There's been a ton of buzz—much of it envy-laden—about Laurel Touby in media circles since the $23-million sale of MediaBistro to Jupitermedia was announced last week. Writing in New York, Simon Dumenco thinks the jealousy is misplaced: Touby is actually some kind of mercantile Mensan.
Turns out Touby was, no kidding, a secret business genius. She cornered the market on media-job listings and generated a Learning Annex-esque set of classes with all the can-do sense of possibility contained in women's magazine cover lines ("Writing Travel Guidebooks: Live the Dream: Travel, Write and Get Paid," "Career Reinvention Toolkit," "How to Write Chick Lit"). Meanwhile, Touby was collecting lots and lots of cash from the out-crowd: thousands across the country, in media markets large and small, who pay $49 per year for an annual MediaBistro membership and a piece of the dream.
We actually don't give a damn one way or another; we decided long ago that if you're going to make yourself crazy about whom God decides to give money, you'd be so full of acrimony that you'd never have time for Schadenfreude. Still, "secret business genius"? While we admire her tenacity, and there's something to be said for her ability to extract tiny sums of money from delusional freelancers who might better spend that cash getting themselves into different professions, and then to successfully sell a company whose income is based on customers who have nearly no income themselves, we still sort of think that Laurel just happened to be in the right place at the right time. The fact that she waited fourteen years for that time to come around is, of course, to her credit; maybe Dumenco shouldn't have jumped ship from his old job on the Barry Diller project Very Short List so quickly.