The tidbit that stood out to me regarding Recode is that they had 44 full-time employees — plus a few contractors. That’s not lean and mean. The advantage the internet provides to new publishers is that there’s so little overhead. You can go really far with a really small talented team. 44 employees sounds like Recode was trying to go head-to-head with the Wall Street Journal on the business/tech beat. Rather than start small and grow big organically, they wanted to start big. And so to start big they took on investors, and next thing you know, they had to sell.
To a first approximation this is pretty much what happened with GigaOm as well. The situation seems to have been more complicated there—especially with respect to their research business—but that was another case of “They have how many employees??"