I receive regular offers from The New York Times—in the print newspaper and online—to sign up for Times Premier. The promise: "The Times Insider—your backstage pass to the life and drama that transpires daily in our newsroom."
On a recent "Real Time With Bill Maher" show, Maher responded to the announcement that Time Warner Cable would merge with Comcast Corp. in a $45 billion purchase. He noted that, combined, the two cable systems represent 19 of the 20 largest U.S. markets; and, apart from suppliers like Dish and DirecTV, they have no competitors in these metros. Further, Maher said, the two companies have the lowest customer satisfaction ratings of any cable system. So, as he asked his panelists, where is the value for customers in this merger if both companies are known to have questionable service performance?
When I saw that the 2008 rate for a speech by Larry Summers was $45,000 to $135,000, I got to thinking.
Out of curiosity, I started prowling the various Web sites of speakers' bureaus and came to six conclusions:
- It seems everybody in the world is available for speeches. Included are political and show business stars, second and third bananas, and hundreds upon hundreds of people I never heard of.
- All of these people—luminaries and nobodies—get fees from $1,000 to $1 million, plus expenses.
- I used to make a lot of speeches, and all I ever got was expenses and a plaque with my name engraved on it.
- I was a damned fool. I was as much a nobody as anybody else and could've picked up some dough if I'd just asked.
- If someone invites you to make a speech, think about asking for an honorarium at the very least, if not a fat fee, plus expenses. For Colin Powell, expenses include a private jet along with his $100,000 fee.
- The worst that can happen is that no money in the budget exists for fees or expenses. If you refuse, someone will replace you.