Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bubbles, Slogs, and Selling Out: Part 20

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Last time, I was on the receiving end of a sadistic prank by the brutish business development dude who had coordinated the purchase of my web site, Chowhound, by his company, CNET (now a part of CBS). Shortly afterwards, he relayed the terrific news that he'd been promoted out of business development, and would be serving as my boss for the year that I was contractually obligated to work at CNET.

I have a few scattered recollections to close out with (befitting such an epic saga, it will take me a few installments to finish up).

Jumping ahead a few months to near the end of my tenure with CNET, I'd confessed to the NY Times that "insofar as my input, there's a lot of meetings where I'll say, 'I think we should do this,' and they say, 'I don't think so,' and I say, 'O.K.'"

It was my sole blip of public venting (which, to be honest, I kind of regret; I was otherwise very disciplined), and a blogger I don't know, named John Wilson, wrote an article about it:
"Oh, the joys of becoming an employee in a big company.


1. Talent starts innovative business

2. Big company buys talent & their company

3. Big company "B listers" sit on top of talent, using their experience of never having had to build value from scratch to direct the new division activities

4. Big company can't figure out why it hasn't continued to see the success achieved by the business it acquired, in the period since purchase and decides even tighter control of new division is required

5. Acquired talent leaves in disgust [taking most of their riches] and lives on yacht for a while

6. go to 1."
Man, does that ever sum it up. Except for the yacht. I didn't make yacht money. But I'm not sure I'm really a yacht guy, anyway.

Also, the corporate talent was more D-list than B-list. Like every other rational entrepreneur in my position, I had fully expected Chowhound to be run by someone with less feel for it than I had; but I never ever imagined they'd put the business development ("bizdev") guy in charge. This is like finding yourself on an operating table and learning your surgery will be performed by the hospital's fundraising manager. And: here he is, with his big cheesy nervous smile, hovering over you, his scalpel poised to cut.

To be sure, the fellow was a whiz of a dealmaker - I've never known anyone with such deep and consistent awareness of the goings-on in his field - but beyond having no food knowledge or experience (or, really, interest), he knew nothing about online communities. Nor did he understand editorial - though he knew the lingo and could bluff a little. And I'm pretty sure he'd never managed workers (if he had, he'd have been put through several anger management courses by then).

So what was my time there like? Again, you know. But let me put it this way: one month into my tenure, a friend bought me, as an ironic gift, a DVD set of The (British) Office. I watched about 45 seconds, leapt violently from my couch, and stabbed the eject button. To this day, years later, I can't bear to watch it.

Yet there were saving graces.

Read the next installment (#21)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

More posts please, more often!

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