caruana recently decided it was time to hang up the press badge and focus on the new business.
We chatted to Anthony about the decision to end his journalistic career and his thoughts on the state of the industry in recent years.
How long has the shift been underway and what was the trigger for finally deciding it was time to go all in with the new business?
Kathryn, my co-founder and I, had the idea to create a media training consultancy at the end of 2018. But the decision to go all in, for me, really started to happen in the back half of 2020. When COVID hit in March, lots of my usual freelance work dried up. Like many freelancers, I was relying on non-journo work like white papers, corporate blogs and that sort of thing. But marketing budgets collapsed and many of the publications I was writing for cut staff, hours and budgets.
But the clients we’d worked with for media training started coming to us for more – they wanted us to handle their PR. By May 2020, we had more work rolling in and by the back half of the year, we knew we had a serious business growing.
What made you think about building Media-Wize as a business in the first place?
The idea really started in anger. Kathryn and I came from the warring factions of PR and media. I was lamenting that interview subjects weren’t able to tell me good stories and Kathryn was frustrated that some clients weren’t getting great coverage after interviews. We looked at each other and realised that the answer lay in training and helping spokespeople find and tell great stories.
It’s become a bit of a mantra for us. It’s about find, tell and share. We help clients find their stories, tell them really well and then share them with the widest and most suitable audiences.
What client areas are you focused on and what kinds of services are you offering?
My background over the last decade or so has been in business and enterprise tech, with emphasis on cybersecurity although there was a lengthy stint with Lifehacker writing about all sorts of things as well. So we’ve scored some great clients, like Australia’s largest ASX listed cybersecurity business Tesserent/Pure Security, ongoing project work with Kaspersky and recently working with well known cybersec podcaster and consultant Claire Pales on her latest book, The Secure Board, co-authored with Anna Leibel.
But our client list today keeps growing, including exciting technology companies like Zetaris. We’ll be announcing a new client shortly, one of the first businesses in Australia to bring Robotic Process Automation here. And we’re about to produce a podcast series with AusCERT after doing some crisis comms training with them.
Services wise, we think we do things very differently to other PR firms. Kathryn has been in the PR business for over 20 years and has an amazing eye for seeing what works and doesn’t work. Which is why we are so focussed on finding our clients' stories. We don’t work in a vacuum – we work closely through media training, story discovery sessions and ongoing dialog to find great stories.
We also share the IP we discover with our clients. When we come up with a list of 20 or more stories, which happens almost every time we conduct a media training or discovery workshop, we give those ideas to the client. We don’t lock them up. That’s built huge trust with the clients we work with.
What's your perspective on the shape of the industry today and how that's changed over recent years?
We did some research early on looking at data from LinkedIn, the ABS and other sources and found that the media industry has lost about 20 journos each week – that’s well over 5000 people who have taken ‘journalist' off their current CV. At the same time, the number of people in PR and marketing has exploded. Our research suggested that for every journo that left, five PRs or marketers came in.
That makes getting stories heard super hard. Which is why we think our focus on finding great stories and developing amazing storytellers is so important.
But I’m loving the rise of independent publishers. People like you, Seamus, and David Hague, David Flynn, Chris Cubbage and others taking a punt and launching your own publications and platforms is incredibly inspiring and gives me hope that the tech media has a bright future.
You had a life before journalism too, so what's your sense of your time in the space and why tech journalism is important?
I started using a PC when I was about 15 (the early 1980s) and it was a very different world. You had to code to make stuff happen, connect a cassette player to save programs and bathe in glorious green light. The tech media then was about enthusiasts.
By the 1990s, we had Windows, Macs and the complexity changed. The software was off the shelf but doing something like getting sound to work was about installing expansion cards, editing config files, setting DMA channels and interrupts and stuff like that. There was this crossover between enthusiasts and computers becoming appliances.
Today, consumer tech has really moved into the appliance stage – how many people, other than a core of enthusiasts, build their own PCs, do their own upgrades and all that?
What’s interesting is that enterprise tech has followed a similar trend.
The focus on tech journalism has shifted from how to make things work to how they can be used. Journalism continues to be super important because it continues to inform and teach. But rather than helping people build stuff, I see a massive shift to helping people do stuff.
There’s also a huge responsibility for the tech media to highlight the stuff that sucks. The erosion of privacy, the rise of massive tech companies and their disdain for government, cybercrime… the media’s role in calling out shitty behaviour remains paramount.
Any key memories you'll carry with you from your time in the trenches?
For me, the work was always fun but it was about the people. There have been folks that I’ve learned a huge amount from. David Flynn was the first editor to commission me for a story at APC. Matthew Powell gave me a huge opportunity at Macworld, where I eventually went on to become editor before the publication was killed off. Graham Philipson falling asleep and snoring after a big night during a Q&A with the CEO of a major Silicon Valley company. I’ve always enjoyed sitting next to Simon Sharwood at pressers and Q&As when spokespeople don’t answer his questions directly. I’m hoping the Melbourne journo crew still let me come to the Christmas lunches.
The many nights at Media Connect events replete with empty minibars, fence-jumping to get into closed pool areas, nudie-runs and other shenanigans were amazing.
I’ve been fortunate to have travelled the world because of this amazing job.
But it’s the people I’ll miss. Although I’ll be happy to never see <name redacted> do another nudie run.
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Follow McDowall on LinkedIn.
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