I was joking, of course. As far as I can tell, I remain resolutely employed. However, I was fired from a writing gig once.
‘Give me an Instant Message or I can call you at your convenience’ read the one line email from my editor at ZDNet on the 17th of October 2008 at 9.27pm.
The offer of a phone call seemed ominous. He was based in New York and I was in London, so we never talked on the phone and instead relied entirely on Instant Messaging, which I wasn’t going to change now.
I opened the lid on my laptop, launched iChat, and after typing a few pleasantries, he cut to the chase: ZDNet, whose parent company CNET had only recently been acquired by CBS, was going through some changes.
I was being ‘let go’.
‘Don’t take it personally,’ said the editor, but it was hard not to. For one, I’d just been fired over IM, which I’ve worn as a badge of honour ever since. And given how well we got on, I’d naively assumed that should my ZDNet blog ever be in trouble, I’d be given a heads-up and a chance to put things right.
In reality, though, I only had myself to blame.
Performance-based pay often produces unintended and perverse consequences. In the case of ZDNet’s traffic-driven, tiered payment model, it encouraged me to blog less.
That’s because, after building up more than a year’s worth of archives – older posts that continued to drive traffic – by far the easiest tier to hit was the first, which paid a fairly decent base rate. With a little extra work, the second tier was within reach too, while the numbers required to hit the more lucrative third tier were much harder, so I rarely bothered.
Adhering to blogging tradition, ZDNet allowed parting writers to post a farewell message to readers, although it would take nearly two months for me to find enough motivation to do so.
Unsure of how transparent I should be, I sent my now ex-editor a draft of the post. ‘Don’t be too tough on yourself’, he replied.
A blog network is a bit like a record label. A number of acts are signed, some of which go on to be hits, while others fare less well. After a while those acts that don’t hit the big time leave the label to make room for new talent and the process starts over. That’s the reality of the business end of blogging.
It was a harsh reality, too.
Of course, like most things in life, it all worked out in the end. About a year later, TechCrunch’s Mike Butcher hit me up on Twitter to ask what my blogging rates were. A few days later we met for coffee in Islington and, despite declaring that I’m not an early morning person, he offered me a job
. The rest, as they say, is history.