Category: media

Attention eaters

Great Craigmod essay on ‘becoming readers’, and the fierce competition books face:

The main adversary of book publishing is: Anything that eats attention. Publishing has always been a game of competing for attention. Any number of media inventions have threatened to finally eviscerate the book market: radio, movies, television, et cetera. But smartphones tip the scales unlike any previous object. They do so by placing into our pockets a perfect, always-at-hand vector for lopsided user contracts, arriving in the form of apps and websites.

Fascinating how he conflates Netflix with apps like Instagram and Twitter - all delivering an endless barrage of guff to hold your attention:

Browsing Netflix is an endless sensation of falling forward into ever more content. Previews auto-play. As soon as one episode in a series ends, the next begins before credits finish rolling. If there’s no other episodes in the series, random trailers begin to play. The very design of Netflix itself is constructed to reduce your ability to a) think about what you want to do, and b) step away from the service. It’s designed to be a boundless slurry of content poured directly into your eyeballs. In a way, it’s training us to never step back or even consider, say, reading a book or going for a walk.

The Internet Six Years Later

Poetic account by Hossein Derakhshan of trying to adapt to a social media dominated Internet after spending 6 years in an Iranian jail. The consolidation of content onto Facebook, Twitter, et al worries him:

But the scariest outcome of the centralization of information in the age of social networks is something else: It is making us all much less powerful in relation to governments and corporations.

Being watched is something we all eventually have to get used to and live with and, sadly, it has nothing to do with the country of our residence. Ironically enough, states that cooperate with Facebook and Twitter know much more about their citizens than those, like Iran, where the state has a tight grip on the Internet but does not have legal access to social media companies.

His major concern is the decline of independent blogging and writing, as content networks lock up—and lock out—the Internet at large:

But apps like Instagram are blind — or almost blind. Their gaze goes nowhere except inwards, reluctant to transfer any of their vast powers to others, leading them into quiet deaths. The consequence is that web pages outside social media are dying.

See also The Internet Sucks Reading List by Jonathan Poritsky over at The Candler Blog for a collection of similar sentiments.

All Hail The Internet Archive

Andy Baio celebrates The Internet Archive, and in particular the ever growing software emulation library:

The Internet Archive is a chaotic, beautiful mess. It’s not well-organized, and its tools for browsing and searching the wealth of material on there are still rudimentary, but getting better.

But this software emulation project feels, to me, like the kind of thing Google would have tried in 2003. Big, bold, technically challenging, and for the greater good.

This effort is the perfect articulation of what makes the Internet Archive great — with repercussions for the future we won’t fully appreciate for years.

Don’t miss the 2300 strong MS-DOS game library. Prince of Persia! Castle Wolfenstein!

The Indie Web

Dan Gillmor on the Indie Web, an attempt to wrest back some control from the corporate web barons:

We’re in danger of losing what’s made the Internet the most important medium in history – a decentralized platform where the people at the edges of the networks – that would be you and me – don’t need permission to communicate, create and innovate.

Maybe a little hyperbolic - the most important medium in history? - but a timely reminder. Get your content out of the silos.

Music, money, and YouTube

Lots of talk recently about the mechanics and economics of the various streaming music services - Spotify, Rdio, Mog, and Pandora being the most visible examples.

$10 a month for all the music all the time? Sounds like a bargain. However making sense of the economics of it from an artist’s perspective is hard. ​​ Pandora’s founder penned an impressive post about the bundles of cash his service is handing out to artists, which whilst sounding great in theory, was quickly stomped on by music industry guys like Bob Lefsetz (in a typically vitriolic rant), and perhaps more damningly by musicians like Galaxie 500 who report Pandora has given them all of $0.21c for the 7800 plays of one of their tracks.

Meanwhile Spotify finds funding that values the company at $3 billion despite losing $59 million in 2011, all of which supports Galaxie 500’s reasoning that, like a Sex Pistols reunion tour, these companies are only in it for the money:

These aren’t record companies— they don’t make records, or anything else; apparently not even income. They exist to attract speculative capital. And for those who have a claim to ownership of that capital, they are earning millions— in 2012, Pandora’s executives sold $63 million of personal stock in the company. Or as Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek has put it, “The question of when we’ll be profitable actually feels irrelevant. Our focus is all on growth. That is priority one, two, three, four and five.”

Everyone agrees that the physical CD era is over 1, but the model to replace it is still being thrashed out:

It’s all about crowdfunding. Streaming is the answer. Streaming services will kill you and then themselves. Vinyl is the future. There’s no retail any more. Amazon is the enemy. Amazon is your friend. The labels are dead. Long live the labels. It’s all about distribution. We need a new format. Formats don’t matter any more.

What doesn’t seem to be discussed in all this coverage of how to make money from music is how people—particularly the lucrative ‘youth’—are actually listening to and finding new music.

The answer, according to my highly scientific polling of my nieces, nephews and assorted other under forties, is YouTube.

Instead of radio, or CDs, or streaming audio, they all turn to YouTube when they want to listen to or discover music. The related links rabbit hole leads them to new and unheard music. Which is the role a good DJ plays on radio: challenging you with new sounds that flow seamlessly from music you already know.

This is quite foreign to old school stereo music nerds. Why go to a video site to listen to music?

Pretty easy really - it’s free, it’s visual, it’s bottomless (like the streaming services), it’s shareable, and you can enjoy it on your iToy or PC or pretty much anywhere. More configurable than radio, and cheaper than Spotify. And YouTube even pays artists some kind of meagre royalty.

Maybe Buggles were right.

  1. Although Tim Bray manages to find some saving graces

www.Sydney Morning

Leads this morning on the SMH website:

  • Police car crash: one dead
  • Run over by a taxi: man fights for life
  • Pair seek to use dead son’s sperm
  • Tourist dies after buttock implant jab
  • ‘Child locked in bathroom for years’

Appalling sensationalism. And this site represents an (allegedly) quality broadsheet.

Newspaper paywalls

Murdoch’s Times has ~50,000 online pay subscribers. The Guardian has 37 million readers. Interestingly the Times paywall seems to have decreased the number of print subscribers, something Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger didn’t predict:

Well that’s the strange thing that no-one really foresaw coming. I mean I thought that if you switched off other, all other forms of getting The Times and Sunday Times digitally that the print sales would go up but it turns out that in fact The Times figures are sliding faster than anybody else in the quality market, which suggests to me that we overlook the degree to which the digital forms of our journalism act as a kind of sort of marketing device for the newspapers. And that if you put a gigantic wall around your content and disappear from the general chatter and conversation about your content then people forget to buy the paper as well. So it’s a kind of double whammy.