I keep just describing it as a "website for teenage girls," because I like to think it's not too niche, and I don't want to alienate anyone by saying it's for alternative girls or artsy girls or anything. At the same time, I mean, we don't speak for every girl, but we try to encourage girls to speak for themselves. Mostly we just try to avoid being condescending or making anyone feel like there's something wrong with them that they should be worrying about if they're not already. Or like we're teaching anyone how to be cool. I want people to know that they're already cool. Whatever they're into, that is enough.
Mr. Morris has a grinning, laid-back persona, with an approach not dissimilar to Hunter S. Thompson's gonzo journalism. In person Mr. Morris, son of the filmmaker Errol Morris, is bookish and intense, speaking with a fastidious attention to word choice.
For those of you who like their David Carr served with a dash of sentimentality (like a Replacements ballad!), here ya go:
You can follow someone on Twitter, friend them on Facebook, quote or be quoted by them in a newspaper article, but until you taste their bread, you don't really know them.
Early last year, I told Elizabeth Spiers that Felix Salmon had made a bet with John Carney: she would be fired from The Observer within a year. It didn't happen; Felix lost the bet, in somewhat grumpy prose.
All the interesting hires, the chatter about new properties, the return of the old tagline, the blog launches, the print format switch -- for the first time in a long time, The Observer has been fun to watch. I choose that infinitive carefully, because this is what Felix overlooked in the media parlor game: watching beats reading any day.
We already proved that we could have a trailer for anything when Charlie O'Donnell created a trailer for a venture fund:
But Esquire goes even further, with trailer for a magazine article:
Five things that intrigue me right now, which may or may not be “the future of content”:
1) Willie Nelson covered Coldplay’s “The Scientist” for a Chipotle commercial. All those proper nouns in the same sentence!
2) Serious Business. That’s Alex Blagg’s new “intertainment firm.” (Oh how soon they become what they parody!) His partners include a former UTA agent. Their first video is Drive-Thru, an 84% funny parody of Drive that is an Arby’s commercial.
4) A supercut of all the product placements in Lady Gaga videos. It has only 946 views. Let’s make this famous!
5) The Greatest Movie Ever Sold box office totals. Remember that Morgan Spurlock movie from this summer? The amount of money it made wouldn’t even buy you a decent apartment in Manhattan. At the box office, at least — it made millions in product placements.
Over at the NYT's "Ethicist" column, Randy Cohen is out, and Ariel Kaminer is in. But I don't think any ethical considerations are raised by a person taking over the writing of something that is so closely associated with someone else. [via romenesko]
This correction needs a correction: Appended by editors to Carr's "Skins" takedown: "...It is thus not the case that the youngsters cast in 'Kids,' the British film that was the model for 'Skins' and was rated NC-17, 'could not legally see it.'" Kids is American, not British.
NYT's new "Frugal Traveler," who should know better -- a lot better -- got scammed while trying to rent an apartment for his stay in London. Hint: If the email includes the word "wire," it's a scam.
Yesterday, Fortune revealed that Steve Jobs went to Switzerland for "unusual radiological treatment" last year. How did they know this? It turns out that an Apple board member told them -- off the record. But, says Fortune, that board member died, so the "off the record" arrangement no longer applies. This raises some questions -- is any journalist free to reveal everything you told them "off the record" once you die? And attribute it to you? Columbia Journalism Review explores the issue, and it's a thread on Quora. [via Romenesko]
A rumor I heard about Murdoch's new tablet app, The Daily. (Wish I understood the logic of when I post something on my Tumblr, and when it goes here, and when I cross link from one to the other. There is no logic!)
MG in TechCrunch: In The Age Of Realtime, Twitter Is Walter Cronkite. I have a quibble with this: I would like to take a poll and see -- how many people learned about the Arizona shooting through Twitter? My guess is a small percentage. I suspect that most people heard through breaking news alerts -- email, text, and apps. (After that, the second-most-common was probably word-of-mouth. And then probably tv and traditional news.)
Okay, you might say that alerts are part of the real-time web too, but that's Web 1.0. (Advice to all the new News 2.0 services: devise a strategy for notifications!) Twitter was full of hearsay (perhaps created by news orgs). However, Twitter was valuable in one regard: providing links to mainstream news outlets who were reporting on the story... in realtime.
Here's the NYT's Stelter and Carter framing comparisons between Edward R. Murrow and Jon Stewart, based on Stewart's "activism" on behalf of the 9/11 healthcare bill. (Not surprisingly, the article draws on quote-machine Prof. Robert J. Thompson of Syracuse University to support its premise.)
Anyone else feel like Time's short intro essay to its "Person of the Year" gets more right about Zuck and Facebook than its (very long) profile/apologia does? Also, the top 5 list seems just right (in order): Zuckerberg, Tea Party, Assange, Hamid Karzai, Chilean Miners.
Recently noticed: if you click on a link on the nytimes.com that goes to a print-ready page (like this one) it redirects you to the non-print-ready page. But if you click "print" from there, it works (obviously looking at the referrer). Crafty, that.
Kevin Kelly asked me "What is your favorite magazine story of all time?" for this awesome list. It is exactly the kind of question that I should have an answer to, but don't. What's missing?
New thing: MediaBugs, "a service for correcting errors and problems in media coverage in the San Francisco Bay Area."
so on the one hand, a shout-out to my alma mater, the University of Oregon, for actually thinking about making content for mobile devices. and on the other hand, while some are saying this is about making the iPad a content creation device, the story suggests that the content creation devices are the students, and that the content they make will still be merely consumed on an iPad. by the way, i see nothing wrong with that. mostly because that debate (create or consume - good or evil) makes me zzzzzzzz. -- FB
This Big-Picture-style photo essay from the Denver Post follows Ian Fisher, his parents and friend as he graduates from high school, joins the army, and does his first tour of duty in Iraq. It's powerful stuff, all taken by the same photographer over the course of 27 months.
Props to the Denver Post props for using the scrollable-collection-of-browser-width images format perfected by Alan Taylor at The Boston Globe's The Big Picture. It's really true about a picture speaking 1000 words, and my favorite thing about digital news distribution is the ability to show more photos and video. I HATE the trend towards click through image galleries. Media People, Are you reading this??? Please!!! Stop with the making me click all the time through your photo gallery! Come up with ad units that aren't so obtrusive, and let me scroll past them, and I'll expand if I'm interested. Flipping past an ad in a magazine and having it catch my eye is often an enjoyable experience, but having to click like a rat at a feeder bar for the next photo or next page just so you can display the same three ads to me 16 times is absolutely maddening. You can do better than this!!! Let me scroll! Through of the pictures at once! I'll scroll past ads if i must! Do the right thing!!!
Oof. This is a media blog sometimes, right?
Anyhoo- This excellent and excellently-displayed imagery is photojournalism at its finest, and it is part of a much larger multimedia reporting project from the Denver Post about Ian Fisher's life as an infantryman- although it seems some of the files in the video section are missing or slow to load. :DS
This was NYT's their breaking news alert just now:
Mr. Obama affixed his curlicue signature, almost letter by letter, to the measure, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, surrounded by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and a raft of other lawmakers who spent the past year on a legislative roller-coaster ride trying to pass it. Aides said he would pass out the 20 pens he used as mementoes.
"affixed his curlicue signature"? Really? -RX
Not to double-dip, but it's really good to know that Sean Penn is back on his Madonna-dating, chain-smoking, crazy meds again after he freaked out at a reporter for asking him about his "critics die screaming of rectal cancer" statement. Then his PR team told the reporter to write a public apology to the Haitian ambassador before having her publicly escorted out of the gala (where reporters were allowed to ask Sean Penn one question, btw) by the police.
Well, when Rex Sorgatz was asked a while back, How bad do you anticipate Gould's book will be? Rex said he was still gathering his thoughts. In the meantime, Publishers Weekly have gathered theirs: "On the strength of an exposé she wrote for the New York Times Magazine two years ago about her experience working at Gawker.com, Gould, hailing from Silver Spring, Md., and now in her late 20s, delivers a series of 11 insipid essays about her uninspired youth and general lack of motivation or talent for various jobs she took after moving to New York City. The writing seems intentionally bland, as if Gould is attempting to be blasé."
Rex, have you gathered your thoughts yet? As someone from around the Silver Spring area myself, I can promise there is not much else to do besides listen to Liz Phair and then go to Kenyon (Oberlin). Also, haven't read the book, but based on what I've read of Gould's work, I don't think that being blasé is "intentional" as in something she's faking...shit is genetically imprinted. Not bland though: How can the person who made the Internet coin the term "overshare" be bland? --DG
NYT's Lens Blog has first-hand account of the Marja battle from embedded photographer Tyler Hicks. Hicks and reporter CJ Chivers filed some outstanding work from the battle. Chivers (a former Marine) and Hicks were on the front lines throughout, and I wouldn't be surprised if they earn a Pulitzer for their efforts. --ADM
Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab examines an usual editorial relationship between the Huffington Post and a third-party fundraiser [link fixed]. The Lab says HuffPo outsources editorial control of the "Impact" section of the site to Causecast, a for-profit organization that raises money for non-profits:
In exchange for the content, HuffPo shares the advertising and sponsorship revenue the section generates with the outside company, Causecast. And Causecast gets a platform to promote its services and the nonprofits it chooses to highlight, some of which are its partner organizations.
The section on HuffPo is labeled "in partnership with Causecast," but the third-party authorship is not made explicit:
...despite having a bio and byline like other Huffington Post editors [an author of some Impact pieces] is not a HuffPo employee. He is paid by Causecast and works out of their Santa Monica offices. As part of the arrangement with the Huffington Post, Harris oversees two other writers, who are also Causecast employees, in producing the site's content, which includes short original stories and aggregation from around the web.
The Nieman Lab wonders about the ethical implications of this. Causecast says their clients cannot pay them to place a story on HuffPo. Are there other considerations? If you're reading something you think is authored by HuffPo and is actually authored by a third-party corporation, do you care? What if that third-party has undisclosed relationships with the organizations discussed in the article?
It's interesting to me that no sector of the mass media learned from any other sector as each one got its turn to react to the ongoing digital revolution. The newspaper industry is in the same throes as the film industry was, just as the film industry's struggle mirrored the music industry's.
For the last year or so, it's been the book publisher's turn to demonstrate it has learned something -- anything -- from the last 15 years. But, as the kerfuffle over pricing and DRM have demonstrated so clearly -- they haven't.
The latest WTF moment comes from Macmillan (them again): CEO John Sargent says he wants to sell "hardcover" eBooks. As TUAW's TJ Luoma astutely points out, there are only a few reasons to get a hardcover instead of a paperback, and they either don't apply or make no business sense in the digital realm:
- You want to buy the book soon after it's published? eBooks take care of that. You can have it a few seconds later, in fact. If the publisher delays releasing it because it's a "paperback," they're just shooting themselves in the foot.
- You want a collector's item? Too bad! THEY PUT DRM ON THE EBOOK. Not much resale or nostalgia value there!
- You want bigger type? Press the "+" button.
Here's my (free!) business plan for book publishers: Since you're going to have to do it eventually anyway, give your customers what they want now. Four other industries have already learned these lessons for you -- and in some cases are still learning them. They spent a lot of years and money (and angered a lot of customers) so that you wouldn't have to. Wishing things away is not effective. --ADM
The Pew Internet & American Life Project, in the news every few months for issuing reports on America's media consumption habits, has just released its latest survey, "Understanding the Participatory News Consumer." Key findings include:
- "37% of internet users have contributed to the creation of news, commented about it, or disseminated it via postings on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter."
- "The internet has surpassed newspapers and radio in popularity as a news platform on a typical day and now ranks just behind TV." But over a third (38%) rely solely on offline sources, and...
- Local news is still the leading new source. "78% of Americans say they get news from a local TV station."
- 75% of online news consumers say they get news forwarded through email or posts on social networking sites.
Millennials! They're getting harder to ignore/understand by the day!
Yesterday, the President of MTV Networks said that he thinks this generation is "really about authentic reality and family" and that's why MTV programming no longer appeals to Generation X. The Oscars announced that Zac Efron and the Twilight crew will be presenting awards this year in hopes of drawing a tween audience (which won't work on them because it's not like anyone below 23 has seen The Hurt Locker, but will work on me because it's not like I haven't seen 17 Again, twice).
Today, PBS News Hour is livetweeting a Pew Research conference on Millennials with some fascinating figures (only 14% use Twitter) and some mystifying statements with unintentionally ironic airquotes ("What's surprising is how 'conventional' this generation is."). And finally, Pew has a "How Millennial Are You?" quiz, which you can take here. I got a 78, which is probably why I'm actually enjoying the new Ke$ha video that just leaked, but not enough to steal her album. --FD
[Update: the full Pew conference report: "The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change."]
Great new issue of Wired this month, especially for old-schoolers who miss the early years. "10 Years After" looks back at the moment the Nasdaq peaked, the cover story is a roundup of the new digital currency options that even advances the ball, and Steven Levy's story on the Google algorithm is actually the story you've been wanting to read about the Google algorithm, not another warmed up wonk story on "Google culture." And Kevin Smith does his thing:
My dream is to never have to take a real job again. If my next movie bombs and nobody ever gives me another dollar to make more, I wouldn't care. I don't need to do it anymore. I was never convinced that the film thing would last anyway. It just made me interesting enough to have a Web site.
PresenTense, a hip Jewish life magazine, has launched its latest issue entirely on Google Wave, marketing it as the first magazine ever to do so. It's a bit distracting--it's never easy to read an article when you're inside a giant chat room. But I like the idea of using Wave as a full-issue magazine browser instead of having to download the PDF or click through all the individual pieces, especially for small publications. --FD
Starting in early 2011, visitors to NYTimes.com will get a certain number of articles free every month before being asked to pay a flat fee for unlimited access. Subscribers to the newspaper's print edition will receive full access to the site.
Everyone expects Apple to announce a tablet on January 27. And the New York Times is expected to announce a pay wall of some sort "in a matter of weeks." Mix those two up, and maybe they could do a joint announcement.
This is something to finally be optimistic about: one-third of The Atlantic's revenue's come from its website.
Here's a smart Mediaite piece: Revisiting the New York Times' 2001 "Year In Ideas." It lists all the ideas from 8 years ago and declares their viability. Big surprise, "selling things yourself in cigarette vending machines" and "hypnotizing focus groups to get better results" aren't entrenched concepts today. (For media mavens, 2001 was during Adam Moss' editorial reign at the mag.)
That "Hulu for magazines" thing (still unnamed) was announced this morning. Getting Conde, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp, and Time into a room together is worth something.
As you may have seen, The Observer reported that the New York Times is likely going to close some of their blogs. (Gawker handicapped the carnage.) This makes me wonder what some of the other large media companies who have started blog networks will do. AOL and MTV immediately come to mind. I mean, you can chuckle at some of the obscure NYT titles, but MTV has a blog dedicated only to comic books turning into movies. Really!
So the best thing about David Carr at The Times is that The Times lets him get lyrical, amiright? I feel like this is the kind of stuff that would normally get cut from any non-op-ed piece; either that, or no one else can write in the same bouncy way:
For those of us who work in Manhattan media, it means that a life of occasional excess and prerogative has been replaced by a drum beat of goodbye speeches with sheet cakes and cheap sparkling wine. It's a wan reminder that all reigns are temporary, that the court of self-appointed media royalty was serving at the pleasure of an advertising economy that itself was built on inefficiency and excess. Google fixed that.
The NYT media desk might be the subject of a documentary. (Side anecdote: I was at a party a few days ago that contained a full video team following around NYC socialite Tinsley Mortimer for a possible reality show. I nudged Brian Stelter and said, "Why don't they make a reality show about you?" He smiled in a way that I didn't understand at the time.)
Arrington weighs in on this whole FoxCorp/Google de-indexing thing. I still think this is going to play out in some interesting way: I predict someone big will attempt to treat their spiderability as an asset in the coming year. Google won't pay at first, but once Bing takes a bid for exclusive rights, it's a whole new game. (And to that "value of traffic" argument from the previous post, I still can only say: 1 billion unmonetized pageviews versus 10 million actual dollars isn't a contest right now. Many companies will try to take that Bloomberg strategy of making their content exclusive in the coming year. I'm not saying it's necessarily the right strategy, but I'm sure it will happen.)
Esquire has launched its augmented reality issue. (You read that right!) It requires a webcam and software install. Oh, and a print copy of the magazine.
If you talk enough, eventually you'll say something smart, or at least interesting. Jason Calacanis on what media companies should do to Google:
The idea is that publishers could use their robots.txt as a ransom note, selling it to the highest bidder -- Bing or Google. (I suspect this idea takes fire and gets repeated a lot over the next couple months.)
Murdoch threatens to hide News Corp content from Google. Ooooh, scared!
The Tokyo Hot List: 20 people to watch. You will know none of these people, but you will want to instantly know all of them!
A "Digg for articles" isn't a bad idea, and I guess that's what the new magazine article aggregation service Maggwire wants to be. (It bills itself the "iTunes of Magazines" but I don't understand that.) Not bad so far, but something that's more format agnostic like Give Me Something To Read seems more compelling.
My new theory on the death of big media: sobriety.
Some new stuff this week:
Google is developing a micropayment system, with the idea that new orgs could use it, but given these terms they never would.
Some new stuff this week:
- Blueprint 3, Jay-Z's comeback, exec produced by Kanye.
- The Beatles: Rock Band, which got more press than Teddy Kennedy's funeral.
- The F-Word, by Jesse Sheidlower, the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary.
- Level 26, a multi-media book/internet experiment from the creator of CSI (Fast Company profile).
It's like asking me, after I put together a band of musicians, why I didn't choose the musician who spoke Portuguese. What difference does it make if a musician speaks Portuguese? I'm going to pick the band member based on how good of a musician he is, not which languages he speaks. That's completely unrelated. Of course, if our band planned to tour in Portugal, it might be a different story, but let's put it this way: the band is not planning to tour in Portugal.
--the inimitable Adrian Holovaty on whether EveryBlock should have been purchased by a newspaper group instead.
I've become conditioned to saying that everything the AP does is stupid, so maybe I have to reserve judgment on this one: How The Associated Press will try to rival Wikipedia in search results. At least it's tactically an idea, rather than fantasy. Interesting: EveryZing, a company I've worked with that was recently purchased by NBC, seems to be involved.
Despite everyone telling him it's a dumb idea, Hunter is attending Columbia Journalism School to the tune of $47K. His story will be a good one to watch (I bet he gets a book deal, which is a funny way to make j-school worthwhile), but the real reason I link to this: it's a good example of Gawker's new commenting system working pretty nicely. Gawker is the new Metafilter?
This is something that will happen a lot: What happens to a reporter's popular Twitter account when she jumps to a rival? What if, I dunno, @Maddow jumped to CNN?
So a Washington Post writer -- Ian Shapira -- wrote a story about a generational consultant who's paid to talk about what the kids are talking about. A writer at Gawker -- Hamilton Nolan -- picked up the item, excerpted huge sections, and attributed it at the bottom. Now the writer feels like Gawker essentially stole his story. Good quotes follow and Neiman crunches the numbers. Update: Mediaite expands it. Update: Gawker has a decent response, mostly cuz it takes your eyes off the ball by saying that the downfall of newspapers has nothing to do with Gawker and other aggregation-type-things, which is true, except that wasn't really the original point.
Let me ask you, what kind of person do you think Scarlett Johansson is?
You have probably never met her, and I definitely have not, yet we both seemingly feel like we could describe her personality with reasonable accuracy.
This is peculiar.
It's not shocking to learn that humans enjoy making personality judgments based upon scant evidence. But with celebrities it seems exceptionally dubious, since we actually know literally nothing about them first-hand. Lohan, Aniston, Springsteen, Cruise -- why do all these people seem to have well-formed personas? How much of it is real and how much is manufactured? What are the sources we use to scrape together these mysterious portraits?
There are a few known mythological origins. Maybe that profile in Rolling Stone had some lasting influence, and perhaps those eight minutes on Leno left an impression. But these sources, mediated and filtered and manicured, seem exceptionally unreliable. So what else is there?
Oh yeah, we have their work. Scarlett gave a lasting impression in Lost in Translation, so perhaps we know a little more about her because of how she gobbles sushi with Bill Murray. But wait -- she was acting. Can we really conclude anything about her personality from these flickering screen moments?
I've spent an inordinate amount of time considering this question: why do we think we know people who we'll never actually know?
Here's my best guess: we trust gossip.
Before mass media, gossip was merely personal information shared about a mutual acquaintance. In other words, pre-modern gossip was the original conversational marketing: valued information shared by reputable sources.
With the onset of broadcasting, publishing, and eventually the internet, the intimacy of gossip bred with the entertainment industry, birthing the hybrid offspring known was celebrity gossip. Of all the animals in the media zoo, celebrity gossip emerged as the most chimerical creature. Every day, hundreds of weird little stories pop up on sites with names like Hollywood Tuna and Egotastic and Celebrity Puke. Sometimes they make outrageous claims (Amy Winehouse just ate a drunk baby!), and other times the narratives are ostentatiously mundane (Tara Reid just ate a taco!). Through these morsels of checkout lane anti-matter, we form lasting opinions about celebrities.
That finally brings us to today's launch of GossipCop.com, a site that I did the strategy/design/development on. The premise is simple: investigate the accuracy of the daily anecdotes, the rampant rumors, and the cubicle grist known as celebrity gossip. Think of it as TMZ meets Smoking Gun. Or maybe Perez Hilton meets Columbia Journalism Review. Whatever -- the prevailing idea is that even seemingly unknowable information can be investigated in today's info-rich economy.
My three favorite features on the site:
+ Truth Meter. Every post investigates a piece of celebrity gossip and provides a rating, from 0 to 10, based upon the likelihood of the story.
+ Paparazzi Patrol. Rather than churn out more celebrity video, Gossip Cop looks at the underside of the celebrity gossip business. By turning the camera back on the paparazzi, the site reveals the gossip creators for what they are. (This feature was originally dubbed "Papsmeared," a name I really loved but which was ultimately dropped.)
+ Twit Happens. With its direct interaction and unfiltered access, Twitter could end up being the greatest invention in celebrity journalism since the camera. It is quickly becoming the ultimate device for determining how impressions are made, rumors are debunked, and celebrity battles are fought. This hand-picked list contains the best tweets of the day.
Truthfully, I'm not much of a celebrity news consumer. But I hope this site adds a new angle into the salacious, rumor-driven celebrity culture.
And maybe I can finally get to know Scarlett.
From an NYT story about some new crazy thing the AP is trying to invent to prevent copyright infringement:
Each article -- and, in the future, each picture and video -- would go out with what The A.P. called a digital 'wrapper,' data invisible to the ordinary consumer that is intended, among other things, to maximize its ranking in Internet searches. The software would also send signals back to The A.P., letting it track use of the article across the Web.Could that description be any more confusing? Does anyone know what it actually is? I'm guessing some sort of markup?
Only one thing struck me as odd about today's much-discussed Observer piece about how the NYTimes.com is constructed each day: the lead editor apparently has time to read every story in the paper, but has zero time to check his traffic stats?
"Three days after [19-year-old] van Poppel sold the Bin Laden tape to Reuters, he said in an interview with Inside Cable News that he'd originally reached out to CNN's iReport with the tape. They were unresponsive." Ouch.
Another Clay Shirky thing you probably should read: Not an Upgrade -- An Upheaval. What I appreciate about Shirky's voice during this wacky moment in media history is that it is neither conservative publisher crying about the existence of Google/Craigslist nor celebratory I-Told-You-So squealing. You don't get the sense that he's trying to make "a brand" out of his prognosis. It's just reasoned, pragmatic thinking. [via]
From The Stranger, probably my favorite story about Twitter ever: Paul Constant Reviews Twitter. He writes every paragraph in 140-characters. Each item actually could stand alone as a tweet, but it also works as a narrative.
The nerds behind Memetracker, which builds maps around news streams, have a new paper, "Meme-tracking and the Dynamics of the News Cycle," which claims, according to a NYT story, that "the traditional news outlets lead and the blogs follow, typically by 2.5 hours." I would say the methodology looks flawed, but it just so happens that this story came out exactly 2.5 hours ago.
Today we announced the launch of Mediaite.com, a new site that covers all dimensions of the media world. I advised on it, including doing the design and development. Most of my previous launch projects had the support of a media entity with dozens of employees, so this was a different kind of challenge, involving such wonderful tasks as recalling the inner-workings of DART and building WordPress plugins. It's been a while since I was involved in a bootstrappy startup, so this post is for the few people who are interested in the nuances of moving between big and small media, for however long that historical distinction remains.
Although a lot is going on with the site, this feature will probably garner the most attention. The Power Grid ranks 1,500 media personalities in a dozen categories. It will predictably get criticized for some sort of navel-gazing, but just as with pageview counts and most-emailed articles lists before it, the index will also predictably be ctrl+refreshed by industry obsessives. All new metrics go through their hazing periods, and media hazing is the worst form of it.
As this month's Wired overtly suggests, the abundance of data should pose a new frontier for publishing. As personal data migrates online, accusations will arise about the narcissism of measuring thyself, perhaps even yanking in some conservative trope about the decline of society, or some liberal invective about the end of privacy. Everyone will eventually settle down, and we will all learn a little more about each other. The world will go on, and no one will take Twitter Followers that seriously. (Except Dan, who is on a mission to pass me. Please don't follow him.)
The Power Grid itself posed many technical challenges: how to build an extensible algorithm, how to gather the data, how to differentiate industries, how to eliminate outlying factors, how to display the information. Watching the launch of Tumblarity, with its mercurial display and confounding numerical obfuscation, was a lesson in information design. (It took me days to figure out if you wanted a big or small Tumblarity number.) While the Power Grid doesn't reveal every single data point (mostly because that would be visually overwhelming), enough data is available for surmising the gist of how rankings are calculated.
And it's more than just a game. If you want to get a snapshot of Joel Stein or Kevin Rose, there is some interesting data to investigate. If you have an active, data-focused mind, you can imagine future iterations of the Power Grid: new data sources, APIs, visualized trending data, other industries. Who knows...
The tone of Mediaite is opinionated, but factual. It will be more reported than most blogging today, yet it will take stances where it needs to. The site's editors (Colby Hall, formerly of VH1; Rachel Sklar, formerly of HuffPo; Glynnis MacNicol, formerly of Mediabistro; Steve Krakauer, formerly of TVnewser) provide the corpus of the site in TV, Online, and Print, while user contributions end up in the Columnists bucket.
I'll be writing occasional columns too.
"Nostalgic futurism," "pixelated pop art," "newspaper retro" -- these were some of the early identities we toyed with. After running through iterations of each, we ended up with something calm, simple, flat.
If you follow online design trends even marginally, you've seen the grid take over the scene. It's a fine system, especially when applied to data-rich sites. But it also suffers from a deficiency: it makes you think vertically. Take a look at the NYTimes.com, undeniably one of the best designed news sites. Here's a test: Start scanning the page while thinking about how your eyes move in conjuncture with scrolling. Do you see a pattern? Your eyes are forced to move up and down with your scrollbar. This unnatural movement is because the site is built as stacks of content. Grid design implicitly enforces this kind of thinking, because it tries to build nicely aligned columns.
This is problematic, because I don't think people actually want to scan content this way. Blogs have proven they read content this way, but it seems easier to scan content horizontally.
This was a small innovation we discovered in redesigning msnbc.com, which was was reconceived in other prominent sites. These "horizontal sites" build a new kind of importance hierarchy. Designers don't realize it, but unaligned vertical stacks are a remnant of the way that newspapers were designed -- in columns, up and down. These new layouts are more like movie screens and wide monitors, with action moving left and right.
Except for the Power Grid, it's all built on WordPress, which I haven't used in five years. Some hacking was required to get the front page to have a non-blog layout, but enough advancements have occurred over the years to make it only mildly painful.
If you hang around in the NYC media bubble long enough, you develop the social depression of a collapsing industry. The west coast is full of a giddy frisson about the inevitable demise of big media, while the midwest is skeptical of everything that gets force-fed to them from the coasts. NYC, which has essentially zero awareness of any of this, continues to constantly be shocked! when a TMZ or Pitchfork or The Onion comes along from the hinterlands with a massively successful enterprise.
The reasons for this amounts to a lack of vision. Even smart people, vampirically bound to the past, seem completely blind to developing new formats. The standard for online innovation right now is "launch another blog," which no one seems to recognize is about as depressing as launching another newspaper.
Mediaite is a hybrid model, borrowing some successful formats of the past and mixing it with some new ideas.
Howard Kurtz: Just the Messenger.
I kinda dissed the New York Observer's new site design a while back, but something I've noticed lately is that the homepage currently serves up almost all external links. Even the top story, right now, is currently a link off site. It's the largest attempt to go full-on aggregation since Drudge (contra HuffPo, which is an ingestor, not an aggregator). None of these are in their RSS feed, but I'd subscribe to something that included only those links.
Keeping News of Kidnapping Off Wikipedia: "For seven months, The New York Times managed to keep out of the news the fact that one of its reporters, David Rohde, had been kidnapped by the Taliban. But that was pretty straightforward compared with keeping it off Wikipedia." Wales contributed to the "sanitizing effort," which I'm frankly surprised ever worked. Isn't it surprising that no blogs picked up on this? NPR questions the ethics.
I'm still signed up for at least a dozen residual "breaking news" email alert lists, which triggers a bukake festival in my inbox when things like Michael Jackson dying happens. With Twitter, RSS readers, and everything else, it's time to finally ask is email an anachronistic delivery method?
In a video with a Daft Punk intro that accompanies his Atlantic column, Michael Hirschorn explains why The Economist is doing well but Newsweek and Time are dying. (Absolutely nothing in that sentence sounds right.) [via]
HBO is really pushing these "True Blood" ads to their extreme. I'm sure there's some sort of stake-in-the-heart-of-journalism pun to be made here.
The Top 10 Most Absurd Time Covers of The Past 40 Years. 1976: "THE PORNO PLAGUE" [via]
If you missed it, Kim Gordon sorta slammed Radiohead's In Rainbows biz model last week. "They did a marketing ploy by themselves and then got someone else to put it out. It seemed really community-oriented, but it wasn't catered towards their musician brothers and sisters, who don't sell as many records as them. It makes everyone else look bad for not offering their music for whatever."
Kinda interesting: Who do the people of the NY Times follow on Twitter? The Times itself doesn't come in until #12. (I come in at #180 -- 14 spots above Shaq! I'm hoping to defy that new power law by barely posting lately.) See also: Who do the people of Twitter follow? [via]
Almost.at looks like something that could break through the app noise. By aggregating Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and others, it allows you to follow news events in real-time (AirFrance, E3, etc.). TechCrunch writes "Almost.at's appeal lies in its ability to help users differentiate between people who are at an event, and people who are just talking about it."
Clay Shirky saying more smart things about emotion and media. It's annoying how smart he is.
I heard a rumor that NYT's controversial new Social Media Editor, Jennifer Preston, had never heard of Twitter before she started her job. Maybe that's a little hard to believe, but she definitely wasn't using Twitter before that. Anyway, PaidContent has some advice for her.
Everyone's quoting various parts of that Denton interview, but this was the surprising stat to me: "Nielsen research shows that nearly 34% of Gawker readers have their own blogs, a key influencer statistic. Gawker readers, it turns out, have their own audience." Update: Biz Insider digs up more numbers. "Turns out they're young, computer-savvy, RSS-reading atheists with good cholesterol:"
I'm finally getting around to reading this post from Joel Johnson about Wired and Wired.com. I want to respond to nearly every single commenter, but I'll instead just act paralyzed and mention some of the people who show up in the comments: Chris Anderson, Brian Lam, Sean Bonner, Gary Wolf, and Felix Salmon.
"One includes a 'meter system,' in which the reader can roam freely on the Web site until hitting a predetermined limit of word-count or pageviews, after which a meter will start running and the reader is charged for movement on the site thereafter." Hey that sounds familiar!
Psst, micropayments are coming to news. Or at least WSJ, but I bet NYT soon enough. Update #1: FT.com story. Update #2: NYT planning some sort of NPR-ish membership model, which will not bring them to 2040.
Given the number of renowned media types that were involved with Inside.com (Kurt Andersen, Deanna Brown, David Carr, Michael Hirschorn, Stephen Battaglio, John Battelle, Sara Nelson, Michael Cieply, Rafat Ali, Noam Cohen, Fred Wilson, Richard Siklos, Alex Pappademas, Kyle Pope, Greg Lindsay, and, in the end, Steven Brill), isn't it a bit strange that it has no wikipedia entry? Update: Waxy started one in the comments.
Technology Review has a manifesto on how to save newspapers. Update: Good comment, inside. I completely agree that about the notion of expertise within journalism being mostly bunk (especially in the form of host or anchor), but I'm not sure if I'm willing to go so far as to imagine that big media serves no purpose.
"People who have a lot of 'bravado' -- who prefer to leap before they look -- are 50% more likely than the average person to be heavy consumers of all media. The same is true for people who rank low in 'compliance' -- those who chafe at rules and may be sarcastic. They are 60% more likely than the average person to be high consumers of all media." Oh yeah, well, how about people who obsessively quote studies about media consumption?
What print publications do you still read? (I still subscribe to 17 magazines. I know, it's insane.)
After The Awl launched, Denton joked that the brevity of the posts could have made it the first magazine published on Twitter. But now I've become obsessed with the idea: What would a Twitter magazine look like? Some aggregation, some original content -- couldn't it sorta work?
I'm still sitting here overthinking The Awl, trying to decide if I have anything interesting to say about it, confused and worried that my only observation is trite: it's Suck meets Kottke, right? Update: alright, I unwisely choose to say some stuff in the comments.
Totally crazy new Google thing: News Timeline. Not sure if this was meant to be a reaction to Newser.com, but it failed. UI, PEOPLE! (Also, the Google News proper now has a timeline feature on the right of the story aggregation page.)
Choire and Balk just launched The Awl. From the about page: "What if there were a website that zippily surveyed a wealth of resonant, weird, important, frightening, amusing bits of news and ideas? And what if it weren't totally clogged with reality show linkbait?"
Another new journo thing: True/Slant. It's sorta like a revved up HuffPo (with social networking, recommendations, etc.), but with a slightly different enticement model: contributors get paid based upon traffic they generate. And also, somewhat controversially, a different revenue model: advertisers get pages similar to contributors. Mossberg has a review.
Sorta interesting project: msnbc.com* just launched The Elkhart Project, which uses one city in middle America through which to view the economic crisis. I heard they actually bought a house in town, where journalists/producers will be staying while they file reports, which makes it somewhat reminiscent of reality television (though it appears to be completely online, not integrated into the cable network). Also, the project is interestingly launched on Newsvine's platform. [via]
The website is inspired by a great American John Peter Zenger (1697-1746). Mr. Zenger, who lived in the English colony of NY, was the publisher and printer of New York Weekly Journal. His paper printed numerous articles critical of the English governor. Zenger was sent to jail and charged with seditious libel. He was put on trial and later acquitted in 1735. This case represents one of the most important events in the history of American journalism, and became a landmark for freedom of the press in the founding of the United States of America.
How to Become a "Death of Newspapers" Blogger. "I'll join the ranks of Jeff Jarvis, Paul Gillin, Jay Rosen and Clay Shirky in competing to see who can use the most jargon to describe something everyone knows is happening." [via]
Long audio: Bill Simmons and Chuck Klosterman talk about the newspaper business. Chuck argues that newspapers should have started charging from the beginning, that the internet is not a meritocracy, and that the best newspaper strategy would have been to write longer. The best counter-arguments out there right now: Clay Shirky's Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable and Steven Berlin Johnson's Old Growth Media And The Future Of News (his SXSW speech).
Micropayments are back!
Allow yourself to flashback to the late '90s, when the future of internet media being scrawled on the white eraser board was a battle between a "pay to play" and "information wants to be free." Too bad it wasn't even a close contest: the communists won.
Haha, it was actually an unfair battle. There were too many factors working against micropayments back then: clumsy technology (no AJAX, awkward logins), hefty media pocks (NYT was selling at $40/share, compared to its current $5), and, most importantly, the giddy hope of a free media future.
But here we are today, struggling with a plummeting ad economy and the increased (but necessary) stress of moving everything digital. So micropayments are back on the table -- just ask all of the heavies who announced their support in the past week: Walter Isaacson, David Carr, Henry Blodget, Steven Brill, Stu Bykofsky, and Gawker (sorta).
And surely, an equal number of people came along to trounce the idea, as they should.
So what do I think?
I have no fucking idea. I don't like being on the wrong side of history, and I really don't know if the New York Times should revive some version of Times Select. I don't mind if you call me a chicken on this one.
But here's something I do know: micropayments could be better. With no interest in entering the fray, I would instead like to offer some design/product/business solutions that might influence the debate. My secret belief is that good design and infrastructure could address some of the valid consumer concerns. No one seems to be approaching the problem from the critical perspective of simplicity, searchability, and scalability. In other words, no one seems to design a good product. I have a proposal. Here's my idea...
Click image for full-size view.
And here's how it works...
1) When you click a link to a story -- from Google, from a blog, from NYTimes.com, from whatever -- the article appears as it normally does, except the Subscription Center lightbox appears over it, with the text opaquely visible in the background.
2) You are given a few options to quickly choose from: pay for the single article or buy a weekly/monthly pass.
3) If you already have an account (and if you're a NYTimes.com user, you do), clicking "Buy" will cause the lightbox to disappear. You can begin reading the story. Instantly.
4) You will not be charged for anything until you accumulate $5 of charges. At that point, you will be asked to enter your credit card or PayPal information, if you haven't already.
So what's new with this? What problems have I tried to solve?
1) Search / Conversation. By far the largest concern with adding subscriptions is being left out in the cold when it comes to search. (Google can easily account for half of the traffic on a media site.) This is the common criticism of the Wall Street Journal subscription model: bloggers don't link to it because it's behind a firewall and Google can't find it because most of the text is not indexed. WSJ ends up being left out of the larger conversation online. This solution addresses the problem by making all of the text still available on the page, so search engines can still "see" it. It's not behind a subscription firewall -- it's just slightly shielded. It keeps the stories in conversational circulation.
2) Surcharges / Cost. The other large concern with micropayments is related to the transaction charges incurred. This argument suggests that you can't charge $.20 for something and handle all the surcharges incurred from it. My solution addresses the problem by delaying the charge until the user reaches a certain threshold. As people like Steven Brill have pointed out, even $3/month from users would catapult revenue beyond anything ever seen by the company.
3) Scalability / Business. When NYMag did a story on the digital smarties a couple weeks ago, some voices on the internet claimed that these boys should be set to the task of inventing new business. If executed correctly, this micropayment system could actually be the start of that. This system could be scaled up to become the micropayment system for all news consumption. By becoming the backbone for media micropayments, The New York Times could have an entirely new income model. And then the network effect comes into play: the more media companies that join, the more pervasive the technology becomes, the faster users reach their $5 checkout.
4) Persistence / Features. I've had the same NYtimes.com account since approximately 1998. I'm hoping that somewhere deep in the bowels of the system, it knows every article I've ever viewed with that account. Any articles that I store in my locker are kept forever, so wouldn't it be awesome if all those were automatically added to my Digital Locker? This small personalization feature could be the beginning of an entire new set of features -- search, bookmarks, personalization, etc.
And now, some potential criticisms...
1) Can't I game this? Couldn't I just keep signing up with new accounts once I get close to $5? Answer: Sure, but I think people are willing to deal with the hassle if the payment are small. And to borrow from the Flickr model, if you offer special features with "pro" accounts, the incentive becomes even greater.
2) Couldn't someone come up with a Greasemonkey script that blocks the lightbox overlay? Answer: Sure, but things like Adblock are used by <1% of the users, so I'm not too worried about that.
3) Will Google eventually block this from their search index? Answer: I'm actually not sure, but I suspect no. This is for a variety of reasons, but the most important is that Google doesn't want to look like a bunch of assholes right now.
4) Would other companies actually adopt this micropayment system? Answer: A few years ago, around the time Google introduced Checkout, there was the brief fascination with the notion that Google could become this middleman for media micropayments. Today, there's not a media company alive that would surrender this to Google. However, if this were handled in a way similar to FOX and NBC joining forces for Hulu, maybe they would.
The goal of this exercise was to think about ways to minimize the greatest concern with micropayments: consumer anxiety. I propose that the combination of low cost, simple interface, and clear information display could greatly minimize that concern.
It's not often that database journalists get even an inch of press, so NY Mag's profile of the NYTimes.com guys is fantastic for that reason alone. "The most startling experiments are absorbed in a day, then regarded with reflexive complacency. But lift your hands out of the virtual Palmolive and suddenly you recognize what you've been soaking in: not a cheap imitation of a print newspaper but a vastly superior version of one. It may be the only happy story in journalism." Congrats to Andrew and co.
A handful of worthwhile media/econ items from this week: Hirschorn's doomsday NYT scneario (dead by May?), Dumenco's valuation of HuffPo ($2 million, not $200 million?), Battelle's media/tech predictions (Yahoo & AOL merge?), Shafer's history lesson of newspapers (did they have it coming?), and Shirky's media forecast (on-demand publishing?).
I finally finished CJR's long interview with Clay Shirky (Part I | Part II), which focuses on media consumption -- and along the way, he drums out all the doomsdayers. There are several good sections, but I most like where he talks about relearning: "One of the problems that old people like me suffer from is just we know too many solutions for problems that no longer exist." See also: CJR's feature, Overload!
Everyone is doing their predictions for 2009 right now, and everyone who isn't is claiming that the future is too bleak or complex to predict. What you see below takes both perspectives into account and says: fuck it, let's have fun with this.
However, don't mistake this satire as an empty gesture. If not literally true, I believe most of predictions below in some metaphoric sense. In other words, to hell with the Black Swan!
So here we are again -- playing Nostradamus in media, technology, and pop culture -- with 36 predictions for 2009:
- Hatahs. 4chan digitally antagonizes an entire race of people into self-inflicted genocide.
- Facebook. By the middle of summer, you realize that you're logging into most websites via Facebook Connect. You get a creepy feeling in your gut about this, but it's so damn convenient.
- Politics. After a freak caribou attack injures Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Sarah Palin joins The View.
- Newspapers. At least three major daily newspapers cease to exist. The most likely members of the carnage: the Denver Rocky Mountain News, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
- Yahoo. Fuck it, Lycos buys it.
- Twitter I. Facebook finally buys Twitter, but only after a price war with Google ramps it up to a ridiculous nine-figure valuation. Unsurprisingly, this is Twitter's big plan "to make money."
- Twitter II. But seriously, just like those stories in 2001 about people who [shock!] make a living off of blogs, the "Twitter professional" will somehow become a reality.
- Twitter III. A major news event happens that no one live twitters. NYT writes three stories (Styles, Tech, and Media) about this phenomena, quickly dubbed "Twitter Shock."
- Starbucks. After trying everything else imaginable, they introduce a new "buffet" option, which is a surprise hit.
- Daughter Moguls. In the most convoluted assassination plot ever devised, Christie Hefner, Shari Redstone, and Elisabeth Murdoch join forces to commit triple patricide. Vanity Fair dedicates three eInk covers to the incident, with heads that morph from father to daughter.
- Magazines I. Some rich kid on the west coast launches a magazine called Charticles, which consists only of... yeah. Choire Sicha commits suicide in his St. Mark's apartment by paper cutting himself to death with the debut issue.
- Magazines II. Monocle raises its newsstand price to $1295.00.
- Magazines III. Doy, of course Portfolio goes under. The final cover story is mysteriously about cotton gin inventor Eli Whitney.
- Gossip Girl. In the Christmas '09 episode, Chuck and Blair finally fuck again. The recession ends.
- Subscriptions. Against all seeming rationality, several new online subscription publications show up on the scene.
- Where The Wild Things Are. You know what? The movie actually does suck. Gen X icons Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers are pilloried by a millennials who claim old people just don't get it. They're kinda right.
- New York Times. After Brian Stelter notices that David Carr has refriended Jayson Blair on Facebook, the New York Times asks Carr to take a drug test. Upon failing, he returns to Minneapolis to run City Pages, which ends up being the last remaining alt-weekly at Village Voice Media.
- Online Video. Something's gotta give. Two of the "big" three -- Revision3, ON Networks, Next New Networks -- cease to exist by the end of the year. And when 23/6 and Funny Or Die expire on the same day, Alley Insider's headline is "Funny Or Dead In 24/7." Normal people have no idea what any of these things are.
- Terrestrial Video. Something's gotta give. One of the "big" five is morphed into a cable outlet.
- Daily Beast. Tina Brown uses her consulting role at HBO to pitch a reality series about her own website. No one thinks it will go into development, but then Aaron Sorkin and Mark Burnett sign on. Julia Allison and Arianna Huffington are super pissed.
- Tina Fey. First woman knighted. Now Oprah's pissed too.
- Google. They do a lot of stuff that no one expects, but the surprise application of the year is some sort of mashup between three core Google products: Reader, Chrome, and Docs. Oh, and maybe Android, just to make this pshit sci-fi.
- FriendFeed. Not only does your mom still has no fucking idea what it is, but your friends don't either.
- Publishing. 49 books are published that chronicle the end of publishing.
- Music. Proving that fake stuff always wins, Lonely Island's album debuts platinum -- the only album to do so this year.
- Lara Logan. Dueling February covers of Parenting and Playboy.
- Gawker Media. Nick Denton predicts armageddon, using copious Excel graphs to elucidate his point.
- Mad Men. After negotiations break down with AMC, a rumor floats that a movie is in the works. It is eventually released in 2012 on the same day as the Arrested Development movie.
- Diablo Cody. Released in September, Jennifer's Body becomes the first young adult movie since Heathers and Clueless that resonates with grown-ups. While you try very hard to think of a new reason to hate her, Diablo casts Sasha Grey in her next film. Backlash-to-the-backlash-to-the-backlash-to-the-backlash ensues.
- Words. Webster's Dictionary names undershare word of the year.
- Online Media. Trying to take advantage of cheap labor, hundreds of "me too" small startup publications launch. They will call themselves "online magazines," but they will be blogs.
- Microsoft. They! Will! Suprise! You! (Actually, no they won't. You hear this every year. Their online version of Office will be begrudgingly cool, but it will have one severe flaw that renders it unusable.)
- Apple. After Biz Week's "Is The Innovation Over?" story appears, Steve Jobs retires at the end of the year, surprisingly citing health reasons.
- Education. 37 percent of the people you know go back to grad school.
- Digg. It does not get bought and Kevin Rose does not go on a date with Jennifer Aniston. Every boy in the Valley weeps at a shared realization: their sense of worth is over-valued.
- Rupert Murdoch. He dies in a freak yacht accident. Sumner Redstone, Padma Lakshmi, Barry Diller, David Geffen, Rachel Sklar, Hoobastank, and Shaquille O'Neill are also on board, but all survive. Foul play is suspected, and an investigation reminiscent of the board game Clue ensues. A rumor spreads that Murdoch's cryogenically frozen brain is in an Anaheim basement next to Walt Disney's frontal lobe and the Arc of the Covenant. Michael Wolff sells his next book, The Brain Eaters, for $10 million. 17 people buy it; 4 read it.
An imagined conversation with Jeff Jarvis. Also, I love this quote from Denton: "Jarvis' own career depends on a permanent revolution. He needs it to be 1792 [in France] so he can continue to get his consulting gigs and so people can listen to him when he says, 'The system is broken! It's broken!'"
It has been busy times around here, so I overlooked mentioning the consulting company that Rachel launched last week with Dan Abrams. The NYT story explained it pretty well: "The firm, Abrams Research, may resemble a narrowly focused version of 'expert network' firms that connect investors to industry experts. Journalists and bloggers retained and paid by the firm could consult with corporations, conduct media training sessions, or conduct investigative reporting for corporate clients." You might have seen Gawker pounce on this with calls to ethics (gotta love when they do that!), but this only served to prove what a limited sense of self-awareness some people in the profession have of themselves. Seriously, I work with all kinds of different clients, and it takes only a modest amount of common sense judgment to know where you draw lines. I sense that ethics was held up as a straw man to keep others in the profession in their place. If self-proclaimed journalists really want to survive, they'll need to start thinking of themselves in a sphere that includes researcher, pundit, entrepreneur, speaker, performer -- actually not too different from the whole "public intellectual" thing espoused in the '90s. As Felix pointed out today, it turns out that a lot of them already get it.
Esquire selects its 7 Greatest Stories Ever, and includes links with full text. The list includes "Falling Man" (2003), Gay Talese's "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" (1966), and Norman Mailer's "Superman Comes to the Supermarket" (1960).
Decent summary of all the crowdsource journo projects going on right now: Can Crowdfunding Help Save the Journalism Business? It focuses on Spot.us (which is now out of beta), but also makes comparisons to IndieGoGo (film), SellABand (music), MoveOn (politics), and Kiva (charity).
Two new comedians join SNL. "New York Magazine's Vulture blog was the first to report the news on Wednesday, based on a Twitter post from media blogger Rachel Sklar." It's an ouroboros out there! MSNBC.com <-- Access Hollywood <-- NYMag's Vulture <-- Rachel's Twitter <-- ....
Via Denton, I propose a new term for the media lexicon: Scare Charts. STOP TRYING TO FREAK ME OUT, DUDE!
Amongst all the gloom stories about newspapers, my old friend Rusty pops up in a NYT story about Scripps to predict that his newspaper sites "will sell enough ads to support the staff and costs of the print and online newsrooms by 2012, without staff cuts."
The NYT Mag's cover story profile of Lauren Zalaznick -- president of Bravo, Oxygen and iVillage; producer of Kids and Swoon; another Brown semiotics grad; masstige's greatest impresario; and ultimately the person behind Top Chef, Pop-Up Video, Project Runway, and so forth -- is actually pretty fascinating. Snippets: "Like a softer version of its MTV cousin Beavis and Butt-head, Pop-Up Video was television that let the viewer enjoy the medium while also enabling him to feel a little bit superior to it." And: "Zalaznick's innovation was to make the actual narrative itself about people selling stuff, and buying it too"
Bad news for NYC publishing: it looks like Radar magazine is folding. Website might survive. Update: AMI (which owns Star and National Enquirer) bought RadarOnline.com. Also: Maer Roshan exit interview.
Most informed news audiences, according to a Pew study. New Yorker / Atlantic / NPR predictably in the front, but surprises include Hannity and Rush beating Daily Show and Colbert.
So I've been watching The Daily Beast closely for the last few days. Let's grade its various attributes so far:
1) Big Fat Story: C-
2) Cheat Sheet: B
3) Buzz Board: A-
4) The design: B+
5) Story quality: B
6) Celeb fucking: A
7) The domain name: D
Ad Age: Dumenco's funny column about the clusterfuck/circlejerk that is Tina Brown, Michael Wolff, Barry Diller, Harry Evans, Arianna Huffington, and Dumenco himself.
NYT: Newspapers' Web Revenue Is Stalling. That's no good. Related, also in NYT: Mainstream News Outlets Start Linking to Other Sites. If it takes over a decade to figure out linking, perhaps these two stories should be merged.
One year ago today, we (my former employer, msnbc.com) announced our purchase of Newsvine.com. One year later integration work continues, and the good news is that registered users are up 996 percent -- according to an interview with Mike Davidson, Newsvine's CEO.
My friend Matt has a new blog, Newsless.org, about how information collection and distribution (what we used to call news) is evolving, particularly as it relates to a project he's working on during year-long fellowship at the University of Missouri. The blog is packed with good insights, but I particularly love this line: "I want to shift the focus of news websites from telling audiences what happened recently to telling them what's happening."
Last night at the Web 2.0 Expo party I took on a futile cause: trying to correct anyone who claimed that Gawker somehow either a) hacked Sarah Palin's Yahoo Mail account or b) broke a story involving it. (The story was on this blog and dozens of others before Gawker got to it. Whah-whah.) Today, Choire frames the storyline of how the internet works -- packaging.
Bob Guccione Jr. makes some media predictions, including "Google will lose significant market share."
Your moment of twitter zen: Daily newspaper live twitters the funeral of a 3-year old boy killed in ice cream shop.
ONA (Online News Association conference) is this weekend in DC. I still haven't decided if I'm going. I've been to it something like eight years in a row, and end up complaining about it every time. Is anyone who reads this site going?
The process of writing a feature story for Wired is unlike anything else in publishing. Part of it is like a doctoral defense -- "rigorous" would be an understatement. Now a new blog, Storyboard, chronicles that process of one upcoming story making it into the magazine.
Here's an unexpected move: The Onion has launched a CitySearch/Yelp competitor called Decider. It's only available for Chicago right now. I've heard rumors that several of the local papers (now in 10 cities: NYC, Chicago, LA, SF, DC, Minneapolis, Madison, Milwaukee, Denver, Austin) are performing poorly and some might be shut down.
Esquire doesn't publish most of its content online, so we can't talk about this intrepid "Almanac of Steak" spread in this month's issue. (It begins with this delicious bon mot: "It seems so simple, steak.")
What little it does publish comes out several weeks after it has been printed. So I'm going to run a little bit from my friend Chuck's column this month, which may or may not eventually show up online. It was written in Germany, where he had been living for a few months, but it's about American media, which is why I want to repurpose it here. Here's how it starts:
Like a cop in an unmarked car across the street from a meth lab, I watch America. I am not in America, but I start at it. I stare at it all day and much of the night, compulsively, over the Internet and on TV stations I only intermittently understand and through newspapers I cannot read at all. I moved 3,960 miles east of New York, unconsciously hoping I would forget that America is there. It was a horrible plan. American became pretty much the only thing I have thought about for fourteen consecutive weeks. Which would be totally fine, I suppose, except that nothing ever happens.It then goes on to argue that most media is filler. I end up disagreeing with some of what he says ("filler," for instance, which might be mistaken for "niche" in other cirucmstances, is a completely relative term -- more relative than even everything else that seems relative lately). At one point he says "Everyone I've ever met seems completely aware that the mass media is a) too large, b) mostly bad, and c) getting worse." Perhaps.
The dismay eventually winds its way around to this conclusion, which will likely bristle media professionals but resonate with media consumers:
The mass media is the single most detrimental entity within the United States right now, and it's having the exact opposite effect of its theoretically intended one -- it's making people less informed and less complete. It is much more harmful than I originally perceived. But it's more interesting than I initially realized, because the people who are most acutely aware of this problem are the people making the problem worse. Bloggers blog about how blogging ruins their lives. Newspapers deliver insignificant reports on the declining significance of newspapers. Entourage is a commentary on shallow celebrity-driven entertainment such as Entourage. A writer named Nicholas Carr wrote a long essay in The Atlantic Monthly about how the Internet is making it difficult for people to concentrate on long essays, which was subsequently published on the Internet. I'm writing a column in a magazine that could essentially be read as an essay against magazines, and I don't think anyone will find that strange.Update: It just occurred to me to provide a link to the column via Mygazines, the controversial magazine sharing site that will likely get shut down for copyright infringement.
I don't know why this bothers me. It doesn't seem to bother other people. And it's not like this revelation is going to change my life; I'm still going to write essays and profiles and "idea!" articles, because that's a good job and an okay life. My involvement (or lack thereof) in all of this is irrelevant. Yet as I sit here, across the Atlantic Ocean, browsing random online reactions to fake news I have not seen (nor need to see), I find myself growing more and more depressed of all the things I used to love. It's not difficult to be the cop in the car watching the meth lab, but you will drive yourself sad. You'll find yourself thinking, Maybe the lab will blow up. Maybe the lab will blow up. Maybe the lab will blow up. But it doesn't blow up. It just sits there, falling apart and declining in value, while the people sitting inside lose their teeth and get crazy high.
A month or two ago, HuffPo announced they were launching a local initiative. The first site, Chicago, is up. With only one full-time employee, it's an interesting mix of stuff, and it stands a chance in this fracas including Gothamist, Outside.in, Curbed, and Metroblogging -- all very different sites, but nonetheless approaching local from a network perspective. [via]
In an otherwise random Variety story about Tina Brown's upcoming startup, this line about PaidContent's Rafat Ali is buried: "an Inside.com alum who is reviving the online destination as part of an overall expansion." This headline should read: HOLY FUCK, INSIDE.COM IS COMING BACK. (I'm guessing it will be in a vastly different form, but still.)
Congratulations, David Brooks, you've finally made it onto Fimoculous: Lord of the Memes. My favorite part: "It was necessary to have a record collection that contained 'a little bit of everything' (except heavy metal)." I was with ya up until the parenthetical! Okay, here's the thesis statement: "On that date [the release of the iPhone], media displaced culture. As commenters on The American Scene blog have pointed out, the means of transmission replaced the content of culture as the center of historical excitement and as the marker of social status." And then: "Today, Kindle can change the world, but nobody expects much from a mere novel. The brain overshadows the mind. Design overshadows art." Pareene asks: "It's not a bad column at all, except that we cannot figure out why the hell it's under David Brooks' byline. Are people really trying to sell him on some hot new indie band? Did he get caught up in the Black Kids hype?"
Village Voice Media is launching four blogs, including Joystick Division (games), Heartless Doll (grrl geek), and Topless Robot (boy geek). They don't suck, but they definitely feel late to the scene. See also: new VH1 blog, Scandalist (gossip).
Jack Shafer theory: newspapers are crumbling because they are no long the primary social currency; i.e., they're not the source for the things we talk about day-to-day. It seems true, in at least some sense, that my friends and I spend an equal amount of time discussing a blog post or a tweet or a Facebook update as we do newspaper stories.
Ad Age: Google CEO Worried About Decline of Investigative Reporting. WHAHAHAH!
Upcoming cover of Esquire: DIGITAL. (Let's just prep the media history ebook entry from 2020: Although intended as a talisman to rebuff critics on the longevity of print magazines, Esquire's 2008 'digital' cover became the harbinger of an industry gasping to upgrade to the digital era but completely mystified on how...)
Ad Age reports on a couple upcoming developments at NYTimes.com: external links on the homepage to competitor stories (dubbed Times Extra and using Blogrunner, which they bought a couple years ago) and a beefed up business site modeled on Sorkin's DealBook (but my guess actually inspired by All Things D). [via]
Vanity Fair: Why Do People Love to Hate The New York Times? Quoted: David Carr, Jack Shafer, Jonah Goldberg, and Alex Pareene!
Kurt Anderson's new column starts off with an obvious idea (the rise of the commentariat; the punditocracy has won) and eventual winds its way through some interesting points about redefining bias, MSNBC vs. Fox News, and news/opinion hybrids.
Newsgroper.com is a site with a bjillion fake celeb blogs, almost all of which are abysmally bad. (It is funny to see famous people comment on other famous people though.) However, Fake Barry Diller is pretty funny. "His name evokes scurvy-laden cabin boys" -- guess who!
NYT Mag's long Rush Limbaugh profile. Some details about his drug abuse, his deafness, his self-perception as an entertainer, his non-written extemporaneous process, his expensive lifestyle.
I love NYT's breaking news alerts. Their phrasing, especially when people die, is the most disorienting prose to get delivered on your phone, next to texts that say "WHERRE R U?" Seriously, read this aloud, like poetry:
Jesse Helms, the former North Carolina Senator whose courtly manner and mossy drawl barely masked a hard-edged conservatism that opposed civil rights, gay rights, foreign aid and modern art, died early Thursday in Raleigh, N.C. He was 86.
Earlier this year I wrote a retrospective piece on the 15-year-anniversary of Wired's first issue. I mentioned the Otaku feature in passing, and today Gawker is wondering if the article was plagiarized. UPDATE: Nevermind.
Others have pointed it out, so I will too: the first site to break the news of Tim Russert's death was Wikipedia (snapshot), a half-hour before anyone else. More importantly, for those of us who work in online media, the edit was made by someone at Internet Broadcasting, a company I used to work for that produces some NBC sites. I don't know anything else, and have resisted asking.
Outside.in, which you've probably forgotten, has launched a new feature: Radar. The idea is that it will give you real-time information based upon location. It aggregates from blogs, news stories, and tweets. This sorta thing is the future, of course. I'm not sure who's going to get it right though. More: blog post from Steven Berlin Johnson.
As party of Internet Week (HAHAHAHAHA), I went to this IWantMedia event yesterday, mostly because I wanted to see David Carr, Michael Wolff, and Erick Schonfeld go head-to-head. They didn't disappoint: Top 10 Scathing Remarks.
Jack Shafer interviews Michael Crichton on the state and future of news. Crichton sounds like he's getting old.
Promise, last link about Emily's NYT Mag thing... The Observer, which probably felt it needed to say something, dissects the production of the cover photo, suggesting (and then unsuggesting) victimization and proposing that writers need to watch their image. Though it's never invoked, all of this now reminds me of Prozac Nation, with the same debates between sexuality vs. victimization, public vs. private, memoir vs. publicity.
News about a possible NYTimes.com API. Several of the big news orgs (and, more specifically, the people within them) would like to have this, but none are there yet. Update: Buzzfeed gathers the reax.
This was a strange week for Wired. The magazine held its 15-year anniversary party in NYC last night (FEWER FLASHBULBS, PLEASE), which doubled as a celebration for their purchase of Ars Technica and revival of Webmonkey. NYT responded with a piece vaguely condemning Wired's supposed drug advocacy in an issue that's not even on the newsstand anymore. David Carr came away with the smartest analysis, suggesting that Conde Nast is wise for keeping a small digital footprint. Although I question whether this is actually a "strategy" (doesn't "fear" sounds like a more accurate depiction?), spending millions on random properties is at least better than spending billions on faltering ones.
Brijit, the site that I praised for its 100-word article capsules, has closed shop. Just three days ago, Owen at Valleywag wrote of the site, "Until someone finds a cure for logorrhea, both Brijit and Valleywag will have a market." Guess not.
Last time Knight announced their News Challenge grants, it was basically a cross-section of friends that I instantly became jealous of. This year's winners -- just announced -- seem lesser-known. (And, at first glance, less compelling, though some are definitely interesting.)
This whole "play the entire album as your set" meme? It was fun for a while, but aren't we tired of it? Hasn't this form of packaged nostalgia -- nostalgia not only for the band but for the idea of the album -- run its course? Anyway, the cast for All Tomorrow's Parties has been announced and it looks like a lost CD changer from 1997: Built to Spill performing Perfect From Now On, Thurston Moore performing Psychic Hearts, Meat Puppets performing Meat Puppets II, and Tortoise performing Millions Now Living Will Never Die. Oh, and My Bloody Valentine is headlining. September 19-21, Monticello, New York (two hours from Manhattan).
I guess we should read, link to, and comment on Newseek's long story on how Murdoch is aiming WSJ on a collision course with NYT. I guess.
A quick update to my RedLasso post yesterday, after speaking with someone there today... RedLasso's model is actually to develop a three-way revenue split between copyright owners (tv and radio stations), syndication sites (bloggers), and RedLasso itself. Broadcasters are aware of the site, but official deals have not been signed. My take? Red Lasso exists in an interesting middle-ground between two factions: a) bloggers who would enjoy making a little money and be able to safely embed content and b) broadcasters who are wary of content misuse and distribution splits. The question for broadcasters will be: can they accept this revenue split versus forcing bloggers to find/embed/link content from their own site? The question for RedLasso will be: can they can keep enough broadcasters in the fold to make the site a destination for this kind of content and become the holy grail -- the Google of video?
Newseum. Newseum! Newseum!!! Say it with me! Oh yeah, a link: "My slippers represent the end of journalism." --Ana Marie Cox. It's in DC and sorta online. [via]
Barry Diller and Tina Brown to join forces on a news aggregation site. (Because, ya know, Michael Wolff's Newser has been such a big success. Update: Denton linked to Newser metrics on Compete -- actually, not that bad.)
David Carr is doing one of those NYT "Talk to the Newsroom" things. I can identify every Minnesotan query in there.
I can only conclude that Gawker Media is basically The Hills: It's April 1 and I don't know what my salary is.
It's the strangest profile of a news company that I've ever read... but it's also the best recent attempt at historicizing this particular moment in media history: "Out of Print," The New Yorker. Ostensibly a profile of The Huffington Post (which surpassed Drudge in unique audience this month), this monster rambles through everything from complex newspaper economics to that Simpsons "Your medium is dying" clip -- my pal Jonah Peretti even gets his "mullet strategy" theory tossed into the mix. The author, Eric Alterman, has never impressed me in the past -- he's been obtuse, lacking in nuance. So why do I find this piece so important? Because the opposition it sets up between Walter Lippmann and John Dewey, which is difficult to parse but ultimately worth the effort, is the most honest historical opposition anyone has come up with so far to describe this moment. The Left really has refused to acknowledge the inherent elitism of the Lippmann model, and now it's paying the price. The entire conflict we're facing right now arises from the return of the repressed: Dewey's conversational model of media. However, a small quibble with the story: How about some analysis of the potentially elitist celeb-blogger model that is The Huff Post itself?
Some random media links this morning: Battelle hints that Federated Media could invest in blogs, publishers are worried about another new Google feature, CNN.com answers some questions about iReport, and Hulu's CEO says it's not in competition with YouTube. (The one-line read on all of those? It's a constant clash of old and new.)
The National Magazine Awards came out last week -- here are links to all the winning pieces.
It's a good question: Why Doesn't Microsoft Buy Time-Warner Instead? They'd get AOL, CNN, Harry Potter, AIM, and so on. (The answer of course is that Time-Warner couldn't be bought at current stock price either.... but how much more could it insist upon?)
Some new releases that come out today.... Music: The Teenagers' Reality Check, Be Your Own Pet's Get Awkward, and The Kills' Midnight Boom. DVD: Southland Tales, Season Three of Battlestar Galactica, and the Criterion of The Ice Storm.
Last week, Vulture tried to write an apology for the spoiler, an argument that most people who work in online media have found themselves embracing at one point or another. (I once managed a network of sites that had to time-delay Oscars coverage across the country, timezone by timezone. It was a catastrophe.) It's a common debate among media people, but it's seldom a public one -- until now! The comments of the post have NY Mag scribes (mostly notably, Adam Sternbergh and Emily Nussbaum) spontaneously arguing both sides. More of this, please.
[SXSW-influenced post #2.] You know what? Fuck Michael Eisner. As pseudo-documented on Twitter, Eisner's message at his packed SXSW conversation with Mark Cuban was that the future of online video is basically television. Seriously. That's the best he could do. And then later he rolled out this one: "I think basically what separated this country from the rest of the world was patents and copyrights." He really said that! I heard it! (It was slightly misquoted but even worse that my original Twitter quote, snagged from this Techdirt post that addresses Eisner's whack revisionist history involving Abraham Lincoln and copyright. He really said that too!) If these two separate themes have a colliding philosophy, it's this: old media hopes that the future will be the same models, methods, and commodities as the past.
For those of you who agree with the formula The Atlantic + Blog = Greatness, this new thing is for you: The Current.
When I saw the puppy torture video this morning, I had to consciously not link to it. The "this is going viral" bells went off immediately, and through some twisted sense of ethics, I decided (for two hours!) that I wasn't participating. What makes the video so effective (i.e., so linkable) is its interplay between logic and emotion. Logically, we know this soldier has possibly killed people in Iraq, so it feels misplaced to vent about a puppy in a war zone; emotionally, we deem hurting a helpless puppy as reprehensible. If the video weren't shot in Iraq (if it were, say, some tweens torturing a dog in a backyard -- you'll find plenty of this on YouTube), the tension wouldn't be there, and it wouldn't be today's viral hit. The contradiction -- people vs. puppies; war vs. peace-keeping -- will probably catapult this thing to network nightly news. By the end of the week, this video could paradoxically become the symbol of what's wrong with the war in Iraq. Poor puppy. (UPDATE: Lindsay, who says she watched it 10 times, thereby proving she's a sicko, is convinced this is fake.)
Long interview with Mike Arrington. Let me just jump to the part you wanna read, when asked about Denton: "I think he's a total dick. I think he's amoral. I don't think he has any sense of right and wrong, and he'll do anything he can to make money and have a successful blog. So I just don't associate with him." Wait, who were we talking about about again? In other news...
That boy genius Waxy dug up a ton more history about Wired from the WELL. (Andy told me today that he has the entire WELL stored locally. If you ever thought you had nerd cred, recalculate your credentials based on that fact.) It's a very rich history (look at all those names! look at that Mondo 2000 enmity!), which I won't even bother trying to add to, except to toss out one random yet crazy important item that I've wanted to reveal for a while: Gawker Media's former managing editor and Curbed.com founder, Lockhart Steele was an intern at Mondo 2000. Feast, children. To be continued...
(Caveat: I'm a conference slut. I haven't taken a legit vacation in a decade, but I always say that conferences are my excuse to travel. And yes, I realize that's lame.) Everyone is getting revved up for ROFLcon and SXSW, but this looks like it could be interesting for the designers out there: Massaging Media 2 (Boston, early April). It's quite inexpensive for a three-day event, and the speaker list looks decent. Update: someone emailed me an ode to conferences in the New Yorker.
When I realized that Wired was turning 15 years old this month, I went sorta bonkers and wrote a long piece that looks back at the first issue. Don't worry, it's mostly pictures!
Wired magazine turns 15 years old this month. This column looks back at the very first issue.
Wired didn't even bother with a Beta release. It bustled onto the publishing scene 15 years ago this month, chirping like a broken modem and shrink-wrapped as a point release: Issue 1.1.
Peeling back those matte pages now, one can't help falling victim to a bit of nostalgia for this town crier of the proto-digital era. There was no logical reason that this magazine should even have existed in 1993. Clinton/Gore had just been sworn in, and no one was talking about the "Information Superhighway" yet. Words like baud and Usenet and ISDN hadn't even been surrendered to the dustbin of digital history.
Need more historical perspective? There weren't even any URLs in the first issues of Wired! The World Wide Web barely existed, and there was no Mosaic browser on which to view it anyway. Goatse wasn't even a dirty thought yet.
And yet there it was, the premiere issue: that blocky logo and Bruce Sterling peering out from the cover. For a brief moment, it seemed as though the nerds were about to take over the world... right up until the suits showed up a few years later to pummel them with their briefcases of money.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves in this story. Let's take a look at that first issue, piece by piece.
Started by Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe, who moved to California from Holland in 1991, Wired opened with a staff box of unknowns, at least to the traditional media world. Many of them would become the most important technology writers of the next decade.
Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor, came from the Whole Earth Catalog and the WELL. John Battelle, who would later found Federated Media and write the definitive book on Google, was the managing editor. The rest of the staff box was sprinkled with names that are now recognized as tech pundits of various stripes: Howard Rheingold, Bruce Sterling, Stewart Brand, John Markoff, Michael Wolff, and Nicholas Negroponte. And of course, the "Patron Saint," Marshall McLuhan.
(An aside: it's difficult to remember how McLuhan was perceived pre-Wired. Though certainly a revered scholar in his lifetime [let us not forget Annie Hall], I also seem to recall a huckster backlash around this time. But three years after the premiere issue of Wired, McLuhan was on the cover of the magazine. Today, even his worst theories get roundly quoted, especially by blowhards like me.)
Tired / Wired
Magazine editors tend to hyperbolize their craft, and nothing gets deliberated with more over-analysis than the opening pages of a magazine. The conventional wisdom is that the blurby, picture-filled front pages set the philosophical agenda of a magazine. The "front of the book," as they call it, psychologically defines who should be reading this rag by persuading you to join the club of similarly excellent tastemakers. So the Wired/Tired Index probably seemed like a stroke of genius. It was the perfect way to divide the world into two simple categories of people: There are those who are wired -- they get it! And there are those are tired -- they don't!
It's classic hippie logic. And congratulations! Because you're reading Wired, you're in the right category.
In retrospect, it's unclear which side of this great divide the actual editors themselves fell on. On its maiden voyage, Wired deemed Nintendo a tired entity, while the long-forgotten gaming console 3DO was celebrated as wired. And for mysterious reasons, painting (painting?) crept into wired status, while performance (performance?) was strangely shelved as tired. But the clincher certainly had to be declaring REM (who had just released their best album, Automatic for the People) tired, but passing wired status onto midwest alt-country act The Jayhawks. This is akin to saying that Graham Parsons was a great DJ.
Other front-of-the-book items: a preview of a cult film called Jurassic Park, a review of a print zine called bOING bOING, and a report on a crazy new technology that could free up your cable tv lines for phone calls.Features
For all the peculiar editorial choices in the early issues of Wired, the strangest must certainly be giving Camille Paglia license to talk about Marshall McLuhan.
But the editors actually turned this stagnant interview into something a little funny by reprinting Paglia's handwritten edits scrawled over the top. From the first issue, one could already foresee that Wired was going to be a good publication, but this bit of whimsy suggested that it might just go beyond being the next Mondo 2000. This brand of self-awareness only comes along in decade-long chunks: a '60s Rolling Stone, a '70s Esquire, an '80s Spy.
Or it was just a dumb prank. Whatever.
The cover story, penned by Bruce Sterling, is one in a long history of virtual war stories that Wired would publish. It forgoes references to Ender's Game, but doesn't leave out video game comparisons. "It's modern Nintendo training for modern Nintendo war." Considering that the page directly preceding this is an ad for a new book called The Windows 3.1 Bible, it seems difficult to image how revolutionary these virtual war games could have been.
But what the other features portend has become a Wired hallmark: the clash between culture and technology. John Markoff's story on cellphone hacking dissects a digital subculture in a way that would be replicated several times in the proceeding decade. Similarly, the Otaku feature was prescient in its analysis of Japanese society before it had become a Western obsession. And an interesting note: the story on Richard Stallman's obstacles toward free software doesn't include the phrase "open source" because it had yet to even be popularized.
Here's the prevailing question when persuing the ads in this issue: were they as unintelligible then as they are now? The two companies that bought this issue's very first ad and very last ad -- Origin and Trans Rebo, respectively -- were probably as unknown then as they are now. And it's unlikely that the 100,000 copies that the first issue of Wired sold on the newsstand helped them in any way.
A few pages in, the most emblematic page of the first issue of Wired appears.
He looks like an old John "I'm a PC" Hodgman! And look closely -- that screen really says "Fax Transmittal."
Oh, to be young again.
Early Wired is often remembered for its edgy design aesthetic. The disillusion of this myth that you will feel in looking back at the first issues of Wired is comparable to when MTV replays those once-edgy Pat Benatar videos.
The Negroponte Index
MIT scholar, Wired investor, and OLPC creator -- Nicholas Negroponte is himself something of a patron saint to the digerati. But he's clearly crummy at making predictions.
In his inaugural back-page column, Negroponte takes on the emerging technology known as High-Definition Television. With the goggles of a decade-and-a-half to look through, the opening line hits you like a DeLorean hurled from the past: "High-definition television is clearly irrelevant."
Negroponte contends that the future will actually be fuzzy, arguing that it's a mistake to believe "achieving increased image quality is the relevant course to be pursuing." As anyone who's pored over debates about 1080 vs. 720 and counts their HDMI jacks like their children, this looks like the crazy ramblings of a fuzzy-headed college professor.
To be fair, the futurist gets it half right, such as when he prognosticates a burgeoning on-demand culture but mistakingly fetishizing perspective viewing:
What is needed is innovation in programming, new kinds of delivery, and personalization of content. All of this can be derived from being digital. The six-o'clock news can be not only delivered when you want it, but it also can be edited for you and randomly accessed by you. If the viewer wants an old Humphrey Bogart movie at 8:17 pm, the telephone company will provide it over its twisted-pair copper lines. Eventually, when you watch a baseball game, you will be able to do so from any seat in the stadium or, for that matter, from the perspective of the baseball. That would be a big change.
Sounds awesome! Too bad approximately 1 kjillion dollar were spent last year on cramming living rooms with big ass TVs instead.
I remember exactly where I was when the first issue of Wired was handed to me. Exiting a coffee shop called The Urban Stampede -- the only coffee shop within 70 miles of the small midwest state school I was attending -- a friend accosted me, clutching a mysterious magazine with a striped spine. He shoved it in my hands, exasperated, "You have to see this." Wired instantly became required reading for all of our friends.
And our favorite part of the magazine was buried in the back, in the pages that articles jumped to: the colophon.
There were probably two reasons why we loved the colophon: 1) we had no idea what a colophon was, and 2) it showed the means of production of the magazine. The colophon listed the computers (Apple Macintosh II), the printers (HP Scanjet IIc), the layout software (Quark XPress), and even the routers (Farallon). And then it concluded with some music (Dinosaur Jr., Curve, k.d. lang, etc.) and a final heading for "drugs of choice" (caffeine, sugar, Advil).
It sounds corny, but we loved this magazine because its creators drank the same soda as us. These people actually had opinions about routers and ethernet cables!
I don't know if this is surreal or predictable, but it's certainly obvious now: futurism and nostalgia are intricately linked with each other. Revisiting the early pages of Wired reminds one of a time when there was an underground culture -- when not everything was known by everyone else. Can you remember a time when there were secrets? It sounds so naive.
But it also sounds tremendously boring. Thankfully, we'll always have the future.
Sam Zell tells L.A. Times employees that it's okay to watch porn at their desks as long as they're productive. Finally, the breakthrough that mainstream media needed. (Update: here's a bit of the video, but not that part. Instead, it's the part where he says "fuck you" to a journalist.) (Another update: Tony Pierce loved it.) [via]
Google launches local news service, an idea that seems like it should've happened five years ago.
Another sorta interesting but ultimately forgettable thing from Ask.com: Big News. It's in the Techmeme/Digg space, and seems to improve on some of those ideas, but.... I don't know why this is, but Ask.com makes decent stuff that never seems to resonate with people. [via]
I have been ridiculously anxious ever since Andy told me that Waxy.org was going to make a triumphant return. Waxy performs a distinct kind of journalism -- part investigative research, part database mining, part cultural hacking. The types of stories that interest Andy aren't topics anyone else would think to cover. And since firing up the blog this week, he's poured out three posts: an investigation into a strange viral animation, an uncovering of an early Dave Winer internet geek, and, most recently and best of all, a probing of The Times UK's social spam media campaign. Like I said, great stories that no one else had -- all in one week. Remember when we used to talk about a future in which everyone became their own micro-journalist?
Craig Newmark gives Berkeley a faculty chair in new media studies and Denton says "this is akin to the creation of a reservation for American Indians; it doesn't erase the stain of genocide." (Which makes Gawker something like Sacagawea in this comparison.)
Gawker got their take-down notice from the Scientologists. Anyone wanna take bets on whether this goes anywhere?
I made two $50 media bets last year: one with Mike about whether Microsoft will buy Yahoo (me: no) and one with Jim about whether WSJ.com will go free (me: no). EVERYONE thought the latter bet was crazy, but I held strong because no one seemed to be doing the math. And now it's starting to look like I might actually win this bet. Which means that Murdoch and I think alike!
Derek Powazek recently launched Magazineer, a blog about magazines that I've been watching very closely. Today's post, How to Read Wired Revisited, pays homage to the infamous Suck.com story from 1995 by revisiting those ad/content page ratios from dot-com bubble yesteryear.
Are you reading Monocle? WHAT? EVERYONE IS READING MONOCLE! But seriously, it's hard to have a media/design conversations that doesn't eventually wander into a discussion of Tyler Brûlé's newest (me? seven in the last two weeks -- no kidding). And with that I welcome Adam Greenfield's more tepid response to the magazine that everyone else wants to celebrate.
David Byrne visits NYT Digital. It's almost cute how naive he sounds about the innerworkings of a media company, such as the moment when "a few of the guys came in and proceeded to demonstrate the interactive 'game' called Rockband."
That time suck you feel is the end-of-year lists onslaught. Over the weekend, NYT Mag released its always excellent (though this year somehow a little less excellent) Year in Ideas. Also, both Time and New York Mag dropped their monstrous year-end lists.
Since I'm now completely unable to decamp myself from this story, here's an interview with Gawker's outgoing managing editor Choire Sicha.
Is everyone tired of talking about Gawker yet? I am! My fingers hurt from this weekend's IMing sessions. Here's a bunch of other people: Jakob Lodwick, Felix Salmon, Jason Calacanis, Karina Longworth, Peter Kafka, Anil Dash, Rachel Sklar, and Gothamist.
Strange that T (that's NYT's Sunday style mag) launched its online presence with such a flash-heavy site.
Unchanging Times is a blog that looks at current New York Times stories and shows how nothing has really changed by linking to previous NYT stories (some almost 100 years old) on the same topic.
My pal Andy is leaving Upcoming and going full-time on Waxy, including "original research and investigative journalism." Reading between the lines of the questions he's been asking me, I suspect we'll see some amazing stuff.
This weekend we relaunched msnbc.com -- my last act as a Seattlite. Congrats and thanks to everyone. (There might still be a few bugs, but most of them should be worked out over the weekend.) It's great to leave on a such a good note. Good bye, Pacific Northwest, I'll miss ya.
Let's all hop in the reverse time machine, jumping back just a few years. Now imagine a world in which Rupert Murdoch was on his quarterly News Corp call proclaiming that Facebook is a utility "similar to a phonebook" and that MySpace is "a place of self-expression." Welcome to the future.
Funny: Facebook News Network. What's even funnier is that I actually know news execs who think that is the future of news.
NY Mag does a chart-based review of Andrew Kuo's NYT chart reviews. There's so much meta-media in that link that I'm not even going to try to explain it all. I will, however, link to Kuo's blog.
I'm moving across the country again soon, so last night I made a list of all the magazines I subscribe to. (Which reminds me: someone needs to make address-changing an easier process.) The tally of subscriptions was 27 mags -- and that's slimmed down over the past couple years. So I am naturally intrigued by the new site Brijit, which creates 100-word abstracts of articles from 50+ magazines. It's a little like a digital Reader's Digest, but adds in features like user ratings. WaPo has a profile with the founder.
Not much in new releases this week, except a couple tv dvd compliations (all of My So-Called Life and all of Twin Peaks) and a couple soundtracks (Control from the Joy Division biopic and I'm Not There from the Bob Dylan biopic). There's also the new Britney album, if that's your thang. The reviews have actually been pretty good.
I knew that a lot of media companies were creating their own venture funds, but I didn't realize how many until I read this story. Very curious to see where this goes.
You gotta hand one thing to Fox -- they sure can build ugly websites. (Overheard in exec meeting: "Let's get those MySpace designers something fun to do!") FoxBusiness.com officially launched -- and I hear there's a "TV component" that launched today too!
"A buzzword is no black swan, but when one breaks out of the long tail into the short head and hits the tipping point it still makes me question the wisdom of the crowds. But because the world is flat, I've listed a freakonomical list of the lifespan of a buzzword. Purple cow." Nice lede, Nick.
My pal Michaelangelo wrote about the digital magazine archive movement in last month's Good Magazine. (The New Yorker already has a complete DVD archive, while Rolling Stone and Playboy plan to roll out theirs soon.) It made me think of an interesting theory: DVDs have completely (and surprisingly) resuscitated the film industry over the past decade -- is there any chance they could also save magazines?
This week's recommended new media releases:
Books: Douglas Coupland's The Gum Thief
Music: The Pipettes' We Are the Pipettes, PJ Harvey's White Chalk, Bruce Springsteen's Magic
DVD: The Films of Kenneth Anger, Vol. 2, Season One of Metalocalypse, Season One The Sarah Silverman Program
Sign-of-the-times story on how some NYC newsstands cease selling newspapers because they're not making any money either.
Looks like Rafat somehow got ahold of the new Fox Business Channel logo. And it looks exactly like how I'd imagine it would -- like a cross between the gold standard and a film studio.
Radar's Hype Report, aka The Overrated 100 (only partially online). "Sex with virgins" was my favorite.
Kinda interesting story on what Viacom has coming up in digital media. Flux sounds like an also-ran (though it is integrated into the Subterranean Blog, which has potential), but the investment in VBS.tv intrigues me.
It's a huge week for new releases:
DVD: 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition of The Graduate.
Books: Steven Pinker's The Stuff of Thought, Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
Music: Kanye West's Graduation, 50 Cent's Curtis, Simian Mobile Disco's Attack Decay Sustain Release, Ghostland Observatory's Paparazzi Lightning, Go Team's Proof of Youth.
Music Reissues: Pink Floyd's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, Young Marble Giants's Colossal Youth.
And finally, my old friend June Panic has a new album, which was originally recorded back in the days we hung out and fought about girls: Songs from Purgatory.
Not much to recommend in the new releases this week, except for a couple of Jim Jarmusch Criterion releases (Stranger than Paradise and Night on Earth) and several TV shows (Season Three of The Office, Season Two of Robot Chicken, Season One of 30 Rock, Season Two of Prison Break, and Season Three of Desperate Housewives).
Meme watching: get ready, the 10-year anniversary of the Monica Lewinsky scandal is nearly upon us, which is the only way to explain NY Mag's extensive profile of Matt Drudge. Undeniably better than L.A. Times similar attempt from a few weeks ago, this one paints Drudge as something of a modern-day Howard Hughes. It avoids banter about Drudge's sexuality until the end (dude's totally gay, and he'd probably flip politically if he could ever out himself). It's full of good material, but this is the money quote: "Amid her snarls about privacy, [Camille] Paglia offers the morsel that Drudge is 'deeply knowledgeable' about dance music." After that quote, I officially declare liberalism dead.
Google News is adding comments, except not what you think. Comments will be from "those people or organizations who were actual participants in the story in question." Hmmmm...
This is 10 days old, but I just found it: NYT's "Talk to the Newsroom" with the Culture Editor. Best one in the series so far.
Wired News has released the first results of its "journalism crowdsourcing" project, Assignment Zero. It actually looks pretty good so far.
NYT Mag had built up a ton of personal anticipation for its Wikipedia news story, but it fell short on a few accounts, including mostly that it's only maybe 20% about news (the other 80% is just another Wikipedia story that you've already read). What I really wanted to read is something like Anil's recent post on the future of journalism spread out over 10 pages instead. (I could personally supply a half-dozen anecdotes on open-source journalism that would be better than those in the NYT story.) However, three interesting points: 1) the tension that exists between Wikinews and Wikipedia seems substantial, 2) the factoid that 1 out of every 200 total online pageviews belongs to Wikipedia is staggering, and 3) the notion that Wikipedia "derives a certain degree of authority and trust in the mind of the reader by avoiding original research" is provocative... and, I'm pretty sure, an opening. (If this weren't a link blog, I'd write more on this, but you've already moved on.)
The New York Times has five writers put together a gigantic, snoozy profile of Rupert Murdoch.
This is sad: Punk Planet is dead. Most of you probably won't believe me when I tell you Philistines that it was really a good magazine (those two design issues? seriously, excellent).
Dammit, why the hell didn't I submit my idea to the Knight News Challenge? Adrian will be walking away with $1.1 million to start EveryBlock. The winners list looks like a hodgepodge of industry colleagues and friends.
Best-Informed Also View Fake News, Study Says. In other news: Best-Informed Also Read Studies About Themselves, Study Says.
Check it out: we launched a game in conjunction with that little redesign/marketing campaign I've been babbling about: MSNBC.com Newsbreaker.
I've become vaguely confused by what's going on at Gawker lately. The ostensible logic of the chair rearrangement a while back seemed to suggest that The Big G was moving away from insider media reportage (save that noise for the New York Observer!) and shifting toward entertainment coverage (TMZ must be denied!). But this week we've seen long pieces on David Remnick's / Tina Brown's New Yorker and some wacky meta-meta coverage of the NYT Mag Consumed column. As I suggested on Twitter the other day (ugh), Gawker has become almost impossible to read, so I should probably welcome whatever they're doing to mix it up.
Financial Times on the futurist that the New York Times hired. I haven't talked here that much about my current job, but we've set up a similar group working on future news products. In the next few months, I'll finally try to speak about some of that work right here on Fimoc.
As an enemy of good, I was a little suspicious of Good Magazine when it first came out. But the media issue came packed with features on the 51 best magazines ever, a dissection of the evening news, a deep analysis of HBO's success, and an Ira Glass interview.
So the NAA -- that's the Newspaper Association of America, punks -- decides it needs a literacy campaign. And what's a literacy campaign without a celebrity spokesman? Nothing! So who do they pick? Optimus Prime. No, seriously. I officially declare this the end of media irony. [via]
"I really don't know whether we'll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don't care either." --Arthur Sulzberger "Me either!" --Rex Sorgatz
Pretty great profile of Malcolm Gladwell, including much about his early days as a conservative at the Washington Post, how he lived and partied with current Slate editor Jacob Weisberg, and something about a hilarious contest to get the phrase "perverse and often baffling" in print.
Ever since the dickhead tried to sue me, I've hated Garrison Keillor. No wait, I hated him before that. Anyway, his latest column argues that the way to look cool is to carry around a newspaper. This guy is so fucking old that he makes Andy Rooney look sane. [via]
Here's a weird match-up: The Washington Post will be publishing The Onion in D.C.
Clive Thompson (who has slowly become the best techno-cultural observer in duh whole wide world) is asking for help in writing an upcoming feature in Wired on "radical transparency," originally proposed by Chris Anderson last month. The comments are good too.
NYT slideshow illustrating all the weird places that advertising is showing up. Includes baggage screening containers, restroom signs, eggs, and pediatrician examination rooms.
I'm not sure why this is interesting, but NY Mag kept media consumption diaries for three New Yorkers for a week.
The usual caveats apply: I have no inside knowledge on any of this stuff. I talk to media+tech people about trends all the time, but nobody ever tells me anything important. And I only have mutual funds, so don't try to play that angle.
Besides, I'm just taking cheap shots anyway.
1) $100 PC. Finally, computing in the Third World! But priorities are reassessed when someone does the math and realizes that the One Benjamin PC could feed a single African for 37 years.
2) MySpace. Despite (or because of) News Corp's ownership of MySpace, unique users start to disappear. Someone at the New York Times realizes that your friend Tom has released absolutely zero new features to the community since Fox's takeover. In a scramble, MySpace releases a bunch of bad features that everyone hates. However, they sell several more sponsorship deals for movies, tv shows, and bands that you don't care about.
3) Apple. Apple buys Last.FM. Finally. And iTV is a hit. Finally. And the iPhone? Nope, never. Why? Cuz the iPhone is like God -- if it really existed, you wouldn't care that much.
4) Google. By partnering YouTube and Apple's iTV, Google has you watching Ask A Ninja on your plasma. Hello, Google Video ads.
5) Gawker. A rumor is leaked about a Conde Naste buy-out that involves a digital unit built around the new WiredNews.com. Nick Denton is too busy updating Lifehacker to respond.
6) The Office. Jim chooses Pam. Forgetting this is fiction, I attempt to drunk-dial Karen.
7) Studio 60. Sorkin's new show sorta catches on. Gloating until my pancreas explodes, I try to explain that Studio 60 is the first example of middle-brow camp. You call me a moron.
8) Technorati. A media company takes a shot at buying Technorati. Maybe Tribune, maybe NYT, probably Wash Post. By the end of the year, people are talking about a Newsvine purchase.
9) Publishing. Your mom is charged with plagiarism. Her book skyrockets to the top of the best-seller list.
10) TV News Anchor Ratings. 1) Brian Williams. 2) Charlie Gibson. 3) Katie Couric.
11) Windows. Vista ships. You try not to yawn.
12) Twitter. Google buys Twitter. A bunch of media organizations sigh deeply over not thinking of this first.
13) AOL. I have no idea. And neither do they.
14) Facebook. That snotty Harvard kid tells Yahoo, "Tell you what, I'll buy you instead."
15) Yahoo. Ba-bye, Terry.
16) Zune. Version 2.0 of the Zune is launched. A small group of converts start to form, while Engadget asks "too little, too late?"
17) Second Life. Robots invade and kill everyone. Turns out "everyone" is 5 kids in Tallahassee.
18) Mobile. 2007: the year in mobile. If I keep saying it, eventually it will be true.
19) Comedy. Dane Cook gets invited to speak at this year's White House Press Corps dinner. When Cook jokes about fucking the Bush Twins, G.W. laughs more than he did at Colbert.
20) Chumby. This little nerd toy you've never heard of becomes a huge hit.
21) Newspapers. More lay-offs, more shrinkage, more free weeklies, more navel-gazing.
23) CBS. The digital unit will make a few acquisitions that seem peculiar. But by the end of the year, they will look hipper than Unkie Viacom.
24) GNR. Klosterman spreads a rumor that Axl will release Chinese Democracy on April 24. Thousands of thirty-somethings show up at a record store at midnight only to discover... ha ha, fooled you, old man.
25) Courtney Love. Comeback album, comeback movie, comeback fragrance.
26) Celebutantes. People talk a lot about Britney's comeback, but the new summer album does as well as releases from Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton, and K-Fed. Meanwhile, Nicole Richie accidentally eats herself.
27) Ze Frank. The funniest guy in America lands a deal at Comedy Central.
28) Amanda Congdon. While the blogosphere wonders who's watching, Amanda's ratings go up, up, up. When you go home for Thanksgiving, you realize your dad has it bookmarked.
29) lonelygirl15. Remember Ellen Feiss?
30) Earth. The planet will get warmer.
Have a swell 2007.
I suspect everyone's used one of Gawker's Blog-Media Cliches at one point or another. Except me, yo.
Way more than you possibly wanted to know (unless you're me) about New York mag's Approval Matrix.
Wheh, what a week -- Britney+Paris, OJ, Kramer -- don't you feel good being repulsed by it all?
Well, I guess one way for old media to catch up is to launch 20 new websites next year. (Heh, I just called MTV old media.)
The Atlantic throws itself into the ring as future of newspapers postulators with "A Modest Proposal For Newspapers for the Digital Age." Decent, but bonus points for name-checking EPIC. [via, doy]
I dunno, it just seems like a bad time to be doing a documentary about the importance of journalists.
Some of you know that I've talked about starting a blog about fake news for a while. A few years back, I even had semi-serious conversations with media playahs (people with names you've heard!) about what I was dubbing "Romenesko for the Rest of Us." At the time, it seemed that we were in the Renaissance of Fake News, as the culture industry seemed to be obsessed with fakery. But lately it seems we've got a glut of the pseudo, which is why I almost fell for this fake story claiming that The Onion is going to switch to a real news format. Almost. (UPDATE: The Onion's Sunday Magazine parody.)
Google is now going to sell ads in print newspapers. Contributing companies include Gannett, Tribune, NYT, Washington Post, and Hearst.
So a newspaper (L.A. Times) realizes it's a dying form that needs rejuvenation -- who does it hire to investigate how to react? It's own investigative unit.
Choice. Northwestern has developed a system that automatically generates a virtual news show. News At Seven gathers stories from around the internet, does some text-to-speech transfer, displays it using a game engine, and even tosses in some blog commentary. Video demonstration.