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Apr. 8 2010 - 5:33 pm | 190 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

Ode to True/Slant: First year of a news startup in rhyme

One single year has come and gone
Since the Alpha launch of trueslant.com
Launches tend to be crazy, that’s the default
Ours was no exception courtesy of Mossberg-comma-Walt

But let me back up, start with some history
Of how True/Slant first came to be
LD had the idea, he needed a check
He got the first round with a powerpoint deck

Whiteboard'ing

We sat in an office;  year 2008, month July
Just three of us then: Lewis, Coates and I
In the back right corner we commandeered our space
Our office christened once the whiteboard was in place

We talked, we drew, we diagrammed and graphed
We walked to the corner for lunch at ‘Wich Craft
We posted on Techcrunch for a CTO
Enter SMcNally; he had us at “Hello”

Like speed-dating we interviewed for UI and Design
Surely we met with at least eight or nine
Then James rolled in, the last one to show
With his Williamsburg skinny jeans and glasses; he had us at “No”

He was smart and clear but he did not hob-nob
J argued back.  As LD says, “That’s what got you the job.”
With the Athletes on board we could really begin
The beat was on: No Sleep Til Brooklyn

During this time I came to realize
A VC’s Fred Wilson was very nearby
Up one floor, in fact, and me a big fan
That’s how my Fred Wilson Watch began

All the while Steve and Roger were building the site
And we’re all trying to find a name that’s just right
Conjuring up legends like Whitney and Bellows and more
If “News is more than what happens” what name’s on the door?

We saw True/Slant as a choice, LD banged on the desk
“That’s it, we’re done, put the other names to rest.”
And that’s how it happened and so it was done:
True/Slant is our brand.  Our contributors, Brands of One.

Around this time our four became five
As Michael joined to juke and jive
We were gathering contribs, and testing and trying
With steady releases, each one on time (I’m not lying)

We bent Wordpress to our will with a tech coup d’etat
Much like Stefani Germanotta transformed into Lady Gaga
Dave helped us with budgets and biz plans and such
He spun out models that had us blinking, thinking, “Excel much?”

Budgets and Board Meetings and then – Office Move
From Union Square down to a Soho groove
In between, though, a moment from startup school of hard knocks
Several weeks in a cramped-tiny-windowless-temp-office we called The Box

The Box

The new place finally ready, all big windows and fresh air
On a startup budget, though, so Michael didn’t get his comfortable chair
It was February 2009 now, True/Slant had been a closed site during construction
We were still in Alpha but ready for our public introduction

Our Soho digs

We thought we’d launch quietly, just unlock the door
But then something happened that we didn’t account for
Lewis met with Walt Mossberg just to show him the site
And Walt Mossberg decided about us he’d write

We figured his schedule would be tied up through May
Then word came back – April 8th – less than two weeks away (!!)
We were not at all prepared but OMG what a great get
So when Walt asked if we’d be ready, we calmly said “Yes, of course. You bet.”

Then we all raced around:  Tell contributors! Check load balancers! More servers!!
There was so much to do in 10 days of great fervor
Walt said we must be ready by 8pm on April 8th
There was blood, sweat and fear but we kept the faith

April 8th, it turns out,  also Passover’s first night
As we led True/Slant from desert to light
LD brought in dinner from Dean & DeLuca
Matzoh, kugel and some brisket we could nuke-a

I’ll remind you, Walt said “Be ready at 8″
Translation: “Come hell or high water on this rests your fate”
At 7:30 — 7:30! –  a server crashed like the 11th Plague
SMcNally & team battled it into submission, pulling a quick Al Haig

We all held our breath for the moment to arrive
Then it happened: Walt Mossberg published his review and True/Slant was live
We toasted with scotch thinking of all we had done
Knowing full well at that moment we had really just begun

While Mossberg’s headline said “True/Slant Revolutionizes Reporting”
Less than 24 hours later someone else called us “boring”
65 Entrepreneurial Journalists had joined at the start
One year later, 300+ are changing the state of this art

And boring? That’s a slant some might say sticks
But we get more than 1 million UVs each month according to Google Analytics
Every day for a year there was something we learned
Helped along recently by Drew, our Bain extern

We launched Live  Streams, Alerts, Tracking Comments as they appear,
T/S Suggests, Facebook Connect and Ad Slants (more on slants here)
We’ve worked under the hood to keep it all running
Battling bugs and gremlins with single-minded cunning

We’ve had bumps in the road, of course that’s true
But while newspapers are crumbling we’ve thrived thanks to you
And to all of our contributors, too many to name
Who believed in T/S and jumped into the game

Now forgive us a moment as we name-drop some
Board members Tim Forbes, Allen Debevoise and Ross Levinsohn
Special mention goes out to one Jon Miller so tall
Who had to step off our board to answer Rupert Murdoch’s call

We can honestly say working with our board was a breeze
Mostly because they let us do as we please
It’s worked out pretty well, with nary a flub
And we did it all without dropping two grand on a bondage-themed club

Three hundred and sixty-five days ago
True/Slant met the world, the world said hello
We’ve come a long way but there’s more in the plan
We see the future of news: entrepreneurial journalists and their brands

We know where we’re going, we aim to astound
If that sounds good to you, ping us – we’re raising our second round


Comments

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  1. collapse expand

    You’re even more talented than I realized, which is saying something. Congratulations to the five of you (only five?– jeebus). And Andrea, I promise to buy you a beer the next time I’m in town, assuming I actually get to see you.

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    About Me

    Spent the first half of my career in television, the second half in digital media. Worked mostly at companies with triangle logos: Fox Television and AOL. Covered the serious and the sensational at A Current Affair. Created online and mobile content, products and communities at AOL. A few startups and now, happily, Chief Product Officer for True/Slant. And let's not forget that "AOL after Dark" project...

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