The Age of Expensable Media

Aug 03, 2020

3 min read

For many executives, staying current is the hardest part of the job.

The age of expensable media has arrived.

The concept isn’t precisely new. Recode and TechCrunch pioneered expensable journalism a over a decade ago with panel discussion at the Moscone Center and Jessica Lessin honed in on the action in 2013 with the launch of The Information. But it would be hyperbolic to suggest that the status quo has changed or become sustainable (even inside the homey confines of the tech sector). With executives working harder and harder to remain well-informed in the face of growing complexity and ad-supported publishers scrambling toward subscription models, companies continue to tacitly communicate the expectation that employees spend ever-increasing amounts of time and capital staying up-to-date.

Why don’t obsessively well-read executives just put subscriptions on their corporate cards? Some do. More should.

Historically, the hang up has to do with price points and specificity. Many executives are uncomfortable expensing media when a diminishing portion of the buy is relevant to the specific nature of their work. Take the Harvard Business Review or The Economist. These are terrific publications, but they are also generalist publications. Every few issues might have something relevant to an ESG professional working at a hedge fund or a brand manager working in CPG, but the bulk of the content is interesting because it’s… interesting. This is fine — or, better put, acceptable — for all concerned because the generalist nature of the coverage offered by these publications allows them to charge less and pursue a bigger audience. But this doesn’t solve for the problem, which is that executives need deep and current understandings of their respective fields.

Now, imagine that companies expected their employees to shell out for industry reports from Gartner and Deloitte, content products that run to the tens of thousands of dollars. Those products are more specific and do provide a depth of understanding. And there would be revolt if an expectation for out-of-pocket spending was even insinuated.

But we’re inching that way.

Research suggests that the daily decisions faced by business leaders are becoming both more numerous and more complex. For professionals operating in senior or technical roles, this means that the burden of keeping up represents substantive work, a sort of perpetual fact-finding mission one might call “Research Creep.” For many, regular media consumption is now indistinguishable from desktop research and the costs, both in terms of time and money, associated with staying up-to-date are galling.

How can companies do this to their most valued workers?

How can they not? The reality is that many companies would jump at the opportunity to subsidize executive content consumption if publications were more closely aligned with job function. B2B subscription prices are a drop in the bucket compared to expenses associated with conferences and the hidden expense of hunt and peck content consumption during work hours. Some B2B publishers have recognized this and narrowed their focus to the point where the expense request is a formality, but the market is spotty at best. In many cases, companies are likely eager to help their employees, but unable to do so because relevant products simply don’t exist.

While it’s doubtful that all future subscribers to Paperwork Media products will be expensing their subscriptions, the vast majority will and we’re confident that they will face little to no resistance from their employers. Authoritative publications providing comprehensive and definitive daily coverage aligned to job function help both their consumers and their consumers managers recover vast amounts of time and energy while alleviating a sort of anxiety now endemic to the executive class: Did I miss the next big thing?

For professionals in the niches covered by Paperwork Media publications, that anxiety is unnecessary, research creep is avoidable, and up-to-dateness is one expense away. Operating on the premise that companies generally want to support their most valuable employees, Paperwork Studios provide a means to that end — media as expertise, stress relief, and a reason to get back to the job at hand.