Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 11:20 am.

Tesla vs. The New York Times: Everyone’s A Media Company Now

This post was first published at LinkedIn. Please follow me there for more commentary.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk shreds* the New York Times review of his Model S, using data to argue the writer is telling the wrong story.

I won’t pretend to know who’s actually right or wrong here — Tesla certainly only has an interest in telling its side of the story — but the fact that a company has the tools and distribution to quickly publish something like this today is pretty amazing. (See also, OXO’s wonderful takedown of rival Quirky.)

Even a few years ago, something like this probably would have required finding a rival newspaper — the Wall Street Journal, perhaps — to collaborate on a takedown. Or maybe an expensive full-page ad campaign in the top five papers, which would have looked defensive and seemed less convincing.

But now that every smart company has a regularly updated blog, Elon Musk has 136,000 Twitter followers, etc., brands can speak for themselves very powerfully. And if the tone is right, they don’t even look lame: Tesla actually looks pretty great right now*. The balance of power has shifted.

Tesla Speed chart

This is one of the reasons that when startup founders ask me how they can get press for their new company, my first piece of advice is for them to start publishing their own.

Obviously, credibility is important, and it’s still a place where long-trusted media companies — especially the New York Times, WSJ, etc. — have an advantage over individual brands. (Though the Times itself has famously run into problems here.)

But many brands have established themselves as credible publishers. And why shouldn’t they be? They almost always know their industries better than the reporters covering them. And in many cases, their executives are actually great writers. (Etsy’s Chad Dickerson, for example.) Some of my favorite things to read today are made by companies that previously had nothing to do with publishing.

*Update: Here’s a good follow-up by Rebecca Greenfield at the Atlantic, arguing that Musk’s data doesn’t back up his claims. And later, a thorough follow-up from the Times. This one is still playing out.

Also: Actually, It’s A Great Time For Magazines