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She who tells the best story wins.

Must Reads from the New York Times

The Times has had a bunch of goodies recently, two from someone I know, which is a thrill in itself.

How Some Men Fake an 80-Hour Workweek, and Why It Matters: This piece, which ran in the Upshot, is fascinating and something I’ve noticed, in different forms, for a long time. People (who are usually women) who ask for flexibility and other family-friendly accommodations get punished with lower performances reviews. Those who figure out how to get flexibility without asking for it (who tend to be men) are rewarded with flexibility AND higher performance scores. There’s lessons here for people who want to be high performers AND good parents, but I think there are business lessons here, too. Face time doesn’t count: say it with me. Yes, it’s actually harder to measure results than hours, but it’s better for everyone. And leads to overall higher performance.

80-Hour Work Week? This is How She (or He) Does It: KJ Dell’Antonia takes the Upshot piece and builds on it, connecting it to the upcoming book I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam. This book comes out on June 9 and it’s at the top of my dying-to-read list.

My friend Taffy Brodesser-Akner is an extraordinary talent. If you love great writing, follow her. Everything she writes is magical.

Two cases-in-point:

With Drybar, a Curly-Haired Girl Wages a Global War on Frizz: A really fun feature (and one of the few decent business stories I’ve seen in the Times in a LONG time) about the blowout-bar trend. Full of many delicious lines that I won’t ruin for you, but there’s also a great marketing lesson. The founder of Drybar aptly notes that she is NOT selling blowouts (the feature) but is actually selling “happiness and confidence” (the benefit). Genius.

Meanwhile, her profile of Kris Jenner in this weekend’s Magazine is just awesome. And a great lesson about looking around you, figuring out what your resources are and working them.

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iVillage: A Eulogy

Mediabistro reported today that iVillage will be shut down as a standalone site and will be folded into Today.com, and NBC property.

It seems odd now, and maybe even a bit quaint, the idea that you needed a special place on the internet for women. But in 1995 it was Candice Carpenter and Nancy Evans who seemed odd to nearly everyone working in Silicon Alley at the time. Wait, you want to build a website for women?

The idea seemed crazy because no women were on the internet. I don’t remember the numbers and it doesn’t matter, but suffice to say they were low.

But Candice and Nancy had a theory. The theory was simple: women don’t go on the internet because there is nothing there for them. If we build it, they will come.

And come they did. By the thousands and eventually by the millions. Women who wanted to get pregnant, get promoted, get laid, get dinner on the table. The reasons were as varied as their lives, but they found on iVillage things that made it worth the trouble to log on — content, community, commerce. These are still the things that make the internet go ’round. It’s just that they are now available in so many places, in so many varieties. And we now have an entire cohort of girls and women who don’t even remember a time when women didn’t go on the internet.

As a former iVillager (I was there from 1999 until about 2002) I am definitely sad. But can I be a little weirdly happy, too? Happy, at least, that it’s no longer odd that women would want to be on the internet. Happy that we don’t need a “special” place. We’ve taken over the whole damn place. There are still too few of women running the show (cue Sheryl Sandberg), but the influence of women on the internet is unquestioned. If you are building a website today and you aren’t expecting women to visit you are likely building single-shooter games or porn. And maybe not even then.

I was only at iVillage for two years — it will amount to a blip on my CV by the end of my career. But in those crazy go-go years a lot happened, and that job likely changed the trajectory of my career in ways that led, somewhat indirectly, to what I do today. I worked with amazing women (and a few amazing men, too). And through message boards and email I “met” and got to know even more amazing women. They were the true pioneers of the internet — the women who came and shared their lives, their secrets, their longings. Way before everyone shared everything with everyone, these women found a way to truly connect through the computer in ways that never failed to take my breath away.

So good-bye, iVillage. Those of us who knew you, and helped build you, will never forget what you did for us and for so many more. And we can’t help but thank you for the part you played in creating a world that made you obsolete.

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The relationship between offline and online

Two recent articles that are related, at least in my head, around the theme of offline and online interactions.

First, David Carr (NYT media reporter) wrote on Monday about how Amazon “needs” Barnes & Noble. The theory is that while people love e-books and/or books delivered to their door (cheaper/easier) they “discover” content in the physical book store. Interesting note that Amazon sales dipped when Borders went off of business. If books fall out of sight they fall out of mind as well. Part of why I think this is interesting is because it runs a little counter to the theory in “The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson, which, in a nutshell, suggests that online is better for helping content find small audiences since the online shelf space is infinite. Obviously these are two very different kinds of discovering, but opens the question of what the retail world looks like if B&N, and other retailers, fall by the wayside.

Second, from Ad Age: Meredith is going to turn AllRecipes.com into a print publication. For those who aren’t familiar, AllRecipes has been around since the original dotcom boom and is a wildly popular site for, well, recipes. That Meredith is turning this into a print pub is beyond fascinating. It’s just within the last 12-18 mos that both Gourmet and Everyday Food (MSL pub) got shuttered. I still think there is a market for print, it just gets smaller and more niche. Not sure that AllRecipes fits the bill, but will be interesting to watch how they try to make the leap.

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Look Out The Window: Write the Press Release First

Talk about a great way to look out the window! According to this article from Wired, the way to pitch an idea to Jeff Bezos at Amazon was to write a press release. (You only need to read the first three grafs of the Wired piece — the rest is about Amazon’s foray into cloud computing.)

What a brilliant idea this is. Not because press releases are so important (they aren’t, and sometimes aren’t even needed at all.) It’s that the exercise of writing the press release first is the epitome of looking out — rather than in — when evaluating a new idea. It forces you to answer the question: Is this interesting to anyone but us?

I’d love to try this.

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