It's Shout Out Morning Apparently: Nick Denton, You're Up
I wanted to blog about Denton's gloom and doom memo yesterday, but employers who actually pay me were angrily tapping their feet and pointing to the ticking clock. I didn't finish all that until 11ish or so, at which point Mr. Lacy was angrily tapping his foot and pointing to the clock. Of course, as the day unfolded, the memo got even more interesting with the closure of Valleywag and decision to fold its editor Owen Thomas into Gawker.
A small tribute to the 'Wag is in order. I've had a love-hate relationship with ValleyWag, but mostly love. No other blog has consistently, amusingly or absurdly written about me as ValleyWag. They've stepped over the line a few times, but mostly haven't been mean-spirited, even when loads of other bloggers were. Also, they've always strictly respected my wishes not to invade my personal life and give Mr. Lacy his privacy as a non-Internet "civilian," and even stayed away from skewering Olivia.
Valleywag's "Sarah Lacy" tag shows 80 posts-- many of which I'd never even seen! The most absurd thing they ever wrote? Nick Douglas' post that I'd gotten a half a million dollar book deal. I laughed when he asked me if it was true, and asked if he knew anything about publishing economics, which he apparently took as confirmation. The most inconsequential post about me? That's tough but I'm going to say the one about what shoes I was wearing to the Crunchies. The one everyone wished was true? The one that said I threw a drink in Michael Arrington's face at the first lobby. (Always the people pleaser, I rectified that disappointment here.)
Of course the single most famous post about me was written by Nick Denton himself, "Smoking Sarah Lacy." You'll notice before this post it was nearly impossible to find a photo of me online-- and believe me bloggers tried hard in the wake of the oh-so-scandalous Digg cover. I always laugh when people talk about how "self-promotional" I am, given that for ten years of my career you never knew a thing about me other than my byline.
That wasn't an accident. People judge women harshly and I always wanted my career to be about good journalism, not my personality, gender, clothes or looks. My husband-- a photographer-- didn't even post any photos of me on his blog or Flickr account. I fought with BusinessWeek when they said I had to have a blog photo, and then picked a pretty unflattering one.
But it was clear after the cover that I couldn't stay anonymous any
longer and one reason I got a drubbing was that no one knew quite who I
was. I knew if I was going to hold up to the business end of my book
contract, I was going to have to become a marketer and my product was
myself and my book. And because I'd quit
BusinessWeek, there was no fear of a publisher balking at promoting my brand over theirs. In short, it suddenly became my job to be self-promotional.
I knew all this. But Denton surprised me by throwing me into the deep end of the pool with that post. The photo? My husband took it one Saturday morning in a bowling alley. I didn't have a stitch of makeup on and it was against the men's room wall, which was my favorite color at the time, Orange. A friend leaked it to Denton, after reading the post and knowing that I would mostly laugh at it. It's become my de facto head shot on the Web.
No offense to Owen, but the days Denton wrote Valleywag were its best. There was plenty of skewering of people like me, but it wasn't done in a malicious way and it usually did pick at my true faults and weaknesses. Meanwhile, he actually broke important stories about powerful people in the Valley, like the series about Marc Benioff flipping out about the WSJ reporter at his Hawaii house. He walked a fine line between sexy, fun posts that would drive traffic and important posts, and that kept a nice diversified base of readers coming back. (For the record, I enjoyed most of Owen's coverage as well, but when it started covering New York startups too, and call girls....well, it just stopped being a daily, must-read for me.)
That editorial reality is one of the reasons the blog network strategy is such a hard one. Blogging is all about individual voice, personality, humor and insight. If your voice captures an audience, it's hard to find more individuals like you to scale the organization. After all, wouldn't the real superstars just start their own blog? Even the most successful bloggers in tech: Om Malik, Michael Arrington, and Kara Swisher all struggle with this and will continue to. And unlike the other three, Denton frequently preferred to be the guy dressed all in black mumbling things in the background and observing-- not the publication's face.
I continue to think Denton will build one of the most powerful and valuable new media properties and this memo is a testament to why. He doesn't buy his own hype. He doesn't get emotionally attached. He will tear down what he's built up in moments if he needs to-- the same way he did with his anointed blog gods and the Web-lebrities he created one snarky post at a time.
An unforgettable portrait of the emerging world's entrepreneurial dynamos Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky is the story about that top 1% of people who do more to change their worlds through greed and ambition than politicians, NGOs and nonprofits ever can. This new breed of self-starter is taking local turmoil and turning it into opportunities, making millions, creating thousands of jobs and changing the face of modern entrepreneurship at the same time. To tell this story, Lacy spent forty weeks traveling through Asia, South America and Africa hunting down the most impressive up-and-comers the developed world has never heard of....yet.
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