Shane Snow

CCO, Contently

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON January 22, 2016

Discussion

shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
Hi, Shane here. I'm a journalist and entrepreneur and bestselling author of Smartcuts (http://sha.ne/Smartcuts), and the Chief Creative Officer of Contently, which I co-founded in 2010 with the mission of "building a better media world." My writing has appeared in Fast Company, Wired, The New Yorker, and dozens more top publications. GQ once called my work “Insanely addicting”—though I wish they had been talking about my abs ;). Ask away!
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
Hey Shane! At risk of getting too deep. I read Smarcuts around 15 months ago, finished it then read it again straight away, then wrote notes on each chapter. I surprised myself. But it was one of those books that really opened my eyes and made me think. It honestly changed my way of thinking, I quit the job I was at, moved back in with my parents, launched a site and now I work for Product Hunt :) How did the book change the way you think about things? What do you do differently now that you didn't do before the book?
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@bentossell Holy crap! That's amazing, and the best feedback an author could hope to get. Congratulations. I love ProductHunt, btw. To answer your questions: 1) When I started skateboarding in high school, suddenly every parking lot and staircase looked like a skate park. It's sort of the same thing with lateral thinking—and specifically a lot of the myths that the research I dug into dispel. I think I call BS on myself and my colleagues a lot more when we say "That's not how we do things" or "Let's set a realistic goal" or "He/She needs more experience" etc. So I probably have become more annoying. :) 2) I go through the exercise of asking myself "What if I had to do this 10x better?" or "If I were going to build a competitor that would destroy this project/company/etc, what would I do?" These kind of step-back-and-self-question exercises are so useful. Also, I guess I travel a lot more places than before (to speak about the book). Ain't ever been to Hong Kong til Smartcuts. Now I'd love to move there. :) The real question is: Are you still living with your parents? Free rent FTW!
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@shanesnow I bought an apartment ;) so no free rent, instead I pay a mortgage But THIS IS MY JOB, so have zero to complain about!
Jonny Miller@jonnym1ller · Cofounder @Maptia
@shanesnow I just finished Smartcuts, kudos for the great writing and I always appreciate it when an author takes the time to read their own audiobook! What were the biggest takeaways or surprises for you personally when writing the book? And secondly, were there any other examples of smart cuts that didn’t make the final edit?
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@jonnym1ller Thanks for the kind words! Narrating the audio was so awkward. :) I initially set out to write a book about fast-growth technology companies, and the big surprise for me was the pattern of thinking common to people and companies who make breakthroughs across history and outside of tech was the same: lateral thinking. So the book was about charting some specific patterns of lateral thinking strategy, but there's certainly a lot of specific tactics that I didn't include. Speaking of which, I recently broke down one tactic in this checklist: http://www.shanesnow.com/blog/20...
Jonny Miller@jonnym1ller · Cofounder @Maptia
@shanesnow Great crib sheet, #7 is one to remember! I totally agree that it’s the most important thing not being taught in schools today. Maria from Brainpickings has this phrase “combinatorial creativity” that I really love. It’s also a great argument for learning outside of your specialty/industry, even if it doesn’t feel relevant at the time.
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@jonnym1ller I love that. Do you have a link to where she coined/wrote that by chance?
Jonny Miller@jonnym1ller · Cofounder @Maptia
@shanesnow Yes, several! I think she originally shared it in this NYC Creative Morning: https://www.brainpickings.org/20... – but you could make the case that she was just combining Einstein’s words in linguistically creative ways herself: https://www.brainpickings.org/20...
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Hi Shane! If you were launching something, what would be the three hacks you'd use to make sure you get great coverage?
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@theo_dimarhos Not sure I'd call them all hacks, but my 3 best tips would be: 1) Develop real personal relationships (in person, if possible) with reporters long before your launch. Help them with stories they're working on that are not about you. Be a source on background for them. Hook them up with good sources and introductions. Tell them when you like their stories. Share their stuff on social. Get lunch. Then 6 months later launch your thing and they'll definitely at least take a look or pass it along to someone who will. 2) Have a good story ready. The story of why and how what you're launching came about is often more interesting than the fact that some startup launched some thing. Tie your story into current news or trends for the reporter, because that's what they're going to have to do. Be ready to introduce reporters to other people who can talk about the space or who are doing interesting things that aren't you. 3) Keep the momentum going by pitching the story of your launch momentum as a story itself—to the ad and social media and tech blogs. I write about this in Chapter 7 of Smartcuts if you want to dig in deeper on this one.
Kate@katesegrin · Community @Tierion
Who are some of the people who have made the biggest impact on your life and career? (Stories, please!)
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@katesegrin Hard to enumerate and name the people who have had an impact on my life and career. But as a journalist: David Carr is the one who comes to mind who had a huge impact before I knew him personally as well as after. I wrote this when he passed away last year: https://medium.com/@shanesnow/wh...
Kate@katesegrin · Community @Tierion
Hi Shane! What has been one of the best articles or pieces of media you've seen in the past week / of all time?
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@katesegrin Best piece of media I discovered in the past week is this video of Snoop Dogg narrative nature footage:
Favorite piece of all time, probably this feature story by Gene Weingarten: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp... Although in memory of Alan Rickman RIP, this video is incredible:
(You won't believe what happens at 3:57! How's that for an "Upworthy" headline?)
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
What have you found to be the best ways to reach important/busy people and how can you increase the probabilities that they help you out?
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@theo_dimarhos Helping others out—or helping people they care about—is a good way to get people to actually want to help you. And on your first question: I co-wrote a piece for Fast Company a year ago about this very question of contacting important people here http://www.fastcompany.com/30366...
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
@shanesnow What is your take on unmarked branded content? I believe CNN's The Big Story is going this route. Are you concerned about this line of branded content blurring?
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@russfrushtick I think unmarked branded content is totally deceptive. It's also hard to see how this benefits an advertiser from a branding perspective if you can't tell who the brand is. Best case scenario for branded content is to create content that's so good that people are proud to engage and you're proud to put your brand on it. The most dramatic example of this in recent memory is the $200mm grossing LEGO Movie.
Lejla Bajgoric@lejlahunts · Intern, Product Hunt
Thanks for being here! You've written a great deal, but what's the key work you've read that's most informed your writing?
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Which of your articles are you most proud of?
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@ems_hodge I have a recency bias here, but I thought this blog piece about the future of energy was important: http://maneatingrobot.com/61/all... Also this was effing awesome: http://www.wired.com/2012/12/nav...
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Who are some influencers that have helped shaped the way you approach work?
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@ems_hodge Every entrepreneur who was alive in 2008 was influenced in some way by Tim Ferrriss, so I count him (his podcast is fire these days, btw!). I'm a huge fan of Ben Franklin and Alexander Hamilton and Bruce Lee for the way they thought and approached problems. Nellie Bly is one of my favorite journalistic innovators. I love how she pioneered investigative journalism that involved personal risk.
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
hello @shanesnow Would love to know what is your daily must reads?
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@neeeharika I usually do Flipboard and Twitter from my phone from the train, or read on my kindle app. NYTimes is my general daily news source. io9 for when I'm totally procrastinating. :)
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What are/were some of your favourite questions to ask founders?
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@bentossell 1) If money didn't matter or exist, what would you work on? 2) If you fail, why will it have happened? 3) Who are your 3 favorite wizards?
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@shanesnow If Dubmbledore isn't top -> go back and rethink your business
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@shanesnow Who are YOUR 3 favorite wizards?
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@bentossell I flip flop on this often, but The Weasely Twins are always in the top 3. Kind of a big fan of Saruman, too, even though he's technically a d-bag.
Jonny Miller@jonnym1ller · Cofounder @Maptia
@bentossell @shanesnow would be a tough call between @randfish vs. Gandalf for my #1 spot.
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What are your go-to daily apps or tools?
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@jakecrump In order of how much I use them: Samsung Galaxy S6, Spotify, Chrome, gCal, Moleskine notebook, Slack, gMail, Evernote, my Hue Lights, WordPress, Photoshop, Whiteboard :)
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · PMM @Twitter // Previously @ProductHunt
Does writing professionally make you resent writing for pleasure? Or do you still find time to write leisurely?
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@andrewmettinger I love writing. I used to feel bad about writing professionally and then going home after work and writing for fun, until a friend equated it to a graphic designer who goes home and paints. That's how I think about it. Although the switching cost between thinking about the different things I write about does tend to be high and produce writers block at times. :(
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
If you were 22 today, what would you do/work on?
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@bentossell This wins best/most surprising question of the day. Oh how I yearn for the days of zero responsibility, easy classes, and student loans. (I basically started undergrad at 21.) I would probably be trying to build something really huge and awesome with VR instead of handing out flyers for my college punk rock band.
Daron Welch@daronwelch
What is your thought process when developing high-quality content?
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@daronwelch Big question. I tend to start here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/2...
Jourdan Bul-lalayao@jourdanb21 · Co-Founder & CTO, Jobox
@shanesnow Hey Shane!! Thanks for your AMA here on Product Hunt!! My question is intentionally vague as I'd love for you to answer based on your interpretation of the question :). If you had only one tip to share with entrepreneurs on how to build a successful startup, what is your absolute #1 tip?
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@jourdanb21 Whatever it is you're thinking about doing, ask yourself what it would take to make it 10x bigger or better. That will force you to reconsider the industry/project/product/whatever in a variety of ways, and it's the 10x story that really rallies the support you need to build and fund a great startup. Also, as Peter Thiel wrote in his book, who doesn't want to sell a product that's 10x better than the alternative? We need to stop thinking of "incremental" as synonymous with "innovation." You're starting up, why not shoot for something huge and then reverse engineer a step by step path to it. This is, not coincidentally, Elon Musk's exact strategy with both Tesla and SpaceX.
Zach Cmiel@zach_cmiel · CEO, PoKoBros
Hello! What's your favorite book to learn more about marketing??
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@zach_cmiel Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. Also a big fan of The Storytelling Animal, since story is so crucial for good marketing.
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What does a typical work day look like for you?
shanesnow@shanesnow · cco, contently
@jakecrump like this A mix of writing, internal meetings, strategy stuff, networking and partnerships, occasional tattoo appointments. :)
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
@shanesnow @jakecrump This answer was great, I wish more guests showed their calendars.
Jonny Miller@jonnym1ller · Cofounder @Maptia
@shanesnow @jakecrump This is awesome...