Saturday, March 17, 2007

Ten Years After: Shore Communications Inc. Turns Ten

Ten years ago today I left a corporate attorney's office on a brilliantly sunny and warm day and opened a checking account at a local bank. The USD 100 deposit was to the order of Shore Communications Inc. To those of you who have heard the story of Shore, bear with me as I share elements which may be familiar. The to the rest of you, it's an interesting story, so stick around.

Shore actually started in the late 1970s when my then-roommate Bob Zwick and I took out a compass and applied it to a topographic map of the State of Connecticut. The Federal Communications Commission had announced a proposal to allow additional radio stations on the FM frequency spectrum. To our delight we discovered that the proposal had opened up a one-square-mile area in Old Lyme, CT where a 50,000-watt FM radio station could be built. Experienced in FM radio from our days of building and running our college radio station WCNI at Connecticut College and my selling radio advertising at WHCN, Bob and I crafted an application to build a station licensed to nearby Old Saybrook, arranged to lease land for the antenna site and engaged a Washington attorney to help shepherd through the application. The D/B/A name of the company that put in the application was Shore Communications.

Alas, in came a new administration in Washington who had friends in broadcasting not pleased with the FCC's proposal. The mile-wide hole that we had discovered zipped up quicker than you can say "political favor." Bob went on to a career in computer programming and gentleman farming while I pursued a corporate life at AT&T's Bell Laboratories, Citicorp, Quotron and Reuters.

Fast-forward to the fall of 1996 and a conference hall just south of Trafalgar Square in London. Reuters was having a staff-only conference on Web technologies and their impact on publishing. As I was involved in some of their early Web initiatives I found myself at the conference in a break hall with some PCs equipped with browsers and Internet connections. I guess that I never lost the startup bug, so it's probably no surprise that I typed "shore.com" into the browser just out of sheer curiosity. What I got back in that browser was a page of notes - something that looked like a half-forgotten site. I called the owner of the site in California and asked if I could have shore.com. The fellow said "sure." I sent him $100 just to feel like it was a real business transaction and in January of 2006 I was the proud owner of a five-letter Internet domain name for nothing more than the guts to ask for it.

A corporation to act as an umbrella for the domain seemed like a good idea, so incorporation under our old Shore moniker followed shortly thereafter. It took a while before I actually did something with it, though. I tried putting feelers out for a consulting gig about a year later while still at Reuters but the first person I spoke to - Andrew Delaney - hired me as an employee at my consulting rate for Waters Information Services, an offer that I could hardly refuse. I spent a splendid year working for Waters Information Services as head of their market research, a startup in its own right. Working in the heart of New York's SoHo district at the height of the dot-com era stimulated a lot of thoughts about Shore, though, so when new management axed market research it's no surprise that I started work on a business plan for an Internet startup focused on community publishing. An angel fund was all set to underwrite the plan in April 2000. Oops. Bad month to be thinking dot-com. But in the meantime I had launched several Web sites, one of which I sold for a tidy profit a couple of years later. Another one included an early stab at what turned out to be a weblog - little did I know.

My consulting continued but after several calls from an organization called Outsell I decided to see what they were all about. Outsell was a great experience in many ways - it showed me how to be an analyst, experience that I carrried forward into a relaunching of Shore a couple of years later as a virtual team of content industry analysts. ContentBlogger was launched along with a refreshed Shore Web site and our ShoreLines newsletter in March of 2003. Rafat Ali of paidContent.org was our number two newsletter subscriber, starting a long and warm relationship that continues to this day. A later trip to Rome gave me the honor of meeting Robin Good, who has become a wonderful friend and mentor who syndicates our content now and again to this day.

I am grateful for the dozens of clients and thousands of subscribers that Shore has serviced through the years, as well as for all of the talented and genuine team members who have been a part of our success story. I am also grateful for all of the colleagues who we have come to know through the industry events that we have attended and supported with our speaking, research and panel chairing. If there's anything that I have learned in the time that Shore has gone from a twinkling in a dreamer's eye to a widely respected research and consulting firm it's that there are an amazing number of supportive people who will stand beside you in this industry if you show some perseverance and insight. My thanks to you all. Here's to the next decade of helping content, technology and people meet in new and exciting ways.
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