The Digiday Questionnaire: The Awl’s John Shankman

The famous Proust Questionnaire comes from a popular 19th-century parlor game in which guests were asked to answer a series of questions to reveal the respondent’s true nature. Digiday is updating the Proust Questionnaire for the digital media industry. If you or someone you know would like to answer the Digiday Questionnaire, contact me at the email address below.

Our latest subject is John Shankman, publisher of The Awl.

The Digiday Questionnaire: John Shankman

1. What about working in the digital media industry makes you happy?
The opportunity to build things in the digital media space is unprecedented. Building great products doesn’t seem to be a rewarding North Star in every industry today, but in technology and media it often is.

2. What about working in the digital media industry makes you miserable?
I get stressed out sometimes, but my time in the industry has been a constant journey of learning new things. I think progress and learning are what make a journey worthwhile. To people who are getting stressed out, I would say, remember as long as you’re being ethical and trying your best, it’s likely all good.

3. What is the worst fault you see in your area of the industry?
A thing that bothers me is why people sometimes pigeonhole “sales person” as a negative thing. I guess there’s a reason for everything, but it seems like everyone’s selling something and not everyone has “sales” in their title, and the people who do are sometimes perceived negatively.

4. What positive changes do you hope to see in the industry?
There’s a lot of opaque understanding in how the whole thing (ecosystem?) works. But I guess that’ll come with time.

5. What is the quality you most admire in a digital media CEO?
Vision, execution and transparency. Also financial savvy is my skill du jour in great CEOs.

6. What tech company do you wish you started?
Gawker Media.

7. Silicon Valley or Madison Ave.?
I was born in San Fran, and I always say my soul is from there, but I’m a New Yorker for sure. I guess I’ve never loved NYC more than I do now, but eventually I’d like to check out the west coast for an extended living period.

8. Track or Do Not Track?
I feel like the Internet needs to be treated by people as being in public, so don’t do anything too crazy. I‘m for Do Not Track, though.

9. App or mobile site?
I think it’s interesting that people pay for apps, but the mobile site keeps it simple with one access point for everything, which I tend to idealize.

10. Choose one social service for the rest of your life.
I love Twitter. Besides the sites I work on, it’s becoming my one and only news source. My better half will certainly confirm my unwavering Twitter usage.

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