An Open Letter to the Coworking Services and Media Industries

In December 2015 I got the bright idea to build a media site dedicated to sharing my experiences running various coworking spaces within different roles over the prior 3 years. At the time I could count about five other publications, most of whom only intermittently shared content, most of whom were entirely independent. That is, they weren’t necessarily tied to a particular service brand, coworking space, or conference/event organizing group. I figured I had a good shot at outpacing them merely by publishing content at a rate they simply couldn’t keep up with. It worked and it worked much faster than I thought it would.

In the process, it became clear that our industry was bored to tears of the same old shit that still circulates the industry media channels today. Posts about community building that had little to no depth. Top ten lists. Articles on “why coworking is awesomesauce and everybody should try it or they are dumb.” Media brands were dishing out the Kool-aide, but people were gagging on it.

With Coworking Insights, I’d hoped to accomplish something different. I’d hoped I would provide fresh content and higher quality content. Content that was detailed and useful and inspiring. To some extent, I think I accomplished that. And yet, I see that there is so much more to be done. The cold, hard truth is that our industry does not have a media brand I would deem worthy of any laurels, even mine. Especially mine.

What do I mean by our industry? It’s not just coworking anymore. It’s digital nomads, remote workers, entrepreneurs, freelancers, coliving, coworkations, and so much more. Our industry exists to provide more flexible and more impactful new ways for people to work, and even live. For lack of a better term, and because I like Melissa’s brand so much, we’ll call it the “new worker industry.” Though, I’ve also heard it called the “workplace industry.” Doesn’t matter. I’m open to a catchier phrase.

Fast forward to January 2017 and the new worker media landscape is bleaker than ever. None of us are crushing it. Not a single one.

From my perspective, each brand does one or two great things but lacks severely in other areas. Where one pumps out oodles of content, another hasn’t posted for three months. Where one kills with top quality posts, another’s are generic and overplayed. Where one totally demolishes sales and business development, another has hardly been heard of. Where one experiments with new mediums and technology, most others stick with the tried and true blog. And yet none of them have a combination of the qualities needed to be the go-to source for our industry. None of them is acting like the leader we need. There is no Buzzfeed in the new worker industry.

And the reason, I think, is simple. I believe it comes down to dollars and cents.

Growing a media company is a heavy investment. Either in your time or in other people’s time. If you want to put out great content, grow your audience, and develop profitable business relationships in order to keep the lights on, you need to have an impressive set of skills. Not to mention a massive amount of time to put those skills to work.

And so the new worker media brands run into a problem where they simply can’t do it all. You can’t be selling sponsorships while creating awesome content while producing events while consulting while managing a fucking coworking space. And yet, everybody tries some crazy combination of these activities.

The shenanigans need to end here.

And I think they end where the service brands come in.

For all the time that is wasted on negotiating sponsorship deals so that a service brand can put their logo on a website and maybe get some traffic there’s an entirely different, albeit radical, approach which will absolutely change the game.

Service providers need to be media brands. There’s absolutely no reason Nexudus should be taking out ads on Deskmag. Nexudus should be Deskmag.

Nexudus, Cobot, Habu, Meshwork, essensys, WUN, Bisner, Seats2Meet, Mesh, Coworkify, Croissant, and others: You are not service providers. You are media brands that sell services.

The real opportunity here is not to place ads, sponsor events, and hope you make a good impression by tying your name to the influencers. The opportunity is to be the influencer.

No, this won’t be taken lightly. No, most providers and most media brands won’t take this path. But in five years, I know who’s going to be around still. And it’s going to be those that understood the marriage between attention/influence and business development.

“So Ryan,” you’re wondering, “if you have a media brand and you work with Habu, why are you suggesting this? Don’t you want your competition to fail?”

Not at all. I love the people in this industry. The truth is I want to see everybody make it to the other side in some way, whether as my competition, my partner, or as a spinout/pivoted product.

A lot of stuff is going to get cleared out in the coming years. A lot already has. I hope all of you are standing beside me in 2022. See you on the other side.

Ryan Chatterton
ryan@coworkinginsights.com

Ryan is the founder of Coworking Insights, a coworking media platform focused on delivering unique and in-depth insights for coworking founders and their teams. He’s the Marketing Director at Habu, a quickly growing coworking management platform that is simple, fast, and intuitive for managing recurring billing, bookings, and other admin tasks. Formerly with Impact Hub and PARISOMA, Ryan now has over 4 years of combined experience in a variety of roles in the coworking industry, including marketing, events, operations, sales, software, and partnerships He’s a digital nomad and a lover of wine and tacos..