An open letter to Scott Messick, president of the Media Mayhem Corporation

Paul Raven @ 01-10-2010

Edit, 31 Oct 2010: Mister Messick has since paid the full amount that was owing to Futurismic, and offered many apologies for the confusion and miscommunication that led to the following post.

Hi Scott, me again;

You may or may not have noticed that I’ve removed the Media Mayhem ad-block code from Futurismic, as I informed you I would do last week. I realise that this is technically a breach of the contract I signed with you guys – but then again, pretty much any behaviour other than sitting patiently waiting for the money I’m owed is a breach of that contract on my part. Interestingly, late payment on your part isn’t a breach of contract; were I was less naive, perhaps that would have rang an alarm bell with me earlier on.

I’ve been patient, Scott; I really have. I understood from the outset that Futurismic was small fry compared to some of the other names on your roster of ad publishers, to the extent that I was quite astonished and flattered when one of your employees solicited me directly about hosting your ad units. Oh, I’ve had plenty of people offer ad deals to Futurismic, but you guys were the first one that wasn’t obviously a gang of link-farming hucksters. I mean, the same company who run ads on And you want to run similar ads on my little site? Well, colour me stoked. It seemed almost too good to be true.

Ninety days, Scott. That’s how long I was supposed to wait before revenue from the ads I was running started to come through. The ninety days passed long ago, didn’t they – given that I put the ad-block tags into the site theme on 17th February? So I started making polite enquiries as to what was happening around the end of June. First of all there was the line about the accounting department all being away on vacation (can it really qualify as a ‘department’ if the entire team can be away at the same time?), and then it was a change in payment terms enforced upon you by your advertisers, which would have the knock on effect of delaying the passing through of those payments to us publishers.

Then there was the possibility of sending out a cheque, but no one seemed able to tell me whether the change of mailing address I’d informed you of back in May had actually been registered anywhere, and I’d been told that electronic payments would be fine when I signed up with you (what with me being UK-based, and hence unable to cash a dollar cheque with ease). But there’s an authorisation problem with the company’s PayPal account (or it’s empty of funds, or possibly both), and you’ve never had to look into sending funds via bank transfer before, and, and, and…

A week ago, after I told you I’d be yanking the ad blocks at the start of October, you assured me that you were working on the PayPal problem, and thanked me for understanding. Well, Scott, I’m afraid I don’t understand.

You see, understanding is rather dependent on having information to base that understanding upon. I can’t understand if all I get are hollow reassurances. So I’ve ended up doing what a science fiction fan does best, and extrapolating a narrative from a few observable facts. Facts that include:

  • The notice on your website that says you don’t deal with sites that pull less than 100,000 page views a month; why, then, did you solicit ad spaces from a media minnow like Futurismic?
  • The mysterious mass absence of the accounting department, followed by the revelation that only you – the company president, no less! – can authorise and send payments; sounds like the accounting department’s job to me, really, but what would I know?
  • The fact that for the last three months or so the ads running here haven’t changed from dull plugs for MySpace; minimum revenue space-fillers, and hardly the exciting media promotions that are, according to your website, your stock in trade.

Can you see where those plot points might be leading? Maybe I’m just too used to the pessimistic narratives of contemporary science fiction, but I’m not expecting a happy ending.

I really wanted to believe in you guys, Scott; your customer service was excellent when we had some problem ads appearing in the stream, and Media Mayhem gave every indication of being a legitimate and above-board ad broker company, right up until the point when I started asking about getting paid. Indeed, I suspect that for most of its history it has been… and maybe it still is, when dealing with its bigger publishers rather than the sub-100,000 minnows.

All I know for sure is that Media Mayhem owes me money, and that when I get in touch to find out what’s happening about me getting paid, all I get are excuses (if I get any reply at all). And so I’m using the only leverage I have; without publishers like me to run those ads, you have no business. Currently, you’re taking money from someone somewhere to publish ads on my property, but you’re not passing my share of that money on. Maybe a small site like Futurismic isn’t a priority, and slips through the administrative cracks; maybe you really have run into every conceivable obstacle in the course of trying to pay me (and very kindly decided not to bother me with trivia or keeping me informed of what might be happening with my account). I just don’t know for sure… and I’m afraid my speculations at this point are less than charitable.

So, your ad blocks are gone. I realise that this effectively breaks our contract, and probably means you are no longer obliged to pay me the money I’m owed… but you know what? At this point, I’m not entirely convinced you’ve ever intended to.

Am I cutting off my nose to spite my face here? I guess I am… but hey, it’s my face, and while my pockets may be empty I’ve still got this stupid sense of pride to cling on to. And I’m working on the theory that, should there be any other smaller sites out there on the internet who are running ads for you and wondering when they’re going to get paid, perhaps they’ll realise that there’s something amiss, and that they’re not the only ones getting the run-around.

I’m kind of sorry it’s come to this, Scott; some might say it’s not very professional of me to go public with an issue like this, and perhaps they’re right. But some might say it’s not very professional to string along a client that you yourselves solicited advertising spaces from, and to offer nothing but excuses even when they’ve been waiting for well over twice the stated length of your payment cycle.

Naturally, I’m not expecting you to lose any sleep over this – heck, that contract means that even if I could afford a lawyer, it’d be pointless hiring one – but I’m damned if I’m going to lose any more sleep of my own. I consider the contract between us null and void from this point; I hope that money comes in handy for you and the company.


Paul Graham Raven, Publisher