David Kirkpatrick

May 13, 2010

Simon & Schuster, Fortune epic fail

I feel for that other David Kirkpatrick. He’s caught in the circular fire of a dying publishing industry. The thrashings of that particular dinosaur aren’t as public or violent as those of the music and entertainment industries, but they certainly aren’t any less dumb.

Read this entire piece for a taste of the soon-to-be-history file.

From the second link:

I carefully wrote the post, taking time to properly format the text from the excerpts (which is a real pain), linking to both the Kindle and hardcover pre-sale versions of the book in the first paragraph, and linking to Fortune twice in the second paragraph. I added a bolded statement“In the meantime, Fortune has access to two excerpts from the book, and this stuff is solid gold.”

In my world, that’s known as a big wet kiss. And at first both Fortune and Kirkpatrick were pleased. 22 minutes after the post was live, Kirkpatrick emailed to thank me. 48 minutes after the post was live, Fortune emailed to say:

Hi Michael, thank you so much for doing such a great post this morning.

But of course no good deed goes unpunished.

Just six minutes after emailing to tell me how great the post was, Fortune emailed again telling me that in fact they had only wanted me to post exerpts of the excerpts, not the whole excerpts:

Michael, I don’t know where there was a miscommunication, but I didn’t offer you to post the entire excerpt, just the first look and to pluck pieces from it. I need you to please take down the entire excerpts and just post pieces of it as we discussed. I gave you the excerpts to select from, but did not offer for you to post our content, I’m sorry if that was unclear. This is now an issue of copy write infringement and I really need your help in taking down the full excerpts and just posting pieces of it. Please contact me as soon as you can to let me know that this is happening.

Uh oh. “copy write infringement.” Sounds serious.

That was just before 6 am on May 6. I had been asleep for two hours. Fortune then called me three times between 6 am and 7:30 am. I woke up each time and thought “Who’s the jerk calling me in the middle of the night?” and went back to sleep without checking.

Another email at 6:03 am:

Michael, I really need your help on this. Again, I need the post to be fixed and you’re welcome to post a few hundred words from each of the excerpts, but I didn’t offer for you to post the entire excerpt. I gave those to you only to choose something to post. I’m sorry if that was a miscommunication, but I wouldn’t give you permission to post all of our content. Please take down the post and edit it to reflect only some quotes. Please let me know as soon as possible who I might reach to make that happen. I really need your help.

A fourth (or maybe fifth) call at 9:46 am finally got me up (after almost 6 hours of sleep, my average). This time it was Dan Roth, the managing editor of Fortune.com.

I returned the call and things got…heated. Roth said it was unreasonable for me to post the entire excerpts, despite the fact that they asked me to, and that it should have been obvious that we could only post excerpts of excerpts. He told me I needed to edit the posts. I declined on the grounds that I was pissed off I was being called so many times and that it would be a ridiculous amount of new work to pick out the right excerpts of excerpts.

He called me unethical. He then called me unprofessional. He demanded that I remove the post entirely. I declined. We hung up.

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