Membership, Paywalls, and Funding Journalism Without a Football Phone — Longreads Community

In the 1980s, Sports Illustrated landed on a surefire way to drive subscriptions to its magazine. A high-quality print product? Top-notch journalism? Yeah, yeah, sure — probably all of the above. But as a child sitting in front of my television every afternoon, what really sold me — and then by my constant pleading, sold […]

via Membership, Paywalls, and Funding Journalism Without a Football Phone — Longreads Community

What to Consider When the Platforms Show Up with Money

Over at Nieman Lab, Laura Hazard Owen has written an interesting breakdown of how Medium wooed five different publishers over to its platform, and how it’s going so far. Unfortunately (not Laura’s fault; blame the NDAs!), it’s missing a critical piece of the wooing, which is a financial breakdown of what each of them might have been promised. Continue reading What to Consider When the Platforms Show Up with Money

‘If You Bet Against Text, You Will Lose’

From the weekend reading file: I love Tim Carmody’s response to a Facebook executive’s prediction that “In five years time Facebook ‘will be definitely mobile, it will be probably all video.'”

Video and audio have never threatened text and images for dominance on the internet, despite Facebook’s best efforts. Even if we set aside the high production costs (we can assume it will get cheaper over time), good video and audio are still more difficult to produce, because both require the right physical conditions to produce them. Smartphones certainly made it easier to shoot video — the rise of the selfie and novelty entertainment like face-swapping have helped, too — but I am writing this blog post at a place and time that’s inhospitable to creating video or audio. It’s the same reason why the phone call began to die off just as open office plans were embraced: you now have to sneak into a stairwell, hallway or conference room in order to call someone in private. Texting became more convenient.

A social network alone — even one as powerful as Facebook — can’t make video the dominant form of communication. The devices we use and the physical world where we live and work will have to change in order for audio or video to truly take over.

The Truth About Working from Home

I spoke with PSFK Labs about Automattic‘s “distributed” work model — at 430+ employees, we’re one of the world’s largest companies where everyone works from home (or anywhere they please).

There are pros and cons to any work situation. How a company performs depends a lot on who it hires, how those people get along, how they communicate, and how teams are structured to make it as easy as possible to be productive.

We can’t control for those factors, but the simple fact about distributed work is that people can be more productive when they don’t have to commute anywhere. Cutting commute times is better for employees, it’s better for companies to cultivate talent around the world, it’s better for families, and it’s better for our cities to reduce gridlock. I would love to see local governments — and the next president — embrace more policies that encourage companies to “go distributed.”

Photo: cdisegna

Instructors and Community Make a Difference

WARNING, PEOPLE: The following is an exercise testimonial.

A year and a half ago I was chatting with my sister in law about starting to exercise again. And by “again,” I mean I don’t think I had worked out regularly in more than 15 years.

Continue reading Instructors and Community Make a Difference

In Praise of Public Pitching

I spoke with Jason Fagone and Ted Genoways about the art of pitching in public.


I’ve always been fascinated by how narrative journalism gets commissioned, reported, and published–but the most perplexing part of the entire system is the continued power imbalance between writers and publishers.

This imbalance persists in spite of the internet “democratizing” publishing. More digital publishers are embracing feature writing, but the process behind the scenes feels stuck in the past–a time-consuming marathon of unanswered emails and rejection.

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Cum On Feel the Noize (1983)

Quiet Riot recorded this song, a cover of a 1973 song by the UK band Slade, for their “Metal Health” album, which helped them leap over Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and the Police’s “Synchronicity” on the charts for a brief moment. It’s an underrated song in that I’m not sure we give enough credit to how big a hit this was at the time.

It was the first song that introduced me to pop music and the radio. I was in first grade in 1983, and a girl at my school was singing it. I asked her where she heard it, and she said, “on the radio.” So I went home and turned on my parents’ stereo for the first time, and spent the rest of the afternoon spinning the dial and listening for a station that might play it.

An hour later, nothing.

I sat in front of that stereo for hours. Then days.

(By the way, how foreign is this feeling, now, in 2016? To hear about something and NOT have immediate access to it?)

A few weeks later, I finally heard it–the chorus blasted out during a van ride to my friend’s house. Shortly afterward, he turned on MTV (WHAT IS THIS? WE DON’T HAVE CABLE!) and we saw Quiet Riot on television, in the video for “Bang Your Head (Metal Health).” And there was Kevin DuBrow, strapped into a straitjacket, with a metal mask on his face, writhing around a padded room. My friend’s mother came in and warned us the video was satanic.

“Cool,” I wish I thought to myself.

Really, it scared the hell out of me.

Twitter Still Has What Everyone Else Wants

“Five years later, it seems like the real question is, What has Twitter made of itself?”

Twitter may have problems, but Josh Topolsky’s arguments in “The End of Twitter” miss an important point: What Twitter has already accomplished with social connections — matching relative strangers with similar interests — is vastly different, and arguably more difficult, than what Facebook has done, which is connect you with people you already know.

Twitter does one thing well, and it’s more valuable and harder to replicate than he gives credit.

I like Facebook for what it offers. It’s a connection to family, friends and acquaintances who I’ve known throughout my life. A Twitter connection occasionally evolves into a Facebook friend. And because of this, I’ve seen more newsy, Twitter-like posts in my timeline. All of it is easier to follow than what’s happening on Twitter.

But Facebook hasn’t successfully replaced what Twitter offers, which is the spark of a connection with people you don’t know yet — and it has failed many times to bridge this gap. One example: Facebook has tried to replicate Twitter’s value for journalists and authors by letting people create “public pages” for themselves, but it’s an awkward experience for everyone involved. I’ve seen many status updates where a professional journalist friend invites me to “like” their public page, so I can follow their professional updates. Is this because they’re too embarrassed to post self-promotional content in their normal timeline? (Flaw #1) And now being asked to follow two versions of the same person? (Flaw #2) Topolsky suggests that Facebook could easily replicate Twitter, but none of their attempts thus far suggest they’re able to create an entirely different social network on top of the one they’ve already built — one that’s based on intimate connections in a semi-private space. The same goes for Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp and (yeah) Peach — none of them make strangers as directly accessible as Twitter has. And while these other social apps have grown tremendously, none of them expose us to the worlds outside our existing friend networks so successfully.

Topolsky is right that Twitter needs to make some serious changes if it wants to take better advantage of the network it created. Simplifying the user experience is one way to do that, and a huge part of that user experience is figuring out how to filter out the spam, hate, and vitriol that has caused so many people to leave Twitter entirely. If Twitter is a matchmaker for strangers with mutual interests, then it has to become a more aggressive host and take a stand against (or at least burying) bullying and harassment.

And if Twitter wants to get the most value out of the interest graph it still controls, it needs to make the environment welcoming for people who want to post about their interests, whenever they are moved to do so. Currently on Twitter, if feels like we have to adjust our conversations to fit whatever the day’s big news event might be. And if that’s the case, connecting with people who share my interests is worthless, because we all have to talk about Kanye West right now anyway.

These are big asks for Twitter, because I don’t know of any other interest-based social network that has 100% solved these problems. But what Twitter has already accomplished is significant, and I see no viable alternative that poses a threat.


Photo by laughingsquid