US movie critic Roger Ebert started at the Chicago Sun-Times in 1966 and worked there until his recent death — itself a pretty big feat. But looking at how Ebert made savvy but sincere moves to expand into manageable side projects, you can see him as an original multimedia brand manager.
Original photo by Bob Kotalik/Chicago Sun-Times, via Associated Press
Writing at the New York Times, David Carr points out some of the smartest moves made by Ebert throughout his long and multi-faceted career. Without a business background, and while focusing always on simply expressing his thoughts on what makes movies worth seeing, Ebert secured his career early on by treating his output as a product, not a job.
Just as Jay-Z is more than a musician, Roger Ebert was much more than a guy who wrote about movies. He was a newspaper writer, a television personality, a public speaker, a book author, an event impresario and a Web publisher. And through his Web site, RogerEbert.com, he is still with us even though he is gone, demonstrating the kind of stickiness and durability that media brands crave.
... He was prolific and memorable (as a critic), in part because he perfected the high-low split - the thinking man's regular guy - while much of the rest of the growing world of movie criticism was huffing its own fumes. Mr. Ebert saw the power of syndication early on, negotiating rights to his written work and appearing in 200 newspapers and then repurposing the reviews for best-selling film guides.
It is very easy to see the flaws and hubris in the web chatter and success stories of "marketing yourself" and "personal brands," but it's also encouraging to see how a passion for your field can translate into lucrative ventures.
Roger Ebert's Legacy as a Relentless Empire-Builder [NYTimes.com]