How to Survive New York’s Media Industry

newyorknight-260I came to New York to work in media a decade ago and there’s no other place I’d rather do business. Each morning I step off my commuter train I feel invigorated about being in the big leagues, competing at the highest level. I’ve learned a lot after a decade working in the city, from the big stuff to the minutiae. Here are ten hard won tips:

1. New York is money. America is unusual in that its center of business (New York) is separated from its center of government (Washington, DC). As a result, New York is almost exclusively focused on commerce. People and companies are measured here by how much money they make. Everything else is secondary.

2. New York is a meritocracy. More so than most places, New York really doesn’t care where you came from or who you know. All it wants to know is if you can perform.

3. Clients, not customers. Unlike Silicon Valley where companies have “customers” and “users,” New York prefers to have “clients.” It’s a subtle but important difference: New York still operates based on relationships and service.

4. Answer the bell. My first few years in New York I worked at a large media agency. I saw how the buy and sell side of the industry operated, including a lot of late nights out with sales reps. No matter how late you stay out you must answer the bell the next morning. A hangover is no excuse not to show up for work!

5. Be direct. If you’re a salesperson make your pitch quickly. In person sales meetings should last 30 minutes or less. Better still, do them in 20 minutes and offer to give the buyer back 10 minutes of their time. If they’re interested they’ll ask you to stay.

6. Failure is failure. Unlike startup cities like San Francisco or Boulder, New York doesn’t really tolerate failure. While this makes it more painful to be an entrepreneur, it goes with the territory. New York has always been a tough place.

7. Startups are just one industry. Startups are still probably just the 6th or 7th best way to make money in New York. Accordingly, if you’re a founder don’t expect a lot of media attention unless you’re (1) exceptionally interesting, (2) making tons of money or (3) just sold your company for a billion dollars.

8. Take the subway. Cabs are for tourists or for when you’re out late. Otherwise, be like Mayor Bloomberg and take the subway to work and meetings.

9. Creativity has a new address. New York’s creative class now lives in Brooklyn, not Manhattan. If you need to hire designers, writers or engineers, consider putting an office in Dumbo, Williamsburg, or Greenpoint so they can bike or walk to work.

10. Evolve. Have you ever noticed how few people over the age of 40 work in advertising? If you want to work in media for awhile expect to pivot your career at least a few times. You must adapt to each successive wave of technology if you want to stick around.