Posted on | January 2, 2013 | 48 Comments
Cheap easy-to-use digital self-publishing software has made many things obsolete, including overpaid magazine editors who once allegedly had an inerrant instinct for finding The Next New Thing:
Audaciously drawing grand (and almost completely unsupportable) conclusions from small things. Carnival barking in print form. Everything’s the Most Important, the Latest, the Best. News You Can Use; Is Your Hair-Dryer Giving You Brain Cancer? Tune in next paragraph to find out. . . .
I guess it turned out that Tina Brown didn’t have a skill so much as she had an inclination, and it turned out many thousands of other people had the same inclination, and the same level of skill. Her One Great Big Trick — making splashy but daffy claims about What It All Means — turned out to be a pretty small trick, easily duplicated.
That’s from Ace of Spades, who’s probably getting tired of me grabbing his good ideas and then yammering on forever like I’ve made some kind of glorious discovery, seeing as how this is the second time today I’ve run that predictable play. But if you run off-tackle left on first down and gain six yards, what the hell? Run off-tackle left on second down, and keep running it as long as you’re still gaining good yardage.
Stick with what works, and force the defense to adjust, then hit them with something new — a play-action pass that starts out looking like off-tackle left — to take advantage of their adjustment. Otherwise . . . off-tackle left.
The meta-analytic point I’m trying to make is that nothing is so fresh and original that it can’t grow stale, or be replaced by imitations. If you are no longer having success producing the same thing you were producing 10 or 15 years ago, consider the possibility that you have failed to adjust efficiently to changes in the market.
So, back to Tina Brown: Was she ever really all that? Or was it the case that Tina Brown developed an exaggerated prestige as a magazine editor based on misperceptions that she deliberately exploited in order to enhance her image as Queen of the Zeitgeist?
What is Tina Brown’s great skill? I would argue that it is her ability to persuade rich people to lose money. Lots and lots of money. More than two years ago, when the “Newsbeast” merger was announced, I pointed out this trait and made a prediction:
Looking through the history of Ms. Brown’s career — Tatler, Vanity Fair, New Yorker, Talk . . . .
The investors can expect to lose a crapload of cash in the process. The New Yorker reportedly lost $42 million in three years (1995-97) under Ms. Brown’s editorship. Talk lost an impressive $80 million during its two-year existence. Whatever else you might say about Tina Brown, she’s undeniably brilliant at convincing investors to lose money on her projects.
How many people can run a business that loses $42 million in three years, then convince someone to back them on a new project that loses $80 million in two years? And if you’ve got that kind of money to throw around — “Here, Tina, go lose us $20 million a year” — you can buy yourself an awful lot of prestige, e.g., two tables at the White House Correspondents Dinner and an after-party to die for.
With $20 million a year to throw away on a Web site, one of the things you can do with that money is hire a roomful of publicists to promote the idea that you’re an innovative genius.
Maybe, once upon a time, Tina Brown really did have something fresh and original, but her reputation as the magazine “It Girl” was always a very expensive product, one she purchased with other people’s money.
Nice work, if you can get it. But there are lots of smart people who lack Tina Brown’s knack for talking rich people out of their money, and it’s a crying shame they can’t afford a roomful of publicists to promote their reputations as innovative geniuses.
That’s why I promote Ace of Spades for free. It’s the least I can do, considering how much of his stuff I steal every day.
UPDATE: Brace yourselves for emetic news:
Andrew Sullivan raises over $100,000
for ad-free blog in first six hours
Shortly after announcing that he would be leaving The Daily Beast and moving to a purely subscription-based business model, blogger Andrew Sullivan says he has seen “amazing” results. “We’re well into the six figures,” he tells TechCrunch. Sullivan estimates that in the roughly half-day since he made his announcement, about a third of the people who paid for a subscription to The Dish have given more than the $19.99 per year minimum
Andrew Sullivan readers prove the equation: Money > Sense theverge.com/2013/1/2/38299…
— Robert Stacy McCain (@rsmccain) January 3, 2013
I’d stick my head in the oven, but our oven is electric . . .
UPDATE II: Let any independent conservative blogger try to answer this question: “What the hell is it with liberals and the ‘more money than sense’ factor?”
Sullivan said he wasn’t sure how many subscribers at a base rate of $19.99 a year he would need to make the enterprise work long-term; the blog not only consists of him, but seven staffers. (Reuters’ Felix Salmon estimates that he’ll need to earn $750,000 a year to keep the operation running.)
“To tell you the truth I’m not entirely sure, because the price point has more or less been blown through by about a third of our subscribers. About a third of them are paying more than we asked for,” he said, adding that the largest individual subscription thus far was for $10,000.
TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS? A blog with a staff of seven? Hot Air went for years with a staff of three.
If any right-wing billionaires want to know why liberals dominate the media, I’d be willing to explain it to them for, say, $8 million or so.