Media Unspun, 7 years later
Good morning. For much of yesterday, the top two stories on business websites were the latest twists in antitrust cases against Microsoft (dropped) and Intel (doubled down). It sent me back to a time when I would wake up around 5 a.m. and one of the first things I had to think about was what was happening with various Microsoft and Intel legal actions. I had to think about that because of what I did for a living. For a few years I was editor of Media Grok, a daily email newsletter published by The Industry Standard; after The Standard went under, we secured independent funding and I was editor and publisher of Media Unspun. (We had to change the name because we were unwilling to pay the extortion fee IDG wanted to use the “Grok” name.)
The mission of Grok and Unspun was pretty specific: identify the two or three most important Internet economy stories of the day, summarize them, summarize the media coverage of them, present it to readers with both humor and context, do it briefly, and get it all to them by 9 a.m. Until the dot-com bubble popped, there were plenty of people who wanted their tech news served with attitude and there was a good business there. After 2001, it was hard to find anything funny in yet another layoff or bankruptcy story. Eventually, we went under as well. If you’d like to see what Media Unspun was about all those years ago, I just found our archive.
I loved the work, both for The Standard and on our own dime. Our year-and-change as a startup was particularly exciting and all-encompassing. Aside from writing and editing, I learned a great deal about selling advertising, getting paid for advertising (and not getting paid for advertising), circulation, spam filters, primitive search engine optimization, and, most of all, customer service. We were a rare early-in-the-decade non-porn-or-WSJ content play that people had to pay for, and when people sent us their credit card number many of them felt they were joining a club. When you join a club, you want to talk to the people in it. Those hundreds of conversations, sometimes about what we were doing wrong, improved the product on a daily basis and kept us connected.
I’m happy right now, but when I saw the headlines about Microsoft and Intel yesterday it hit me how I miss the project, the people I was lucky enough to work with on it, and the people we did it for. Microsoft and Intel are in court; someone has to crack a smart, telling joke about it.
(Your best bet nowadays for well-informed snark: John Paczkowski, ex of Good Morning Silicon Valley, who continues to illuminate and crack up the industry with his Digital Daily at All Things Digital.)