Back to Work
Some professional news, as we say on Twitter
Howdy from Austin Texas! You’ve once again made it Down the Pipes, a weekly blogletter about all matters consequential and irrelevant. Most posts here are for subscribers only to keep out the riff raff, but if you like halfway decent blogging from a cis white male who isn’t screaming about how woke culture is ruining my ability to manage Gen Z in the office, you’ve found your tribe. Sign on up and come on down.
Down the Pipes only exists with your support. To receive new posts and support my addiction to Phish tickets, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
I’ve been writing on Substack for about a year now, a thing I started doing a few weeks after I lost my job in February, 2022. I signed countless NDAs over the years barring me from disclosing the most sordid details of my career, so how I weave this story is going to be a little less forthcoming than I normally like to be, but bloggers still gonna blog.
When I started as the publisher of Futurism in 2017, I was coming off a long, fairly complex emotional and professional breakdown. You’ll learn more about that as The Great American Wasteland chapters continue to roll out, but needless to say a year and a half living in Vegas and 2 years going to Burning Man really turned me inside out.
I’ve written about ego death before, and this was one of my first notably profound experiences with it. I grew up wanting to be a good company man; find a great group of people to work with, do hard work with them, and reap the benefits together. That was going swimmingly at Gawker Media Group, until Thiel and Hogan showed up and ended it.
Losing my professional identity in 2015 sent me into a tailspin: I don’t like failing at things. Nobody does. I fled New York, I fled media, I holed up in the desert and had a prolonged dark night of the soul. If I’m not who I thought I was, I must be nothing. This was tough.
But at the same time all of this was happening, Trump was first rising to power by attacking the media, brutally. Even in Vegas I couldn’t escape billionaires trying to manhandle the press…just as I showed up, the only independent paper in Vegas got scooped up by Republican Emperor Palpatine himself, Sheldon Adelson. It didn't help that my bedroom window looked down on the strip, with Trump's golden logo glowing in the distance 24/7.
These two living nightmares (the downfall of Gawker and the destruction of independent press in Las Vegas) were the focus of a 2017 Netflix documentary called Trials of the Free Press that came out just as I was deciding to leave Vegas, as clear a sign as I could hope for that my higher purpose was helping to restore independent media as a thing that thrives in a world of vengeful billionaires who would prefer it not.
So when I met the young, 8 person team running a small, independent science and tech news site called Futurism in late 2016, it seemed like a great opportunity to put my hands on the steering wheel and reassume my previous identity as digital media maven. I became publisher in February 2017, just a month after Trump was inaugurated.
The first year was a blast, we launched the Gravity Blanket and blew our revenue targets out of the water. We used that money to overhaul our editorial team under the brilliant leadership of my new co-conspirator Foster (one of the few friends from NY who saw me semi-regularly in his hometown of Vegas), and despite some warning signs that our investors/owners were stingy and obnoxiously litigious, we plowed ahead into 2018 with a sense of optimism and hope.
Sadly, nothing gold can stay. Gravity Blanket sales got cannibalized by Alibaba rip offs and Amazon strong arming, and our other line of business—a creative agency that worked exclusively with breakout technology companies—got eaten up when the first crypto winter started that January.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial