Is the the lofty prices being paid by Yahoo, Google and Microsoft for start-ups with little revenue? Is it bloggers such as Henry Blodget and Fred Wilson talking about being concerned about the health of the online economy? Or is it respected newspapers such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal writing Chicken-Little-the-Sky-is-Falling stories?
While it’s difficult to tell whether the boom is poised to go bust any time soon, it is interesting to see the NYT publish a story today featuring the words “madness” and “irrational exuberance” a week after the WSJ had a story looking at “today’s silliness”.
It may be that the NYT and WSJ are doing two things: they both have concerns about what’s going on; and/or they don’t want to be caught with their pants down if the boom suddenly ends. Having been a high-tech reporter during the last dot-com boom, you have to remember the media got caught up in the dot-com boom as much as anyone. The media landscape was chock-a-block with bubbly, positive stories about the Web and the scores of entrepreneurs hitting the jackpot.
It was a love-in but when the boom suddenly ended, the media was surprised as anyone. For all its objectivity, there hadn’t been a lot of media/reporter who had jumped off the bandwagon. Why? The boom was fun to cover. As a reporter, you got to write lots of stories, went to some really great parties, were given plenty of schwag, and met interesting people armed with lots of VC or IPO money.
It may be that the media learned its lesson and embraced the old adage: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Maybe this time around, there’s some more pragmatism when it comes to the boom and the possibility of a bust. It could simply be that some media have decided it’s better to have warned people about what could happen rather than be surprised again and look foolish.