8 Bay Area Startups Disrupting the Worlds of Media and Publishing


Newspapers, magazines, books, radio, TV, and even web-based publishers have all suffered major setbacks in recent years, with massive layoffs in some sectors and stagnant growth, at best, in others.

Meanwhile, dozens of local startups are exploring creative ways to transform old media industries into data-driven mobile/social/local services that collectively represent the prospect of a much more diverse new media landscape in the years to come.

This post highlights eight of those disruptive companies, listed alphabetically, that we have been able to profile at 7x7.com during 2011. Half of them are focused in one way or another on challenging the traditional book publishing industry, as ebook sales continue to explode.


This little company aspires to be the "Pandora for books," by improving the book-browsing experience with the help of technology. It's an outgrowth of the “book genome project,” which breaks books down into their constituent elements, including story, characters, pacing, description, and dialogue.


This is a social network that helps people find out more about each other and themselves by asking and answering questions, and therefore it also serves as a vehicle for self-discovery and self-expression.

An intriguing San Francisco startup that publishes short, high-quality ebooks mainly, for now, in the “How To” category, including How to Start a Mommy Blog, and Patenting Your Start-Up Idea, and Having Great Married Sex.

The leader in reinventing textbooks as collaborative learning environments has expanded its offerings well beyond the formal educational market by bringing consumer-friendly titles to the iPad.

Its unique advertising model is based on gaming -- whenever someone playing a game succeeds at reaching the next level, or gaining an achievement, Kiip proposes to offer the player a voucher good for a reward from the real world.

Smashwords, which not only publishes ebooks but now appears to be the largest distribution platform for indie authors outside of Amazon, had already by mid-November, published over 85,000 titles.

This little company has built a revolutionary new platform for publishing and distributing stories. More than any other tool out there, it makes it easy for you, the writer, to add content from Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and other social media sites to your story with a simple "drop and drag" function.

This is a crowd-based news photo network in real time organized by  location. Tackable will provide journalists a channel to invite the crowd to participate in playing the news, thereby unlocking the potential in buzzwords like "citizen journalism" and "user-generated content."

(My apologies to those many other companies that are exploring new media models not mentioned here, as we've restricted this year-end list to those companies profiled during 2011. Let us at 7x7.com hear from you in 2012. -- D.W.)

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