Tuesday, February 27, 2007

FastCompany Magazine Is More 'Company' Than 'Magazine'

Never let a business touch a journalist's publication.

Last week, I had the grand opportunity to attend 'Backstage with John Legend,' a panel on music entrepreneurship and how artists are grabbing hold of their own careers in an age where intellectual property is hard to manage. The event was sponsored by FastCompany, a business-centric magazine that I thought was an upstart until I was told that the magazine had been around for 10 years but never really took off "thanks to mismanagement and poor business decisions."

At the end of the event, which was cordial, informal and altogether a relaxing good time (and educational, at that), I spoke with Dave Wolter, V.P. of A&R at Capitol Music Group and one of the night's five panelists that included Nathan Hubbard, CEO of Musictoday; Jorge Just, netroots manager for indie rockers OK Go; and Jason King, Artistic Director of the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University (and my professor).

I spoke with Dave to simply say that I thought he was brave to be the music-label punching bag at an event where most of the panelists were shrugging off record companies entirely. I myself don't support the copyright-enforcing practices of his industry, but there are open-minded people who work at record labels, and I thought he spoke with an open mind instead of towing the industry line.

I also spoke with him about my own hard rock band, Dibble Edge, and asked him what he thought of the state of rock n' roll in modern music. He was reassuring - rock bands are still alive and thriving, despite the reduction of airtime on radio. He also reminded me to not count out MySpace, which many have said might become useless as a result of too many bands on the site.

Afterward, I spoke with FastCompany's Alex Pasquariello, who interviewed me and a classmate about the event. He promised both of us a mention in the blog post he was to write, and asked us basic questions that we both answered quite intelligently, given that we were taking a class on the same subject from one of the panelists.

The next morning, a huge post went up on FastCompany's site, but there was nary a mention of me or my classmate, neither the points we were trying to make. But he did, however, link (by request!) to the old OK Go video talked about during the event, but a new one not even mentioned that night, and used a good portion of the blog's word count to do so.

I figured, well, maybe Alex ran out of space. It's no big deal, even though he repeatedly promised. So I summed up what I spoke to Dave about in a few well-structured, linked sentences and posted it as a comment.

It never appeared.

FastCompany rejected my educational comment that augmented the very points he was making in his post.

But he didn't, however, reject a trolled comment that was a full-on pitch for someone else's business:

Hi. I am Javier, the founder of Trendirama.com, a community of online amateur writers. We write about the future of everything, and I would like to invite you guys to write an article on the Trendirama.com website, perhaps "The future of music in the US" or whatever you are passionate about? It is up to you, you choose the subject. You would get a link back when you link to your own article, if you wish. You can even re-use some of what you have here, in the last part of the article, "your view and comments". That would save you time and still be interesting for readers. Don’t underestimate this opportunity!
Public be warned: Alex Pasquariello is not a journalist, and FastCompany is not an independent magazine.

Neither one subscribes to basic writing style, or worse, ethics. Journalistically, FastCompany is no better than an in-flight magazine in receiving influence from the very people it covers.

According to their website:

Fast Company magazine is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Launched in November 1995 by Alan Webber and Bill Taylor, two former Harvard Business Review editors, the magazine was founded on a single premise: A global revolution was changing business, and business was changing the world. Fast Company set out to chronicle how a new breed of companies create and compete, to highlight new business practices, and to showcase the teams and individuals who are reinventing business. Today, the business world continues to change, and Fast Company continues to evolve as well.

And according to editor Mark Vamos:

Our mission is to find the creative workers and organizations that are building the future, and to present their stories in smart, compelling, beautiful, and useful ways. This mission is the core of the magazine's original DNA; it's the brilliant bit that differentiates us from all the other business magazines out there.

No, Mark. The difference is that the other business magazines hire business journalists, not journalist businessmen.

It's not the rejection of my comment that infuriates me. In the grand scheme of things, I don't really care. Really, it is the blatant courting by a magazine of its own subjects under the premise that what the magazine is practicing is journalism. If this is how a magazine operates its blog, how can I expect any better from the magazine proper?

Many established consumer magazines straddle the line between influence and influenced - fashion magazines especially - but advocacy is different than explicit ignorance. To the magazine's defense, I did read through the issue they had at hand, and the articles weren't bad. But who is writing them?

Nevertheless, the blog comment rejection came right after a panel event where the main topic was how artists can embrace their fans directly. Ha! How can a magazine gain new readers when it won't even post an educated, concise response from a mostly unaffiliated person who attended their invite-only event?

FastCompany, it's no surprise that even after a decade, no one has heard of you.


Chris said...

Are journalistic publications required to accept all comers? Journalism is by definition the distillation of vast quantities of information.

Doug said...

Nice post. I've subscribed to Fast Company for nearly all of its 10 year existence.
Yes, I do save it to read on airplanes. But, I still read it.

The Editorialiste said...

@chris: I don't quite understand your question. Could you elaborate?

@doug: Thank you. That makes one! I'd love to hear what you think about FastCompany's content relative to its competitors, including the new Portfolio magazine.

@both: Thanks for reading!

All the best,
The Editorialiste.