I am a digital operations and web monetization expert, with a background in ad tech. I'm advising both startups and established companies and also provide early stage startup mentoring / coaching. Previous employers include Google, Facebook, reddit, music and gaming startups. Founder & editor of Ad Tech Daily.
I very much doubt there is a "should be" approach to this: as others have pointed out, it really depends: on the company, sometimes on the industry too, stage of development, the team you're a part of, your personal work style, your manager's expectations and so on.
I've personally experienced both extremes, in companies that - at least from the outside - should be quite similar. One company expected that I work almost exclusively on unique initiatives, to the point of nearly neglecting my core work; the other valued and emphasized core tasks and welcomed what you refer to as "unique problem solving" only after the mundane was fully dealt with.
Needless to say, I didn't think that either one of these extremes was ideal. However, I believe that the extraordinary should remain, well, extraordinary. Most people can't function day after day, quarter after quarter, in a state of continuous awesomeness, one also needs time to decompress, recharge batteries, and fall back onto the familiar.
If I was to mention actual numbers, I'd probably feel that a 60 / 40 split would be ideal (60% core tasks, 40% unique problem solving).
Long story short: they should be written in your tense, since they are actually written by you, on your behalf.
When asking an acquaintance for an intro, make sure you provide enough context for your acquaintance to justify making the connection:
- clarify how you're connected;
- mention the name of the startup and ways to look it up;
- include a very concise outline of what your startup's capabilities are and what you've achieved so far;
- end with a call to action.
Your acquaintance can then either forward your email entirely or use it to quickly put together a separate message based on the information you've already provided.
I suppose the Yes/No answer would have to be a "No", however, there are some considerations.
The purpose of a logo is to build recognition by repetition. Therefore, diluting the logo with variations (be they in shape or in color) are likely to decrease its effectiveness since the consumer would take a little longer to reach the point of instant recognition.
Having said that, if you feel strongly about having logo variations (perhaps to represent different products that you're offering?), try keeping a core of the logo unchanged and build variations only on certain elements. The most notable example that I can think of is FedEx: see http://i.stack.imgur.com/GGATc.png.
You mentioned printed shirts so that brought up the topic of branded merchandise. If your brand will be present on a variety of merchandise, keep in mind that many colors won't look good against certain backgrounds and textures. If you must have / offer merchandise that comes in both very light and very dark backgrounds, it'd be a good idea to let your designer know that before creating and settling for a color scheme.
It's difficult to give specific advice without knowing the actual traffic level(1) and type of ads and placements(2) you have on your website but I'll make the assumption that those visitors don't record visits of extraordinary length resulting in at least several hundreds of thousands of pageviews/month.
In this case, your best bet would be to sell your ad space in a tenure model (per month, for example) as opposed to CPM or another, less advantageous pricing model. This would ensure you're covered for any traffic fluctuation, don't have to deal with monetizing remnant inventory, and usually translates in higher eCPMs overall.
Tip: offer campaign features not usually associated with smaller publishers, as a strategy to stand out. For the Politics vertical, I'd suggest looking into a guarantee that no competing campaigns would be displayed simultaneously (you can do so in pretty much any ad server out there).
(1) pageviews, ad impressions
(2) number of ad placements, sizes, location, type of ad creatives