What kind of media counts?

The Department of Justice has decided, apparently, not to prosecute Wikileaks for leaking information because the prosecutors would have a “New York Times problem.” In other words, because Wikileaks worked with a media entity that counts, they have to be treated seriously.

Amazon soon will have more new self-published books for sale than books that went through the old process. Do these self-published books matter? Are the reviews from readers ‘real’ or should they be ignored?

Many actors would rather do a low-rated cable show that doesn’t pay well than appear on a YouTube video that is seen by millions. Because the former counts.

Columnists for famous newspapers look down at bloggers, even bloggers with more readers and impact than they have.

In live theatre, a revue out of town that gets a well-deserved standing ovation nightly doesn’t count as much as a Broadway show, even one that’s frankly pretty bad.

Of course, television didn’t used to count, not if you were a radio star. And cable didn’t count, not if you were a network sitcom star…

Sure there are fake reviews, fake followers and fake views. Sure, there’s a huge amount of unreadable, unwatchable, unshareable stuff being published in the curationless media of our time. But eventually, the truth will out, quality will be shared (or at least interesting will be shared) and our definition of what counts will change.

The question for you is which line to get on… the line waiting to get picked or the line to start now?


12 Things Successful Women Do Differently – Huffington Post

12 Things Successful Women Do Differently
Huffington Post
Having a support network is key to being successful. Keeping up your friendships and forming new ones at every place you work makes you happier and helps your career later on. In 2009, Diablo Cody told the New York Times about the importance of her 

The critic stumbles

Last week, I saw an extraordinary play on Broadway. It got the longest standing ovation I’ve ever seen in a theater, and Alan Cumming deserved every minute of it. The New York Times critic, though, didn’t like the show.

What’s the point of his review, then? Clearly the audience, discerning in their own right, disagreed. Do mainstream critics exist to tell us what to like, to warn us off from the not-so-good, or are they there to punish those that would dare to make a piece of work that doesn’t match the critic’s view of the world? Perhaps the critic is saying, “people like me will have an opinion like this,” but of course, there just aren’t that many people like him.

Have you noticed just how often the critics disagree with one another? And how often they’re just wrong?

And yet we not only read them, but we believe them. Worse, we judge ourselves, contrasting our feelings with their words. Worse still, we sometimes think we hear the feared critic’s voice before we even ship our work out the door…

For me, the opinion of any single critic is becoming less and less meaningful as I choose what to view or engage with. And the aggregate opinion of masses of anonymous critics merely tells me that the product or content is (or isn’t) mass-friendly. I’m far more moved by the insistent recommendation of a credible, raving fan than I am the snide whispering of some people who just didn’t get it.

The math is simple: no matter how big a critic’s platform, what moves markets are conversations. And we are far more likely to have conversations about something we’re raving about than something we didn’t like (because when we don’t like it, our friends never experience it and the conversation dies). The win, then, is creating raves, not avoiding pans.

Every single book I’ve written has gotten at least a few one star reviews on Amazon. Every one. The lowest possible rating, the rating of, “don’t bother reading this, in fact it never should have been written.” Not just me, of course. Far better writers, writers like Fitzgerald, Orwell and Kincaid have gotten even more one-star reviews on their books than I can ever hope to.

No one has ever built a statue to a critic, it’s true. On the other hand, it’s only the people with statues that get pooped on by birds flying by.

Media voice vs. media company

Just about everyone is in the media now. If you’ve published something online, you know what it is to create and spread ideas.

But that doesn’t mean you have to become a media company.

Companies seek to maximize. Maximize attention and clicks and profit. Maximize impact and return on investment.

The New York Times is a media company. They make media, sure, but mostly, they’re in the business of making a profit. As a result, most of the media they make isn’t made because it’s important, or because it personally matters to them. No, media companies make media because making media makes money.

Amateur media tends to be a lot more personal, unpredictable and interesting.

The irony, of course, is that in a billion-channel universe, those three things make it far more likely that you will earn attention, connection and trust, which of course makes it more likely you’ll earn a living.

Should you work for free?

That depends on what you mean by “work” and by “free.”

Work is what you do as a professional, when you make a promise that involves rigor and labor (physical and emotional) and risk. Work is showing up at the appointed time, whether or not you feel like it. Work is creating value on demand, and work (for the artist) means putting all of it (or most of it) on the line.

So it’s not work when you indulge your hobby and paint an oil landscape, but it’s work when you agree to paint someone’s house by next week. And it’s not work when you cook dinner for friends, but it’s work when you’re a sous chef on the line on Saturday night.

And free?

Well, you’re certainly not working for free if you get some cash at the end of the night. But what about a nine-minute segment on 60 Minutes about your new project, or a long interview with Krista Tippet on her radio show? Should you get paid for that?

Clearly not. Not if you think you’ll be able to turn that platform into positive change, into increased trust, into something that moves you forward.

[As more of us work with abundant ideas, not scarce resources, the question comes up more often. I’m not delving at all into the idea of donating your work to a cause you believe in. That’s not a selfish calculation, it’s a generous one, and I’m all for it, but do it for that reason. Because paying your work forward is the right thing to do.]

Harlan Ellison is gifted, inspired and entertaining, particularly in this video. But his profane refusal to work for free confuses work-for-money with work-for-actually-valuable-attention. (In his case, he’s right, the attention on the DVD had no real value to him. Yes, they could pay for that–but see the point about positive externalities, below.)

Of course, many people who would have you work for free value attention far differently than you or I might. No, writing a guest blog post for a little blog is probably not valuable enough to you. No, designing a logo for the zoo for free is probably not valuable either. And the argument that it is valuable (it’s good for your portfolio!) is inevitably selfish and irrational. The lions get their food, the vets get paid and even the guy selling peanuts doesn’t do it for free…

On the other hand, for a long time it made perfect sense for opinion leaders without big blog followings to write (for ‘free’) for the Huffington Post. And there’s still a line of people eager to write for the New York Times op ed page, not for the money. And if Oprah calls, sure, answer her, even though her show isn’t what it used to be.

The more generous you are with your ideas, and the more they spread, the more likely it is your perceived value goes up.

There are double standards all over the place here. There was a national kerfuffle (from people who should be doing something more productive) about Amanda Palmer giving musicians a chance to practice their hobby or voluntarily gain exposure, but no one complains about all the showcases and music festivals that don’t pay musicians a penny. There’s a law against having interns do work that ought to be paid for, but college football players give up their health and their time to participate for free in a billion-dollar industry…

Positive externalities are one of the magical building blocks of the web. When the work you do creates useful side effects (like the smell wafting from the bakery down the street), it’s not only selfish to prevent others from partaking, it’s actually stupid. The infrastructure we all depend on only works because we’ve made it easier than ever for ideas to spread and be shared. That’s different, though, from bespoke work and live work and risky work on demand.

The challenge of this calculus is that it keeps changing–the landscape changes and so does your work. When I started my professional speaking career fifteen years ago, not only did I speak for free, my company even paid money to sponsor events so I could speak for free. When TED offered me a chance to speak for free, years later, I took it, because, in fact, the quality of the audience, the attention to detail and the chance to make an impact all made it worth it. But when SXSW, a corporation that makes millions of dollars a year, offers me a chance to be a speaker, pay my own way and hope to get some attention from their very overloaded audience, it’s easier for me to say, “free makes no sense here.”

Some of the factors to consider:

  • Do they pay other people who do this work? Do their competitors?
  • Am I learning enough from this interaction to call this part of my education?
  • Is this public work with my name on it, or am I just saving them cash to do a job they should pay for?
  • If I get paid, is it more likely the organization will pay closer attention, promote it better and treat it more seriously?
  • Do I care about their mission? Can they afford to do this professionally?
  • Will I get noticed by the right people, people who will help me spread the word to the point where I can get hired to do this professionally?
  • What’s the risk to me, my internal monologue and my reputation if I do this work?

If you’re an up-and-coming band building an audience, then yes, free, free, free. It’s always worth it for you to gig, because you get at least as much out of the gig as the organizer and the audience do. But when you’ve upped and come, then no, it’s not clear you ought to bring your light and your soul and your reputation along just because some promoter asked you to.

Here’s the heart of it: if you’re busy doing free work because it’s a good way to hide from the difficult job of getting paid for your work, stop. When you confuse busy for productive, you’re sabotaging your ability to do important work in the future. On the other hand, if you’re turning down free gigs because the exposure frightens you, the same is true… you’re ducking behind the need to get paid as a way to hide your art.

[Thanks to Steve for the push. And to Jessica for the flow chart. Both of which they did for free. Because it wasn’t really work and it wasn’t really free.]

Stepwise progress

Yesterday, Squidoo reached one of its goals: We’re now ranked #50 among all US sites in traffic. Ahead of the New York Times and Apple.


There are more than four million pages on Squidoo, from a recipe for candied chickpeas to an entire magazine about Halloween. All built by our talented members.

The thing is, our tiny team grew this way with intent. Stepwise progress is a choice, and it means you invest, measure and focus your energy differently. It can be frustrating, because shortcuts get ever more tempting along the way.

With 50,000,000 unique visitors a month, our platform seems to be hitting its stride. A typical overnight success that took seven years to build. Thanks to the squids and to everyone who helped us get this far.

PS check out my friend Bernadette’s new book… another example of generous, stepwise audience building


Consumerism and Chatchkes

The other reality you’re looking at is that you are, in economic terms, a consumer. In fact, that is how you are defined within the economic template that is placed on this society. You are a consumer – you’re either a producer or a consumer, and as you get older you are more likely to become a consumer and less a producer. So now that’s interesting, because for you to be an effective consumer in a system you have to want to consume – it’s fascinating to look inside yourself to see the feelings you have while you’re consuming. I mean, all you have to do is walk through a shopping mall and look in the eyes and look at the faces of the people as they walk through the mall. This is a religious experience – this is their temple, like it or not. It may not be a spiritual experience, but it’s certainly a religion. It’s a strong belief system that following this path will give them happiness. And consuming will give you happiness, as some have learned along the way. And so there is this funny kind of buying addiction, and a lot of people when they get anxious buy something or they always feel, “I need a new this,” or, “I need a new that” or “I need something.” I need something – it’s the hunger for something that isn’t being fulfilled inside yourself, and the culture advertises everywhere you look, an external thing will give you “that” if you find the right external thing. So, will it be a little car that will save gas, or a big car that will drive well on the road? Will it be an old car that will be humble, or will it be a new car that will be a little flashy? I mean, which one is going to give me the feeling? And these are all different values – the complex values that are involved.

source: http://appinions.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/consumerism31.jpg

And the advertising world…because this is all based on the assumption that a healthy culture is an increasing GNP, and you are a consumer, so you are part of whether there is an increasing GNP. It’s quite simple, I think. So more is better – more newness, more power, more glitz, more fame, more something is better. More property, more influence. So when you stand back it’s very interesting to look at your life and see how much you are sucked in by that set of values. How much you have been acculturated into doing that.

Let’s look at the other end of this which is voluntary simplicity, which is making do with less. In a New York Times article they describe families that had decided that enough was enough, and they were going to start to do with less, and they were getting happy over doing with less. Because there is as much joy in doing with less as doing with more – that’s what’s so bizarre about it – and it’s much cheaper! And it means you have to spend less time worrying about your economic situation, because you’re spending less. And the fact is, when you get older you have less disposable income in general, and you also have already got all the chatchkes you need (chatchkes, that’s a sanskrit word, it means “little thises and thats” you have around – little figurines and little spoons). You know, I don’t have a “……” It’s a deprived childhood.

And you just have to be very honest about your predicament. You can’t be phony. Phony holy isn’t going to get us there, in other words, you don’t go dramatically changing everything once you get a new value in your head, because you’re doing it with a certain kind of attachment of mind that’s going to cause you to have a reaction to it anyway. So don’t get voluntary-simple too soon. Let it be something that naturally falls away, rather than you ripping it away.

– Ram Dass, October 15th, 1995