No thanks

I’m getting email pitches – filled with legalese – to contribute to Dan Abrams’ awkwardly named Mediaite (guess all the good URLs were taken). This is the same Dan Abrams – lawyer, thus the legalese, and failed MSNBC host and executive – who is starting a PR company – oh, excuse me, media strategy firm – to advise companies on media while promising access to media people – the same media people, one imagines, he is getting to write about media for his media site. Gawd, it’s positive hermaphroditic: A bunch of worms who can’t figure out who’s fucking whom how. I think I’ll stay away. Don’t want any of that on me. To quote the wonderful Jemima Kiss of the Guardian as she tweeted today about somebody switching the mouse on her desk: “hand cheese.”

When I write for HuffingtonPost or the Guardian’s Comment is Free or Silicon Alley Insider or Seeking Alpha, I just write and say what I think. Not for lawyer Abrams’ Mediaite. The email from fellow lawyer turned media person Rachel Sklar says they’re going to have “a number of great, regular paid columns and intend to have a number of paid contributors” but adds that payment is still being “hammered out.” I’d suggest bringing the hammer out when ready. “What does this mean for you?” she can’t help adding. ” Well, our goal is to develop these ideas, and eventually to pay certain top contributors a revenue share and/or stipend.” Eventually.

Then we get a 14-point list of rules. Including:

…3. Feel free to express any opinion, however unpopular; however, you must be able to support your arguments with linkable facts and/or original, verifiable reporting. We need to give the reader enough information to intelligently disagree with you; you need to be able to demonstrate to your critics why you are totally right and they are idiots…

9. NB: #3 effectively precludes racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic or otherwise unsupportable/repugnant views. Provable arguments mean rational, sane thought. Since you are all sane, rational people we’re not that worried, but it must be said….

11. We are happy to cross-post material from your website or another source, provided you have the rights to do so. If you wish to respond to reader comments, you may submit one “Update” to the post. Two is pushing it, especially since you adhered so strictly to #3. We’d rather you just attack the person on Twitter….

13. You retain all the rights to your work. In the event that we enter into a revenue-share or some other financial deal, we reserve the right to negotiate the terms on a case-by-case basis….

So we’re told to argue our points and not be repugnant and though we own our nonrepugnant thoughts, they reserve the right to negotiate with us for them. Should they have quit their day jobs?

I want to hug my blog. I don’t need any lawyers-turned-flacks-turned-media-commentators-turned-publishers. I can publish on my own. Right here. And I can be as repugnant as I want.

Let me make clear: If he had just started a blog or a group blog about media, cool. But announcing that he’s also starting a PR company offering access to media people makes it stink. And then trying to throw on the cloak of legalese does nothing to relieve the stench. I’m sorry but this smells.

: As I read Abrams Research’s site, it only gets worse: The media people sometimes won’t even know whom they’re advising.

Here’s an example of what they do:

# A Fortune 500 business believes the financial media has focused unfairly on a small change in accounting practices rather than significant increases in revenues.

* Abrams Research can bring together top financial journalists to advise that business on how to best convey its message.

My emphasis. Journalists?

: LATER: Here is Rachel Sklar’s response to me. And I still say craigslist is lower case.

  • Well said. Looks like Abrams is trying the old flim flam trying to catch up but never saw the wave coming. SAY HELLO TO DISINTERMEDIATION that he should have seen 12 to 15 years ago!!!!!!

  • Right on, Jeff. Just reading that excerpt (and details) gave me a headache. That’s an era that is SO over. I wonder how many walls they’ll hit head-on before finally giving up.

  • If Dan’s father had been Floyd Flintstone instead of Floyd Abrams, Dan would be working at a MacDonalds.

  • Pishabh Badmaash

    If only he were as fisionary as Dan Rather

  • “Research can bring together top financial journalists to advise that business on how to best convey its message.” Yes if you are still in the 20th century, where I suspect most of the financial journalist he is talking about are in terms of being up to date on convey the message.

  • Was already taken?

  • Abrams seems to have confused JOURNALIST with MEDIA CONSULTANT. Except he didn’t confuse the two. He’s just that clueless.

  • I think I get it… He gets free content for, AND traffic to, his site from the media bloggers and columnists, and then charges clients (I’m guessing pretty hefty fees) for consulting services that include access to to these “media celebs” – who contribute to his empire at no cost – unless they’re special and may one day be chosen to negotiate terms on a case-by-case basis.

    Damn, that’s some model. I must be in the wrong business.

  • The fact that he’s asking for money for something that should be free is like taking out an ad in the New York Times saying ‘I don’t get where media’s going right now’.

  • Oops, I don’t mean “money”, I mean your written contribution. (Wish you could edit comments here.)

  • Mike Manitoba

    As they used to say so eloquently in MAD:


  • Ouch :)

  • Well said.

  • Methinks Abrams has forgotten the first rule of disclaimers; the more detail you go into, the easier it is to find a loophole.

    Disclaimer: This is my opnion, nobody elses. You have a problem with my opnion deal with me.

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  • Liz

    It’s almost hard for me to believe this is a real letter/offer & not a parody. I can’t see how anyone who already has a vehicle to communicate with interested readers would benefit from participating in this project.

  • Derek

    He’s already launched a rebuttal via Twitter (which, unfortunately for him, inevitably makes even the most eloquent rejoinder look like a crude missive hammered out by a petulant teenager).

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  • Matt

    Thank you Jeff — Dan Abrams is a cockroach.

  • miguel

    Isn’t Mr. Jarvis both a contributor and consultant to the Guardian? Can anyone “splain” the difference?

    • I am and always have been quite transparent about that and you can decide on your own how much salt to sprinkle on what I write.

      • Telling people you are unethical doesn’t make it any less bad, Jeff.

        • Nothing I could do would make me “less bad” in your book, Lucas. That is well and fully and frequently long-since established.

  • Jeff:

    Just stopping by — if the terms and conditions bother you, that’s a fine issue to get all bloggy about. But I don’t see the logic in bashing the content of a site you haven’t even read yet.

    In order to determine whether Mediaite is meant for thinly veiled flackery or acts of actual journalism, I’ll take the comparatively pragmatic approach of throwing it in my RSS after it launches and actually reading its content.

    (By the way, I enjoyed the WWGD? book party in February. Thanks for that.)

  • miguel

    here’s Sklar’s email to Jeff:

    I think she makes some very strong points.

  • Seem like fairly rational guidelines to me. Does the Guardian not have something similar for their contributors?

    Regards the ‘hammered out’ phrase, one assumes they are planning to pay all contributors and are not looking for free content, if so I don’t see an issue once they have it all ‘hammered out’ by the time it comes around to taking submissions. Thereafter I assume all contributors are deemed to be freelance can choose to submit or not as they wish

    Isn’t #13 largely similar to what contributors to Comment is Free have with the Guardian? I’ve seen articles from CiF pop up in Irish newspapers, is there some kind of syndication deal then? If so, have the Guardian not negotiated with CiF contributors for a revenue share when it comes to selling their contributors non repugnant thoughts? (In much the same way that this entity you write about is outlining).

    Once Abrams didn’t interfere with the editorial line and the contributors were free to criticise other Abrams entities then I don’t see an huge issue there either.

    Lastly, you only checked their website after posting? C’mon…

    I’m a big fan of yours and WWGD but with the utmost respect I think you’ve been either a) unfair or b) overly cynical.

    • No, I checked before but kept reading and finding more. The conflict is so thick you could cut it with vermouth.

  • invitedmedia

    never knew “rocky” was a lawyer.

  • Sam

    Wow what a response email, she just doesn’t get it.

    Her comment about Jeff’s HuffPo work says it all:
    “Because no offense, but I wouldn’t recommend paying you for your contributions to HuffPo over the past year – for example, this one was over 1700 words – I definitely would have sent it back to you with a deep edit. ”

    With an edit??? This may have made sense in the old word when space was limited, but now words are free, we can type and publish as many as we want. This also shows a hubris that irks me. She’s basically saying she knows better than Jeff on how to express his ideas and that she knows better than I, the reader, what I do and don’t want to read. I find that offensive.

    Listen up Rachel and all other editors. I, the reader, am not stupid. I can decide what I find interesting or not. If Jeff is writing something interesting, I”ll read all 1700 words. If he’s rambling madly, I’ll do the editing myself by clicking on a link to a different page. I would rather get the full story than have someone, who doesn’t know me or what I value, cut out pieces that I find valuable because they do not. You are not adding value, in fact you are reducing it. Good luck with that business model.

  • miguel

    Sam reveals that he doesn’t understand the job of an editor.

    • Sam

      I thought good editors were there to help a writers more effectively express their ideas. My tiff is that most editors today do not do that, they do not pay attention (or perhaps they just don’t care) about the writer’s intention or the readers wants. Many have gone to the same schools and can produce the same AP article. If that’s not what they’re supposed to do, please take the time to enlighten me with more than a single sentence…almost seems like you’re not actually here to discuss anything.

  • Rob Levine

    “Payment is still being hammered out” = “The check is in the mail” 2.0

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  • For what it’s worth, this incident was just mentioned on the Howard Stern show today in response to Mediaite’s ranking of a number of radio hosts (including Don Imus) as being more powerful than Stern:

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