Media Pioneer Barry Layne: “I have committed to doing something FOR every person I hire; I ask if they know what they want to do next and I promise to prepare them for THAT role”

Yitzi Weiner
Jul 19, 2019 · 5 min read

I have committed to doing something FOR every person I hire. During the recruitment/interview process I always ask if they know what they want to do next…either where we sat or elsewhere in the world. I promise to prepare them for THAT role (again inside or outside our organization) because that means I gave them the tools and freedom to grow and advance — which, from a selfish perspective, helps us succeed as well.


As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Barry Layne. Barry is the Chief Operating Officer & Chief Marketing Officer of Alternatives to College. Barry is a pioneering digital management and marketing executive. He was founder and global head of Ketchum Communication’s worldwide digital media businesses; COO of ArtistDirect; Executive Vice President of National Lampoon; Senior Vice President of About, Inc.; and Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of FasTV.com.

Thank you so much for joining us Barry! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Intellectual curiosity has always been a key part of my career. Having accumulated six figures of student debt on behalf of my daughter, I understand first hand the challenges of financing traditional education. As I learned more about these issues — and the real challenges facing both schools and students of all ages — I became actively involved.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

I’ll make it easier — the single biggest challenge I had to deal with from any part of my life.

Approximately 4 ½ years ago I had an accident while walking my dog outside my condo in Las Vegas. As a matter of happenstance, I tripped over my own feet. Over the next 10 or so days I realized something was very, very wrong and made a telephone call to an almost life-long friend who just happened to be the managing partner of the largest orthopedic practice in Nevada. I was having trouble walking, and he sent a driver and wheelchair to get me. After about 20 minutes of exams and tests, the surgeon I met reprimanding me for nearly 40 minutes for failing to take any action for such a long period of time.

Turns out I broke my neck in from top of my spine to the middle and was ordered to hospital immediately.

After five operations over less than a two week period, this and another surgeon reassembled my neck — including fashioning and putting in place a titanium cage in my neck to hold it up.

After weeks of hearing: I don’t know if you’re going to be a paraplegic or a quadriplegic, feeling began returning to my spine and legs. It took about a year to learn how to walk again; a process that was addressed every minute of every day.

The net result…I walked over to my computer — or, as I like to say: Challenge Accepted.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

What was my choice? I don’t give up and good enough isn’t good enough.

So, how are things going today? How did Grit lead to your eventual success?

From a business perspective this example of ‘grit’ reflects something larger. I know what I know and, more importantly, I know what I don’t. Which forces me to trust people to do what I can’t. Whether it’s software development or spinal surgery I exceed most limitations but know I cannot do it all myself.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Early in my career, I worked in radio in New York City. I think I was fired by every station there within three years. Be the smartest person in the room — just don’t tell anyone that you know or think it.,

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

takes a practical point of view. We are not doing anything esoteric. We see market trends and listen to our audiences — people who want and/or need additional education or training or certification…and the educational providers (from traditional colleges and universities to those people who provide specialized programs for HVAC report, construction and contracting work, nursing or software development instruction). It is a multi-billion dollar market that is particularly interesting and important now because of the life-altering effects of debt. Over $1.5TRIILLION in loans outstanding related to higher education. There have to be better ways and we are committed to helping find them.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

In any industry — I’ve been in radio, TV, film and digital media — the only advice: Be you. Be genuine. Be Authentic. Make as strong a commitment to yourself as you do to your job and career. Get up. Get out. Get a life. I missed too much by not doing that.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’m grateful to my surgeons. I’m grateful for the late Rick Sklar, who helped create multiple radio formats and for whom I was fortunate to work. I’m grateful for my business partners in businesses in which I was involved from the earliest days, including the Crown Prince of the UAE without whom we never would have created FasTV, a true market-changing technology platform and business (and which didn’t make it through the dot-com bust). I am thankful for my current partner on this postsecondary and higher education path we are taking. And I am thankful for my friends and children who have regularly reminded me to Get up. Get out. Life my life.

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How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I have committed to doing something FOR every person I hire. During the recruitment/interview process I always ask if they know what they want to do next…either where we sat or elsewhere in the world. I promise to prepare them for THAT role (again inside or outside our organization) because that means I gave them the tools and freedom to grow and advance — which, from a selfish perspective, helps us succeed as well.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Yitzi Weiner

Written by

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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