August 5th, 2007
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):
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.
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.