It’s Friday, April 15, 2022 in Portland, Oregon and while it’s sunny in my immediate vicinity I can look out the window and see a rain cloud hanging over to the north east. Ha, sucks to be you, north easterners! Unless you like and want rain. Which you probably do, given you live in the Pacific North West.
A quick reminder: Things That Caught My Attention, Volume 1 collecting the 45 best essays from episodes 1-50 is out now. You, my three thousand-odd subscribers, can get a copy with 20% off.
Paid supporters and subscribers get a free copy, so imagine a great upsell here to become a paid supporter/subscriber.
Today instead of going super long in typing-out-loud on some things that caught my attention I am going to attempt to be much shorter. Again.
I had a long stimulating conversation the other day about CNN+ which I would like to link you to but cannot because Twitter’s threading is an unholy mess. It would be like trying to link you to a conversation with friends in a pub. Actually, harder than that. That typing-out-loud analogy has sparked an entire essay’s worth of thing-that-caught-my-attention in my head anyway, so oops.
Anyway, here’s part of the thread, go knock yourself out.
The CNN+ thing is that the new paid streaming service from CNN is Not Doing Well: “CNN+ is hovering at about 8 on a scale of one to Quibi” in some great coverage from Laura Wagner at Defector.
The bits that caught my attention in the conversation was:
So, thoughts like:
And then the most interesting one, which is the perennial “well if you gave me tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to launch a new media business, what would I do?”
And the answer is: well, I would do a bunch of new shit, which is the easy part, the hard part is “who is going to pay for this”, because the answer isn’t necessarily “advertising” or “subscriptions”.
If it’s subscriptions, who’s going to pay? Why are they going to pay? Why is it valuable to them? The theory behind Vox apart from Ezra Klein Gets Paid To Write was also “new formats” like “explainers” and Axios appears to have successfully monetized The Bulleted List and made it their thing so people can expense it, I guess?
So you could try new shit like, I don’t know, animated explainer news, really go hard on Vox proto-card explainers, figure out, experiment and test new exciting bullet points, even I don’t know, try out News PowerPoint (YOU KNOW I AM NOT JOKING), make a list of the top 50 TikTok explainer people you like and just throw money at them, just pretend you’re YouTube Original Content I guess and do that thing where you cast teen crush Julia Stiles in a drama that’s definitely not your demo and kind of confusing.
Which leads to this which is my own personal bugbear and I think I would love someone to pay me to figure out and test:
News-as-currently-performed, and I bookmarked somewhere I think someone at Nieman wanting a new word of “what news publishers do” that I can’t find, feels like it’s predicated on “people want to know what’s going on”, and I am kind of bored of that because I don’t really feel like people want to know what’s going on? Or that the people-want-to-know-what’s-going-on user need is kind of played out?
No, I’m more interested in taking literally the tired phrase “news you can use” and following it through. Current performance of “news you can use” stops at, I think, “telling you things” and then leaving you to your own devices about “how to use it”. Actual “news you can use” would be, I don’t know, things like Wirecutter (ugh), or things like How To Get An Abortion or Stuff That’s Happening In Schools And Here’s How You Give Feedback To School Boards, or Abortion Rights Are Being Attacked Again, Here’s The Form Inline For Giving Feedback In The Actual Article.
So, news that doesn’t stop at informing. News that keeps going into doing. What would that look like? And yeah, “oh but it wouldn’t be news because it wouldn’t respect impartiality” and I’d be all “fuck impartiality”, you can still have thorough and responsible reporting and combine it with “and here’s actually doing something about it”. It’s, like, here’s a story about “oh no how terrible is food security”, and then another one about “oh look there’s all these food drives”, and “food banks are overwhelmed” and nowhere is there a “here are the food banks” or “click here to donate to a food bank”, I mean if you’re lucky there might be a “here’s our newspaper’s annual food drive” in some godforsaken section somewhere.
This was totally not a short thing, sorry.
and a Twitter contribution from Rob Stevens:
Monsters Inc. would have totally switched to harvesting manufactured outrage by now, too. – @SuperRob
which imho is definitive proof that the Monsters, Inc. universe has not suffered catastrophic financialization.
Oh wow I love the phrase “catastrophic financialization”.
Now I want to figure out the finance-equivalent of the anthropocene. Finanocene doesn’t have the right mouthfeel and I don’t want to get distracted into looking up the etymology of capital/finance/money-related words.
Finocene, maybe? Given FinTech?
Back in s11e24 I had the idea for an ML-powered thesaurus after being inspired by Semantle and asked for someone to do it and, well, Ian Pointer did it so now you can use thesaurus-transformed and also BUY A PRINT COPY OF AN ML-INSPIRED THESAURUS.
Okay, that was 20 minutes and to be honest I am totally okay with getting back to the typing-out-loud thing.
It’s Friday! Apparently there is some sort of religious festival this weekend in some places? To do with fertility?
How’s your week been?