We here at WebNewser believe in taking care of our own, especially when “our own” refers to Laurel Touby, founder of our parent company, mediabistro. Touby was the subject of a long interview by Avil Beckford of The Invisible Mentor, and while we recommend the entire conversation, here are some highlights:
I started out as a journalist and made a living as a journalist. Somehow I found myself forming a community of professionals because of my own need. If you start any company, you quickly learn that your own need is often reflective of the needs of others. So once I discovered that I had this need to commune with other people who were like me — fellow journalists, media professionals — other people came out of the woodwork and told me that they wanted to attend more parties. In the beginning, I didn’t realize it was a business, I just knew that I was filling a need. The need was community, and back then we didn’t have Facebook — we had bars and restaurants, we had local watering holes.
I started out at a bar with some friends, and we just called it a cocktail party, which happened once a month. People would bring their friends, and eventually, the party grew to be bigger and bigger, so we started collecting business cards and entered the information into a database. The big transformation happened when email came along, because once there was email, it made life a whole lot easier. We were able to leverage the technology to invite hundreds of people quickly and easily.
I’m not in charge of the business anymore, but I feel that we’ve established ourselves. We have been doing this for over 10 years. We started as a cocktail party in 1994, and in 1996 on the Web, so it would be really hard for anyone to catch up to where we are at in terms of visibility. Everyone in the media is aware of us, we have a good track record and reputation, and we are constantly innovating, so it would be very difficult for me to say that there is a big threat coming up.