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The Million Dollar Memo

It was March, 2000, and the market was crashing. The Internet world as we knew it would never be the same. Startup CEOs who were gazillionaires on paper one day were broke the next. And I was trying to close my first round of financing. After rounds of meetings, conversations and emails, I thought I was pretty close to closing a deal for $750,000. But the investors weren’t convinced. They had sent me one last round of questions. Here’s how I replied. I like to call this my million dollar memo:

Dear David and Bill,

I really appreciate the time and thought you’ve put into this process thus far, and I know you still have some concerns that are preventing you from taking the plunge with me. But, please hear me out before making a final decision.

1) This is a “real” business.
a) There is a huge market for mediabistro’s services.
Companies spend over $2 billion dollars a year trying to hire the people in our target verticals. Without even trying, we’ve captured a portion of that in the NY region in one vertical. And, we’re already getting many job listings from other parts of the country and in other verticals.

With your money, we can get our name out there more quickly and effectively and capitalize on a very clear market need that we’ve identified in the media industry.

b) inc. has a solid and growing customer base.
Over 300 customers (from Fairchild Publications to ZDNet to The Wall Street Journal) are currently posting jobs on the web site, coming back to the site and reposting more jobs (see attached list). These customers do NOT have a personal relationship with me. They hear about the site through word of mouth.

With your money, we can reach them more directly.

c) has loyal site users.
Over 80,000 journalists/media people come to the web site a month, far beyond the number who know Laurel Touby. Furthermore, news of the web site has spread virally, nationwide and even world-wide. Yes, we have loyalists, but I think you have mistaken the people who come to my parties and who know me personally for my customer base. Please allow me to disabuse you of this notion. I could not possibly be fulfilling the needs of 100 to 150 employers a month with my relatively tiny (4,000 names) database of loyal Laurel followers. They’d be doing a lot of job-hunting, if that were the case!

e) mediabistro has a brilliant marketing plan
We have clever (inexpensive) ways of reaching our target market and letting them know about our web site — through their friends, through our parties and co-sponsored events such as the one you attended May 3rd. Like and and other similar business models, ours is a viral community, and a little bit of marketing goes a long way.

f) mediabistro can attract a management team.
I have absolutely no doubt that if I have some backing, I can attract excellent candidates in our verticals, who have the right experience, contacts and attitude to make our plan work.

2) I have been running a “real” business, with all the verve, chutzpah and ingenuity of any entrepreneur.
I saw a market need, put my own money into developing the web site, convinced clients to use a new type of service that was NOT the norm, delivered a superior product and serviced their accounts with speed and care.

3) I can inspire highly qualified people to join the mediabistro team.
Ask the guys at Kenyon & Kenyon, the biggest intellectual property law firm in America. They took my case PRO-BONO because they like me. Ask my business advisors, Glenn Boyd, co-founder/CEO of WebTrends (a multi-billion software company); Joseph Atick, the CEO of Visionics; Charlie Crystle, founder of Chili Soft (multi-million dollar company); David Gumpert, co-founder of NetMarquee and an author of well-respected business books; Nan Talese (who runs a successful book imprint at Random House);

Ask my 20 volunteers.
Ask my designers and programmers, who donated their time or worked for cut rates because they believed in what I was doing.

If I can get all this wisdom, expertise and man-power with NO MONEY, just imagine what kind of talent I can bring on board if I have backing.

4) This is NOT a cult of personality.
While it has elements of that, this business has its own legs, possibilities and momentum. It will succeed; someone will make it succeed. I want to be that someone.

5) You’re betting on a winner.
I’m hungry, I’m smart, I’m aggressive, I’m a leader, a natural at marketing. I am humble enough to bring expertise in (when this becomes necessary, I’ll be the first to find someone to put in place above me) and listen to it. I can delegate.

6) Remember, I came from nowhere and built a name for myself in New York city, in a cutthroat industry.
If I have to kill myself to make this business work as I envision it can, I will not let you be sorry for getting involved with me.

I do not want your time.

I want your money to leverage my ideas, to grow what is already a vibrant, burgeoning business.

7) Finally, I want you to close your eyes and imagine me with a sex change.

I mean this seriously. Picture me as a young guy: the Jeff Taylor of Media, let’s say — who has achieved as much in as short a time, with as few resources. A small Internet company in a booming market, with strong REVENUES, customers, loyal site visitors, personal charisma, a team of willing and able business advisors, etc. Would you hesitate an instant to back such a fellow?

I can’t help feeling that my chutzpah (like that of so many other female entrepreneurs who have trouble getting funding) is no match for a lack of testosterone…I am Woman. Help me roar.

Guys, I want you to know that I really treasure my correspondence with you thus far. Rarely have I come upon two people with whom I’ve felt such an instant affinity. There are lots of places I could be going to get money (we both know this). I want you.

Let’s not break the chain. Let’s make the fun happen.

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A Female Artist Tries (Hard) to Get Your Attention

Margaret Withers in her studio

This was an email that my artist friend Margaret Withers sent around to art critics recently, to get someone to pay attention to her recent show at Amos Eno Gallery in DUMBO.  The letter was sent to Jerry Salz, Roberta Smith, Michael Kimmerman, Peter Schejdahl and Laura Hoptman, among others. To date, no responses. I found the letter to be quite engaging, if a bit goofy. What do you think? Mistake or marketing must?
From: margaret withers <>
Date: December 18, 2010 4:07:10 PM EST
To: [redacted]
Subject: Can Roberta come out to play?


Dear Roberta, 

I dropped off the show catalog for “feeling untethered I laid down my
memories”, which is up right now at Amos Eno Gallery in DUMBO (111
Front St. #202 W-S 12-6, comes down on Thursday).

Do you remember as a child pretending to be a car or a space monster,
do you remember what being in that natural state of awareness felt
like? To be so focused on play that you don’t exist in the real and
physical world – you don’t hear your mom calling you, you forget that
you need to go pee, you don’t notice it’s getting dark and that your
hungry.  That other worldliness of feeling is what I’m trying to
communicate with my art. For example, in the painting, “Tip of the
tongue slandered by ears” there are 26 white clay heads attached to
the painting and floating off to the side. The “guy” is getting ready
to either munch on or spit out a sewn in pen and ink drawing of a
round floating fish like thing, and behind him is a large dark
hovering mass… what is going on?

Come out and play with me Roberta… come see my artwork.

Thank You Very Much,

Margaret Withers


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Do Journalists Make Good Subjects?

This weekend, I’ll be appearing on a panel at the American Society of Journalists and Authors Conference (#ASJA2010) in NYC. Here’s their write-up:


Whether you’re promoting a book or have penned an article that’s attracting media attention, you’ll hear the tips you need to be interviewed, become media savvy and deliver great pull-quotes, on TV, radio, podcast, Skype, or any other medium.

I’ve been contacting a number of journalists who have been on the receiving end of interviews (one such media maven was not very happy when The New York Post turned him into a blood sport). Here is the advice I’ve gathered. Do you have any of your own to add, so that I may share your wisdom with the attendees at ASJA? Thanks in advance for this! My email is Laurel AT media bistro DOT com.

  1. Don’t expect excellence. Don’t expect fact-checking. Spell your name, title, etc. Ask the person to repeat the name/spelling/subtitle of your book. Then, follow up in an email and send the same information.
  2. Make friends. Treat the journo as if she were your close friend, a friend who you cannot trust with a secret. Be relaxed and conversational, but do not become too chatty. The safest thing to do is to TAPE the conversation.
  3. Be a little scary. Play the insider. Let the reporter know in a very nice way, of course, that you have street cred. Drop names of editor friends, or producer friends at the journo’s employer. You want this person to think “I’m going to be very careful with how I cover [X], so he doesn’t complain to so-and-so.”
  4. Engage. Get a conversation going. Try to get to know the person. How did he/she get the story idea? Ask “Who else have you called? Or are planning to call?” The more information you have, the better able you’ll be to assess the reporter’s abilities, and get a bead on the arc of the story.
  5. Become a resource, not just a source. Refer the reporter to other sources. Tell her at the end of the call that she is welcome to call you back with questions. Send her some sources via email, too, if you think of any after you hang up.
  6. Be short, but walk with a smart stick. Speak with authority/confidence, and in short, pithy sentences. Have a list of no more than 3 to 5 points you want to get across. Gather data/facts in advance, so the reporter doesn’t have to circle back to you for necessary material. Forcing her to follow up with you at a later date decreases your chances of getting into the final copy.
  7. Be nice, even if you think the interviewer is lame or stupid. Don’t correct the interviewer. Don’t sound angry or pissed off. This doesn’t mean you can’t be feisty. However, if the interview is for TV/radio, ask the interviewer/producer in advance whether or not they want to mix it up. Sometimes arguing is good, but it must be done with good humor.
  8. Different media require different behaviors. Understand the form you’re in — if it’s TV news, it has to be 30-seconds and coherent; whereas an hour-long NPR interview allows you to speak in full paragraphs. Practice in advance for those short, pithy TV and radio segments.
  9. TV and Radio can be especially tricky. The interviewers often haven’t read your materials and have only the vaguest idea why you’re there. Don’t take this personally. Just realize they want to fill time. Your segment was probably pitched to them by a publicist. They will ask obvious questions; sometimes they will ask questions that have nothing to do with you or your subject matter. Don’t get flustered. Instead, have your 3-5 points in mind and steer the questions in the direction you want to go.
  10. Go ahead and “promote,” but do so in a straightforward manner. Say, “I hope you don’t mind if I throw in a little plug for my [project, book, etc.].” ALWAYS give a web site. If there’s an upcoming event, mention that, too.
  11. Help shape the story. If the story is not fitting your facts, go ahead and make suggestions to the journo about a change of direction. If that doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to tell the journo that he/she has it wrong. Be brave. Sure, you may get dropped from the story — but more likely, your comments will appear as the “balance” or counter-arguments to everyone else’s sheep-like agreement.

Please feel free to comment here or write to me directly if you have better suggestions than these. I won’t be hurt. Thanks! Write to Laurel AT media bistro DOT com

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Amangani: Roaming in Wyoming

[Okay, I’m doing it. I’m trying to post to this blog again. Apologies to all of you who were promised endless hours of blog merriment from us as we travelled the world 🙂 This time, I will try not to hold myself to such high standards as to prevent me from actually posting anything.]

So, for Jon’s birthday, we decided to veer from our world travels for a little local skiing — in Jackson, Wyoming. Amangani, the place where we are staying, took it upon themselves to celebrate Jon’s birthday by secreting some balloons in our room!

As you can see, Jon has really taken to his Balloon.

Is he delighted with his cake, inscribed Monkeys Rule!? Hard to say. In any case, Jon’s a big fan of monkeys. On our next journey, we are heading to places in Africa, where he will be able to experience his primate kin first hand. Stay tuned!!

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still in Shanghai. Heading home Nov 4th. Still no Twitter or FB. Sorry if you’ve written me and I haven’t responded. Censorship sucks!@@

if you're wondering how I'm posting this now (and skating the censors), check out You can post via email to Twitter + FB!!!

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Five Songs In English (And One In Italian) That Are Grievously Overplayed On Italian Radio

I never especially needed to hear any of these songs more than once in the first place. But after a couple of weeks of driving around Italy and listening to the radio I absolutely I never need to hear any of them again for the rest of my life. Seriously. They each get played once every ten minutes. At least.

If any of the following seem like obvious and over-familiar choices, reflective  of the homogenization of pop-culture across the globe—well, don’t blame me, blame the radio programmers of Italy.

Lily Allen: “Fuck You”
Muse: “Uprising” (I still could be convinced that this one’s just an elaborate joke.)
Black Eyed Peas: “I Gotta Feeling” (No link. You’ve heard it a zillion times already.)
Shakira: “Shewolf” (See previous comment.)
Lady Gaga: “Paparazzi”

Embedded above, and also all over the radio now:  Vasco Rossi’s “Ad Ogni Costo,” a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” sung entirely in Italian, save for the word “fucking.” (I know what the lyrics on this YouTube video claim, but listen for yourself. If you can.)

Between that and the Lily Allen song, I am starting to wonder whether there is some looseness granted re broadcast standards and cursing here if the bad-word is sung in English.

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signs and shutters in the night

There’s something about faded old signs and window shutters that just force me to start clicking away. Hope I’m not boring you.

I don’t quite know how to arrange the photos beautifully on the page. Sorry 😦

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