Thursday, June 17, 2004

Why small business is big news

Next month, I will be writing about pitching small business stories, so perhaps this is a good time to explain to editors why small business is big news. Historically, most of the innovative work in technology has been done by small companies. I launched Presto Vivace with the purpose of telling their stories. The vast majority of these companies will never grow into major concerns, nor will they be acquired by larger companies. But that does not alter the fact that, collectively, they are doing the most to advance the industry. If a news organization is to report the story of technological advance, to inform readers which technologies are crossing the chasm from early adopters into the mainstream, they must tell the stories of small companies and how they solve their customers’ problems.

Technology changes in the way seasons change. Technology advances in increments, and each increment is a story in itself. It is only by covering those increments, one by one, that news organizations give their readers the opportunity to understand shifting industry trends.

Covering small business is not just important in technology; it is an essential part of business journalism. Most businesses are small. Small business employs half of all private sector employees. No one would teach horticulture by concentrating on giant sequoias, with an occasional walnut or hickory tree thrown in. Horticulture includes everything and emphasizes that most plants are grasses or small flowers. So why does business journalism concentrate on the giants and ignore the little guys? The little guys are the largest part of the story.

Small Business by the Numbers (PDF)

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