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In my editor’s note last month, I wrote an impassioned plea on behalf of MENA media outlets like mine. It asked people and entities who had the requisite resources to spare to support the publications they like (and more often than not, want to be featured in), with the aid of win-win partnerships that allow for both parties to develop and grow. The article generated a fair bit of discussion in the social media space. I had written the piece from my perspective of working at a startup, and people at other small businesses chimed in to back up what I was saying: it’s not fair for large entities (with the assets they have) to expect fledgling organizations to do work for them for free. After all, there’s only so much good that goodwill can do- your entrepreneurial support initiatives need to translate into real business value for startups if they are to actually have an impact on the MENA ecosystem.
Now, for all of the feedback I received for my write-up last month, I’ve to admit my favorite response came from a startup that we at Entrepreneur Middle East have been following since its launch a couple of years ago. We first interacted with the enterprise when we wrote about it in its early days, and we had since kept in touch with it, supporting it whenever we could, promoting it and its achievements on all of our different channels over the years. For the record, we did this (and will continue to do this), because, well, this is what we are here for- Entrepreneur Middle East’s mission is to enable and support the success of deserving upstarts in the MENA region. There had never been any sort of a business relationship between us, and so, I was taken aback to see the same enterprise reach out to us, after they read my note last month, looking into ways we can work together, from a marketing standpoint. “We don’t have the deepest pockets,” the company said, but it also felt that it had “a duty to support the entrepreneurship ecosystem which brought us here in the first place.” To say that this gesture touched all of us at Entrepreneur would be an understatement- I had addressed my note to large organizations with budgets to spare, but in the end, it was a startup with limited resources that came forward to support us. And for that, we are grateful- thank you.
As a journalist, it’s always tricky for me to talk about topics like these- I got a few people telling me that by linking my publication’s editorial with its revenuegenerating side I was compromising on its integrity as well. Let me clarify: in no way am I saying that we will publish only what is paid for. That is most definitely not how we work, and it’s simply not possible for our brand to have worked and survived for so long if that was the modus operandi we worked under. But for all of the bouquets our content gets, let’s not forget that if our business wasn’t generating revenue, none of this would have been possible in the first place. At this point, you can wag a finger at me and say that there’s something wrong with our operation’s business model– and yes, the sad truth is that most media organizations today work on a flawed structure. Debates and discussions abound on how this model could (and should) be fixed, but a solution that works for all parties involved –readers, publishers, advertisers, etc.- is yet to be decided upon. So, for the moment, while we look into other sustainable models for a media business, we also need to make do with what we have- and that’s why we remain reliant on support from entities with budgets to spare. As a result, I’m sticking to what I said the last time: if you have got the resources, make sure you support the media outlets you turn to on a regular basis- and this is how you should work with the startups around you as well. If you like what these new enterprises offer, make it a point to do business with them- else, rest assured that they will shut down. And that’s a scenario that none of us want to look forward to.
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