Just a few months ago it seems like a good chunk of the American-based internet imploded when Mode Media shocked the blogging community by collapsing on itself, leaving a mountain of debt and unkept promises.
It was the kind of shut down that gave people Enron-like jitters — no severance or Cobra health plans, no time to collect your belongings and build resumes — just get out and leave your laptops in the office, because those would eventually be sold for pennies on the dollar to help make up for what some industry insiders have said is likely close to $50 million. Millions of that is owed to the thousands of bloggers, contributors, and social media talent Mode peddled to get rich —rich enough to buy a company house in the Hamptons and write it off as a company expense— and those bloggers are small, independent female business owners more often than not. The company's CEO, Samir Arora, was said to have okayed company dinners costing upward of $40,000 (champagne doesn't come cheap, does it?), jet expenditures, and over the top luxuries that would eventually help tip the company beyond a financial breaking point. Mode didn't screw over corporate America, they screwed over every girl next door just trying to turn a buck on her earned work.
Giant numbers that seem nearly impossible to pay off with some secondhand laptops and office furniture, but if you've ever wondered what happens to Silicon Valley monsters who go under in a flash, the answer is simply that technology doesn't vanish. Email lists don't disappear. Contacts, agreements, and concepts don't just run off into the sunset.
“I was with Mode for about three years," shared blogger Misti Schindele of mistimichelle.com. “I used them as my exclusive advertising network, used them to get sponsored posts, and was a contributor for MODE.com. They owed me $1,200 when they shut down — so not nearly as much as other bloggers but when you count on that money every month, its a blow."
While $1,200 may seem like a lot of money, it pales in comparison to other bloggers who had entire networks of writers under their belt who are claiming losses as great as $200,000 when factoring in unpaid invoices for email lists, social media promotion, and other content distribution.
“They stiffed me for five months of advertising revenue including banners, pushdowns, full takeover ads, and a sponsored post with Target I was never paid for," said blogger Amber Murray of BeautyJunkiesUnite.com. “After I found out of the closure, I had to do investigative work and contact Sherwood Partners myself to ask about the status of my money. I was given the run around for months, and honestly just gave up after filling out their physical forms and online forms, stating exactly how much money I was out. I was told I would be paid after March when the assets were allocated to their creditors, etc. I honestly don't believe I will ever see a penny. To this day, Sherwood Partners has made no attempt to contact me or explain what is going on."
Samir Arora by Amy Sussman/Invision for Mode Media/AP Images
There's a reason for that — almost every blogger and content producer who was ever associated with Mode signed a TOS agreement that outlined them as a contractor, service provider — never as an employee or secured debt holder.
That means that in the hierarchy of debt satisfaction, the bloggers who made Mode a giant money machine will never see even a few coins from their losses unless there's an absolute miracle of unicorn proportions.
Mode has actually already generated some income — they've been selling off their assets in piecemeal versus the entire company to further escape the possibility of satisfying this debt. Selling individual assets (technology, email lists, etc) helps the company escape their overall liability, which no new company will ever want to take on. Any funds generated from these sales will go to satisfying secured and unsecured debts first (so literally, the company credit cards come way before the bloggers ever would). They've already sold millions in assets to companies based in Japan and depending on who you ask, those assets fetched anywhere from $20-50 million USD — more than enough to at least pay the “missing" salaries of disgruntled, debt-ridden former employees. But that's unlikely, because Mode is busy selling off as many American assets as possible now, and is more focused on repaying mortgages and other liens.
Mode Media as it once was
Industry insiders have reported Mode selling off their banner generation technology to another American media distribution group for $6 million USD (the deal is not yet closed), with additional assets seeing price tags of $100,000 and up. Theoretically, that's a lot of small mom and pop entrepreneurs who could have enough cash to keep their lights on, but the banks and more formal creditors will come first.
If you're wondering what this means to the paycheck you're missing from last fall, it means chasing it is probably a wasted lot of energy, but you'll take this as a lesson to never sign another agreement that outlines you as a mere “vendor."
Sometimes the person you have to stand up to is you! There I was, rewatching the Miss Universe 2019 competition. Which I do for inspiration from time to time. (No, seriously!) There is something about seeing women on stage, in full-on glam mode, and speaking with confident assuredness that really lights my fire!
I have seen this Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa win this crown so many times before, but something about this particular viewing, her delivery or her words, touched something inside me a little differently. At that moment, I truly believed, with complete conviction, that she lives what she speaks.
The announcement was made, the audience cheered, and the crown was awarded. The light was dazzling,, she looked stunning, almost blessed. The judges made the right call with 2019's queen.
Reflecting On Myself
Suddenly, the YouTube video ended. And I was left looking at a black screen. In the darkness of that screen, I saw my reflection and I began assessing what I saw, asking myself, "What have I been doing with my life?" It may seem like an overly dramatic question, but at that moment, I had to ask myself seriously… What have you done? The fact that I couldn't come up with a solid, confident answer gave my inner-cynic license to quickly spiral into self-criticism.
This went on for quite some time, until I got up. I stood up and walked to my mirror to have some serious one-on-one "Queen Talk." I needed to get out of that self-critical mindset, and I know that physical movement is something that help disrupt a way of thinking. I needed to remind myself of who I really was. The negative feelings I was experiencing at that moment were not reality.
Here are a few reminders for whenever you need some Queen Talk!
1.) Comparison is truly the thief of joy.
This saying feels like a cliché. That is, until it's applicable to you. At that moment, this "cliché, becomes self-evident. Comparing myself to someone on a stage with years of experience in an area I know nothing about is not only unfair but straight-up mean. A part of my comparison comes from me wondering, "Would I have the ability, if put in that position, to perform at such a level?" The answer is totally and without question, yes. I excel in the field I work in now, and I know that if I put that same energy towards something else, with practice, I could do just as well. No joy can come from comparing yourself to someone in a completely different field!
2.) Never forget the blessings that have been bestowed upon you.
Every single day, I am blessed to have the opportunity to wake up with all ten fingers and toes and choose to create the kind of life I want to live. There is so much power in that alone, but sometimes it's easy to take it for granted. Let us not forget those who are unable to make that same decision every day of their lives.
3.) Appreciate how far you have come!
I've been very intentional for some time to be kinder and gentler to myself. I need to realize that I am human. Being human means that I will not know everything, and I will continue to make mistakes.But I must let go of the need to always be right. I feel empowered when I can see the growth that I've made, regardless of the mistakes that may come in the future. I don't react to every little thing that bothers me, because I have learned boundaries when it comes to dealing with others and myself. I truly value my time and my energy, and, for that, I am proud.
4.) You Can Be Who You Want To Be
If you can see it in your mind, you can achieve it in reality. I saw myself when I looked at the women on stage, when she smiled, the way she talked, her elegant walk. For a moment, in my self-criticism spiral, I forgot that we are all connected. Debasish Mridha has said "I may not know you, but I don't see any difference between you and me. I see myself in you; we are one." I will not sit in the mentality of lack, there is more than enough opportunity and good fortune to go around for everyone. Her win was not a loss for me, but it can be a nudge from the universe for me to go ahead and dream big!
This Queen Talk was not easy. There may have been some tissues and tears involved but giving myself an honest yet compassionate talk is sometimes what I need to bring myself out of some bad head space. In these moments of doubt, you truly need to be your own best friend.When times get rough, criticism won't always come from outside sources. How you speak about yourself internally is crucial to how you see and feel about yourself. As Beyoncé once sang, "I've got Me, Myself, and I." We must put forth every effort to be there for ourselves. I look forward to more Queen Talks when some negative emotions arise. I am grateful for the person I am today, but I am excited to see the women I become.