Best Media Writing of the Week

Jeff Jarvis Channels Mamet, How AOL Laid Off Freelancers and Why Venture Capital Is Getting Tired

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Say what you will about media gadfly Jeff Jarvis, but the man knows how to multitask. After Forbes' Jeff Bercovici tried to associate his advocacy of citizen journalism with the murder of 24 people in Afghanistan -- honestly, don't ask -- Mr. Jarvis took the fight to Twitter. In a span of just an hour or two, he managed to give Mr. Bercovici a Mamet-worthy tongue-lashing ("show me your fucking homework"), stiff-arm an intervening Tom McGeveran ("Please unfollow me"), make a restaurant recommendation ("18th and 8th. Order the chorizo") and work on a conference talk. Whew!

For clarity's sake, we present it here in chronological order.

@jeffbercovici @jayrosen_nyu That's not what you said and you damned well know it, Bercovici.

@jeffbercovici @jayrosen_nyu Show me your links, Bercovici. Show me your journalism. Show me your reporting. Show me your fucking homework.

@tmcgev don't schoolmarm me. these are just words. also known as speech. i don't tell you what not to say. don't tell me.

@jeffbercovici Links, damnit. Sow [sic] me your links or apologize to both of us. Do you have *any* reporting to back what you said? @jayrosen_nyu

@jeffbercovici And you dare put yourself on a pedestal of professional journalism? Heh. @jayrosen_nyu

@lewisdvorkin. Is this Forbes' standard for journalism, reporting, media criticism? @jeffbercovici @jayrosedn_nyu

@jeffbercovici How dare you. You don't do your job and you turn snotty with me? You dare put yourself on a pedestal? @jayrosen_nyu

@jeffbercovici Once more, Bercovici, SHOW US where we say what you say we said. LINKS=REPORTING. You have none. @jayrosen_nyu

@jeffbercovici You think it's funny to make up what people say for your convenience? I don't. Do you, Lewis? @lewisdvorkin @jayrosen_nyu

And people, stop with your "fight! fight!" response. This isn't high school.

mathewi Mathew Ingram [retweeted by jeffjarvis] new post from me at GigaOM: "Journalism 2.0 Didn't Kill Anyone, and Neither Did Old Media" tip @mediagazer

@jeffbercovici Show me your reporting. Isn't what reporters do? That is all I am asking. Facts, please. @jayrosen_nyu

howardweaver Howard Weaver [retweeted by jeffjarvis] Good stuff. RT @smalljones: 10 Lessons from David Kirkpatrick about #Facebook or see previous tweets

@jeffbercovici No, no, no: Burden of proof for what you say about me is not on me, it is on you. I'm demanding your journalism @jayrosen_nyu

@jeffbercovici You said I said it? Show me your reporting. Or retract. Now. @jayrosen_nyu

@jeffbercovici You have essentially accused us of being complicit in death. Show your reporting. I demand a correction. @jayrosn_nyu

@jeffbercovici I have lost all respect for you and your journalism. @jayrosen_nyu @lewisdvorkin

@lopezjuanr 18th & 8th. Have the chorizo.

@tmcgev You are telling me what not to say. I don't react well to that.

@tmcgev Please unfollow me.

@mathewi Working on my Mesh talk. Thinking about the hard (& elementary) lessons in the economics of news. e.g., "should" is not a biz model

The piss-poor manner in which AOL's army of regular freelancers were treated after the Huffington Post purchase is captured by Carter Maness writing for The Awl. After leaving a corporate job in 2008 to, possibly quixotically, start a music journalism career, he latched on with AOL. All seemed OK until Arianna rolled up, her presence unleashing a depressing torrent of corporate lethargy, indecision and miscommunication that ultimately resulted in him getting canned. He was notified in a letter than began with an almost flirty "Hi there." I wonder if we expect more humanity from media companies than we do other corporations. Perhaps it's time to stop that. Anyway, here's the kicker:

Hi there! Over my two-year tenure at AOL, I published over 350,000 words in approximately 900 posts -- at least three novels worth of words. This was met with a blanket termination, with zero notice, in the form of an email that didn't even include my actual name. Freelancers know they are just a number, but AOL really went out of their way to demonstrate that. Rest assured!

The toughest part is that it's now near impossible for us to gain satisfaction from the merger's probable failure. Tim Armstrong is already rich. Arianna Huffington is already rich. Those that treated the Mighty AOL Freelance Army like so much trash to be taken out have already gotten paid on our backs. At least we were "greatly appreciated" for helping them out.

Well, I suppose Mr. Maness could write for Forbes. Now there's even a manual for how to get a blogging job there. It was penned by Susannah Breslin, who after being downsized herself was hired by Forbes to write "Pink Slipped," a blog whose subject matter should relatively obvious. The second tip of five tips served up by Ms. Breslin encourages one to "be a hustler":

At my last job, I was an editor, but I was also part of the marketing team. I generated multiple blog posts daily, did a brief stretch as a copy editor, and worked with freelance contributors. I was also tasked with increasing site traffic. I used a variety of means to drive traffic to the site. The site had very, very ambitious traffic goals. We met those goals in a variety of ways, from social media to relationships with blogger influencers to partner sites. That means I am familiar with how to drive traffic to a blog or site. This is what it means to be an online writer today. If you think that is sad, corrupting, or indicates the demise of journalism, I suppose you are a more moral person than I am. These days, it's not enough to be a good writer online. You have to be a smart marketer, your own content factory, your own publicist. If you can do it all, you are golden. If you cannot, you are screwed.

In an essay that's both funny and sort of sad, Slate's Mark Oppenheimer picks up dorky old PBS by its ankles and gives it a swirly. The argument is this: Quality NPR is worth saving, but its "hideous, ugly televised brother" PBS has to go. Not only does everything -- especially the pledge drive sets -- seem really old and cheap, Mr. Oppenheimer makes the point that PBS long ago gave up the pretense of doing edgy programming of the sort you might now see on cable channels.

But even in its best weeks, PBS lacks any sort of coherent sensibility. At a time when the most successful networks have an obvious style -- the illicit, pervy edge of Showtime's Weeds and Californication; the fine-grained realism of HBO's best dramas -- PBS shows are defined variously by shameless baby-boomer pandering of the self-help or nostalgia variety, by a kind of earnest love of newsy documentaries, or by old-school PBS Anglophilia.

There are some VCs and entrepreneurs out there who see advertising as some sort of mother pig, with enough swollen teats to sustain all the little ad-supported little piggy startups who crowd in for a taste. In this blog post, the Barbarian Group's Rick Webb argued forcefully -- and funnily -- that the mother is drying up. Getting this straight from the -- to mix animal metaphors -- horse's mouth is crucial. Because he works with them every day, Mr. Webb knows just how much desire there is on the part of advertisers to prop up media startups: zilch!

Brands don't actually want or need any more media channels. As far as they're concerned, the internet can stop now. We have enough channels. We were happy when we had like seven (TV, print, outdoor, radio, in-store, direct and theater), got a little interested in the first few new ones. Urinals? Uh, okay. Banners? Interesting. Google? Yes. Groupon, Farmville, GroupMe? OKAY I AM GETTING TIRED NOW. Silicon Valley seems to think that advertising's appetite for new media channels is unending. It is not. Marketers are changing. They are not the daft old man who doesn't understand the new thing but knows he needs it and spends money on it. It's a woman and she is getting smarter. Even she knows there's a point where they're reached their customers enough.

And yes, every time I talk to a Valley person about this they go on about how marketers want more data and they'll pay for it, and they want to know everything about a person and oh man do you know how much advertisers would pay for this data? Well, yes, I do. But I guarantee you, YOU DO NOT KNOW. They have fixed budgets. I could tell you EXACTLY how much they will spend, because I spend that money. It is not bottomless. The endless quest for advertisers to know everything about their customers may never end, but its budgets will not increase forever.

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