Creating Power

Terry McBride thought he could lie. Two Valleywag posts,a investigative piece on Silicon Alley Insider, the front page of digg and twenty or twenty five thousand people later, he’s not exactly getting away with it. And it all stems from the fact that I noticed the discrepancy – that not only were his assumptions wrong but he’d been dishonest about the conclusions – and emailed it to the right people.

Just a few years ago, it was totally possible for an executive to ignorantly pontificate to the press without anyone but the people around him knowing the truth. I don’t think that’s true anymore. In this case, he first inflated the number of video views Avril had, incorporated ones that count for the label not the artist, multiplied it by an implausible CPM, assumed 100% inventory fill, and then claimed to be waiting a check that he knew wasn’t coming. He thought it would go unnoticed. Now, I promise you this incident will get played back to me by a third party.

Which is amazing, frankly. Even though I’m factually right and am basing my opinion off the data I assembled for way bigger acts, who am I? If Terry McBride showed up for a meeting where I worked, I’d do all the research but I wouldn’t have been allowed in. Or if I was, because someone insisted that I be there, he’d ignore everything I said.

Think about it this way: Yesterday, for less than $4, some guy managed to make a total mockery of the business strategy of Colombia Records and they have no idea what to do about it. And he did it from a tiny blog. Try to reverse, how much would they have to spend and waste and stress about to have to respond?

THAT is the sort of power you can leverage if you use new media correctly.

How You Do It:

Forget Ego

I could have written it here and a couple people would have seen it. Instead, I gave the scoop to someone else, stoked the flames and let it go where it could. And with the exception of this post, I’m not getting any of the credit.

Work on the stuff you like (not what you’re supposed to like)

I only know the YouTube partner channels backwards and forwards because I thought they were interesting and taught myself everything I could. I learned most of it by representing a kid (for free) who’s video I really liked. I don’t just randomly go around correcting mistakes and emailing people – I do it for stuff that gets me excited. That’s enough.

Know who to talk to

As you read authors and discover new sites, you should try to get a sense of what appeals to each writer. I knew that Valleywag was the right place to start – that they like to call people out – and that I’d have to reveal too much about myself and my sources for a site like Techcrunch or Matt Ingram. Plus, I like Valleywag and was looking for an excuse to email them anyway. In other words, lay the groundwork.

Understand luck

More than anything, it’s a crap shoot. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had bigger scoops, cooler angles and better sources but seen it go nowhere. You have no idea how your email is going to catch someone or what kind of newsday your up against. That means you have to be doing this all the time, try to be clever and hope to get lucky.

If you think of a new media presence as something like a bank account – assets that include your profiles, contacts, track record, fans, resources – then this is just one way to make a deposit. It’s something you can keep and use again later. I don’t want to say that it’s easy, but think about it, with one email about a post that showed up in my RSS reader, I managed to call out one of the biggest managers in music, in front of everybody. And I didn’t do it with anything that you don’t have access to.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.