Nine floors above Times Square, J.T. Farley, managing editor of UpsideFN.com, sits in a slightly ill-fitting blue pinstripe suit that’s perhaps too old for him, adjusting the volume on the JBL speakers at his computer to give an example of the kind of broadcasts that can be heard on the new online radio portal. As caterers pass around the last of the hors d’oeuvres at the tail end of a January 11 launch party that now includes one outside guest, this reporter, the leftover staff starts closing up the spare office. In the midst of CNN specials and magazine covers mining the mother lode of dead dotcoms, Farley and his coworkers are optimistic. They must be completely insane.
“Fortunately, we’re launching at the bottom of the business cycle,” he says with a shrug, in a statement that rings of aching desperation for a sensible answer to questions of doubt.
Farley contends that UpsideFN, the Web radio offshoot of tech-business magazine Upside, is humming all the right mantras: foresight, patience, responsibility. “The days are over when you can operate on a wing and a prayer and a bunch of stock options,” he says. “Before we ramp up, we want to make sure the ad dollars are there.” In the meantime, the company is counting on other money streams to tide it over until profit flows in, sources like revenue sharing with content and e-commerce partners, syndication of broadcasts, plus the generous backing of David Bunnell, Upside’s outspoken CEO.
None of the Upsiders are beginners. Besides staffers with extensive business journalism credentials, there are workers from across the dotcom spectrum, including one refugee from Pseudo. Farley served as a senior producer and news editor for CNBC in Hong Kong and Singapore before he went Upside in October. What’s good about working at a small dotcom in an era of massive breakdown? The promise of control and the chance to put your own spin on Internet business plays. “There’s an irreverence to our tone, a freshness to our tone that you just don’t see,” he says, in the favored jargon of a typical start-up.
In an industry where seasoned yetties—young entrepreneurial technocrats—schedule their vacation plans around impending firings, speaking in tired clichés may be the best way to stay upbeat. “The old economy is the new economy,” Farley says. Get ready.