Home Marketing & Media An email exchange with Harry Hellraiser

An email exchange with Harry Hellraiser

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Not so long ago, I received an email sporting the colourful headline, “I am pissed off Mr ‘ethical businessman’.”

Receiving the odd spray is all part and parcel of the job. If someone is overtly rude, I usually hit the ‘delete’ button and get on with my day.

But while I don’t mind people criticising one of my opinions (or those of our writers), which we usually put out there to start a discussion, I didn’t like his suggestion that I might have acted in some way ‘unethically’.

So, understandably, I was compelled to click ‘open’ and find out what he was on about.

I’m glad I did because here’s what I found…

Hello James,

I’ve noticed your “competition” for a cover and I wonder if we live on the same planet Mr. Entrepreneur…

You are “offering” $400 (without even mentioning the royalties for the Internet usage) and you expect….

Exactly what?

Gratitude?

I find your “offer” so insulting, I even wonder why I bother to write to you.

The Australian Freelance Rates for Australian Artists (from the year 1997 – SIC ! state very clearly:

Artists:

Colour full page $1047.00

Colour cover    $ 1257.00

You are either ignorant of the basic rights of Australian Artists, Designers, Illustrators etc. or you “think” they are a bunch of imbeciles and you can screw them any way you like.

Think again.

I can do a brilliant and “outstanding””artwork” “design” “illustration” etc. according to your brief and within the deadline however if you are not prepared to pay the most basic rate than you will be going down the hill faster than you think ( do you realize you are using some visual ideas which were done about twenty years ago in Australia and about forty years ago in Europe ?)

An image/picture is worth a thousand words as every donkey knows however only a donkey is not prepared to pay properly for such a work.

It’s rather simple… Isn’t it.

Calling yourself an “ethical businessman” under those circumstances is quite bizarre.

I have a suggestion for you and if you are interested to hear it give me a call.

Sure I’m pissed off… what do you expect?

This was followed by a name and mobile phone number.

The email was prompted by a blog post, as part of our Magazine 2.0 Experiment, whereby we thought it might be interesting to place our cover in the hands of crowd-sourcing design website 99designs.

The site offers a prize (in this case US$400) for the ‘chosen’ design that best suits a particular brief. Businesses use the site to crowd-source the design of their logos, advertisements, webpages, all sorts of jobs.

The designers who sell their wares on the site are based all over the world.

Reading this email, my first impression was that I had somehow been hit with the strangest pitching style I’ve ever encountered: Insult me to get my work.

On a second run through, I began to perhaps empathise with the sender, catching a glimpse of his pain, for reasons that I hope my response will explain…

Hi XXXXXXX,

Perhaps our experiment was shortsighted in some ways.

But I have to keep reminding people, it’s only an experiment (a one off) and we have limited the design element to the cover.

Some elements of magazine publishing have lent themselves very well to the online ‘crowd-sourcing’ model.

Others have not.

But as a magazine that espouses the virtues of innovation (and ethical business), it would feel two-faced to not apply the experiment to every aspect that we can contemplate.

We are pushing the boundaries of an old model and I can’t apologise for that.

However, I do understand your frustration.

For example, as a publisher / business owner, I’m still grappling with the notion that the market expects me to give up all our information for FREE on the internet – valuable content that we have paid journalists, photographers, illustrators and designers a great deal for.

But I also need to accept that new ways are constantly evolving for the production of books, magazines, music, cars, almost anything that we can think off.

While we have always argued vigorously among publishing circles that design is worth paying a high price for (and, indeed, design represented 30% of my budget on our first three editions), we also need to acknowledge that disruptive change happens.

It’s not much of an explanation/apology and I can’t predict how the market will treat professionals involved in areas affected by crowd-sourcing (such as music production, journalism, design… even encyclopedia salespeople) but I can assure you that we take design seriously and deeply respect anyone who is able to make a career out of personal creativity (something we try to do at Anthill every day, even if it sometimes has the effect of alienating some people).

I hope that my email doesn’t sound ignorant or insulting and that you appreciate my candid response. It is an area that I have thought a lot about.

With your permission, I would also like to post your email in my blog, as I think the discussion surrounding the points you make would be interesting to our readers.

You have touched on a broader debate about the affect the internet and other digital products are having on many industries (in a similar way to the impact that the printing press had on stable professions, such as the humble scribe).

Thank you for taking the time to write your email and I look forward to your reply.

Kind regards

James Tuckerman

Okay, I concede, my email does sound a bit patronising, but I was wrestling with emotions of anger, caused by the email’s unnecessary tone, and sympathy for a range of professions (including my own).

A couple days later, the sender responded, declining my invitation to participate in the broader discussion, in equally colourful terms. As such, I have withheld his/her name and any information that could be used to identify the sender.

Because… my anonymous friend does raise an extremely topical dilemma.

Through initiatives such as our Magazine 2.0 Experiment are we helping Australian companies sink or swim?

Is this just another example of market evolution or are we sending our creative communities down the river by embracing crowd-sourcing technologies?

Talk to me Anthillians (preferably without the insults).

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