Posing, Publishing and Persevering

September 2018

Recommendations for What to Read, Watch and Listen to

Sources: Vanity Fair, Simon & Schuster, Angie’s List



Glam Escapism

We’ve all likely been captivated by photographer Annie Leibovitz’s iconic covers for Vanity Fair—especially the “Hollywood” gatefolds that open up to reveal a dozen dazzling stars. Leibovitz skillfully promotes the myth of celebrity greatness by capturing a painterly quality through soft lighting, rich palettes (often including a smattering of saturated reds), dramatic poses, fluid compositions and a particular concept. The photo shoot is a process … and you can be privy to that undertaking here.

Be sure to watch the bonus video (Behind the Scenes: The Hollywood Issue) where the stars featured on the 2018 cover of Vanity Fair explain how they found their “authentic selves” and, wait for it, actress Nicole Kidman gobbling up insects.


A Story with Legs and ‘Deep Background’

Author and journalist Bob Woodward’s latest tell-all tome, Fear: Trump in the White House, blew the roof off of Simon & Schuster’s 94-year publishing history with the highest first-week sales of any book (1.1 million copies in print, ebook and audio formats). The book also previously broke records for pre-orders and first-day sales. CNBC reports that as of Sept. 18, Fear was in its 10th reprint, according to Simon & Schuster, which will bring the total number of sales to 1.2 million.

Worthy of attention in Fear is the front-of-book page titled, “Note to Readers,” where Woodward explains his sourcing. “Interviews for this book were conducted under the journalist ground rule of ‘deep background.’ This means that all the information could be used but I would not say who provided it.”

As a seasoned writer, Woodward likely knew he’d be challenged on his content and he was. The author maintains that he stands by his reporting, telling NPR he attributes the denials to “political necessity.”

Learn more about how journalists garner and vet information, whether it’s acquired “on the record,” “off the record,” “on background,” or “deep background,” by reading our August blog, “An Easy Solution for Trusting Your News Sources.”


Find Out How Successful Businesses Were Built … Eventually

Seeds for new businesses sprout from necessity, passion and creativity. The podcast series How I Built This with Guy Raz offers spritely interviews with “innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists—and the movements they built.”

Get inspired by tuning into dozens of stories like that of Angie’s List cofounder Angie Hicks who, in 1995 at age 22, went door-to-door selling $19 annual subscriptions to a printed newsletter containing lists of who was good and who wasn’t for home improvement services in Columbus, Ohio. “I used to measure success by one or two memberships a day,” Hicks stated.

After a slow start for the home services referral brand, cofounder Bill Oesterle and Hicks raised $50,000 and acquired a competitor. Hicks relays how she went back to school to earn an MBA at Harvard University and gained perspective, returned to the company as the CMO and was able to open more markets and eventually took the business model online. Angie’s List grew to more than 3 million paid members and operated in most cities. The company now offers free membership and last year it merged with one of its chief competitors, HomeAdvisor.

Raz suggests that Hicks was not incredibly optimistic about the success of this company early on and contemplated packing it in. “When you think about kind of, like, what makes an entrepreneur an entrepreneur? I think … honestly, I think a lot of times, it comes down to perseverance. …People can have the big idea, but many don’t ride it through the hard part and they give it up.”

Business plans can (and should) change as you grow, and that was certainly true for the success of Angie’s List and many of the other companies profiled in this podcast series.

Thank you for reading this.

—Maureen Joyce