It’s open season for open secrets in the media industry. The New York Times’ Ben Smith took down Carlos Watson’s Ozy Media by simply illuminating (albeit in jaw-dropping fashion, complete with its C.F.O. allegedly impersonating a YouTube executive) the sham puffery of a media outlet without an actual audience—a fact that most people in the media already assumed about Ozy. Then on Friday, The Daily Beast revealed The Wrap boss Sharon Waxman to be an insane bully, who presides over a toxic sweatshop that “degrades” employees. Again, something most of us in Hollywood media knew years ago.
It got me thinking about other open secrets in media. Are you familiar with Hits magazine? It’s a well-read music trade publication, probably third behind Billboard and Pollstar. They cover deals, hirings-and-firings, charts and “innuendo” (their word) with a print magazine and web arm called Hits Daily Double. It’s also pretty well-known in the music business that Hits is pay-for-play, meaning it extracts financial deals with companies to guarantee certain coverage in exchange for money.
Listen, I’m no Pollyanna when it comes to the trade press. Having worked at a trade for more than a decade, I know better than most how it works when the subjects of the articles are also the advertisers/subscribers. Back-scratching and sponsored content are common. Music is particularly incestuous, with a history of payola going back decades.