Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Five things I learned from Brian Lam.

Gizmodo editorial director Brian Lam left his post today after five years. I think he gets a lot of attention because he helms the web's most distinct tech site, but the chatter about his role over the years overshadows his talents in shaping a publication's voice.

Five things I learned, or relearned, watching him as a contemporary working in the same space:
  1. Hustle. He'll try new editorial features, give his writers room to cover topics they love, go for the mainstream jugular and not apologize. And he'll never spend an ounce of Arringtonesque energy hyping it.
  2. Public relations reps are not there to help you. There's a reason Brian always flipped over his badge at the Consumer Electronics Show: he was working.
  3. Upend conventional wisdom. He hires nobodies and molds them instead of blows cash on big names. Buy low, sell high. He's bold, but he's not reckless.
  4. Don't lose your soul. Brian always had my respect because he never appeared chained to his laptop. He knew when to unplug and head to the water's edge. Work to live, don't live to work. It's a West Coast lesson some of us East Coasters ought to learn.
  5. The brand matters more than its parts. He's easily accessible, but he shuns the spotlight. (See CES anecdote, above.) He keeps his life private, but his opinions widely available. He puts his writers in front of him, prioritizes a narrative where necessary, defends his employer's efforts, doesn't hedge around the truth, and treats everyone equally regardless of title. It's a very old school way of working, but he's managed to demonstrate it in a very new school setting.

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