Turning Down ISIS And Taking On The Man



David Carr (left) and Shane Snow 


On Tuesday night as part of the Fringe happenings around the Web Summit, Le Cool Dublin and Pilcrow presented Spiel in CKSK with David Carr, the savvy New York Times media correspondent and Shane Snow, the co-founder of the start-up Contently which bridges “connections between 24,000 freelance journalists and media brands”.

Selected Highlights:

David Carr on tech people

“Sometimes it’s obnoxious, you get trapped in an elevator with someone who wants to show you their app and its sort of the equivalent of somebody showing you their penis, you don’t really want to look and you wish they wouldn’t whip it out….It’s a battle for oxygen and for attention, and, sometimes I worry that, I get 400 emails in my inbox and maybe the next Steve Jobs is in there somewhere. I just can’t tell, it’s overwhelming.”

David Carr on the Web Summit founders

“They are, you know, they’re lovely young men and charming to be around, but they’re, they’re fucking gangsters. They… cause, I think it was two years ago where Shane Smith and I, the guy who runs Vice, we had some antagonism that showed up between us in this documentary [The Front Page], a bit of a rapprochement underway and, I think it was Daire [one of the founders] who called me and said that Shane’s gonna be at F.ounders or maybe at Summit, I forget which, and – F.ounders is this smaller group within a bigger group – and Shane said he’d very much like to be interviewed by you, and I showed up and said to Shane I heard you wanted to talk to me’ and he said, ‘no, I heard you wanted to talk to me’, and I just looked at Daire and I said, ‘Hey, nicely played, way to go’ – that’s how it happens.”

Shane Snow on the Web Summit

“Yeah well for the first Summit, I went to this smaller event in New York and how they got me is they showed me the list of people who were coming, and it turns out they were showing that same list to other people but with my name on it, and they basically got us to all come because the other people that were going. I didn’t know who this [Summit founder] Paddy [Cosgrave] guy was and I didn’t know, like, anything about it, I just saw these other people who, of course they had not yet committed, and I had not yet committed, but it was this weird, sort-of, I don’t know, almost like a Ponzi scheme for an event. But it worked! And the point was – I mean the Summit guys are great guys it turns out, but I didn’t know or care about them, but, uh, being able to meet with these other people was interesting to me, and it turns out to them too, and I think it’s that meeting of the minds thing…“

Shane Snow on Contently being approached to represent ISIS

“So, a couple of years we had this sales guy who would always bring us great deals and this salesguy of ours came and he was really excited about this seven-figure deal that he had dropped up, these guys from the Republic of Syria, from Syria, who had some wealthy backers and wanted to get — basically, they came and they said, there was a lot of news going on inside of Syria that we think the rest of the world needs to know and should be public, and we want to create a new site where we can basically tell our version of the story, and these were rebels, that were fighting against this evil regime in Syria, that we’re pretty sure turned into ISIS, and, uh, so basically, ISIS wanted to contract Contently and Contently writers to basically create propaganda for them, and we said ‘No’. I was, we were worried about, because it was a tumultuous situation going on in Syria at the time, no one knew what was going on, but, we asked ourselves ‘Do we want to get into the business of political propaganda, even, like no matter who, like, the good guys and bad guys are, and we took it to the Board and the Board, our Board was like ‘Well, you know, it seems like it’s okay’, and I said ‘No, I don’t think so’, and uh, and so I was really nervous about it and we eventually didn’t end up doing the deal, and yeah, it turns out, they…”

David Carr: “I’ve interviewed you on the record like four times and you never fucking said a word about that – ‘We’re a journalism site and we once got approached by a brand that one of the tenets is that it’s OK to behead journalists’ … does that seem like a good story to you?”

SS: “See, I mean, I think had we taken that deal and even if, like at the time, it seemed like maybe these rebels are like good, or whatever, we’d be screwed, like our business would be gone, right? The internet would find out and then it would be over. So, maybe ‘Discontently’ launches and they do that, but I don’t think in the long run that’s a good business.”

David Carr on the Irish

“The other thing is, it collides with, tropes about Irish national character, I think, in interesting ways, you know the Irish can bring the cloud with them, and I don’t mean the one we store data in, I mean the one where the bummer is stored where there’s… Ireland’s been through some significant economic bumps and you can, after a while, think that the narrative is, is one of constant struggle, which is a theme of Irish history, but then you’re surrounded by all this hopefulness and energy and you know, we all contain multitudes as do countries and you know, sometimes talking to Irishmen is like talking to [perpetually downtrodden donkey] Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh… but then you meet some people and they’re prime to take over the world, and making a kind of joyful, happy noise and it’s tough to resist.”

David Carr’s words of advice to those in attendance at the summit.

“My thing is, like I’m still staring in disbelief that—I do the mental exercise that ‘what would would it take for me on a nice night in Dublin to go into a basement and listen to people talk about journalism?’, and my answer was, ‘nothing’, nothing would work. So, what I decide is that some of you must be on the career path of journalism, and some of you must be students, but, other than [Le Cool Dublin publisher] Michael’s fundamental magnetism, the fact that Le Cool is so cool, there’s that too! But there’s got to be some journalism nerds out there, and I would just say to you guys that, um, the whole lesson – I’ve been teaching a class in Boston, in Boston University, one day a week, I had Brian Stelter, my former colleague, yesterday I had Shane Snow and Tony Haile of Chartbeat, and this really arcs more towards the Summit.

But this whole thing about bitching about the man and waiting for the opportunity, is just bullshit. The tools of the insurgency and production are at the ends of your hands, and it behoves you to make things, and the whole thing about ‘I’m really having trouble about this story’ or ‘I’m really having trouble with the’—it’s like, ‘fucking type some more’.

the solution of writer’s block or creator’s block is to continue the activity until it’s good, and I don’t think it’s a good idea to wait until, like, Shane’s first crack at Contently wasn’t the right answer or a good idea, but every start-up has pivots, pivot pivot pivot, until they end up on a runway of something people actually need, so, what you think you’re doing is not always what you’re doing, but you should continue to do it, it’s the activity that matters… there isn’t a lot of genius floating around in culture, what will set you apart I think is industriousness and willingness to stick to it, and so that’s my sort-of old-man talk.”

*attempts pivot*

 Spiel At Web Summit

Picture: Con O’Donoghue

Thanks Ross McDonnell (for the transcript) James Kelleher and Michael Le Cool

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19 thoughts on “Turning Down ISIS And Taking On The Man

  1. Patrick O'Dea

    Huge fan of David Carr. I hadn’t realised he was over in Dublin. Will he be popping up at any other events?

  2. Patrick O'Dea

    Huge fan of David Carr. I hadn’t realised he was over in Dublin. Will he be popping up at any other events?

  3. aviato

    -OK, so this is it, right? A lot of successful start-ups launched with a different business model, and when they ran into trouble, they pivoted to something new.
    Like Instagram.
    That was a location-based check-in service when it started.
    And then they pivoted.
    Or Chat Roulette, OK, that was social media, and then they pivoted to become a playground for the sexually monstrous.
    We just need a new idea, something that people want.
    Right? We can pivot, too.
    – Dude, you are fucked up right now.
    – Yeah, you’re pinning bad.
    -Well, I’ll admit, I’m sleep-challenged.
    I just spent four days trapped in a steel box out on an oil rig full of robot-forklifts.
    So, that was hard, but I’m back.
    I am recovering and I am focused and we’re gonna pivot.
    Don’t lose faith, guys.
    All right, look at me.
    Look at me.
    Look at me.
    We’ve got a great name.
    We’ve got a great team.
    We’ve got a great logo, and we’ve got a great name.
    Now we just need an idea.
    Let’s pivot! Let’s pivot!
    -That might be the last time we see him alive.

    (Jared freaking out at web summit 2016 from Silicon Valley ep.8)

  4. John E. Bravo

    This line is Finnegans Wake-esque it’s so overloaded: “On Tuesday night as part of the Fringe happenings around the Web Summit, Le Cool Dublin and Pilcrow presented Spiel in CKSK with David Carr”

  5. endasboy

    I know it wasn’t the point of it but “a playground for the sexually monstrous” made me laugh.

  6. Clampers Outside!

    Myself, I prefer to oscillate, like a monkey with a tablet in a tire swing trying to take a picture of an inebriated venture capitalist passed out on the ground. It’d be funny too, if only I could send you a picture but the wifi is down.

    * puts tablet down, steps off ‘the oscillator’ and approaches camera. Winds up middle finger and speaks – “pivot this” *

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