OPINION: O’SULLIVAN ON ... BREAKING THE RULES

Two weeks ago, in this very organ, I was accused of being a disgrace to the magazine industry (Campaign, 31 March). Having known no other form of gainful employment for more than 20 years, it came as something of a shock.

Two weeks ago, in this very organ, I was accused of being a

disgrace to the magazine industry (Campaign, 31 March). Having known no

other form of gainful employment for more than 20 years, it came as

something of a shock.



My sin? To have allowed the cameras in to film the first year of Cabal

Communications, the company I founded in 1998. The programmes that

emerged (Trouble Between the Covers, BBC2) showed a fairly accurate

picture of the ups and downs of a publishing company in its infancy (not

entirely true, it showed more of the downs than the ups, but that’s

popular TV). To some (senior advertising executives among them) it was a

mistake, to one (a fellow chief executive) it was a disgrace. To

hundreds of others, who either rang, e-mailed, faxed or stopped us in

the street, it was a huge success, but that’s beside the point.



Behind the torrents of criticism that have flowed from a few media

motormouths lies something more than whether or not it is possible to

survive fly-on-the-wall scrutiny. It’s about deep annoyance. For here is

a company that has broken the rules and, more irritating still,

survived. Even thrived.



We didn’t intend to break the rules, indeed I hadn’t realised there were

any. Now I know better. They go like this:



Thou shalt not leave a perfectly good, well-paid job to risk going it

alone. (It makes all those who have contemplated but avoided that risk

feel peeved.)



Thou shalt not publish nine titles in one year. (It makes companies who

launch more slowly feel they have to justify their speed - or lack of

it.)



Thou shalt not thrive with a flat management structure (otherwise it

makes all those layers of management in most companies seem

redundant).



Thou shalt not be honest about

challenges/disappointments/mistakes/fears/realities. (It exposes

everyone else’s lies.)



Thou shalt not give staff chocolate on Wednesdays or maximum rather than

minimum holiday allowance or any of the other much-publicised Cabal

perks. (It’s childish, silly and bloody annoying for those chocoholics

who get none.)



Thou shalt not hang on to top talent with chocolate alone. (No. They

like working at Cabal. It’s fun, dammit.)



Thou shalt not survive a fly-on-the-wall docusoap (see above).



Thou shalt not be seen on television dancing in the street and cleaning

the carpet. (It’s a disgrace and ruins the glamorous image of the

magazine industry.)



Thou shalt not get agencies to take one seriously if, on television, one

promises sexual favours in return for ad bookings. (No. One accepts

block bookings only.)



Thou shalt not be female and run a magazine company. (It attracts unfair

quantities of publicity when there are plenty of more-competent males

around just itching to hit the headlines. ’But then again, not all

publicity ... ha ha ha - remember those TV programmes ... is good

publicity. They’ve got their comeuppance.’)



I’ve got news for you, boys. They have not.



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