1 Story About How a Guy Got a Job

Over One Year Later, a Personal Essay Continues… Part 1 Here.

John Shankman
Dec 11, 2014 · 7 min read

It’s funny how memories work. I’ve always thought I couldn’t remember the next part of the story any clearer: Sitting at my desk in the fall of 2005 with the day winding down, I had just consummated a big sale by retrieving its signed paperwork from the fax machine. It was time to take a break. I loaded up my browser and began happily staring at a web page with a yellow background. True to Part 1, it was none other than ESPN The Sports Guy’s latest mailbag. As I read through it, I landed on an interesting question posed to the Sports Guy. “What are you favorite blogs?” the question to Bill Simmons read. The answer? “I really think Will Leitch at Deadspin is doing a great job.” Naturally, I then clicked on the hyperlink that read “Deadspin” and landed on the early days of, what I would later learn is Gawker Media Group’s, era-defining sports blog.

It’s funny how memories work because the truth, it appears, is that Bill Simmons never linked to Deadspin in an article on ESPN. In looking for that article/its link, not finding it, and then doing some light “research/journalism”, it seems the actual connection is likely an interview Simmons did with Chris Ballard for Sports Illustrated in March 2006. Another reasonable theory is that I came across Deadspin via Dan Shanoff’s Page 2 column since Shanoff heartily linked to the site as well. Either which way, I found Deadspin.

Where Simmons pioneered the first person voice in (sports) media (or at the very least, pioneered it for me), Deadspin introduced me to the nascent dynamics that define the blogosphere. I’m not able to do the dynamics justice, but they include things like a rich commenting culture, a unique (funny) voice and linking liberally to the incredible, independent blogs that were proliferating online due to technology and tools like Blogger and Wordpress. The ability and quality of linking to other blogs was the watershed dynamic for me. The avenues of media exploration and discovery that this capability enabled, to put it mildly, made an impression on me.

Simmons published regularly, but one man is no match for an entire blogosphere. I was now becoming familiar with the publishing speed and quantity that’s come to define this era of digital media. When Page 2 wasn’t updated yet, there was a gaggle of people both professionally and from the “Bored At Work Network” updating their sites, blogs and forums. And all of this media wasn’t only sports related! We had (NSFW’ish) What Would Tyler Turden Do producing some funny celebrity-driven blog posts, Go Fug Yourself doing great work in the realm of fashion, and Deadspin revealed itself to have a parent company that produced pieces across a number of different verticals. I “remember” your influence, Carles.

This isn’t a history of online media though, or more appropriately after that last paragraph, one person’s browser history from the mid-aughts; this is the serendipitous story of one man’s journey to the center of the Internet (or as close as I’ve gotten). So back to the ol’ office scene in 2005/2006 where I was still making ends meet in NYC by selling access to a marketing database and dialing for dollars. It was a good job that paid well, but something was still missing. As I would come to realize, I wasn’t “passionate” about what I was doing. At this job, we’d make deals, “hit our numbers”, we’d go out for happy hour and then do it all over again. The one injection of passion during the work day would come during my time as a denizen of the Bored At Work network. Frankly, I highly enjoyed consuming and engaging with web content. And, thankfully, my co-workers knew.

During my tenure at this job, my blog consumption habit became well known around the office and it was a fun (read: torturous) thing. My colleagues liked to let everyone else know that I was a blog reader– an iteration of *nerd alert*, I suppose. So one day (after I closed some deals), I’m reading a blog and one of my less illustrious co-workers walks by and in passing says, “Yo Shank, Why don’t you work on the Internet?” I hear this. I pause. I think. The proverbial light bulb goes off. Ding, ding, ding! Winner. Yes, brilliant idea indeed, co-worker who has never had a good idea before this. Yes, I shall work on the Internet. The co-worker then offers no further guidance. I was left alone to consider where one goes next after deciding that Internet work is the work for them.

A book store. Photo credit.

At this point, the exact how of what happened is a bit hazy, but I do know certain things:

  • I decided that doing research about the Internet would be the best way to join its professional ranks.
  • Somewhat ironically I suppose, I decided that the best place to do research would be a book store.
  • I went to the bookstore and found two books about “The Internet”. One was a history of communications technology from the 19th century forward and the second was the book that helped set course for my career: John Battelle’s The Search.

For me, reading Battelle’s The Search was a breath of fresh air. It was an exciting, well-written, easy-to-digest business book. I don’t remember all of the details, but, in a nut shell, it was the story of Google through 2005. I had known of and, of course, used Google at the time, but hadn’t given thought to how a tool or company like that could come to be. I took its existence completely for granted. The truth, as it turns out, is that there is a story behind every company and Jbat’s book helped me to understand that.

Even though learning about Google and companies and business, generally, was an incredibly valuable thing, The Search offered me one other thing of great value: A lead on where to get a job on the Internet. In addition to giving me a framework for how to think about Internet companies, The Search introduced me to John Battelle, the person, journalist and entrepreneur, and his digital footprint.

At the time, and still currently, John writes at SearchBlog. The edition of the book I read mentioned that, in addition to book currently in my hand, John also wrote at SearchBlog so I, again, did the natural thing, and typed BattelleMedia.com, the URL for SearchBlog, into my browser. Once there I learned of my second Internet job opportunity.

Something “they” say is timing is everything, and I must say, in this case, it is true. This was the good ol’ fashioned serendipity that start-up culture enjoys referencing; gotta be in it to win it type stuff. Right as I landed on SearchBlog there was a post mentioning John Battelle’s recently founded venture, a company called Federated Media– and they were in fact hiring sales people. For a newly opened NYC office, no less!!

What Federated Media was and is and why it’s important and why the people associated with the company equal awesome is for another post one day, but suffice to say, it was a sales-driven company on the Internet dealing with what I enjoyed reading. An Internet content company with a sales mission. Another ding-ding-ding moment to be sure: I have sales experience. I read the Internet content and want to work on it. I went to the Federated Media website and put my name and brief story into the Contact Us form and hit submit.

Nothing happened. For weeks.

And then one day in my email inbox:

Hi John, Thanks for getting in contact with Federated Media. I’m the General Manager of the NYC office and received your note about wanting to work here. Can we schedule a time to speak on the phone?

Long-story short, I ended up getting an Internet ad sales job at Federated Media that I adored (and still do) and feel incredibly lucky to have had. It was an education in an industry I thoroughly enjoyed. It taught me broad concepts like the best career compass is whether or not you’re learning something, and more concrete things like what a CPM is, what the heck a blogstorm is, and how to work with major advertising and marketing stakeholders.

I’m having a hard time figuring out how to end this story. So I’ll leave it at: This is how I got my first job on the Internet. Thanks for reading.

This Happened to Me

Life is made of stories.

John Shankman

Written by

1 Digital World

This Happened to Me

Life is made of stories.

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