By now, anyone with even a passing interest in the British new media publishing scene will have seen that Shiny Media has gone into administration (in layman’s terms, it’s dead).
Despite reports to the contrary — and not trying to sound pompous — it was me that broke the story to the Internet, based on the closest thing to an official statement as I could get (my editor at Tech Digest Skyped me after having just found out himself).
This was later backed up by tweets from co-founder Katie Lee and, finally, by email message from Chris Price.
This is a summary of my feelings on the matter, for those who are interested or care, or simply want to add it to the increasing pile of commentary on the matter.
1. I’m a freelancer who has lost little
Compared to some with a greater stake (financial and emotional) in Shiny Media, who in fact have generally handled things extremely gracefully (online and in public at least) I know where I fit in the pecking order.
I always knew that the freelancers’ life was a somewhat risky path to tread, and in fact I’ve been very fortunate to have worked pretty much full-time with Shiny Media over the past three years.
I’ll probably end up out of pocket and I’m a little frustrated that the last month’s worth of work (when I could have been investing time in other projects) is unlikely to be remunerated, but that’s life.
2. I saw it coming (or at least, I wasn’t surprised)
Yes, it’s easy to say this with the benefit of hindsight, but unfortunately I can’t say I’m surprised at all this.
In fact, I thought it might happen sooner (maybe six months to one year ago).
I realise that I don’t have insider knowledge, and I can only speak based on seeing things from the outside, but Shiny Media always felt like it had problems. I believe this ultimately led to its downfall.
Firstly we have…
3. Communication (or lack thereof)
Communication, certainly between management and freelancers at least — I don’t know exactly what it was like for permanent staff — was patchy, and sometimes non-existent.
In the early days of Shiny Media we had a lot of resources, guidelines, an internal staff forum, and more to help us to deliver what the company expected from us.
Now, editor-to-writer relationships have, as far as I’ve seen, been very good. This is testament to the overall high quality of staff at Shiny Media. On personal and individual site levels, it all worked quite well, but the overall vision seemed disjointed.
Again, as a freelancer, I don’t expect to be kept ‘in the loop’ about everything. Even after signing a NDA I realise there are some things I can’t know about. Having said that, more regular filtering down of important information — things that have an impact on how writers write — would really have helped.
I effectively edited two Shiny blogs, also as the sole writer, with no managerial input, for at least six months. That can’t be right.
We move on to…
4. Choice of partners
I have been called out before for publicly slating the company Shiny Media chose to use for its web hosting and “consultancy” services.
While I won’t go into great detail about it now, I still stand by my belief that Shiny Media could have got a much better deal, and indeed service, by working with a dedicated web hosting company. Unfortunately, the financial debts had already set in far enough to make switching very difficult.
5. Staff Support
Let me make it very clear that I think all the staff (and certainly the ones I met) past and present, in various departments, were excellent, quality people.
The trouble it seems — and it’s probably linked with my earlier point about communication — is that they weren’t given the resources required to excel at their tasks, be that technical, ad sales, or whatever else.
Again, let me say that the staff were excellent, but the systems probably weren’t.
6. My defence of Shiny Media may have to cease
I have been a strong defender of Shiny Media — odd, you might think, given that I have no vested interest in the company except that it paid me to write.
I’ve pushed through, trying to deliver much even when the company couldn’t afford to pay its freelancers an amount closer to what they were worth.
I’d even be happy (in a strange kind of way) to shake the hand of the dying company — metaphorically speaking — and let everything rest.
What irks me, though (and this is as much a fault of UK business law, which I don’t profess to understand) is that another company, owned by Chris Price — possibly even with input from the original venture capital company — is able to buy the derelict Shiny Media, wipe the debts (which includes a lot of unpaid wages and fees) and start again.
Of course I don’t mind start-ups restarting, but if I discover in a couple of months time that it’s “business as usual” for Shiny Media, or Shiny Digital, or whatever it’ll now be called, I’m going to be just a little peeved.
Then again, I’ve got other opportunities bubbling, so I’m not going to get bitter about it.
7. Would you want to work with someone who uses underhand tactics because they don’t agree with a business decision?
I don’t know the identity of the “minority shareholder” who (allegedly) cut off/hacked the email and mobile phone of Chris Price, but given that it potentially made it extremely difficult for him to communicate with staff and freelancers, I ask whether anyone would really trust said person working for their business, lest something goes wrong and the same dirty tactics are used again?
Yes, I’m posting a fairly personal piece here, and yes I’ve tweeted some annoyed tweets in the past, but deliberately breaking systems because your minority stake is under threat? I don’t think so.
Anyway, there’s not much more to say on the Shiny Media situation. We’ll see what pans out. In the meantime, there are a few more journos and bloggers on the look out for new opportunities.
Be nice to them