Eyeball Wars: A Novel of Dot-COM Intrigue

Eyeball Wars: A Novel of Dot-COM Intrigue

4.5 2
by David Meerman Scott

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An internecine battle for readership ("eyeballs") between an online Internet startup and its parent company, an established media giant, is the subject of Scott's fast-paced if poorly articulated first novel. Rich young playboy Richard Williams is cut off by his father, Pierce, a ruthless media tycoon who insists that his son begin to earn a living. Richard is put in charge of the new Internet division of his father's company, but dad also hobbles his heir by establishing a strict budget and hiring Jason Carpenter, a back-stabbing Internet hotshot, to compete with him. At first Richard flounders, but eventually he begins to figure out how to run the company. He decides to reinvent the site using a tabloid format, and his concept becomes an instant hit. The financial effort to establish the site proves a bigger hurdle, until Richard is aided by a mysterious venture capitalist and later by Mariko Suzuki, a young Japanese woman whose company is looking to invest in an American Internet startup. As the narrative progresses, the novelty of the Internet angle fades, and the book turns into a feel-good business success story with a romantic subplot involving Richard and Mariko. Scott injects some brio when he skewers the greed and fast-track lifestyles of the rich and famous, and he has an insider's perspective on the way deals get done in the dot-com world. His message that PR, spin and get-rich-quick schemes will be the ultimate legacy of the Internet is a cautionary tale indeed, but in all, this book, laden with brand names and hip locales, is for readers more comfortable with online lingo than graceful prose. (Jan.) Forecast: Despite its flaws, this title, with its catchy, pixillated cover, has potential to take off among the dot.com legions. The publisher's marketing plans seem well-aimed at the Net crowd, and include author appearances at Internet trade shows, direct mail to Internet professionals, and use in corporate gift packages (Freshspot claims that Internet companies have preordered hundreds of copies). Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
The hottest industry on the planet? It's hard not to think so when traditional print and electronic media are a-buzz with the latest dot.com happening. This uneasy symbiosis between the old guard and the upstarts is often news in itself. That is the backbone of this breezy novel, which entertainingly documents a venture that pits an old-style newspaper baron, Pierce Williams, against his jet-setting, digital-savvy son, Richard.

Scott, himself a veteran of the "eyeball wars," the battle to get and retain visitors to an Internet Website, is vice president of marketing for NewsEdge Corporation, a global e-content company. He has also worked at a large newspaper chain, clerked at a Wall Street bond trading desk, and lived in New York, Boston, and Hong Kong. This experience pays off in the details, as Scott authentically tells the tale of a rather aimless young man who wants to prove himself worthy of the family name and reputation, but is clueless as to where to start.

As the novel opens, Richard is content to enjoy the fruits of his absentee-dad's labor, flying between coasts, seeing and being seen with his TV-star girlfriend. Certainly, he holds an upper-level position in the family's business, but he's known more for the size of his expense accounts than for his business acumen. When Pierce starts feeling the heat from investors, who are anxious to get a piece of the dot.com pie, he challenges Richard with the task of adding a click on a Williams' Internet site to their newspaper readers' daily routine. The only catch? No financing, and no first-class perks.

And so begins the race against the clock. Richard must not only build a quality site that will attract hundreds of thousands of daily visitors, he must also find the investors and advertisers who will keep the company afloat. Luckily for him, across the globe waits Mariko Suzuki, a "salary slave" in a traditional Japanese corporation. Like Richard, Mariko is chaffing against old traditions and expectations, and also wants to make her unique mark in this brave new world. Battling against a culture that merely tolerates working women, Mariko must convince her superiors that an Internet investment is the ticket to future financial prosperity, both for her and the company.

With all the elements of a traditional best-selling novel, including exotic locales, family bickering and juicy scandals, Eyeball Wars successfully delivers dot.com freshness on every page. (January)

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Product Details

Freshspot Publishing
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.36(h) x 1.13(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

London, February 23, 2:15 PM

Richard Williams untangled himself from the long athletic legs of his sometimes girlfriend and propped himself up on the well-exercised silk sheets. He squinted at the afternoon sun streaming through the multiple twelve-foot windows of his father's bedroom as he faced her. "Morning."

"You're cute when you wake up, you know?" she said, sitting up and throwing an arm over his shoulder. Her short black hair was even more spiky than normal after ten hours in bed.

Richard rolled his eyes: cute! What about handsome or well-built or even good-looking? He stood, examining his naked reflection in the gilded mirror. The recent weeks in the sun had produced a great tan and lots of latenight dancing had kept his body free of fat. He felt in even better shape than six years earlier, when he had finally given up and quit University. The bags around his startling green eyes had too many lines for someone his age. People said they were the eyes of someone older, someone more jaded than he had the right to be.

Richard slipped on a pair of boxers and tossed his father's silk robe to her. The garment landed with the gold-embroidered initials facing up-PMW. She crawled out of bed and slowly, deliciously put on the robe.

"Let's eat," Richard said, padding across the Persian carpet.

"Why does your father need such a huge place?" she said, gawking at the chandelier hanging from the twenty-foot ceiling. "I've never seen fireplaces and oil paintings in bathrooms."

"The London Post is one of our most profitable newspapers. My Dad uses the house for entertaining whenhe's in town. Come on, this way."

As they walked through the vaulted hallways of Pierce Williams' London haunt, the pair passed a dozen portraits of other families' ancestors: a sea captain standing proudly on the deck of his fully-rigged schooner; three doll-like boys and a stern-faced mother sharing a huge red sofa; a scowling old man with long hair wearing high-necked black robes. Richard's most recent stepmother had purchased the portraits because she thought they resembled his father and made the family wealth appear much older than its two generations. They entered the library and sat together on a red leather sofa, which had been artificially weathered to simulate old age. Richard pushed a button hidden beneath one of the side tables.

"This place is so musty," his girlfriend commented, turning up her ski-jump nose.

Richard laughed. "Authentic, you mean. My father has the staff under strict orders not to dust this room. And every evening at five, Andrews must smoke a pipe in here so the old boys club aroma remains intact." "Your dad sounds scary."

Richard grinned. "Don't worry. He's at the New York flat this week. I've got a system worked out with the pilots of his jet. They know where he is at all times and keep me in the loop."

Andrews, the butler, shuffled in, wearing a coat with tails and bearing a silver tray piled with eggs, toast, coffee and a bottle of vintage Veuve Clicquot. Very tall and very thin, his body was hunched over like a question mark. In the ten years Andrews had worked for the family, Richard had never heard him laugh. "Thank you, Andrews, that will be all," Richard said. He whispered: "His real name is Charlie Snodgrass, but my father calls him 'Andrews' because he thinks it's a better name for an English butler."

They giggled.

Richard touched a few buttons on a remote control. A bookcase silently slid into a recessed wall and an oil painting depicting an English foxhunt disappeared, revealing a sleek entertainment system. Richard flipped the TV channel to Eurosport, muting the sound. An old Enigma CD provided background music. They began to eat.

"Sir," Andrews said.

"Thank you, Andrews," Richard said, louder this time.

Andrews cleared his throat. "I'm terribly sorry to disturb you, sir. But Mr. Williams is here. He's just arrived."

Richard's heart spasmed. He grabbed the champagne bottle in an attempt to hide it somewhere-anywhere. But it was too late. His father loomed at the entrance to the library.

Richard's girlfriend pulled the robe tight around her chest and tied the sash. Pierce Williams cultivated the patina of a man used to good food and lots of golf. Some forty pounds overweight, his Savile Row tailor hid his gut with bespoke outfits. A regularly-scheduled new wife and plastic surgery each decade kept him young. His hair, gray at the temples, complemented his clothes: gray flannel trousers, white turtleneck and blue double-breasted blazer, carefully buttoned. He peered through evil, lawyer-style half glasses at a stack of papers in one manicured hand.

"Hi, Dad." Richard quietly placed the champagne bottle on the side table, and suddenly realized he was still wearing only his underwear. Well, at least it was his own underwear.

Pierce Williams continued to study the papers, occasionally thumbing through the sheets. He finally looked up, glaring. "Why aren't you at work?" His Australian accent was more noticeable when he was angry.

"I decided to take a few days off," Richard lied. He stood and moved to one side of the sofa, trying to see his dad's eyes.

"I don't pay you to hang around my house, drinking my champagne," Pierce said. "I pay you to go to The London Post and work! Advertisements don't sell on their own. Our newspapers don't succeed because of laziness-" "Sorry." Richard wondered how much he would have to endure this time.

Pierce Williams stared over the top of the glasses, now resting on the end of his long nose. "Who's this?" he hissed, pointing.

"I'm Spark Harrington," Richard's sometimes girlfriend said, voice quivering. She stood and hooked her arm around Richard's elbow. "It's nice to meet you, sir."

"Spark?" Pierce spat.

"Spark," Richard said firmly.

"Well, listen here, Spark. Get your trampy ass out of my robe and then leave my house!" Pierce's outstretched arm directed to the door. "Immediately!"

Spark's eyes grew wide. She scurried away without another word. A moment later, Richard heard the door to his bedroom slam.

Richard never knew what to say in these situations. "Dad, you didn't have to be so nasty."

Pierce held a thick document. "Last month's bank statement," he said. Richard felt his stomach tighten, his breath shallow.

"Essentially Black, twenty-eight thousand pounds?" Pierce peered over the top of his glasses.

"Spark's a professional sky surfer. I bought her some clothes."

"Sky surfing? What's that?"

"A new emerging sport. Parachuting with snowboards."

Pierce swatted the air with the back of his hand. "A hundred and forty-six thousand dollars at a recording studio in New York?"

"The Splinters, they're a ska band I'm producing! They're just getting started. It's their first album."

His father shook his head and turned the page. "Twenty-nine thousand in airfare and seventy thousand at a resort in Fiji?"

"Hey, it was my twenty-sixth birthday! Since I knew you wouldn't remember, I took some friends on a trip to celebrate-"

"Richard, I've had enough!" Pierce Williams shouted. He paused to fold his glasses and place them into his blazer pocket, then paced back and forth near a fireplace large enough to park an Aston Martin. "Every time I open the mail, you're spending money on some new girl. Last month, it was Georgina and the flat she had to have furnished with antiques. This month, it's Spark, the sky slut."

Richard cringed, certain that Spark had heard. Upstairs, the bedroom door slammed again. "Hey, I'm just following in your footsteps, Dad. How goes your search for wife number five?"

"I've earned my wives, goddammit!"

Spark re-appeared, now wearing tight, black vinyl pants and a black leather jacket. She looked cute with her little backpack slung over her shoulder. "I'm outta here," she said, turning to leave. She hesitated and looked back over her shoulder. "Richard, don't ever call me again." She was gone. "Thanks a lot," Richard said to his father.

Face and neck red, Pierce stalked to the stereo system. Enigma suddenly went silent. Then Puccini at high volume. His father smashed the Enigma CD on the side of a Louis XIV table and ground the remains into the parquet floor with his heel. "This is my house and I play my music!"

Richard didn't know what to say. It was always like this. He just waited for it to end.

"You must earn your own money, Richard. You must work for it as I did, as your grandfather did, building dozens of newspapers from scratch."

"Work, work, work. It's everything to you. You never had time for me or anyone else. You were always away. I'm doing my own thing, like promoting bands and extreme sports and other new generation stuff. I'm just not into newspapers. They're old news, they're boring-" As soon as he said it, he wished he could take it back.

Pierce simply stared, clenching and unclenching his fists. Finally he said, "You know, you're right."

"What?" His father's agreement made Richard much more nervous than his rage.

"Boring for you, at least," Pierce said. "Since you're so caught up in all this young person crap-girls who wear garbage bags as clothes, sky surfing, noise masquerading as music-you must obviously know about new media, too." "Well, yeah, sure. MTV-"

"No, not MTV-that's 1990's. I'm talking about the Internet! It's hot, and it's new media. Surely, you and your tattooed friends are on the Internet?" "Of course I'm on the Net! How else do you think I keep up with all my people?" Where was this going?

"Good. Then I'm going to re-assign you to a new division of Williams Media Group-the Internet division. You'll start earning your own money today. Otherwise-" Pierce paused for emphasis. "Otherwise, I'll cut you off without a penny. I mean it, Richard."

"You can't be serious!" Richard protested.

"I'm very serious. This is your last chance!"

"But I don't know anything about the Internet business."

"You'll learn soon enough. I've opened an office in Silicon Valley, and I've written down the names of some Williams employees who might tolerate working with you. Now, I suggest you get right to it." Pierce Williams tossed the bank statements on the floor and left the room in an instant.

Richard chugged the remainder of the champagne. His father, damn him, was partly right: he hadn't been working very hard recently. He hadn't even checked voice mail this week. He found his cell phone, barely larger than his stack of credit cards, in the pocket of his trousers-which he discovered in the hallway, where he'd left them last night in his impatience to get Spark upstairs. "You have thirty-six new messages," the electronic voice said.

Richard listened to the first one. It was from one of his father's pilots. "Hey mate, we're thirty-six thousand feet above the Atlantic. Just wanted to let you know the old boy will be in London day after tomorrow. Heads-up, mate! Cheers."

Richard deleted the rest of the messages without listening to them and sank onto a carpeted stair in despair. If only the pilot had known, he could have sent Richard a real warning: the good life was over. At least for now.

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Eyeball Wars 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
jrsedivy More than 1 year ago
"Eyeball Wars" by David Meerman Scott is a must read for those interested in Internet startup companies, marketing, or the fast paced entrepreneurial environment. This is a fictional story which is a fun read in and of itself, however there are tidbits of nonfiction here. Following the main characters struggle to build momentum with a new business and the sacrifices made, I can relate to this experience. Furthermore, I had found the determination to gain more "eyeballs" on his website and the strategizing behind this to hit close to home. At some times cheesy, but in a fun way, the author tells a serious story in a lighthearted manner. A fun read and worth your time whether you are looking for triggers for new ideas or just a good story. Definitely worth a read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having played in the dot-com game for 18 months only to go bust, this book read like my life! Loved the style. Reads like a campy detective novel. Not just a peek at the inside of the dot-com world, an examination under the microscope and the organism looks pretty silly. Japanese life so real you can feel the pushers at the train station and taste the noodles for lunch. A good fun read. Recommend it to anyone inside and outside the dot-com madness.