Sips from the Firehose
A blog that seeks to filter the internet into a refreshing, easily-gulped beverage
Posted: under journalism, Online (Multi)Media.
Tags: Nick Denton, playboy interview, privacy, security, social media, we live in public
Thought-provoking take in a Playboy interview of Gawker Media’s Nick Denton, one of the most-hated men on the internet. Also, one of the most successful.
His premise may be a little self-serving, in light of his whole net worth being based on prying into people’s lives and then shaming the shit out of them on his web properties. Then again, you might also legitimately say that his web properties are devoted to outing/shaming/calling B.S. on people because that’s the ethos he lives by.
PLAYBOY: You’re more willing than most people to organize your life according to principle and see how the experiment turns out.
Nick Denton, displaying some of the “let it all hang out” spirit.
Photo credit: Village Voice Blogs
DENTON: You could argue that privacy has never really existed. Usually people’s friends or others in the village had a pretty good idea what was going on. You could look at this as the resurrection of or a return to the essential nature of human existence: We were surrounded by obvious scandal throughout most of human existence, when everybody knew everything. Then there was a brief period when people moved to the cities and social connections were frayed, and there was a brief period of sufficient anonymity to allow for transgressive behavior no one ever found out about. That brief era is now coming to an end.
PLAYBOY: That doesn’t jibe with your other theory about how we’ll judge one another more kindly when we have no privacy. Human history is not a history of tolerance for deviation from the norm.
DENTON: You don’t think there was a kind of peasant realism? You hear these stories about a small town, seemingly conservative, and actually there’s a surprising amount of tolerance. “So-and-so’s a good guy. Who cares if he’s a pig fucker? His wife brought a really lovely pie over when Mama was sick.”
I grew up in Small Town America in the 1970s. Tucked back into a musty corner of the Upper Midwest, rural Wisconsin pretty much ran along the lines that Denton is describing. You can’t live with a family for generations without pretty much knowing all about their business.
You’d know without asking what their opinion was on pretty much any matter of import without having to ask, because their opinions were shaped by their grandparents, their parents, their siblings, and their life experiences.
As were yours.
The idea that we are free to become who we say we are, to invent ourselves – that is a curiously American concept, and one that functions only in fairly large urban environments. Even there, if you become suitably prominent, all the locals will pretty much be all up in your bidness, as the Southerners say.
So in that light: does social media represent a phase in human evolution wherein we all voluntarily put ourselves back into that small-town pressure cooker, where everybody knows all they need to know about us all at a glance? And is that a good thing or a bad thing? Can we even stop it at this juncture – and if we did, would we really want to?
Because there is this thing about small towns: after a certain amount of time, it becomes next to impossible to really pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.
It’s like my career with the paparazzi taught me. Somebody talks.
Somebody ALWAYS talks.
In our modern media landscape, so littered with charlatans who take advantage of ignorance and misinformation to skin the rubes, maybe this kind of brutal enforced honesty is not the worst thing after all.
Posted: under journalism, Online (Multi)Media, Weblogs.
Tags: banner image, journalists as targets, paid protesters, Storify, titushki
Here’s an example of a banner image, created for Storify.
i chose these images based on … well, not much at all really. Just stuff that was foremost on my hard drive. Given more than 5 minutes, I could probably do better … but this is still more attractive than the blank space that is the default on Storify.
This example uses a variety of quickly-chosen and lightly edited images to fit the radically horizontal image space on Storify.
Damn. Things are getting heavy. Journalists are being attacked by paid provocateurs:
Journalists being beaten by thugs: Hromadske.TV’s Dmytro Gnap was stomped, his camera smashed, and the memory card stolen.
The pro-Russian government in Ukraine is using “titushki” — paid provocateurs hired to disrupt rallies and provoke police, according to the Kyiv Post.
These protesters are acting like morons, trying to make the protests look like they are violent and anarchic. They are helped along in this mission by some of the more casual protesters, who show up after having a few drinks, and seem to be mainly interested in the more festive aspects of the protest.
Posted: under journalism, Online (Multi)Media.
Tags: example, infographic, Kiev
This is just a test of an embed code…
Posted: under Digital Migration, journalism, Webconomics.
Tags: Adobe DPS, Atavist, iBook Author, indie business model, Inkling, journalist's guide to self-publishing tools, long-form journalism, Vook
How journalists can build their own news/publishing business
I was asked by my students if there were ways that they could publish their stories, videos and audios, without having to give up control to media companies that really aren’t all that interested in publishing new & interesting content from unknown authors. Well, not unless it is given to them free, with no obligations to pay any residuals or royalties, and they have exclusive rights to publish and market that content in all media known or unknown, throughout the universe, until the end of time.
There are a bunch of companies that have sprung up that publish multimedia books – you’ll have to do some research to see which one would offer you the best deal for your project.
1. Vook – they started off just doing ebooks with video embedded. These were interesting as experiments, but really didn’t push the form very far. Now, they’ve started publishing to all the major platforms (rather than trying to establish themselves as an alternative to Amazon, with their own proprietary standards – a losing game, if ever there was one).
The first Vooks were like the first CD-ROMs. They had text on them with cutscenes of dubious quality. Usually made from literature that was in the public domain (i.e. free for some geek to hammer on without having to pay fees to the pesky creative writer-types).
Posted: under Digital Migration, journalism, Web/Tech, Webconomics.
Tags: credibility, Google seach rankings, in-depth articles, long-form journalism, online identity, online reputation, page ranking, PR, public relations, search engine optimization, SEO, SERPs
…back from summer vacation, and leaping into the school year. Well, trying to leap, anyway.
I mentioned this development in digital news to my journalism classes at Annenberg, and figured I might want to expand a bit more on it, and provide some links to related articles & research.
(Google Data Center from Wallpaperstart.com)
First, forgive me if this is old news, but I haven’t heard much about this from the usual suspects; for some reason, there isn’t much notice being taken of this by publishers, or professional journalists.
But the PR guys are all over this. Viz: How Google’s ‘In-Depth Articles’ feature could affect PR
The feature, which Google calls “In-Depth Articles,” offers up links to a set of three long-form articles, usually at the bottom of the search results page. The articles are usually detailed profiles and exposés on companies and their leadership. Companies and high-profile individuals should take notice of this development and understand that it presents a number of opportunities, as well as some perils.
No one but Google itself knows exactly how these articles are selected, but the search engine giant has described them as “thoughtful in-depth content” that “remains relevant long after its publication date.” This is a major coup for traditional long-form publications such as Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair,Fortune, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker, as well as new online-only media such as The Verge,SB Nation, and Slate.
The implications for businesses, prominent individuals, and the people in charge of maintaining the reputations thereof, are pretty significant, if not outright terrifying.
Posted: under Digital Migration.
Some times, there is a bit of a lag between the loading of the headline on HuffPo and the photo. Not always as humorous as it is here.
Posted: under new media, Web/Tech, Webconomics.
Tags: daredevils, entrepreneurship, flying over the hump, how to become an entrepreneur, how to launch your startup, life lessons, pilots
Filed under: Things I didn’t realize I was internalizing at the time that have stuck with me & shaped my life
As a follow-up to my previous post about the “Secrets of Silicon Valley” post, there was something that Glenn Kelman, the CEO of Redfin said, that stuck with me:
“I get thousands of pitches every month. And all of them suck. They tell me all about these numbers and charts and graphs. But what I really want to know is, ‘Why are you doing this? What makes you want to start this company.’ And then they relax, and they tell me what I really want to know.”
This made me think of an encounter I had with a guy back when the job titles “Entrepreneur” did not have the suffused halo of glory around it that it does now. Looking back, this short conversation was one of the transformative experiences in my life. It’s what has driven me to consistently take the road less traveled in my career.
When you try to imagine the most valuable thing in the world, what does it look like? Does it look like something in a museum, where people come from around the world and pay money just to look at it? Is it a Special Thing, ancient and mysterious, that you can own? Or is it something quite else…
In 1987, I was a Pulliam Fellow at the Arizona Republic, working as a copy editor. That meant that I had most of the day free – I went in at about 3 p.m. each day, stayed until midnight and pretty much lived like a bat. So during the day, I explored the city of Tempe, where I lived, and tried to cool off by swimming and enjoying the pool (hey – I’d grown up in Wisconsin, where the rare days you got when it was sunny and warm you automatically headed towards bodies of water to enjoy this amazing gift of weather).
So I was basking in the pool, when I was addressed by an older guy, who was leaning against the side of the pool, elbows on the fringe, watching the sun set. He looked content, but thoughtful. He was tanned like a saddle, with piercing blue eyes, and a bemused expression on his face. He asked who I was and what I was doing in Phoenix.
I told him that I was there, fresh out of college, working for this gigantic media company. But that it was a little strange to me, because the company was so big that I felt like just a little cog in a big machine.
Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing – if I believed in what the Big Machine was doing, and if I actually felt that the Big Machine cared in any way for all the cogs that had to mesh to make it run. Neither of which were true.
He frowned, and nodded his head.
“You’re coming to a point in your life where you’re going to have to make some very important decision,” he said.
I snorted, with the derision that only a 21-year-old recent college grad can muster. “Everyone keeps telling me that. But that just sounds like platitudes. What is that supposed to me to me? Every decision we make is important – we cross the street for breakfast, we get run over – hey, that was a life-changing decision! You look at it that way, hell, every decision you make is life and death.”
To his credit, he laughed. “Well, I guess that’s true. But I was thinking of something a bit different than what you do. It’s more about who you really are.”
And then he launched into the story of his life. Turns out that he was not retired, because he never planned on retiring, because every day he did what he loved. He had been a DC-3 pilot in WWII, flying the supply routes that went “Over the Hump,” or over the Himalaya mountains and into China. These were white-knuckle rides, because depending on how loaded down the old “Goonie Birds” were, you may or may not make it over these 20,000-foot peaks.
Each flight through the treacherous mountain passes was a gamble. As the odds against long-term survival mounted, the pilot I talked to said he just gave up the idea of control — that enemy fighters or sudden blizzards could trump any preparations humans could make. Simultaneously, he paid attention to all the little details that might mean the difference between survival and violent death.
He was terrified for the first few flights, and then he basically gave himself up for dead, and started having the time of his life. Most beautiful landscape in the world, wild adventures on either side of the flight, danger, and the feeling of contributing something meaningful to something really important, something that was bigger than him, something that was forever changing the world.
After the war, he started an airline. It was the wild & woolly days back then, not like today when there are basically highways in the sky, you never get lost, it’s all worked out for you. Back then, you were making it all up as you went along, trying to figure out what planes at what times into what airports would get there on time and make money.
But by his combination of daring (from the recklessness that he pursued life from flying over The Hump), and meticulous planning – because he had checked out every inch of every plane and every flight plan before he took off, which is why he survived and so did his whole crew – that combination made him successful.
He built an airline. Made millions. Had a big house and a pinup girl wife.
Was miserable. Hated running the company. Hated all the problems that come with having a lot of money.
So he divorced his wife. Gave her everything. Started from scratch. With a new woman in his life. He said that he had learned something really crazy about himself. He didn’t like being rich.
Making it back was no sure thing (image from Life magazine archives – click through for more).
He liked the struggle, the fight, the ups and downs, the thrills of BECOMING rich.
So he would repeat this pattern. Over and over again. He’d build a company – sometimes airlines, sometimes aeronautical service companies, or plane design firms – build it up until it was huge …
…and then he’d give it away, and start all over from scratch again.
I told this story to my mom, who grew up on a farm in the shadow of the Great Depression, to a father who had twice lost everything he had and worked himself into an early grave trying to provide for 8 kids … and my mom said, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
And for a long time, I agreed with her. What kind of a moron builds something only to give it all away? What kind of person can’t see that you earn money through struggle and pain? That every dollar is a treasure, and that you cling to it as hard as you can?
But then I remembered what that tough old pilot said, back when I said something very similar:
“Think about the most valuable thing in the world. Maltese Falcon, huge diamond, priceless painting – whatever. In your head, I want you to imagine having something that, if you had it, every other person you know would envy you. Just green-eyed, jealousy, eating their own heart out. Day and night, everyone wants what you’ve got, this Special Thing. There’s only one. And you have it.
But there’s a catch. Something that nobody else knows, that you’re trying hard not to let them see. The catch is that hanging onto the Special Thing is killing you. Burning your hands. Feels like fishhooks ripping into your fingers every second you have it in your possession.
But still, everyone passing by says, “OMG! What a lucky guy! Just look at that Special Thing! I sure wish I had that thing!” All the while, it’s just killing you to hang onto it. And you can’t put it down.
The question you have to ask yourself is: would you hold onto that thing?
Would you choose to live in pain, in isolation, in anger, in contempt for everyone you see as lesser than you – would you choose to live that way just so you could conform to some other people’s ideas of how it is that you should feel, and what it is that you should want?
Would you hold on to that thing?
Or would you put it down and say, here. You take it. And while they pick it up and laugh at you – you’re the one that’s laughing at them inside. Because they have to deal with that Special Thing now. And you? You’re free.
And you’re going to build something else now. And building that … whatever it is … building that, is what makes you feel like you have the most valuable thing in the world already.
That was a man with rare courage. He was able to look deeply inside himself and not only see, but accept what it was that made him happy. And then he acted on that knowledge, even when the rest of the world said that he was an idiot. That he had lost his mind.
But he knew what he had to do. Because he literally couldn’t live any other way.
To me, that is the core trait of the entrepreneur.
Posted: under Digital Migration, New Marketing, New Media Strategery, Unconventional Research, Viral Fame, Webconomics.
Tags: Ben Casnocha, CreativeLIVE, entrepreneurs, escape from cubicle nation, Glenn Kelman, Guy Kawasaki, how to become an entrepreneur, how to launch your startup, innovation, live video training, Reid Hoffman, silicon valley, Spencer Raskoff
How many times do you get a chance to ask spectacularly successful tech entrepreneurs anything you want?
Janine & I just completed two days of intense sessions with some of Silicon Valley’s most successful entrepreneurs at creativeLIVE’s “Secrets of Silicon Valley” sessions. And yes, that was really alliterative. Sorry. Bear with me. Everyone talked in such catchy bullet-point laden phrases that it leaked over into my speech patterns.
The walls of the creativeLIVE breakroom are festooned with flatscreen monitors showing what’s on their various channels. Most fascinating of all are the real-time “heatmaps” showing who’s watching at any moment, bordered by the latest comments on Twitter and Facebook. The “Secrets of Silicon Valley” was watched by people in more than 130 countries. In the map, you see clusters of red and white dots representing the audience through my reflection as I took this photo.
If nothing else, these two days were proof that above all else, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have mastered the talent of giving really beautifully designed and stripped-down PowerPoint presentations.
Seriously folks, if you’ve ever suffered through a “Death By PowerPointless” presentation where you were assaulted with dense bullet-point slides with hundreds of words on them … slide after slide after slide, none of them memorable, that made you fantasize about massive natural disasters, zombie apocalypse or alien invasions … these two days were not that.
Here’s what was so special about the “Secrets of Silicon Valley” speakers, who are entitled to have more than their share of ego and self-satisfaction: they didn’t just brag. Nor did they ramble on in thinly disguised sales brochures for their companies.
The most compelling speakers hardly mentioned their companies. Instead, their focus was on us, the audience. On what we needed to know.
The speakers knew what they were going to say, and they said it with humor, efficiency and – most unexpectedly, from a group of uber-nerds – humanity.
Posted: under Art.
Tags: art, Chihuly Glass and Garden, glassblowing, museum, Seattle, underwater
I’ve always said that if I had any talent whatsoever in sculpting, the medium I would choose to work with would be glass. I just love how really talented artists play with its transparent/translucent properties, and how it can be melted & made to flow organically.
I felt like I should have been wearing a scuba tank, flippers and a BC vest. Which, come to think of it, would not be out of place during the regular Seattle Rain Festival Jan.-Dec. every year. Boom!
Posted: under Digital Migration, new media, New Media Strategery, newspaper crisis, Newspaper Deathwatch, Newspapers, Platform obsession.
Tags: El Pais, newspaper, paywalls, Spain, spanish economic crisis
Unemployment over 50% – banking system collapse – political instability – newspapers run out of options
When asked what are the enduring lessons of the last five years for newspapers, various pundits have opined “Don’t enter an economic recession massively over-leveraged and dependent on fragile business models.”
One by one, newspapers are falling behind.
In Spain, the problems that we are experiencing in the U.S. are even more severe. The advertising base was even more reliant on crazy real-estate bubble advertising than it was here. Anyone who has flown into, say, Barcelona, and seen 20 MILES of empty housing developments, half-built apartment blocks, and gradually eroding graded hillsides, can quite easily judge what kind of devastation was left behind when that bubble burst.
But now comes the news that digital media has overtaken print in Spain.
There is some disagreement over just how many digital news outlets have sprung up in the past couple years:
Ahora desde la AEEPP (Asociación Española de Editoriales de Publicaciones Periódicas) reconocen que tienen 763 publicaciones digitales asociadas aunque, Carlos Astiz, secretario general de la Asociación, estima que puede haber 3.000 medios digitales.
…and exactly what constitutes a regular news publication (such as when its edition are funded via crowdfunding:
En medio de la crisis que afecta a los medios tradicionales, han surgido en los últimos meses un gran número de medios digitales con fórmulas diferentes para conseguir la rentabilidad. Desde la existencia de socios que por un módico precio acceden antes a los contenidos como en diario.es o infolibre.es a proyectos financiados por crowdfunding como la revista FronteraD.
But the trend seems to be that digital-only publications have been designed from the ground-up to be profitable on this new platform. The publishers, operating on a shoestring, find an audience, find ways to monetize that audience, and then start to methodically try to scale up.
The opposite is in action with the traditional media. They have their audience – but it is shrinking.
They have their revenue streams – but they are evaporating.
So they are engaged in a massive scale-down. Cutting coverage, cutting staff, and according to the Difusion story, only weeks/months away from re-erecting the infamous paywall around El Pais that was widely credited with destroying the paper’s digital operations before they had even gotten a chance to find their footing. I wrote an entire case study about it (and El Tiempo’s desperate attempts to re-connect with the young audience that they had alienated & lost) for the NAA.
Soon to run back behind the paywall. Maybe it will work this time. Then again, with so much new competition in the digital marketplace, and with the brand discredited & distrusted by younger readers … maybe it won’t.
Meanwhile, over in the digital-only world, site owners are waking up to the trend of “native advertising” – i.e. putting posts into the middle of the flow that look a lot LIKE the news stories that readers are there to check out … but that contain sponsored content, written in a way that doesn’t conflict with the rest of the content on the site.
Check out what John Battelle has to say about this evolution of monetization:
The reason native works is because the advertising is treated as a unit of content on the platform where it lives. That may seem obvious, but it’s an important observation. When a brands’s content competes on equal footing alongside a publisher’s content, everyone wins. Those search ads – they win if they are contextually relevant and add value to the consumer’s search results. Those promoted tweets only get promoted if people respond to them – a signal of relevance and value. The same is true for all truly “native” ad products. If the native ad content is good, it will get engagement. The industry is evolving toward rewarding advertising that doesn’t interrupt and is relevant and value additive. That’s a good thing.