August 5th, 2007

Fake Fake Steve Jobs On Forbes.com

by

It’s not surprising that someone finally unmasked the author of The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs AKA Fake Steve Jobs. It’s not really that surprising either that Fake Steve turned out to be an “old media” journalist who’s been fooling all the “new media” geeks. It’s not even that surprising that a journalist at an “old media” institution like the NYT broke this quintessentially new media story — which has utterly peeved the geekosphere, who claim the NYT shouldn’t have bothered (and spoiled the fun), but I think this is a BIG media story.

What IS surprising, now that the fun’s over, is that Forbes, which employs Fake Steve’s alter ego Dan Lyons, thinks moving the blog over to Forbes.com can keep the dream alive — the front page of Forbes.com right now feels so deeply ironic I can’t even put it into words — you just have to see it (click thumbnail for larger image):

real-fake-steve-jobs-forbescom.jpg

I suspect Dan Lyons wasn’t given a choice in the matter — and maybe Forbes.com felt they didn’t have a choice in the matter either, to see whether they could milk the cow. (David Churbuck estimates that Fake Steve is worth about $250,000 a year — doh!)

The shame is that all of the innovation is happening outside the walls of big media companies, whether it’s new media technology platforms like Digg and Reddit, or new editorial forms, like anonymous satirical blogs about colorful celebrities. Independents pioneered the blog form, and then media companies rushed in to follow when it proved wildly successful. It’s the same now with Fake Steve and Forbes.com.

Fake Steve proves that big media companies have the talent in house — they just can’t get out of their own way to experiment with disruptive innovations.

It would be nice to see some big media companies leading with new ideas rather than following for a change.

UPDATE
David Churck, who has known Dan Lyons for years, and who knew Dan was Fake Steve (and who also happens to be the founding editor of Forbes.com), reports that multiple media companies were bidding for Dan’s work. I can only hope that Dan Lyons emerges as the big winner here — Dan has a perfectly timed book starring Fake Steve that will probably sell it out in pre-order.

We’ll see whether Forbes.com proves worthy of Dan’s talent. This should be a cautionary tale for every media company — nurture your talent, let them pursue new ideas and disruptive innovations, including those that take them outside the walls of the firm. When everyone on your editorial staff has the power to start their own micromedia company, you need to redefine the boundaries of where and how that staff can create value — inside and outside the firm.

Comments (24 Responses so far)

  1. [IMG] [IMG] Scott Karp / Publishing 2.0: Fake Fake Steve Jobs On Forbes.com

  2. Fake Fake Steve Jobs On Forbes.com

  3. Gates-Jobs meetup where Gates joked that he was not Fake Steve Jobs. [IMG Fake Steve Jobs Diary] The big question now is what happens to the blog now? Will it still be a big traffic draw? Scott Karp blogs that the Fake Steve Jobs blog is apparently now going to be published on the Forbes.com website. Forbes itself also has an article about the FSJ blog moving from blogspot to Forbes.com. Duncan Riley

  4. New York Times revealed that Fake Steve Jobs, author of the witty and sarcastically insightful Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, is actually Daniel Lyons, a senior editor at Forbes magazine. Scoble points to a cool insight from Scott Karp over at Publishing 2.0 on lessons to be learned by the whole thing — Fake Steve proves that big media companies have the talent in house — they just can’t get out of their own way to experiment with disruptive innovations.

  5. analysoi tilannetta: Fake Steve proves that big media companies have the talent in house — they just can’t get out of their own way to experiment with disruptive innovations. No niin no. Tuossa on tietty pointsi. Toimittaja, kokeile tätä

  6. him from seeing the power of having a blog. As Anil puts it: “The benefits of blogging for one’s career or business are so profound that they were even able to persuade a dedicated detractor.” And Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 notes that Lyons clearly felt compelled to do something more creative than Forbes allowed him to do, and as a result he is likely to benefit from it — at Forbes’ expense. Share This [IMG]

  7. Fake Steve Jobs = Daniel Lyons” by Duncan Riley: 05 August 2007 ?Valleywag: “Investigations: Forbes editor Daniel Lyons is Fake Steve Jobs” by Owen Thomas:  05 August 2007 ?Publishing 2.0: “Fake Fake Steve Jobs On Forbes.com” by Scott Karp: 05 August 2007 ?Apple 2.0: “Forbes Editor Fingered as Fake Steve Jobs” by Philip Elmer-DeWitt: 05 August 2007 ?Paul Kedrosky: “Steve Jobs and John Markoff: IM Buddies“

  8. [IMG publishing2.com]

  9. Just as clearly, the webloggers that pontificate the loudest on the importance of ethics, full disclosure, and the necessity of disclaimers, are willing even gleeful to put considerations aside, as long as violations are made by one who smells of success (i.e. money), and who they can embrace as their own. leave a comment [Sunday, August 5, 2007 at 8:16 pm] Subject: WordPress Update http://burningbird.net/technology/wordpress-update/

  10. his vacation in Maine on Sunday to ask him about Fake Steve. “I have not been that good at keeping it a secret. I’ve been sort of waiting for this call for months.” … Tech land goes nuts over mystery being solved. discussion: publishing2.com: Fake Fake Steve Jobs On Forbes.com techcrunch.com: Fake Steve Jobs = Daniel Lyons blogs.pcworld.com: Fake Steve Jobs: Unmasked! valleywag.com: Forbes editor Daniel Lyons is Fake Steve Jobs dashes.com: Fake Steve Jobs and the Triumph of Blogs

  11. Just as clearly, the webloggers that pontificate the loudest on the importance of ethics, full disclosure, and the necessity of disclaimers, are willing even gleeful to put considerations aside, as long as violations are made by one who smells of success (i.e. money), and who they can embrace as their own.

  12. Scott Karp makes an excellent point about whether the Fake Steve blog can be integrated (and managed) by an old media outfit like Forbes. It will be interesting to monitor this going forward, but I can’t help think the blog won’t be as entertaining as it’s been

  13. Fake Fake Steve Jobs On Forbes.com » Publishing 2.0

  14. re: “Fake Steve proves that big media companies have the talent in house — they just can’t get out of their own way to experiment with disruptive innovations.”

    Nailed it, Scott. Fake Steve on Forbes.com (unless it was Fake Steve Forbes) is going to fizzle. (I look forward to Dan’s book, however.)

  15. No kidding.. working in one of the biggest media co.s, I can tell you that there are plenty of people with good ideas. Institutional lethargy and excessive hierarchy bury most. In the case of FSJ — I guarantee someone in management would have shit his pants and canceled the blog before the first post. Too bad.. all the money and connections, very little chance of ever putting it to work. Not that most people would want to immediately put their pet projects under the control of a corporation, anyway. Hope FSJ at least gets a raise.

  16. Your point is a good one, that big media companies should allow innovation, but I’m not sure Fake Steve is a great example.

    If FSJ was on Forbes.com from the beginning, it would have been obvious that it was written by a Forbes employee. The blog would have fizzled from the start. The mystery was a big part of the appeal.

    Even now, why roll FSJ into Forbes? Surely it’d be better to keep its established, successful identity but now that the secret is out also try to draw some of its audience over to Forbes, rather than just moving the blog into the Forbes.com fold?

  17. @Matt

    Who said the Forbes.com would have had to put Fake Steve on Forbes.com if they would have been behind it from the beginning? They could have put it up on Blogger the same way — and just sold ads on to it — and paid Dan Lyons to spend more time on it.

    Of course, the ads might have given it away, but still, that assumption you make is precisely why Forbes.com never would have done it. And why big media companies are so stuck.

  18. [...] Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 blog has the best wrapup that I’ve seen so far: “Fake Steve proves that big media companies have the talent in house — they just can’t get out of their own way to experiment with disruptive innovations.” [...]

  19. Forbes wasn’t the only big media company to bid for Dan’s work — when it was anonymous — probably two or three others were in serious discussions. Forbes got it because Dan eventually had to tell them about it.

  20. [...] able to persuade a dedicated detractor.” And Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 notes that Lyons clearly felt compelled to do something more creative than Forbes allowed him to do, and as a result he is likely to [...]

  21. “new editorial forms, like anonymous satirical blogs about colorful celebrities”

    New? NEW? N-E-W? What about the “Dear Bill” column in Private Eye throughout Denis Thatcher’s residence in Downing Street? It wasn’t even a new form then….

  22. @Ian, OK, granted, but it’s “new” for traditional media companies, who have until recently never dreamed about giving their editorial talent a platform to experiment outside of a fixed number of column inches.

  23. [...] recent “Fake Steve Jobs” outing has given Scott Karp insight on what media companies need to do in order to innovate: [...]

  24. Hilarious to watch Lyons chewing his way towards his knee over this. In his infamous “Attack of the Blogs” article, he had this to say:
    “Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective.”

    He has relentlessly hounded Pamela Jones of Groklaw on both his Floating Point blog and as Fake Steve, yet when valleywag was working towards unmasking him, he said that what they were doing:
    “definitely fall outside the boundaries of what most decent civilized human beings consider to be appropriate behavior.”

    and:
    “To whatever bit of pond scum is doing this stuff, let me say this: This was fun, up to a point. You’ve gone past that point. Stop.”

    Hypocritical? You bet.

    As for Dan’s wonderful devices used to make FSJ so popular: He *stole outright* the penchant for “pet names” for industry big wigs and the usage of “tard” as prefix and suffix from the Yahoo finance SCO message board, http://messages.finance.yahoo.com/mb/SCOX
    a place frequented by Linux enthusiasts (who Dan likes to refer to as “bomb tossing zealots”, “crunchies” etc).
    Dan wrote a piece about the people there called “Revenge of the Nerds” several years ago and has been trolling the place ever since, plundering the vernacular and humor for his FSJ blog and, apparently, his upcoming book.

    What a prince.

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