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    • There's another casualty in this battle: long form writing.

      In the early 2000s, when Fatbrain Books was bought by Barnes & Noble because Amazon's stock had collapsed and the world believed brick & mortar stores were real businesses and dot bombs were a joke, I knew Jeff Bezos and the Riggio brothers (who ran B&N) very well (I had founded Fatbrain). We were all terrified that books would go into steep decline because Millenials had video games to play and the Internet to read.

      A host of new social media and news sites saw the trend and confidently bet on shorter content — BuzzFeed, Twitter, and SnapChat, for example. I realized I was a dinosaur because I listened to longer-form audio like those obscure things called podcasts, which were definitely not taking off, and I still read dinosaur publications like Wired and The Atlantic.

      But here we are a decade and a half later and it turns out books are a thing, podcasts are on fire, Wired is crushing it, 10-episode TV is all the rage, and John Oliver's 20-minute Last Week Tonight episodes are getting megaviews on YouTube. But Buzzfeed & Snap are struggling with twitchy content.

      Thank God. Sometimes it takes more than short-form content to tell a great story.

    • The vast majority of social content now is in picture or video form. When I say casualty, I'm referring to usage by individuals, not by content producers.

      Publishers will always use text, because people like to read. But increasingly, people don't like to write, and especially not in a thoughtful way.

    • the news media was focused on telling everyone that G+ was nothing but an FB wannabe.

      Yeah, that was a shame. I wonder, though, how much of that was driven by what we want to read. A few days ago I attended a mixer in SF and April Glaser was there, who covers the tech beat for Slate. She had spent the day covering Uber strikes, a big story.

      She is utterly fascinating. I don't know where 2.5 hours went as we talked all things social media, but mixing with anyone else got away from us. She has very deep insights. However, journalists have to write the stories we humans will read — the ones the algorithms will surface — just like eateries have to serve the food we'll actually buy (pizza & beer). And the stories that got surfaced were about the clash of the titans, the epic bloody fight to the death for supremacy between giants Facebook and Google. We humans can't resist a good fight; we want to see blood. The algorithms know that about us. Those stories made us feel Google+ was a head-on competitor to Facebook.

      I'll give a personal example. I funded and helped make a short YouTube film about photography from the International Space Station. We got NASA to cooperate and send it out in all their social media channels. I saw that it got voted up high on Reddit the other day as "a masterpiece." I have cried each time I've watched it (probably 25 times) because it shows how beautiful earth is. It shows the earth really is round. In this case, me and filmmaker Anton Lorimer were the journalists.

      But YouTube's AI knows: we humans have a weakness for stories about NASA exposed: decades of coverup revealed. So YouTube's algorithm isn't going to recommend our little film, it recommends the ones that cause us to choose more videos about what else the government is hiding. Do we blame the AI, the news media, or ourselves?

      If anyone wants a diversion from this heavy topic, here's a few minutes of the gorgeous blue round orb we live on. Unlike the AI, I won't link to the conspiracy videos.

    • In some ways the news media is like the internet. Both tend to contain the truth on a known subject somewhere, but the truth is hard to find because of all the misinformation. I did not mean to imply that in the early 1980s that no reporters told the truth about D&D, but that the majority focused on sensationalism.

      Now if journalists and publishers desire to be "The National Inquirer" then go for it. But don't then turn around and get upset when people talk about how unreliable and untrustworthy the overall industry is.

      Every time I hear or read someone speak about the role of journalism in America being the dissemination of reliable information, I feel like rolling my eyes.

      The role of journalism seems to be to acquire more eyeballs.

      Your post about "what we want to read" is basically indicting the majority of the news publishing industry to be more interested in pandering than it is in accurate reporting.

      In my opinion, this is also the reason that the religious world is in the mess that it is in. Religions tend to pander to the cravings of humans and to preach man-made constructs falsely labeled "God" who indulge the desires of mankind instead of trying to get humans to respect God's right to choose. The saying "Attend the church of your choice" implies that "your choice" is one's god.

    • In my opinion, this is also the reason that the religious world is in the mess that it is in. Religions tend to pander to the cravings of humans and to preach man-made constructs falsely labeled "God" who indulge the desires of mankind instead of trying to get humans to respect God's right to choose. The saying "Attend the church of your choice" implies that "your choice" is one's god.

      Sorry, but I gotta call you out—this is soooo off-topic!

    • Here’s the way I see it. Tell me if I’m wrong. If you are a journalist obsessed with the truth, and you get really good at it, you can get a job at a major newspaper for $80,000/year. You’ll have to hustle and write a lot of stories because if you’re truthful the stories you write will look a lot like the ones other reporters write.

      The trouble is, fiction that seems like it could be true is much more profitable across all media. You don’t make much when you produce a documentary.

      So while you hustle to dig for truth and make $80k, Sean Hannity can make fiction that sounds like it could be true and make $26 million/year. That’s the pizza & beer that makes bank, not the broccoli we should want but don’t. The pastors who make stuff up that we want to believe get mansions and private jets compared to the ones who actually go out and serve the poor.

      Fiction can have more compelling heroes & villains & storylines we all want to believe. Algorithms figured that out and created a lot of young billionaires in my neighborhood.

    • Respectfully, I disagree.

      The topic is pandering versus unbiased reporting.

      It is not my purpose in this thread to discuss whether a certain set of "scriptures" is legitimate or not. My point is that if a group or a "preacher" claims that a certain set of "scriptures" are from God then those "scriptures" should not be wrested out of their context nor made to mean whatever is desired by the people who are listening. That is pandering. The correct attitude should be "that is what the text is saying" regardless of whether we like it or not.

    • But fiction framed as truth leads to disrespect and the eventual collapse of credibility.

      It's like Mason Weems biography of Washington. When it came out, it was a best seller but in the long run it completely destroyed Weems's reputation as a biographer.

      BTW, a case in point concerning the media's slanting of the news happened today. Google News listed headlines from five sources regarding Alito's dissent. Of the five, only CNN had a headline that accurately described the reason for Alito's dissent.

      ABC made it out that it had to do with him being "Conservative."

      The problem with that suggestion is that Alito acknowledged that the plaintiff's complaint might actually end up being valid.

      "...are important and may ultimately be held to have merit."

      Alito was angry with the attorneys regarding their timing of the filing.

      “If the tactics of Murphy’s attorneys in this case are not inexcusably dilatory, it is hard to know what the concept means,”

      In fairness, I should also state that "The Hill" headline was accurate but it was misleading.

      His complaint had nothing to do with the fact that the inmate in question was a Buddhist. He actually acknowledged that this subject needs to be considered and that the issues in question are important.

      Now personally, I think that Alito was wrong to oppose the blocking of the execution but I do understand on an intellectual level where he is coming from. His complaint concerning the tactics of attorneys and the idea that other attorneys might try the same tactic certainly has intellectual merit. Yet I do not think that he was right to oppose the blocking of the execution out of pique against the attorneys

    • Respectfully, I disagree.

      The topic is pandering versus unbiased reporting.

      I removed the laughing emoji from my post because while my intent was to be light-hearted about the topic drift, I can see how it might be construed as making light of your remarks. Which is absolutely not what I wanted to convey.

      But I do disagree with your assessment.

      We started with “On Anti-Social Media”.

      We then migrated to news media via your analysis, which I thought was quite informative and I enjoyed reading it.

      I also thought it was relevant because online news stories and headlines are optimized to get you to click, and many of the online techniques used by YouTube to feed you more and more conspiracy videos can be used by news agencies.

      So on the one hand, I can see an extension to other sources of manipulation. Which could include religion.

      On the other hand, it felt like the conversation was going in a direction completely different than the Medium article. Or completely different than what someone clicking on the conversation would expect to read based on the title and topics selected.

      I know you are quite knowledgeable on scripture and religion, based on reading other conversations you’ve started here.

      Would someone who followed one of these religions, which you’ve identified as pandering “to the cravings of humans and to preach man-made constructs falsely labeled ‘God’”, be offended to read what you said about their religion?

      If yes, then it feels like your comment should be moved to a religion topic conversation with a headline that makes clear it’s a criticism of religion.

      If not, then I was wrong to call “off-topic”.

    • An interesting aside...one of the daily newspapers in our city is deciding to try to get permission from the IRS to run as a nonprofit. I’m curious to see if that will have any impact on the mainstream media’s click-bait culture here.

    • Lidja,

      If this was only a product of financial concerns, this might be a solution. But, I think that the desire for relevance and attention is a driving motivation even in non-profits. As an example, NPR is not completely immune to the "click bait culture" syndrome. It may be a lower priority at NPR than some other news outlets but it still seems to exist.

    • Totally agree with you.

      Special interests can (and do) hijack nonprofits even more easily than they do for-profits.

      The local newspaper owner is a one-percenter himself, and he has used the newspaper personally to advance his own family’s agendas when it suits him, so I think this effort may be more of a PR move and an attempt to stem the tide of wealth that is draining from his own pocket than anything else. The sad thing is watching the hard-working staff get pinched more and more, and to see all the layoffs taking a toll on the quality and relevance of the journalism...