Ryan Vail Brown, SVP Business Development and member of the Gawker/Gizmodo/Fusion/G/O tribe for nearly seven years, is leaving us this week. You may not have heard his name, but there’s a very good chance that if you’re reading this, you interacted with him or his work at one point or another. Whether you unknowingly spoke to him in the depths of the comments, clicked on an ad unit that he built, saw a snippet of a Kotaku review that he licensed in a commercial, bought a product from a brand who’s partnership he kick-started, or read the words of a writer he vouched for in the hiring process, his fingerprints are everywhere on this company. And while we’re sad to see him go, he has dirty hands like that of a six year old, and his smudges won’t soon be washed from every surface of these sites.
So now, in the grand tradition of Gawker Media, let us roast the shit out of him on his way out the door.
Ryan Brown, aka RVB, was my boss and the office jester. He wore a lemon hat for a whole summer. Just a dumb fucking baseball cap covered in lemons. It was awful. I was his seat mate for three years, a time that overlapped with the fidget spinner craze. He never had fewer than 5 spinners at his desk. Several were taped in various positions to his desk, I think to make him feel like he was on a spaceship going into warp speed when he spun all of them. He even taped two together to make a double spinner. I actually liked that. He regularly did unsettling stuff like eat cold cuts (ham and provolone alone) at his desk and rest his ‘meal’ on his headphones if he needed to type or step away from his desk, because why use a plate or napkin?
He once stole a cane from our lovely office manager Will (who previously needed it for an actual injury) and it quickly became his daily prop. This lasted about two years. He would quite literally walk out of meetings, mid-discussion, and say, “Hold on, I need to find my cane.” You could see panic come over his face when he realized he had misplaced or left his cane behind. It was like watching a child who couldn’t find their Lolli.
Speaking of meetings, Ryan Brown is a man who is always seven minutes late to every meeting. But once he arrives, look out. He takes the floor to immediately push his agenda, but because he’s so excited, he speaks far too fast for anyone to process his ideas and get on board. And when someone poses a question, Ryan’s already assumed what it is, and answers as such, even if doesn’t in fact, fit what was asked at all. Then, just like that, he ducks out prior to the meeting’s conclusion. Why? Because he’s bored and far too busy for scheduled meetings. Instead he’s on to the next conversation to barter for gossip and climb the political ladder in another arm of the company. This is just who he is, you cannot change it. You accept that RVB is the business embodiment of FOMO and that he has to be involved in everything.
He’s also the only human I’ve ever met who reads all of the digital ad trades and follows everything media related on Twitter (plus the evil shit Twitter’s known for), and actually gets excited about something like new ad tech. It takes a certain level of insanity and sadness for that to rev your engine. Imagine being stoked about a new DMP or boring acquisition and reading all of the hot takes surrounding it on media Twitter. Then imagine needing to do that daily to feel complete! Of course, that’s one of the many reasons I worked for him and not the other way around. The guy is genuinely passionate about all of this.
Ribbing aside, Ryan has done an enormous amount for this company, in all its iterations. Many internally and externally will never know just how crucial he was in making the company buckets of money throughout his tenure, in particular in our many times of stress and disorder. He single-handedly did more to keep the lights on, without interfering with our editorial independence or making every page load 3x slower, than he’ll probably ever get credit for. Through it all, he’s been a champion of our brands and optimistic about every major hurdle we’ve come across. He always seems to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Which brings me to today, if he’s gone, which ran out, the optimism or the ladder to climb? At G/O Media, likely both.
His next company will be extremely lucky to have a rare business mind that understands that the editorial content is what’s important and that the blank nooks and crannies of a webpage are merely opportunities to support that journalism. Even more rare, he can actually make that symbiotic relationship work. You don’t let that type of person walk. Ever. That’s my only advice to his next employer.
My relationship with Ryan can be pretty tidily summed up by one 10 minute phone call. It was the night before my wedding, we were pulling into the parking lot for my rehearsal dinner, and I had just finished watching a live stream of a judge in Florida announce that the company where I worked owed Hulk Hogan $140 million dollars, which I gathered was about $139.9 million more than we had in the bank, give or take. Everyone at Gawker Media had pretty personal feelings about this case that I won’t rehash here, but at that moment, I was mostly concerned about my ability to pay for a modest-but-still-distressingly-expensive wedding the next day.
So I let all of my loved ones wait for me in the restaurant while I talked to Ryan on the phone (love to have priorities!), and he convinced me through sheer force of personality that we were going to win on appeal, and that the probably-Putin-backed VC firm that had invested in us, like, yesterday, was going to have our backs in the interim. That was good enough for me, and ignoring all other evidence and neon flashing warning signs in my periphery, I was able to calm down, enjoy my wedding, and not be too scared for my job.
Obviously, nothing he told me in that phone call came to pass (though I never did lose my job, granted). And there have been countless other less-dramatic phone calls over the years that have held up to hindsight about as well as toilet paper would hold up to the surface of the sun. But I don’t think he ever once lied to me. Ryan drinks his own Kool-Aid, and is probably the most optimistic person I’ll ever meet or ever hope to meet. He literally spent all the money he had in the world to buy a house with its own pond in the Castkills! Working in this industry! And when one of his Airbnb guests inevitably breaks their neck on the zipline he didn’t want to take down and sues him successfully for $20 million, I’m sure he’ll believe down to his bones that he’ll win on appeal up until the bankruptcy judge takes the stupid puffer vest off his back.
But the thing is, that cheeriness is what kept me and a handful of other lucky saps around long enough to accomplish some really cool stuff, so I can’t knock him for it. In fact, I owe him a lot for it. Over the past few years, I’ve probably gotten better at seeing through the veneer, and came to realize that I had a good job only because he was blocking and tackling and having all the difficult conversations with difficult people, and probably talking circles around all of them to keep them out of our business. That, more than anything else, is the mark of a good boss, and I’ll truly never understand how he’s stayed so positive while plugging holes in the dam with every finger, every toe, and the tip of the goddamn cane for the last several years.
Ever since the Hogan trial, every time a departing Gawker-era writer or editor has been subjected to one of these roasts, they’ve been held up like members of an ancient guild, charged with protecting the Gawker ethos and culture against threats both foreign and domestic, until they’re no longer able. Ryan Brown might not be a name that many readers of these sites know, and with the exception of comments he’s posted from his myriad sockpuppet accounts (I assume), his words have never appeared on these sites. And yet, he’s as much a member of that caste as anyone. He loves this company to the core, even though nearly every brick of it has been replaced one-by-one underneath his feet several times over. Longtime fans of Gizmodo, Jezebel, Deadspin, Lifehacker, Kotaku, Jalopnik, and the other sites we’ve picked up or built along the way don’t know who Ryan is, but they should know that they’re still reading these sites (albeit with a few more ads and Taboola boxes) largely because of him. So before he leaves to go accomplish bigger and better things, I just want him to know that the juice was, against all odds, worth the squeeze.
Like a 5lb bag of discounted Gummy Bears washed down with a hazy IPA, Ryan Brown is evacuating us abruptly. Near daily interaction and banter with Ryan over more than half a decade has told me one ubiquitous thing about him: Ryan Vail Brown is an absolute contradiction.
Ryan’s dubious social media activities are low-hanging fruit for a roast, but I feel there’s a level of service and protection I can grant the general population by touching on them. This Ryan Brown is a guy who obsessively follows and interacts with other “Ryan Browns” through social media outlets. “Alexa, set a reminder for next week to check on the well-being of other Ryan Browns.” Hell, I stopped following my lightweight bizarre, obscure, and fucked-up Twitter accounts because Ryan retweets and Slacks the next level of them with an expertise that regularly reminds me how broken his brain is. And when you hear someone is a legit flat-earther, and you wonder how a human could possibly have a more contorted state-of-mind, I want you to remember that Ryan, flat-earther wannabe, exists. Too educated to actually believe in an other-than-spherical Earth, yet constantly scrutinizing flat-earther ‘evidence’ in an attempt to maybe somehow change his mind. (!?)
Despite all this, Ryan is intelligent, knowledgeable, and an absolute authority in media business development.
He’s so miraculously functional in the real world that his title has included the words “Senior Vice President” since before I knew him. His hand in assembling our team, supporting our efforts, and conjuring new ways to make piles of money in the publishing business is second to no one I’ve met or likely will meet again. Our team’s innovation and awards simply would not have been possible without his leadership. This company loses an immeasurable skillset with his departure.
That said, Ryan’s played disc golf longer than any pros I know, he wears boat shoes and hats he deems stylish, drinks insipid IPAs (and has since before you knew what an IPA was,) chooses to drive a vintage Jeep Grand Wagoneer, and exhibits dozens more similarly questionable life choices. If there was some sort of Hipster Quest RPG, Ryan’s life events would be the string of quests, all the things he does on the daily would be your player’s refinable skills, and all the shit he owns would be rewards of various quality earned or bought throughout the game.
Despite all this, he is somehow one of the most purely likeable people I’ve ever met.
I spent a day in November last year showing him the Nashville I know, eating hot chicken, appreciating rye whiskey, talking shop, and laughing about everything. After over four years of working together, it was the first time we’d met face to face, and he treated me like we were long-separated brothers reuniting. This wasn’t surprising, this is just Ryan.
Regardless of his many faults and dodgy customs, Ryan will always be my business brother. I already hate whatever enterprise took him away from us. I hope it fails spectacularly and forces him to join our team again soon.
When I was hired here last year, Ryan Brown warmly welcomed me to the Business Development team in myriad ways—making sure I knew the full history of this storied company, adding me to all the right Slack channels, constantly offering me strange candy, and always humming my favorite song, “Shallow”—and I appreciated them all. Ryan cares way more about everyone who works with and for him than he probably should. Always the first to dole out a compliment, he’s a genuine person, an awesome mentor, an all-around excellent developer of business, and he’s more passionate about
Gawker Gizmodo G/O Media than anyone I’ve ever met. (He’s just a so-so IGer, though). It’s truly our loss that he’ll no longer be leading us to new commerce heights.
That being said, Ryan sat next to me at our old office and was constantly vaping at his desk. Is it a coincidence that Ryan Brown is leaving this company the VERY SAME WEEK that the CDC published research linking a lung illness epidemic to vaping? I think not. RIP.
When I met Ryan Brown during my interview less than a year ago, I left thinking one thing, “This man is going to drive me insane.”
To be clear, I think this is my knee jerk reaction to meeting anyone with confidence. But he seemed every bit like the overly cheery, optimistic bro I avoided during college. (And had the cadence of the Gilmore Girls rejects I date.) As Megan Greenwell once so eloquently put it “(Ryan) just has one of those faces, you know? Like you know he’s a douchebag.”
Setting his vaping, obsession with TikTok, history with heelies, and questionable hat choices aside, Ryan is the kind of guy anyone would be glad to have on his side. He was our greatest ally and someone who I would have followed forever. His silver lining attitude toward the murky, uncertain future we continuously face made working here tolerable.
That said, his exit hurts like hell.
Ryan, like Captain America at the close of Endgame, is choosing himself and happiness over his responsibilities to his team. Some people may be pissed about it. But that’s okay, since... well, it’s the reality of the industry we chose to work (and god-willing, there’ll be sequels.)
Sometimes the best people aren’t treated fairly, or appreciated, regardless of how much passion they have. That’s life.
I’m thankful every day that I chose to work for this terribly sweet douchebag, who never once yelled at me for putting my feet on the desk. And I wish him the best of luck at whatever CBD startup, Untuckit competitor, or private-equity owned publication he winds up at.
Ryan is one of the most confusing people I have ever met in my life. He briefly became obsessed with Taylor Swift, and called himself a “mega fan” after hearing “You Need To Calm Down,” months after it was released on the radio. But he then refused to listen to her entire new album, Lover, when given the chance. On an unrelated-to-Taylor-note, I saw Ryan wear a puffer vest on several 90+ days at the end of summer. We work in Times Square. It is disgusting outside. What are you doing Ryan? For a man who stans Second Summer, he sure doesn’t know how to dress for it.
But, what also confuses me about Ryan is that he talks to his team all day long. You don’t often find an SVP of anything just chatting with their team to make them feel comfortable. I’ve had a lot of shitty big bosses in my career, but Ryan wasn’t anything like them. He’d randomly sneak around the office and come back with treats for all of us to share. Every day he had something new to tell us about, like his weird fascination with online drama that he’d spent two hours reading about the night before. He always checked in us, either via Slack or in person, to make sure we were okay. We all like to bully each other on our team, and Ryan is an easy target with his mustard yellow hat and Tik Tok obsession, but he will be greatly missed and I regret only telling him once what a great boss he is/was.
Josh Bottino - Customer Success Manager at Impact, former Performance Marketing Manager at Gizmodo Media Group
Now that Ryan is leaving, I hope he can finally buy and spend some time on a car that actually works. Or perhaps go to the gym more than 1 day per week and actually dip into the protein power that is likely still unopened next to his desk (or maybe it has moved into his broken car, who knows).
I do know this.. he’ll never love working somewhere more than Gawker/GMG. I’ve never seen someone so passionate about a company (and rightfully so). Through the ups and downs, my 3.5 years under his leadership we’re extremely special and some of the best I’ve ever experienced (he actually gave me a nickname that STUCK, s/o to Bosh), and I know he’ll take that same mentality onto whatever’s next. Good luck RVB!
PS - still waiting on my Catskills invite.
The whole point of these things is to totally embarrass the person being roasted, but I adore Ryan Brown* too much to do that. I could, of course, do that, having known Ryan Brown for, hmm, eleven or twelve years now? Okay right quick, here’s an embarrassing Ryan Brown story for you: The first time we met he spiraled into a full panic because he ... outed his Gawker commenter name to me. LOL oh the olden days, when we all used what we thought were tremendously clever noms de blog without a hint of shame (his was ‘narnio’ and mine was ‘the supergoddess’)(shut up)(NO I KNOW, OKAY?)
ANYway. I’m not here to embarrass Ryan Brown, I’m here to celebrate Ryan Brown and the best way I know how is to tell you about an early Ryan Brown Entrepreneurial Endeavor of his: The Titty Towel. Sadly, the Titty Towel website appears defunct, but the Titty Towel Twitter (try saying that three times fast!) lives on (or at least it will until Ryan Brown sees this roast and remembers to delete it). However! I have retained in my possession, and will now share with all of you, the original Titty Towel PR pitch Ryan Brown sent to friends but hopefully not to family because LOL Titty Towels.
My God, Ryan Brown, how did you ever get so perfect? Love you to the moon and back, pal.
*Ryan Brown has one of those names that demands you use both first and last at every turn. I don’t make the Ryan Brown rules, people!
Roasting Ryan is an incredible challenge — so much so that I couldn’t do it without gleaning inspiration from Shakespeare, a master of shade.
Ambition, Julius Caesar’s “grievous fault,” is a quality Ryan possesses in spades. Like, he once decided he was just going to make a random person famous, and then he actually did. He doesn’t struggle with doubt or insecurity like normal people. He’s so confident that he unironically uses a middle name — Ryan VAIL Brown — to distinguish himself from the other, lesser Ryan Browns who populate the digital landscape.
Also, how unabashedly ambitious do you have to be to leave GMG? (Is it still called that? I can’t keep up.) It’s a fun, exciting place to work with a lot of interesting people. But Ryan thinks he can do better. Actually, you know what? Scratch that. The new management is suffocating, ridiculous, and to this day refuses to explore the wild new frontier we call the internet for the sake of understanding the company they bought. Good for you, Ryan, getting out.
Ryan is a cool guy with a great personality and already was doing about 45 jobs and excelling at all of them, so I’m sure he’ll succeed now too. It just sucks that we can’t all join him on his journey. ❤️ and godspeed, Ry Ry.
Jillian Lucas - Commerce Editorial Manager, The Daily Beast, former The Inventory Senior Commerce Editor
Ryan loved to refer to my team as the junk drawer of the company. I hope his new team enjoys whatever backhanded compliment nickname he can think of next. I truly hope his love of props and rice crackers follows him to his next adventure.
Ryan, I am sad you’re leaving, but will not miss you stealing our candy and refusing to contribute to the candy supply with anything other than an obscene amount of Sixlets. I will miss your lemon hat, your relentless (and refreshing) optimism about the future of our company and digital media, and your persistent attempt to make ‘from Wentz she came’ happen. I promise to keep in touch by continuing to like your tweets many days after the fact.
It’s really hard for me to write this post. For one, I’m not quite sure what will be considered too roast-y, and lead to banishment across all social networks (thanks for the follow, Ryan!). But the real struggle is that this post means that I am losing my partner in biz, who I spend countless hours a day strategizing with, learning from, and just generally hanging with (sometimes wit cheesesteaks). Ryan has a way of drilling a “thing” into the conversation of the company — be it Sixlets (ew), almond-to-hand capacity (I demand a re-do), scaffolding content, or grand business concepts like Moral Debt. His enthusiasm and energy cannot be replaced, and yet-to-be-named-company is lucky to have him.
I do not understand Ryan Brown. I’m certain he is an ultra gifted five-year old in the body of a 30-something. I’m convinced he is a character that was cut from HBO’s Silicon Valley that Denton somehow brought to life and put in charge of Biz Dev at Gawker. I am still trying to comprehend how someone who is a willing and active participant in so many terrible Slack channels - most of his own creation - can be as productive as he is.
There’s a ton of weird shit I could associate Ryan with: heelies, unicycles, bamboo canes, Sixlets (terrible candy), BjornQorn (good popcorn), the infamous Red Couch, and so on. You should ask him about all these things, by the way. But I’ll always remember Ryan as the guy who “borrowed” items from my desk to fidget with. He’d never return them of course, requiring me to reclaim them from his desk. He was fixated on my basketball for a while, which forced me to physically lock it in a cabinet and completely forget about it until several years later when we moved offices. Ryan Brown is why we can’t have nice things and I’ll miss him terribly.
Ryan once drove some coworkers and me to a bar in his boat-sized car with shag from what I guess is the 1970s. I sat in the backseat next to a lamp with a base shaped like a trout. “It’s a trout lamp!” Ryan exclaimed when we questioned him about it.
This describes all you need to know about Ryan Brown.
Ryan was born to work for Gawker Media. I’m not sure why it took Gawker so long to find him! But from the moment we finally convinced him to join our merry band, Ryan became both an originator of the company’s evolving culture and a leader of its provocative business vision. It was like he had always been there, part of Gawker’s origin story. Enough with the proper stuff though, here’s what’s really important — Ryan “gets it.” Ryan can ride a unicycle. Ryan hearts the Catskills. And Ryan does good Twitter.
One of the things I miss most about leaving Gawker a few years ago is Ryan stopping by my office and asking “What’s the goss?” They hadn’t yet invited Juul, but if they had, he no doubt would shamelessly vape while asking the question. (He thinks he’s being discreet in conference rooms, bars, restaurants, hospitals, etc but he isn’t.) He’s a fantastic person to talk internet and media with, and I’m still unsure of his exact relation to Tina Brown. I’m still unsure how he handles his LinkedIn recommendations. Regardless, he deserves a strong congrats for not only building out an eight figure business unit in Gawker/GMG/G/O/??? but being perhaps the longest tenured business executive whatever remains of this entity has ever seen.
Heather Hynes - Senior Director of Production at Complex, former Director of Creative Operations at Gizmodo Media Group
He’d never admit it, but I know that one of Ryan’s least favorite things about me is that I worked at Gawker before him which is fine because I have many least favorite things about him.
Ryan is always carrying a prop of some kind. Whatever free stuff some random company mailed him, a fidget spinner (or 3), or a guitar - no office should have a guitar— as a rule, and of course a cane (not sure if you can get workers comp if hitting yourself in the face with it).
How does he literally know all the gossip before ANYONE else? It is incredibly annoying. Some of my greatest joys of the 6? 7? years I spent working with Ryan were the very few times I knew something before him. Surprise! Just to know something before you I’m the one who took all the mugs.
Ryan can not email. I am without a doubt still waiting for him to respond to 20-30 emails from the past 6 years that were all based on conversations or projects he started. I’m still waiting to hear if he wants to grab coffee after that one all-hands.
Ryan is one of the most annoying types of people - equal parts infuriating and endearing and, to his future coworkers I want to say, “you’re so lucky” and also, “...good luck with that.”
Jillian Schulz - VP of Account Strategy at Dotdash, former VP of Media Operations at Gizmodo Media Group
Ryan started 3 weeks after me, and it took me months to realize he hadn’t worked at Gawker for 3 years already. The dude knows everyone and everything.
Our entire relationship has been based on one core principle: hot goss. Everyone tells Ryan everything, myself included. As someone who has never really listened to anyone but the voice in his head, he’s somehow a fantastic listener, especially when times are bad. AND BOY HAVE TIMES BEEN BAD!
I’m glad that Ryan is relinquishing his role as the captain of the Titantic (at the end of the movie) and getting off this god forsaken vessel to safe land. It was a great ship and he served it well.
Please rent your home to Mason for his birthday. I want to zipline in January. /js.
Alex Mason - Director of Yield and Programatic Ops at Complex, former holder of many jobs at Gawker/Gizmodo Media Group
Ryan’s time at the many iterations of Gawker is ending in what I think is a beautiful metaphor; giving him an office with a door. He is a personality and talent that SHOULD NOT BE CAGED, much like shirts should NOT BE MADE TO TUCK IN. I can’t tell you what he was really thinking during all the downs, but I can tell you that many of us would have been worse off without the perceived positivity he gave as the world burned down around us i.e twirling around that dumb cane and forcing his weird food opinions on everyone for a reaction (Bjorn Corn is good ok). He was the “This is Fine” dog we all needed to confide in.
Please let me AirBnB your house for a massive discount on my birthday weekend. It’s January, no one will want it then anyway.
Kavi Reddy - Co-General Counsel at Brunswick Group, former Gizmodo Media Group Vice President and Deputy General Counsel
Ryan V. Brown, the man, the myth, the legend. Whether it’s rolling down hallways on his wheelie shoes, serenading us with lovely guitar music, or not-so-secretly vaping in the office, Ryan has been a delight! Ryan kindly showed me the ropes when I joined Gawker way back in 2014 and I cannot imagine what the place will look like without him. Ryan, good luck in your next endeavor and be happy that wherever you go, it is unlikely to involve e-books!
John Price - VP of Revenue Operations at Complex, former VP of Revenue Operations at Gawker Media Group
I remember my first interaction with Ryan Vail Vail Brown. It was a brisk February day in 2013, as part of our standard on-boarding process a meeting was scheduled for me to introduce myself, walk him through my team and highlight some of our initiatives for the coming year.
Instead of utilizing one of 210's limited meeting spaces (The White Room, The Boardroom, The Library, etc), we decided to take a stroll around Elizabeth Street. It was sunny out after all.
We definitely hit it off and found we had industry friends in common. We then had the following conversation:
RVB: “Are you a fan?”
Price: “Fan of what?”
RVB: “No Phan, with a Ph.”
Price: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
RVB: “Phan, like Phish. Do you like the band Phish?”
Price: “Jesus, no. WTF?!”
RVB: “Sorry, I totally read you the wrong way.”
Price: “Yes, yes you did. I fucking hate that band”
RVB: “My bad.”
This offensive conversation by no means derailed our budding friendship, which would go on to flourish over the years. It did however allow me to realize very quickly, that for the most part Ryan enjoys listening to horrible, horrible music and once I got visual confirmation (a pic from his pony tail years), he was a dirty hippy at heart.
I may not be a Phan of Phish but I am a FAN of Ryan despite the whole hippy/bad music thing.
Ryan Brown (aka RVB, aka The Tony Hawk of Heelys, aka Don of Deals, aka EIC of Scaffolding Enthusiast Weekly, aka The Catskills weekend Instagram thirst trap queen, aka Second Summer truther) is quite possibly one of the most dedicated trolls I’ve ever had the pleasure of calling a colleague. In 2015, Ryan bought Heely sneakers (you know, the shoes that made JNCOs float) and kept them under his desk. They worked really well on the drab concrete floors of Gawker Media’s last address in the Flatiron district. I imagine he’s leaving as the new address of G/O Media looks like it has a carpeted office.
He also had this thing against lunch. I don’t really remember why but it definitely had to do with Soylent. This is his most untrustworthy opinion. Ryan is also sure there are at least 10 seasons: Winter, Extra Winter, Irish Spring, Real Spring, Memorial Day Weekend, Summer, Second Summer, Fall, and Thanksgiving. I don’t know, tweet at him about it.
Finally, Ryan has never bothered to fix the broken image on his webpage:
I think we can all agree thats just incredibly rude.
Good luck out there Ryan, I hope your next office has good, smooth floors, and plenty of hard-boiled eggs for your coat pockets.
Ryan and I first worked together at The Daily Beast, a then scrappy website that he used as his “biz dev” training ground and launching pad to his one and only real goal in life: to work at Gawker. By the time I accidentally stumbled into this company, which is definitely not the company he joined, Ryan had somehow built up a legit piece of the business here with a combination of intrepid scrappiness, pluck, and shamelessness. There may have been the occasional small dose of snake oil in there? Hard to say with Ryan! Not sure what Ryan will do now without goals and dreams to strive for. Goodbye and good luck to a real one.
From an EIC’s point of view, Ryan’s exactly the kind of guy you want doing sales and business development stuff on your behalf. In addition to being a supremely kind and chill human being, he always seemed to get what we do at Jalopnik and never put us in the path of something that would go against that.
In fact, I’d like to think we at least helped to inspire his acquisition of a 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer last year. I remember seeing his face beam with joy when he talked about it. He was so excited! Then it had problems. Weird problems.
It didn’t like to turn over unless the steering wheel was straight. The muffler fell off entirely. It had a penchant for barfing coolant on its head gasket. It apparently still stalls out, occasionally.
Owning old cars is fun, you see. There are people out there who think this kind of thing is fun.
For a while I was running an old-ass BMW 7 Series, and I feel like we had dueling stories about whose car had more annoying problems. I kicked that piece of shit to the curb months ago, but Ryan’s Jeep is “GOOD,” he tells me in all caps. I guess Ryan won.
Ryan, thanks for everything you did here. You’re a good man and we will miss you. And sorry you had to learn the Jalopnik lifestyle is actually a terrible way to live.
There should always be a clear divide between editorial and the business ends of a media company, and it’s therefore easy to be suspicious when someone from “downstairs” wants to wander over to editorial’s side to see how things are going. That works when you trust the person, when it’s clear they get it, when it’s clear that they value and respect and love the work the teams do and that’s what Ryan Brown always was to me—a trusted partner for Kotaku doing deals downstairs. He also liked to glide around the office in those shoes that have little rollers in them. That was weird.
I have to be honest: I never quite understood what Ryan’s “job” was. He ran “business” “development,” but mostly I just saw him strutting around the office in a shawl cardigan and a cane he did not need. Occasionally he would stop me mid-conversation to “take a call.” Not sure how this amounted to “developing” “business,” but he did always have good gossip, so I suppose him moseying about was useful, to me. Rude of him to leave!
The first time I really hung out with Ryan was in Chicago, where he had tagged along to “oversee” a live Deadcast event. “Overseeing” seemed to mostly mean putting down his corporate card for our very nice dinner, which endeared him to me forever. Since then, his main role in my life has been relentlessly harassing me for gossip while low-key negging me, which is less endearing but fine, I guess? Once, over drinks to which he was nearly an hour late, he sorta half-jokingly proposed we go into business together, then immediately added, not-at-all-jokingly, “but it would have to be clear that I’m in charge.” I hope all of his new colleagues at Cheddar realize he’s the boss, and remind him frequently that that means he has to buy dinner.
As a general rule, those of us on the blogging side of the media business are suspicious of those on the other side of things. I know what my job is, and it is about an equal split between complaining about the New York Mets and doing a podcast where I say “poo poo” and “pee pee” to a coworker who has dialed in via Skype. Ryan’s job, as I understood it, was to somehow take all of that and make it into something that can be sold to advertisers as a Thing That Has Value, and while I knew he was very good at doing that—and while he was always very generous and illuminating when it came to explaining how that sort of thing worked when I asked him about it—I made a point of not trying to learn too much about it, for the same reason that I’ve never watched one of those Magicians Exposed specials on television. This seems like a strange comparison, because big-ticket magicians are people that own multiple capes and different kind of doily-style ruffs whereas Ryan is just an exceptionally well-groomed professional who owns dozens of near-identical oxford shirts, and on its merits I will admit that it doesn’t hold up. And yet there was something uncanny about the dude in all our dealings. It simply does not add up that I should like the dude as much as I did—he’s got a job on the money-making side of things, whereas I’m squarely on the poo poo/pee pee side, and I do not appreciate the competition for the title of Person In Office With Largest Collection Of Similar Shirts, and he has this terrible floral hat that he wears around the office which I’ve always found very unsettling. And yet here we are: this handsome-dan motherfucker with his good clothes and reliable haircut and goddamn rustic home in the literal Catskills is leaving, and I’m staying here to do whatever it is I do, and I’m sad about it. I don’t need to know what he does, or how he’s pulled this off. It would probably spoil the trick if I did.
One time I ended up talking with Ryan at length about digital media, from the nitty gritty of programmatic advertising to the overarching questions about editorial vision, and was left with two main takeaways: 1) Ryan knows everything, and I mean everything, there is to know about digital media. It’d be weird if it wasn’t so impressive. 2) His faith in the company, in fearless journalism, and in the ability for both to succeed in an increasingly hostile media environment was more zealous than maybe anyone I had ever talked to, and his conviction was contagious.
Veronica de Souza- Director Of Audience Development at The Daily Beast, former Head of Audience and Social at Gizmodo Media Group
When he wasn’t being a giant pain in my ass, Ryan taught me a handful of things that have proven to be useful. I considered roasting him with screenshots of text messages he should be ashamed of but decided to focus on embarrassing things he’s widely known for, like owning and wearing Heelys. Of all the things I thought would get Ryan fired (I’m happy to list them in extreme detail), violating the dress code by wearing shoes made for children to work was not one of them!
Anyway, I’m very happy that Ryan finally landed his dream job at Cheddar. Best of luck to his new colleagues.
Ryan, you are a man, child and I love you.
You have done wonderful things for our company—you even made us a shit load of money—THANK YOU! (remind me why you’re not working here anymore?)
Keep Juuling and leave those wheelie shoes for me.
CROP TOPS FOR LIFE!