It was another depressing week in the world of the media of the futureeeeeee. (You have to say “futureeeeeee” as if it’s being shouted from the bottom of a cave in outer space to properly connote the fear, uncertainty, and sense of doom felt by all reckoning with “new” media.) After ESPN’s recent expulsion of talent not long ago, FOX followed it up by scuttling its writing staff in favor of pointless videos packaged around its brand of bad opinions, and MTV axed a collection of superb writers including Brian Phillips, one of my favorite writers on the interweb.1 Awful Announcing had a depressing but thorough look at the grand vision at Fox.
I had an impassioned diatribe prepared, but it’s hard to go on a rant about the illiteration2 of America without sounding like tool. So here are some thoughts in no particular order.
- Videos are fine. Despite my parents best and admirable efforts, I was practically raised by television. I would bad-mouth the Red Cross before I spoke ill of TV. But when I’m digesting information, including anything analytical, argumentative, or opinionated, I prefer reading. I love reading. A sports website that’s all videos sounds like a kinky brand of torture to me. I’m not the only one who thinks this.
- In many ways, aren’t we dogs chasing after an invisible tennis ball? If this is all about generating advertising revenue, how has advertising not become sophisticated enough to value different consumers differently? Not all eyeballs are equal. If my $100 in advertising is going to get my product in front of 10 14-year-olds willing to read a 4000-word exposé on the Flint water crisis or 100 14-year-olds who give a shit what Chris Broussard thinks about LaVar Ball’s WWE appearance, I want the 10 14-year-olds reading the exposé. This myopic view seems to go beyond advertising and media, and indicative of a broader societal failure. But advertisers pump fake, and media outlets go chasing a ball that isn’t there.
- Isn’t the eventual destination a dynamic pricing model based around micro-transactions? I might pay five cents to find out from Buzzfeed which Hogwarts house from Harry Potter I’d be sorted into (Hufflepuff, obviously), but I’d happily pay $2 to read an investigative report from the Washington Post on my lunch break. For the outlets I visit semi-daily and read regularly, I’d pay $20-$100 a year, depending on what it is. How can Clash of Clans figure this out, but the collective genius of the media cannot? Who’s going to solve this revenue model, and when is Jeff Bezos going to do it?
- Jamie Horowitz’s strategy at Fox (detailed in the Awful Announcing link above) seems to be packaging a bunch of content around the Fox “branded” personalities, whose opinions are generally bad and generate interest by virtue of being ill-informed. The plan is taking the already bad reaction to something (anything really), and then making a video or article reacting to that reaction, like pyramid scheme of crap. It reminds me of the thinking behind collateralized debt obligations, where a bank takes a bunch of shitty mortgages, and packages them together in the hope that a certain percentage of the shitty mortgages pay off (in Fox’s case, go viral), turning a mountain of shitty assets into one worthwhile investment. Which is a nice strategy and all, except when it bankrupts the world economy like it did in 2008 when all those mortgages turned out to be even shittier than initially thought.3
- I know we live in a shareholder’s world, but doesn’t anyone do anything anymore just because they think it’s better, not because it’ll make Q3 profits .15 percent higher?
- I saw a lot of noise yesterday about how the maximum number of words readers are willing to read is 1000 or maybe even six. As I’ve probably written about 15 posts that are less than 1000 words, I just wanted to share that this is terrible news for me personally.
- There is an FS2?!? I’ve never watched Fox’s FS1 network in my entire life except to watch a college football game (more often than not some C+ Pac-12 game that’s the only one left on TV). On Tuesday night on FS1, Gus Johnson was calling a televised basketball game between two teams called the Ghost Ballers and the 3 Headed Monsters. Kwame Brown was involved. And there is another Fox Sports channel that’s of lower prestige than that channel. Where is FS2 in my DirecTV package? Between ESPN: The Ocho and C-SPAN 11? Why on earth would I emulate any of the business tactics of a company that thought FS2 was a thing that needed to exist?
Your Calvin and Hobbes strip of the day. Me, every single day of the summer. Except replace “water” with “Scotch and soda.”
And now for the random 90s song of the day. TR90sSotD is Pink Floyd’s “Marooned,” as the Cavaliers are figuratively marooned without a general manager. The best song on 1994’s The Division Bell, “Marooned” is one of the few enduring songs from post-Roger Waters Floyd. I was fortunate enough to see Roger Waters live a few weeks ago, and to experience live many of the Floyd classics that I never thought I would have the opportunity to see irl.
Few stretches of albums compare to Floyd’s 70s run of Dark Side of the Moon-Wish You Were Here-Animals-The Wall, but there are a few worthwhile tunes in Floyd’s 90s catalogue, and the instrumental “Marooned” — with some incredible guitar work from David Gilmour — is one of them. The video4 has some cool space footage and a weird old guy running around an abandoned Cold War Era building in Eastern Europe? It’s about … humanity’s promise of traveling to space yet failure to prevent decay in our own neighborhoods? Or something like that.
- If you’re interested in sampling some of his work: Phillips on sumo wrestling for Grantland, Phillips on Roger Federer for the New York Times, Phillips on Area 51 for MTV, Phillips on a strange and beloved Russian animator. [↩]
- Not a word. [↩]
- And, as it turned out with the banks, by design. Which, also kind of seems to be the case with Fox. [↩]
- Which might be from 2014, when they reissued The Division Bell. [↩]