IT’S A BUYER’S MARKET, AND THEY’RE JUST IN IT. Only three years after 2008 ravaged many a media property, New York’s editorial operations haven’t just thawed, but many are now on a hiring hot streak.
Media companies poaching from one another is—for better or worse—a longstanding tradition. Sometimes it’s routine—we’ll admit, the Observer has always been a farm team for larger publications to draft from—and other times it’s an aggressive, surprising move that can turn acquaintances into rivals, and frost over once warm friendships. These moves could be a routine change-up, or a bust; other times, they can turn the fortunes of downward-trending editorial operations around on their own. But since that thaw started, and media hiring returned—even as many publications continue to work in diminished ranks, and maybe because that’s the case—the field has been especially aggressive.
Hugo Lindgren’s New York Times Magazine all but staged a raid on his former co-workers at New York after he was taken from the hands of Bloomberg Businessweek. The Atlantic lost Andrew Sullivan to The Daily Beast; same with the Washington Post and Howard Kurtz. Reuters took aim at half of the media world, landing (among others) Bethany McLean, Alix Freedman, Geraldine Fabrikant, and then nabbed Jack Shafer when he was barely fresh out of Slate. Grantland went after two on the Deadspin masthead; one singing, pink gorilla later, and they only stole one. Sasha Frere-Jones joins The Daily, raising questions about his ongoing involvement with The New Yorker, only to leave The Daily and answer any and all questions about his involvement with The New Yorker. GQ’s recently taken from The Daily and The New York Times, and tried to take from New York but couldn’t; New York did, however, lose one to Vanity Fair. We’ve taken from The Daily, Salon, New York, and Esquire this year alone, just to name a few.
Some of the questions that have to be answered for in coming up with a serviceable list of Media Poachables were: Who could be hired to make a substantial difference anywhere? Who would we want to hire? Could they even be taken from their current stead? Are their companies vulnerable? Are they bored, underpaid, or underutilized? And frankly: Who has positioned themselves to score a raise, from their current boss, or a potential boss?
That last question’s the hardest, but it’s essential to the equation. So we developed a fairly-but-not-completely arbitrary number to deal with it: the B.P.N. (or Ballpark Poachability Number). It’s an index compiled from salaries known, either of The Poachables’ or those around them, and then from the kind of offer that could get them to budge; not what they’re paid, it’s what they could get paid. It’s basically a glorified, informed guesstimate, or as we prefer to see it, what is commonly refer to as “suggested retail value.” Media Power Recruiters like Meg Gruppo at Condé or Karen Danziger at HSK: This is as close to a Robb Report as you’re going to get.
Despite plenty of eliminations and the mass of people considered, surely, we missed some people, and surely, you’ll let us know about it in the comments. Want to help perfect that B.P.N.? Salaries held, salaries offered, and retention attempts: Give us the numbers.
And of course, if you’re still unsatisfied, we intentionally excluded an entire group of potentially poachable competition. Feel free to shop around some more.
Current Gig: Editor-in-Chief of the Times in-house fashion kinda-glossy, T.
Market Value: Singer's impeccable resume (New York's fashion director, Vogue's fashion news editor, The London Review of Books, Elle, book editor at Farrar Straus & Giroux) landed her the top spot at T last summer, shocking a media world who thought Anne Christensen all but had the gig locked up. Since then, she's made a number of significant poaches from the print-world likes of Vogue and the fashion-world likes of Donna Karen. Under her stewardship over the last year, T has looked less like a stepchild Times supplement meant to grab luxury ad dollars, and more like an accessible, wide-reaching re-discovered asset the Times could've forgotten existed merely a few fashion seasons ago.
Potential Poachers: Anyone who can appeal to a desire for influence and visibility: T may come out fifteen times a year, but it's still hidden in the Times. Marking her down as an heir to the legacies of Anna or Graydon wouldn't be a far reach, but neither would helming those seemingly ubiquitous E-Commerce-as-editorial projects that all those fashion glossies are rolling out. The money's certainly there.
B.P.N.: $350,000 - $400,000.
Current Gig: One of two Executive Editors for Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish, currently housed at Newsweek/The Daily Beast.
Market Value: Since February 2009, Mr. Bodenner has proven himself to be more than a mere right-hand man or editorial assistant: it's his job to help keep the blogging machine that is Andrew Sullivan's indomitable The Daily Dish well-oiled, which involves everything from comprehensive research to penning posts on the blog himself. When Andrew Sullivan took his show from The Atlantic to The House of Tina earlier this year, one of his non-negotiable requirements was a full budget to bring his current staff with him, Mr. Bodenner included.
Potential Poachers: Helping to keep one of the most ubiquitous and prolific political blogs on the internet as relevant and sharp as ever is no easy task; Mr. Bodenner doesn't have top billing, and has proven more than capable of owning one. Anyone looking to establish a political presence that they don't already have (glossies), build out a political blog presence into a more-prolific one (national papers), or simply to hire a top-notch political reporter with management skills (Politico, Salon) would be well-advised to take Mr. Bodenner off of Mr. Sullivan's hands.
[Photo by Matt Lehrer.]
Current Gig: Editorial director at New York magazine.
Market Value: Market value: A long-time New York staffer, the versatile Mr. Hohlt has overseen nearly every section of the city weekly at some point and it leaves us wondering if he's a lifer at this point, or an obvious candidate for the top slot at another publication. Mr. Hohlt's boss, Adam Moss, who took the reins of the magazine in 2004 and steadily promoted Mr. Hohlt, became closer to Mr. Hohlt in 2009 after a falling out with then-editorial director and New York Times Magazine alum Hugo Lindgren (who is now the editor-in-chief of the New York Times Magazine himself.) Mr. Hohlt could be a potential successor to Mr. Moss, but it seems unlikely that New York would promote from within for the top slot. That said, it also seems unlikely that Mr. Moss himself is a New York magazine lifer.
Potential Poachers: GQ, Vanity Fair, The New York Times.
B.P.N: $245,000 - $275,000
Current Gig: Editorial Director, The Hollywood Reporter.
Market Value: We apologize if anyone with the last names Finke or Waxman fall off their chairs upon reading this, but despite Janice Min irking and enraging her Hollywood news competition, The Hollywood Reporter—by reputation, almost forever second-fiddle to Variety— even attracting their ire is a sign of success. That goes without mentioning the quality of the former US Weekly's new look (crisp, clean), new style (a little tabloid-y), and numbers which haven't been this swell in a long, long time.
Potential Poachers: Anyone struggling with a downward-trending brand only need ask themselves: WWJD (What Would Janice Do?) to find the answer to their problems (She'd hire herself). Think less glossy magazines and more struggling news operations. It may be sacrilege to suggest that Ms. Min would ever relocate from Hollywood to the Beltway to attend to the many issues of the Washington Post, but watching her take on the likes of Politico would be one hell of a show.
B.W.I: We originally lowballed her. By about $1.4M. $2.6M? Sounds a little closer.[Thanks, Tipster Nick!]
Current Gig: Editor of the Times Dealbreaker business vertical.
Market Value: If business reporting has a rock star, love him or not, it's Andrew Ross Sorkin, who helped create one of the single most powerful and influential blogs in all of business news, let alone the Times, for whom Dealbook was an early experiment. He made himself a boldface name with Dealbook's coverage of the 2008 crash, along with Too Big to Fail, the book and HBO movie that came after it. What other business journalist could get Jamie Dimon to show up to their book party?
Potential Poachers: Bloomberg could take him away from his recently acquired co-hosting gig on CNBC's Squawk Box. The shiny, spendy Bloomberg Businessweek could simply buy Sorkin's presence into a blog-as-landing-page. And then, of course, there's the Times crosstown competition with the Journal, which would get especially crazed with an attempt to put Sorkin in a top spot, as his reverence for the Times is well documented. Buy Sorkin, and you buy yourself a hyperactive business presence, bottom line. But he won't come cheap. If you're feeling particularly nasty, then think about all the banks who could use a fence-jumping journalist to manage their P.R. They'd make him a gigantic sell-out, but also, an incredibly rich one.
B.W.I:$450,000 - $600,000.
Current Gig: “Creative Director” at TechCrunch.
Market Value: Siegler is currently the strongest voice at tech blog powerhouse TechCrunch, which makes you think that he would be well taken care of by parent company AOL. But after the recent drama that ended with founder Mike Arrington being forced out and columnist Paul Carr flouncing after him, Siegler revealed that Aol failed to reach out to him with any incentive to stay. He’s a born blogger, happy to pound out words with nothing but Apples for sustenance, and, while he has Twitter/Tumblr beefs with some potential poachers (The New York Times, AllThingsD) we can think of a place or two that might make a strong enough offer - complete with a semi-stable editorial structure - to lure him away from his Arianna earn-out.
Potential Poachers: Reuters, Sean Parker's new blog.
Current Gig: Senior Editor, The Atlantic.
Market Value: Alexis might be the new Andrew Sullivan: the guy who’s form (fast, prolific work, often built on in-depth reporting) represents The Atlantic's movement on the infrastructure side: a website and magazine with overlap in identity, offering two distinct, equal products. They still have plenty of other banner names, but he’s clearly a a leader when it comes to mixing tech and whip-smart editorial blackmagick into success (take, for example, his side-project: Longshot Magazine). He is, for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter.
Potential Poachers: The New Yorker, Wired Magazine, The New York Times.
Current Gig: Senior Vice President of Content, BlackBook Media.
Market Value: Since joining BlackBook in 2008, the onetime Gawker editor has seen a historically shaky vanity property from a magazine that released the occasional guidebook through the building of a web site, the build-out of a globe-spanning online guides/listings business, and the integration of both into a powerhouse mobile app/advertorial development shop that's hooked clients like Gucci, Bravo, and The CW, among others. The magazine still comes out regularly, the web site still publishes, and the guides are still updated, and this happens via a sparse single-digits full-time editorial staff (which has almost completely turned over) and an army of freelancers. And yet: he's universally loved by his employees—try to find one who won't agree—and continues to exist as a sentient human being.
Potential Poachers: Pretty much anyone in need of new management on anything from news editorial operations to brand development and expansion through digital operations, or anyone in need of the kind of person who can single-handedly bridge the otherwise Babel-esque divides between editorial, sales, and tech. Think "publicly traded companies." The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, or Yahoo could all make for potential suitors.
Current Gig: Staff Writer at Grantland.com, Bill Simmons' new site for ESPN.
Market Value: Ms. Baker's a triple-threat of sports, finance, and culture: the former Goldman Sachs analyst who penned Gawker's Altarcations column under the radar during her time there is a woman whose target topics transcend gender divides. If they don't, she'll make 'em (just ask her following, part of the reason Grantland aggressively pursued her away from the comfort of a gig at Goldman and the home field advantage of Deadspin).
Potential Poachers: Internet-savvy columnists seem to be the rage these days (for example: GQ's already published Deadspin's Tommy Craggs and Drew Margary, along with a profile of A.J. Daulerio). Anyone who wants to help build a brand out of a writer could do well to pick up Ms. Baker—The Atlantic's pretty good at that—but then again, her status as a triple-threat would make her a BUY for the likes of DealBook (if they really wanted to expand their purview) or The Wall Street Journal.
B.W.I: $150,000 - $185,000. She might be a writer, but we heard picking her up from Goldman cost ESPN a pretty penny.
Current Gig: Editor, Lifehacker
Market Value: Jason Chen cut his teeth at Gawker Media's fast-paced gadget worshipping site Gizmodo, where he famously got his hands on an unreleased iPhone 4 months before its announcement date, and infamously endured a police raid on his home and computers in the aftermath. About a year later, he switched from obsessing over gadgets over to geek-lifestyle blog Lifehacker, where he now gets to inform everyone about the ways to use the latest Facebook changes. We wonder if he doesn't miss checking out the new toys. Pros: He's quick on the keyboards and quick to the stories, and, if you're looking for someone loyal to the cause, keep in mind that this guy will have his door broken down for you.
Potential Poachers: The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, basically any place that needs a jolt of bloggy energy in its tech coverage
B.W.I:$80,000 - $95,000
Current Gig: Staff Writer for Culture at The Daily.
Market Value: The Robert Christagu-mentored Mr. Baron was around for the worst of the Village Voice layoffs and cutbacks, which he saw from the desk of a staff writer and then associate senior editor, before finally leaving at the web editor desk. He's an arts omnivore, a gumshoe reporter, and a consistently well-regarded writer.
Potential Poachers: The Daily's seen quite a bit of turnover since it opened shop, and even though he just arrived, arts editor Sasha Frere-Jones's departure might help motivation to move elsewhere, not that the suitors who should be scooping him up (the Times arts desk, the ramped-up hiring force of GQ, The New Yorker, a growing web presence at The Paris Review) are anything to write off.
B.W.I: $115,000 - $135,000.
Current Gig: Editor, GQ.com.
Market Value: The former Vibe and eMusic editor has managed editorial operations and online gigs, sure, but a cursory look at his freelance work explains why GQ was so eager to pick him up: is there anything the man can't write about and make universally appealing?
Potential Poachers: Web editing gigs at glossies always sound more glamorous than they actually are (one Vanity Fair web editor barely lasted a month). Sean Fennessey's a shortstop GQ put in right field: it's an essential position requiring someone entirely proficient, yet GQ’s website (increasingly geared towards things like a recently-launched partnership with Gilt Groupe, Park & Bond) doesn't do him justice when the stellar music writer should be penning, say, things like the Rick Ross profile senior editor Devin Friedman wrote for this month’s issue. The Times or New York could build a following around Fennessey, quite easily at that. Grantland could make a play for him, too.
B.W.I: $140,000 - $160,000.
Current Gig: Managing Editor for News at The Daily
Market Value: Nizza's resume easily explains why Murdoch gladly picked Mike off the market for The Daily: editor-in-chief at AOL pre-Arianna, senior editor at The Atlantic, homepage editor at the New York Times. The guy's a technological dynamo who's worked in development situations with a strong journalism background.
Potential Poachers: The Daily has never not been poachable simply because of the way it's structured: if you don't own an iPad, you can barely read it. And people in the news business love them some influence, innovation factors aside. Nizza could be of value to a banner brand looking to bring in fresh blood as familiar with online ops as the way a strong edit newsroom should run (Wired, for example). Or an online-only operation looking to grow substantially who needs a manager capable of coordinating double to triple-digit staffs.
B.W.I: $250,000 - $300,000.
Current Gig: Senior Writer at GigaOm.
Market Value: This affable Canadian is fluent in the languages of both media and technology, a skillset that is rapidly gaining value. We think he’d do very well at a place that allows him to showcase his knowledge of the media world and embrace of the future of technology, yet one that allows him to hang out on the lake all day long.
Potential Poachers: Poynter, PaidContent.
B.P.N.: $80,000-$95,000. American Dollars, ideally.
Current Gig: Editor, Eater New York.
Market Value: Finding a replacement for founding Eater editor Ben Leventhal when he parted with the site for NBC could not have been easy. Skepticism from commenters and other bloggers who hinted at Eater's shark-jumping moment have since been corrected: Ms. Kludt eventually took over the editorship and has remained with the site since. In that time, Eater has scaled with national sites and several local sites, and the New York editon continues to be read universally in the service industry (it was even name-dropped on an episode of Treme last season).
Potential Poachers: How Ms. Kludt hasn't already been stolen from the clutches of Lockhart Steele is a testament to a good boss and a solid gig. Someone would have to present her with the freedom that Eater does—that rules out many a corporate-owned property—and a pay grade to more than match. Also, the ubiquity. A top spot at a food magazine, a food television network, and at the risk of sounding totally unorthodox, maybe even that recently-departed spot at the Times? The grass is pretty green where she is, but the world may well be Ms. Kludt's yet-to-be-shucked oyster.
B.W.I: $110,000 - $135,000.
Current Gig: Deputy Editor, Business Insider.
Market Value: Fire Joe Weisenthal! they cried day in and day out, but B.I. honcho Henry Blodget was smart to ignore his ever-vicious commentariat. Weisenthal—up every day around 4 A.M. to stat churning out news about far-away markets, unstoppable and constantly posting until the day's end—might as well have a "publish" button where his index finger is. However you feel about it, Weisenthal sets the maddeningly furious pace of Business Insider, and has won over some otherwise unwinnable comment-leaving creatures in the process.
Potential Poachers: Any one of Business Insider's top lieutenants would be a loss for Henry Blodget, but Weisenthal would be an especially hard hit, which makes him a difficult poach. No matter: anybody looking to provide more inventory or simply to shift the pace of a news operation would be downright negligent to not look at hiring Joe. Traditional business publications? Not so much, but Joe's a one-man news wire who can sell a story like no other. It's a freak talent and a rare find.
B.P.N: $135,000 - $155,000.
Current Gig:Managing Editor, AdWeek.
Market Value: The Observer alumnus and once-Politico media and style editor was a curious hire for Michael Wolff when it was announced that he'd be renovating the brand: Not because she's an experienced, sharp editor revered by her writers. Or because she was at a pretty stable gig (Politico). Hillary's the nicest! Michael 'I Don't Care If You're Dying of ALS, You Still Suck' Wolff, well, is not. And as his tenure remaking an entire brand supposedly comes to a close, it's worth noting that Michael Wolff has yet to be bludgeoned by Hillary, who helped the Michael Wolff Show run at AdWeek for as long as it did.
Potential Poachers: Any group of people losing a leader are often ripe for the picking, unless they're put in charge of the tribe first. Given that they hired Wolff, they're probably not smart enough to put Hillary Frey in charge, but maybe a growing news operation, or a joint where young writers need to be grown are viable options. There's always Capital New York, run by her former Observer colleagues and grown-up mentees, who'd no doubt be glad to see her.
B.W.I: $150,000 - $175,000.
Current Gig: Staff Writer at The Village Voice.
Market Value: A top-shelf investigative reporter, Rayman broke The NYPD Tapes story wide open—which included everything from cops harassing other cops, illegal stop-and-frisks, and the downgraded of reported crimes—after other news outlets passed on the story and then piggybacked on his work. Rayman is a nose-to-the-grindstone, fearless, old-school talent.
Potential Poachers: As Village Voice Media continues to lay staffers off nationally and in the wake of the Voice's bulldog news vets (Wayne Barrett and Tom Robbins) being ousted in December, he wouldn't be a hard steal and would most definitely draw much-needed blood from the Voice. Editors gunning for that Pulitzer-winning series could use a Graham Rayman in their stable wherever the big story is, whether it's at a nationally-read daily (The New York Times) or a weekly in need of busting something wide open (New York, Newsweek, Rolling Stone).
B.W.I: $90,000 - $125,000.
Current Gig: Editor, Dealbreaker.
Market Value: Dealbreaker was around before Bess Levin, but it was she who amassed a rabid following (and one of the consistently funny and sharpest group of commenters on any site, anywhere) that makes Dealbreaker the must-read Wall Street gossip sheet that it is today. Bess' tips line is unlike any other: salacious details on the personal lives and inside workings of Wall Street, but not without substantial news breaks about the inner-workings of everyone from monolithic investment banks to the most shadowy of black box hedge funds. Who else could get David Einhorn to play poker with them?
Potential Poachers: Anyone who wants to create a finance vertical, or give the one they have a marked uptick in relevance, and increase the likelihood of scooping the competition in the process. She's written for New York before—not a bad fit—but buyer beware: it hasn't happened yet, and this paper was unsuccessful in pulling Levin aboard once before. That said, Dealbreaker brought on a new writer to work alongside Bess—Goldman Sachs expat Matt Levine, who's slowly winning over Dealbreaker's hostile, unforgiving crowd. She's also humored the (unlikely) idea of selling out, but Bess doesn't seem one for a job lacking in the kind of fun she's alchemized into an undeniable success. CNBC can be fearless in their talent acquisition; just ask Dealbreaker alum John Carney, who runs their NetNet blog now.
B.W.I: $110,000 - $130,000.
Current Gig: Technology reporter for the New York Times.
Market Value: Jenna Wortham joined the Times from Wired two years ago and since quickly become one of their top technology bylines. Which was great for the Times tech desk, as that was around the time they started bleeding talent to places like Bloomberg and Fortune. She’s well-sourced, well-liked, and well versed within the tech community, and, unless the sieve-like reputation of the Times tech desk has been fixed, we think that the talented Ms. Wortham would be the next name on any editor’s wishlist. If you need a bonus reason—not that you do—but this is worth noting: she recently co-published a 'zine—Girl Crush—with contributions from the likes of Pulitzer Prize-winner Jennifer Egan.
Potential Poachers: The Atlantic, Vogue.
Current Gig: Staff Writer, Lead Blogger on Runnin' Scared.
Market Value: The former Radar managing editor joined the Voice last Spring, and has since been instrumental in making Runnin' Scared a destination-blog for metro news and attracting the accolades of many (the New York Times, for one) and helping to bring home back-to-back Alternative Weekly Awards for the last two years. She's also helped put some eye-grabbing features in the paper, such as her much-discussed "The Plight of the Single Lady cover story from February.
Potential Poachers: With a background in magazine work, Doll could always go back to the glossies for a gig in staff writing or front-of-book editing; what's more likely is her recruitment in a managerial capacity for helping a daily web presence move forward, or at least distinguish itself with a voice (pun unintended). Anyone from the next xoJane to NY1 to Elle and back, and a Jezebel for good measure: take your pick. With those aforementioned layoffs across the company aside from typical turnover, the Voice remains ripe for harvesting.
B.P.N.: $70,000 - $95,000.
Current Gig: Sports Columnist, Wall Street Journal.
Market Value: Gay's done tours of duty at GQ, Rolling Stone, and the Observer, and yet, seems perfectly happy penning his Journal column on sports, from the hysterically funny (he once wrote a sonnet to the Meadowlands from the perspective of the rats that infest it) to the touching and heartwarming (he recently took his father to the U.S. Open with him), proving Gay's ever-underrated status as a clutch, utility writer.
Potential Poachers: The New York Times Magazine, ESPN, and separately, Grantland.
B.W.I: $135,000 - $165,000.
Current Gig: Contributing Editor at The Daily.
Market Value: With two books under her, a decent cut of her writing anthologized, and bylines everywhere from the Times to Foreign Policy to Forbes, Harper's, and then some, Ms. Eaves has more than proven adept at handling whatever task comes her way, or that she goes after. She recently backed away from her duties at The Daily a la Sasha Frere-Jones, but the multitasker isn't one to stay dormant for long.
Potential Poachers: Vanity Fair, New York, Monocle.
B.W.I: $130,000 - $140,000.
Current Gig: Media Writer, AdWeek.
Market Value: Early on, Mr. Byers had had the uncomfortable task of taking on AdWeek boss Michael Wolff's sworn enemies and obsessions (like, for example, Observer editor Elizabeth Spiers and in an oddly hypersexualized context, the New York Times' Virginia Heffernan). Yet: he's proven a formidable media reporter, breaking big scoops on departures and arrivals that end up at the center of media gossip throwdows (most recently, he was first to the news about Slate laying off Jack Shafer, and got the first interview, too).
Potential Poachers: We've seen with our own eyes a certain Gawker Media publisher court Mr. Byers and joke (or not) about hiring him. Denton likes 'em fearless. We've give Dylan that. Anyone looking to hire a scrappy media reporter, well, them too. Howard Kurtz, he is not.
B.W.I: $72,500 - $77,500.
Current Gig: Politics Blogger, Slate.
Market Value: After laying off the likes of Jack Shafer and Tim Noah, clearly anyone from Slate is easy pickings. Right now, it’s basically the web equivalent of a game reserve. Weigel’s well-regarded namesake blog and multiple appearances on MSNBC has brought his name up to nationally recognizable levels, making his notorious JournoList scandal-tinged past at the Washington Post all but a distant memory. With forthcoming election seasons, it's not hard to imagine outlets looking to stock up on guys like Weigel.
Potential Poachers: Reuters, The Huffington Post, The Atlantic.