The Meaning of "Made"
Posted by: Rob Hof on August 08, 2006
Hoo boy. Lots of people have lots of issues with BusinessWeek’s current cover story on Digg’s Kevin Rose. What seemed to set off folks such as Scott Rosenberg most of all, though, was the cover language: “How This Kid Made $60 Million in 18 Months.”
To no few number of people—including, I must admit, myself—the word “made” at least implies that Rose has the money in his bank account. Which he clearly does not, nor does his company. The $60 million refers to Rose’s 30% share of the $200 million valuation that some of authors Sarah Lacy’s and Jessi Hempel’s sources estimate. (And although that estimate understandably also has a lot of critics, $200 million doesn’t sound completely ridiculous in a time when MySpace’s $580 million buyout by News Corp. is now considered by some to be a steal. Of course, when you take a step back out of the green glow of Web 2.0, $200 mil actually IS ridiculous, but so are a lot of other Web 2.0 valuation estimates. Which is why, I also must admit, it would have helped to have someone on the record saying they’d pony up that kind of valuation for Digg.)
Now, reasonable minds can disagree on the meaning of “made.” Chris Pirillo, for one, thinks the wording is OK (and he also thinks $200 million may be too LOW a valuation). But unlike my colleague Steve Baker and some others on the magazine, I think the fact that a lot of intelligent people read “made” to mean something different than what the magazine intended to convey is prima facie evidence that the cover language didn’t hit the mark. If there’s one place where language needs to be unambiguous, it’s on the cover.
No, I’m not apologizing here for the magazine. It’s not my place to do so, because I’m not the editor, didn’t work on the story, and wasn’t privy to this particular discussion about cover language. But I am saying that we hear the criticisms, even if not everyone here agrees with them. I also know that, contrary to the beliefs of some critics, the words on the cover are something that folks here take very seriously and debate vociferously. I’m betting the discussions on future cover language will be even more serious, and vociferous.