The Meaning of "Made"

Posted by: Rob Hof on August 8, 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.

Reader Comments

Randy Williams

August 8, 2006 12:38 PM

20 years ago, I considered Business Week to be the "People Magazine" of the business press. Nothing much has changed.

pazdziernik

August 8, 2006 8:39 PM

"How This Kid Made $60 Million in 18 Months" ... the "cover language" should certainly be criticized not for "made" but rather for "kid." Kevin Rose is a 29 year-old man, not an eleven year-old!

Julius Alba

August 9, 2006 7:48 PM

I am a bit disappointed how Businessweek flames the bubble of these Web 2.0 companies. Is it to sell more magazines? Picture a guy who "made" $60M in 18 months on the front cover. Responsible journalism is backed up by facts. How about focus on startups that actually generate revenue for a change?..less hype and more business...

Julius Alba
Founder, Newbie Labs
www.newbielabs.com

Ian Bell

August 15, 2006 12:56 AM

I think the real issue here is that a number of online properties and Web 2.0 sites are being so overlyhyped that no one really knows or understands their real value.

Clearly MySpace may have been undervalued, as the Google deal may suggest, but in the case of Digg, it could be on the other end of the spectrum and be overvalued.

Banner ads will never keep a company alive (as AOL is sure to find out), they are a variable factor that always changes depending on a number of market conditions. Digg really needs to offer some sort of asset (and they do in their programming, but is it enough?) and multiple revenue channels to fall back on when banner ads start to lose value (and they just might with video popularity growing).

In the end, the article definitely has some fluff to it, but Kevin Rose and the guys at Digg deserve the attention. They have a great product and have worked hard to get to where they are. And like MySpace, Digg is probably worth several hundred million in raw traffic alone. Just be careful with the headlines next time, Business Week.

Ian Bell
www.digitaltrends.com

Brian Jaffe

August 23, 2006 6:20 PM

I've been tuning in to John Byrne's cover story podcast for awhile. It's what got me to subscribe to BW again. I was stunned at BW's editorial malfeasance with the Kevin Rose cover.

"Made"?!? I said to myself after seeing the cover. Wow, that happened quickly. BW scooped everyone else on this, kudos to them. I have also been regularly listening to the digg.com podcast with Rose and Albrecht, and logging onto the digg.com. As a former product marketing manager for comm products at AOL, I've been watching this "social networking" space fairly closely, and with some bemusement as I think back to some of the products that never saw the light of day at AOL, some of which were very much along the same lines of what Digg is now doing. As soon as I had time, I cracked open the magazine and was profoundly disappointed when I read the article.

How in the world could a responsible business publication so entirely mislead on their cover? Despite some rumored talks with Yahoo, there's not even a deal on the table, and certainly no one out there willing to admit they'd pay $200mm for a "forum" on steroids. And when reading the article I was further disappointed at the McJournalism and McReporting on the story (or was it the McEditing?). Where was the Netscape angle?? Not even a quote from Jason Calacanis? What about Rocketboom and their issues?

C'mon guys, you can do better than this.

Can't you?

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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