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I want to ask you about Linked In and comments, but yeah, no, I was talking about Medium. I was suddenly writing on Wired, and again, I didn’t know who my audience was, and because I’d had a whole year and a half of knowing who my audience was, I missed it a lot. At Wired, probably the most well-read things that I wrote in the last year and a half were ideas-driven pieces about the nature of how technology companies are changing.
But I, so, I can’t remember if we talked about this. Well, not really, because he went over in 2011, and I went over in 2019, and those were, I mean, that is like a couple of generations of iterations of what it means to be a journalist inside a tech company. And the tech company has figured out why it wants to have a journalist there/if it wants to have a journalist there. So, most of those products are actually going to be fairly similar.
“I remember, that was the one that I was like, ‘Oh, this is amazing,’” she said. People who are looking to hire people who have been laid off. CEOs of Apple or Microsoft or whomever, don’t give interviews, generally, to someone working in their parents’ basement, but they give them to someone working at Fortune. And they might care about the individual writer they’re talking to, but they also care that it’s Fortune Magazine. I think, though, that we have been dealing with the tremblings of the examination of, “Well, what if that’s not true? Blogging came along, and suddenly, “oh no, how crazy, somebody could be in their basement, in their pajamas, writing, and they could have the same size microphone as Fortune.” And of course, we know that’s not really true, because Fortune also had the brand, and so it gave it credibility. I knew who they were — not Bill Gates, but Bill Gates’s PR person, for example, and I had a very deep relationship. I mean, I got to know and report about, like, Mark Zuckerberg very early. And Forbes was you, and Fortune was me, but kind of it was all the same. And frankly, I just remember my mother saying to me — I worked for Businessweek for a long time — and she said to me, “You know, Jessi, I look through every page of Newsweek and I never see you. ” And then I went to Fortune, and it was the same thing. I believe that, but there’s lots of evidence to the contrary, right? Sure, and we have a lot of members creating a lot of content for free.
“You have six or seven conversations that have been tacked to it that include people who have been laid off and the experience there. “You get the smattering of first-person sources that I, as a journalist in my career, would have to go out and search for actively,” Hempel added. And there were, like, oh, Bill Gates is giving an interview to Gizmodo, back when Gizmodo was kind of a scrappy blog. There were bits of that coming up, and then there was also this idea that the audience, whoever the audience was, right? The audience was, in part, the people we were writing about. But the audience-audience, the millions of people for whom Fortune arrived in the mail, who read it, I knew very little about. Maybe, when I went home over Christmas, my dad’s friend talked about something I’d read, but that was kind of the extent of it. “Mom, I got bad news for you, it’s never going to work.” Yeah, she was like, “Jessi, I look through Forbes, every page, you’re never there.” Yeah, so, totally true. He’d really designed this tech publication on the premise that long-form journalism could exist on Medium. I mean, I think that the thing that you have to keep coming back to is, we want content that makes professionals smarter at their jobs, that is useful to them, right?
people who work there spend a lot of time thinking about how to distribute that stuff widely, but there’s a core audience that is reading them in print or they’re coming to the website and they know what Businessweek is and they have an expectation and they may know you there and they want to follow you and that stuff and they’re there for a reason. I love that you asked that because actually, that is one of the reasons that I think the editorial team is so important at Linked In. Although I think that we can safely assume at this point that a general audience of professionals, for the most part, can understand most of what I would write about technology. There are lots of times when professionals are not in front of a screen. I mean, these people were in their late teens and their early 20s. Do you remember when Yahoo bought the company that was run by the 17-year-old? And, you know, if the company grew to a middling size, I mean, there were problems with it, but then if it got acquired, those problems were usually smoothed out. And you have stories like Steve Jobs getting forced out of Apple, right? A lot of this is a reaction to that narrative, because the shortsighted Wall Street something something ... And again, that’s capitalism, and everyone signs on, and that’s fine.
I assume at Linked In that you’ve got a lot of readers who their commonality is they have jobs or would like jobs or they’re in business in some way. Kind of what you’re asking is a little bit about an iteration of the filter bubble. How do I branch out of my followers and the people who think like me and have conversations with other kind of people? I mean, it’s not that specified and I’m also not doing day-to-day deal coverage or anything like I might have once read on Recode, for example. But for a company like a Facebook, what that meant was that you had a young person who didn’t have management experience who got to hold all the cards, and eventually, you needed to help that person run the business, but you didn’t have the leverage of being able to fire them. And by the way, you can flip this narrative and say that this is a terrible thing for the environment and bad deals, but you could say these are people who created a cool thing, and then they got to keep control of their company, and that’s actually how it should be. And so, if you choose to put money, whether as a public or private investor, into one of these companies where the founder has control, that’s up to you. I thought you were going to say that it’s got all sorts of problems in terms of the actual content, and that’s a problem, then, if you’re a kid cribbing for your third-grade science project, or I don’t know. Right, so the issue that I raised with Wikipedia is somewhat of an evergreen issue.
This is the last version of this nerdy audience question, but so if ... I’m assuming that you have to think about, how do I reach a reader who wasn’t expecting to read me? I wanted to point out something that I just noticed because I’ve covered tech in the Valley for two decades, which is, from the beginning of the Web 2.0 era, there was this moment when suddenly these youngsters with laptops could, like they had never been able to before, start these mostly social services and VCs wanted into those companies so badly. If you got shut out of Facebook, you were in trouble. What that meant was that sometimes VCs would make these really terrible deals. And let’s not even use the word “a Sheryl,” like, you need somebody to be a No. Or whatever it’s going to take to help the company succeed. And your power in doing that is a soft power, because you don’t have a lot of other types of powers, and you have to be able to exert that soft power well, and that is who Sheryl was. we want to get over this idea, is the idea to fund companies that have fully baked leaders running them? Well, and once a company has become large enough that it is the size and scale of many of the tech companies that I’ve written about in the industry, is it appropriate that we can’t fire those people if they’re ...
when you’re writing for Wired or Fortune or Businessweek, business still exists ... Or how do I engage with a reader who wasn’t expecting to read my story? It is a podcast about the nature of work and how that work is changing us as we do it. It is really, truly an experiment for Linked In, but Linked In, because it is a tech company and has the resources to do so, can invest in trying to make the experiment work and has done so. Whether or not, this particular iteration works, the idea of giving your audience something they can put in their ears on their way to work or wherever they’re going, that somehow has a practical utility or at least it’s just interesting. I think that we want to reach professionals wherever they are to help them get smarter about what they’re doing during their day. If you invest in Twitter, Facebook, any of these things early enough, even the ones that didn’t end up being ultimately successful, like Tumblr, if you were early, you made your career. Terrible for the company, terrible for the ecosystem, where they would basically give all the voting power to the kid founder, and I mean kid founder. 2, and that person has this crazy job, Peter, because that person needs to ... And I would say no, it is not appropriate that we can’t fire those people if those people running the company in a way that makes the company, at least in part, a steward to democracy. So, you fire them because, traditionally, because they’re not running the business properly, because they’re not returning profits for the shareholders.
No, so I think that that was true for me before I was affiliated with Backchannel, and the great wonder of Backchannel was that I became obsessed with the idea of conversation as content, meaningful conversation as content, and that worked on Medium in a small tech community. And I realized that I was actually very curious about distribution and how distribution works and who owns distribution and what influence looks like in a world where, instead of a brand talking down to readers, a brand needs to figure out how to engage readers in a conversation. Their personalities are changing and what that means for the people who work at them. I did a lot of quick, fast stuff, and you would do deep, thoughtful, insightful, long pieces. But I think that the reason why I was able to make a career out of it was not because I had some crazy talent. Then Condé Nast didn’t continue to support Backchannel, which is no mystery, and so the Backchannel team went back to Wired, which was a great home for us. Yep, round trip back to Wired, and that was under Nick Thompson, and Nick Thompson is like an incredible intellect and a wonderful editor. They want people to spend time on Linked In and they want you to generate stuff that will bring people to Linked In and help them stay in Linked In because they’re interested in it. You write about business and technology, and in a lot of ways you were doing sort of the counter to what I spent a lot of time doing. I practiced and practiced and practiced and loved it. And so, I mean, in the same way that I think The Information is really great at conversation as content, because they have the right audience, and they’ve brought them together around the right questions. I’m talking about the actual conversations with readers that elevated the content. On the business/practical/cynical side of it, they are a company that makes money from advertising, in part, but just engagement in general.The core business of Microsoft-owned Linked In is helping professionals network and find new jobs — but unlike its social media peers, it’s unabashedly a media company, too. You’re going to find it wherever you listen to your podcasts. Salaried magazine writer living in New York City, that’s a hard thing to accomplish. So I thought, well, when I finally figure out how to get here, I can figure out how to get here, well then, I’m done. ” And I looked at all the people around me who had jobs in my company, and none of them were jobs that I could see myself doing in a decade. I want to know about that, and that’s still the thing I want to know about the most. Going on long enough, with complete access, that when it finally comes out I’m look forward to reading it. That lasted maybe a year, and you know, after Condé Nast bought that property, Medium came out and said oh, actually, we’re not interested in advertising. Yeah, one of the many pivots, but like really bad timing for Condé Nast, which had bought this property to learn about how advertising might work on it. So, that’s unfortunate, but really great timing for me, because I got a whole year and a half of creating long-form journalism on a software that really valued the audience and gave the audience basically a two-way dialog with the writer. And what that software did well, I mean, Medium had and has a lot of challenges, but it has some of the most elegant social software in the biz, and it does a really great job of setting up the reader and the writer to be in conversation with each other in meaningful ways. I have never considered the dialog aspect of Medium. It never once occurred to me to comment on a Medium ... I mean, all those businesses are connected to connecting people with opportunity.A team of 50 editors, led by editor-in-chief Dan Roth and editor-at-large Jessi Hempel, delivers news to Linked In users around the world. Wherever you listen to fine podcasts like this one. Should we just get right to it, explain why you’re at Linked In? That is a little bit of a mystery to anybody who has followed my career, which would be my mother and you, because I began my life as a magazine writer. They made a movie about how amazing it was, or at least terrifying, to work at Condé Nast. No, but the whole, the premise of was that everyone aspired to be at this, they didn’t say Condé Nast, it was, what? It felt to me like the most interesting thing in media, apart from craft, which is something that I loved perfecting, as a writer, for my entire career... And that’s changed a ton over the course of my career, I would say. I did want to ask you about the Linked In stuff, and then commenting, but you know, I think of Linked In as a place you go to put stuff, instead of a blog, and a lot of times it’s terrible stuff, and sometimes it’s good, and sometimes Jeff Bezos uses it to talk about his personal life. Google has a lot of things, but Google at its core is a search engine. So, Linked In is working on building up anything that connects people to opportunity.
The types of stories she’s writing now for Linked In, she explained, are similar to what she was doing by the end of her tenure at Wired: “ideas-driven pieces about the nature of how technology companies are changing.” Most of those 50 editors are not writing stories like Hempel is, or working on her podcast, . So, instead of influence being something that happened from the top down, it would happen sideways and from the bottom-up. Like Fortune, which was where I spent a good deal of my professional career... Fortune Magazine, and really, I mean, I think Fortune is really where I learned the craft, was a place that existed because people had confidence in the brand, right? He’s always really understood content and understood news in particular and believed in it. I mean, my work hopefully helps the people on Linked In get smarter about their work.