The New Media Sweatshops

For new-media serfs, cool perks hide 100-hour weeks

| July-August 1999

The elevator door slides open and Jess slides in, looking slightly rumpled. Tara sizes her up.

“Didn't get much sleep last night?”

“You can tell?”

“Well, you're wearing the same clothes as yesterday.”

Jess laughs. Her music show, Freq, broadcast live over the Internet here at new-media house Pseudo, went late last night. Apparently the crowd got deep into the mix and the staff wound up hanging around until dawn. Now it's 10:30, and she's back from breakfast to make calls and set up meetings. “At some point I'm gonna have to shower,” she mutters as she wanders off to her desk.

Tara and I tour Pseudo studios, an odd mix of high camp and high tech. Each room reflects the peculiar pop-cultural animus of the twentysomethings who work here. There's the room for the women's Net shows, decorated in a late-'70s drag with a rainbow-colored bead door, shag carpeting, and inflatable toys. A group of goateed musicians hangs out in another room, holding keyboards and a computer monitor. (Who are they? “I have no idea,” Tara says.) There's a massive ballroom on the top floor where Freq is shot, complete with Dorian pillars and an ornate high ceiling, a reminder that this part of Soho has some of New York's most architecturally quirky lofts.