Shiny Blog House Collapses, Tries To Return Under New Ownership

52 Comments

Would-be UK blog publishing super-house Shiny Media went in to administration on Friday due to growing debts, but a new ownership structure could see it rise again.

The company laid off half of its 17 staff in February, citing a tech advertising downturn. But Shiny has also been fighting worsening conditions since then. According to a memo sent by co-founder Chris Price to freelancers, and seen by paidContent:UK: “The truth is that trading was extremely difficult and the position of the bank with regards to renewing the overdraft were very unfavourable.

The assets – including all websites with the exception of Bag Lady and Shoewawa – have been bought by a new company, Shiny Digital, of which I am a shareholder,” Price wrote. According to Companies House, the new company counts as equal shareholders Shiny Trends (an outfit incorporated by Shiny co-founders Price, Ashley Norris and Katie Lee last year) and Cansas Digital Ventures (a new registered name for Shiny Media’s venture funder Brightstation since August 2007).

But the transition may not be easy – systems including Price’s email and mobile were “switched off by one of the minority shareholders in the business”, Price said, suggesting a disagreement over the new company’s configuration. Some freelancers haven’t been paid, but it seems administrators are trying to do so. Many Shiny blogs have not been updated since Friday, though one or two were still publishing news Monday and Tuesday.

Started in 2004, Shiny led the pack in the effort to build a UK counterpart to Gawker’s independent publishing empire, and is best known for its Shiny Shiny (girly gadgets), Tech Digest (technology) and Shoewawa (footwear) blogs, but had grown to publish blogs in several verticals and in the US.

In January 2007, it said it got $4.5 million from Brightstation, but it’s now thought that amount could have been far less. Norris, the original CEO, left in August 2008 to start his own publishing efforts, and had become CEO of male-centric publisher Anorak Media. Lee left in February at the same time as Shiny’s layoffs, which also involved content cutbacks and which Price said were ” about hunkering down and trying to survive”.

Only recently, Anorak, under Norris, acquired acquired his old football blog WhoAteAllThePies from Shiny, which had put it on hiatus. But Norris has also resumed blogging with Shiny itself recently.

Big lifestyle media brands still reign supreme with mainstream media consumers and independent blog publishers have struggled to replicate the success of Gawker, WeblogsInc or b5media…

52 Comments

Andy Merrett

I think you might be the winner Gary. Can you write another press release like on UKR about that? It will make me feel better even if not you.

(You were going to put £4,567 until you thought it sounded a bit made up, weren't you?)

;)

Gary Cutlack

Well, when everyone's ready to send out press releases about who's in charge of what and who owns the computers now, can someone tell me who I should send my invoices to for them to be ignored? Thanks.

And is anyone owed more than £4675 dating back to December 2008, or am I the "winner"?

Andy Merrett

There are probably legal rams. for me as well but given that, in my case, it's only about payment and people rarely get stuff out of either administrators or entrepreneurs anyway, I don't much care.

Ironically I tend to do better by speaking out — not that that's the reason for doing it you understand ;)

[Buy my widgets! $9.99 each]

WithMyPantsOn

The reason I'm commenting anonymously is that there are legal ramifications. Once that's all out of the way (which may take a while), I will be more than happy to speak openly about the way I was treated by Shiny.

My intention wasn't to attack Katie, I was responding to her comment, which I found disingenuous. I didn't particularly have a problem with her tweeting about making money from blogging – good on her, frankly – but the timing could have been better.

As for not knowing what I'm talking about re the investment, well, no, I wouldn't would I? Because, as has been confirmed by both Chris and Katie, the press release was untrue. Although I was certainly told by Shiny that once the investment was secured, payment per post and site budgets would be increased, which wasn't in fact the case.

And, yes, it's a shame Katie's getting the flak, but neither Chris nor Ashley are here, are they? And while Katie did leave Shiny earlier this year, the problems certainly began before she left.

"I’m sure A&C are dealing with freelancers via private correspondence, which is as it should be."
This isn't the case – see Paul's comment above.

Gemma

Ollie – well that's all that needs to be said! A note or post SOMEWHERE saying 'unfortunately due to current legal issues we cannot comment'.

Right now there are a lot of confused, hurt people who've seen Chris's comments on other sites giving details of the administrators, posting his mobile number etc…but no official comment about what's going on. I realise they can't get on ShinyMedia.com but it's not hard to find somewhere to just make people aware of that.

Katie wasn't the first to tweet about the administration, either. She just responded to things that were already up. Someone had to.

Robyn Wilder

"I find it crass that katie lee tweets about the company going into administration then the same day tweets that she is giving a talk on making money from blogging. The irony, bet the people owed money loved that. "

As one of the people owed money (until a few days ago I was the editor of Dollymix.tv) I don't find Katie's comments crass, nor am I chuckling bitterly over the irony of her Twitter updates about advocating and investigating paid blog content. Because that's her JOB. Katie doesn't work for Shiny anymore, so she's not in any way obligated to comment.

Personally I'm grateful that she commented at all, because all else is radio silence and the depressing sound of my pockets not being filled.

Sorry to disappoint.

Andy Merrett

I feel for you Ollie, as you've put a lot in to resurrecting Pies, but to say that it's unwise to sling mud and then to call the people who have tied up your blog "arseholes" and try to get people to spam someone at Partners DBMA is a little rich, perhaps?

Andy Merrett

"I’m sure A&C are dealing with freelancers via private correspondence"

That's one way of putting it I suppose.

Ollie Irish

@ Gemma: Ashley and Chris won't speak publicly because of the legal implications. And why should they use Twitter or whatever to sling mud in a public forum? (Not that I'm saying Katie is slinging mud, but to Tweet about Shiny going into admin was perhaps a little naive, something I think Katie realises.)

I'm sure A&C are dealing with freelancers via private correspondence, which is as it should be.

Cheers, Ollie

DarikaAhrens

Well done Andy Merrett for offering some intelligent, fair and truthfulcommentary. It's a horrible situation for many people involved, particularly writers who are uninformed and potentially out of pocket. I really sympathise with their frustrations.

However, it would be great if people would stop anonymously pretending they know more than they do and attacking individuals. In particular this thread's focus on taking a pop at Katie Lee is totally uncalled for and utter nonsense.

Oh and they whole "misinformation about the level of investment" debate? I was Shiny's PR at the time and with all due respect you don't know what you're talking about.

Gemma

Where the hell are Ashley and Chris? Katie seems to be getting a lot of hate here, but at least she has acknowledged what's going on.

It's all quiet from other camps. But I don't know what else we expected. Why change the habit of a lifetime?

jason woodburn

The truth may be that there is no money to be made from blogging apart from afew big personalities, and even they are not building substantial businesses. Michael Arrington says his publishing business runs on 3 servers. How big can that be? I don't see the problem in blogging not having a business model. It always struck me as odd that the point at which everyone can record their lives, publish for free, anyone would go into publishing as a business.

Andy Merrett

Let's be real here, Katie is totally at liberty to speak on making money blogging based on her track record *when she was at Shiny Media* and her new company.

Perhaps those with a grudge (regardless of its justification) could at least stop hiding being anonymous pseudonyms — it's very easy to throw stones when you think you won't be identified.

Of course I understand the frustrations — I'm currently owed money and have "wasted" a month-and-a-half on providing a lot of content for Shiny's blogs (technically, if I'm not paid for this, I believe that content still belongs to me, though I've no easy way of getting hold of it) — but aiming everything at Katie because she's the one that's said the most online (notice the absence of comment from certain other (ex)directors) is wrong.

It's far too easy to simply accuse everyone who has ever been in a position of management or directorship of crassness, wrongdoing, and so forth without looking more deeply into it.

(I know the article that I wrote yesterday said that I'd stopped defending Shiny Media, but I feel it's unfair to attack individuals just because it's easy to do so)

Communications from Shiny Media bosses to staff and freelancers could always have been better, but if some of the other issues are true (I don't get how someone claiming to have over 50% of the shares can be considered "minority", by the way) then I realise communication may have been difficult.

And no, I'm in no way affiliated with any of the companies mention in this article or comments.

Katie Lee

If you think that – as editorial director, not MD, CEO or anything else – could have just started mouthing off to the press on my own then you don't quite understand how business works when you have investors and a board. We didn't actually supply the "misinformation" it was a badly written press release from out investors.

I resigned from the board and left Shiny after trying my best to convince the board that we needed a change in management. Before that, I did my best to ensure all of my writers were paid. However, even when you have co-founders and shareholders, you still have to have a boss. And I wasn't the person running the business.

WithMyPantsOn

Yes, Katie, you and Ashley are both crass. Happy now?

As to how you could have been more "honest", how about correcting the misinformation about the level of investment rather than simply being privately "mortified".

In the time I worked for Shiny, your response to any complaint about payment (whether it be delays or discrepancies) was that Shiny weren't in the business of screwing freelancers. That wasn't so honest either, was it?

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I would also like to hear a response from someone at Bright Station regarding this, as they must be held responsible in some way.

Katie Lee

I left Shiny Media 6 months ago due to disagreements with my fellow co-founders about the best way to run the business. I'm not sure, poppyscales, how I could have been any more "honest" bearing in mind many of my staff remained in a company I hoped would prove me wrong and continue onwards to great success.

I'm sure you'd all have called me equally crass had I written a similar piece to Ashley Norris, blaming everyone but myself and putting my staff in the horrible position of trying to do their jobs while their old boss was mouthing off in a very unhelpful way.

After 6 months running my own company (Miramus.com) that makes money out of blogging (and having run the editorial division of Shiny, which also – for many years – made money) I'm apparently not entitled to work with another client to help other blog networks? Say what?

Another reader

I find it crass that katie lee tweets about the company going into administration then the same day tweets that she is giving a talk on making money from blogging. The irony, bet the people owed money loved that.

Mike Hood

I'm sure we'll find out the truth in two or three years time, when Katie says "Oh yes, we just never got around to correcting that particular fact".

poppyscales

moving forward, katie lee who blogs on the telegraphs blog platform is reported by that newspaper to be giving no comment on minoriry shareholder action named by the telegraph as dan wagner. it was lee who twittered news of shinys collapse earlier this week. she is now promoting skimlinks. given her track record and failure to be honest over press reports of the finances of her previous company i think buyer beware is in order

Reader

I'm sorry I did not see your request to email until now. I think Paul and Colin have gone some way to highlighting what needs looking into.

Too often now the question is being asked whether the mess Shiny Media finds itself in is some representation of the fact that blogging in the UK is on the way out.

Really the more mundane truth is evident – these particular 'bosses' couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery.

As I understand it the company has admitted publicly that the amount of investment trumpeted in the media wasn't correct, but they were advised not to put it right. I find this appalling. They obviously welcomed the publicity but should have had a much tighter rein on cashflow.

Though when you consider how hard people have had to chase for their money over the years from this shower, I suppose it makes more sense. The thought of the sum really being as much as was reported, and people being treated the way they were was too depressing for words.

Some bloggers – some of whom are embroiled in court cases going back months for money owed for posts written that built this company's reputation, have now started to blog and tweet about how they have been treated. That's got to be encouraging. I hope more do and the scales will fall away from the eyes of the media who reported these characters as such innovators.

Markus

"independent blog publishers have struggled to replicate the success of Gawker, WeblogsInc or b5media"

Success like b5media?? Thats laughable!! b5media can not be compared to weblogsinc or gawker. Please. b5media is another train wreck much like Shiny that took vc money and pissed it all away.

Jeremy Wright

Hey Chris, mind pinging me? You should have my skype/twitter/email/cell :)

Interested to see if we can pick up where things left off, or start something new together.

Colin

I doubt this "new" company will have many friends after the appalling way it's treated its staff over this.

Finding out you've been made redundant via a blog post? Finding out the company has gone bust via TWITTER?!

Very new media, but not a classy way to conduct business. I'd also like to hear a response from someone at Bright Station regarding this, as they must be held responsible in some way.

Unless they're happily registering new domain names to rip-off lots of people in the same way again at this very moment, which is what this off-the-shelf "administration" deal sounds like.

Paul

Nice one Chris. Thanks for letting all the freelancers (me included) who are owed hundreds ( if not thousands) of pounds by Shiny who to ring for financial recompense via a comment on a news post. Although let's face it – if you've sold all your 'assets' to your shinier new company then there will be pretty much no financial recompense for anyone who worked so hard to make your sites some of the most read and most talked about in their respective industries. Let me repeat – nice one.

Ollie Irish

'Just to make it clear' No.2: As editor of Who Ate All the Pies, I currently have no access to the site. I am locked out effectively because of the dispute between Shiny and the "minority shareholder", which is incredibly frustrating – not to mention costly – as Pies is not involved in said dispute. (Not Chris Price's fault, I might add.)

Ollie Irish
Editor, whoateallthepies.tv

chris price

Good piece Rob – very informative and well balanced. Just to make it clear the business received under a million pounds in venture capital, not the $4.5 million often reported. Also every effort was made to continue trading, including selling of assets, redundancies, downsizing offices and, in the case of the directors, substantial pay cuts. Creditors should call the administrator Wilson Field on 0114 235 6780.

Reader

Please will someone look beyond the hype and praise heaped on Shiny Media by industry reporters to date and ask serious questions about how this was run as a business?

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