filtered: week of jan 19 2015

Is Genius killing music journalism? Long piece at Pando from David Holmes where he makes this ridiculous argument:

Rap Genius and Vox both fail as replacements for music criticism. … They treat art as a thing to be explained, not to be felt. And they treat readers as cultural tourists whose connection to an artist’s work can only be communicated in the most literal terms.

While I am proactively pining for the glory days of @sfj at The New Yorker, I think Holmes completely misses the point here. The job of Genius (or Vox) isn’t to tell me how to feel about music. They are in the job of explaining…or providing a platform for fans to explain. Period. Music fans can figure out how they feel about music, and there are plenty of places for those fans (and the critics!) to tell each other how it makes them feel.

Speaking of The New Yorker…

Planet Labs is mindblowing. I love the images they’re sharing on their site; it’s like a slow drip of earth porn. Here’s one of the Ivanpah solar project in the Mojave Desert. The reflected light from the mirrors to the central tower is perfect.

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Some random and disjointed thoughts on native advertising, spurred in part by this bit from Sam Lessin last week at The Information:

Native advertising doesn’t pass my personal sniff test. I think the movement is just a bit too convenient an answer for entrenched players who have deep incentives for it to work. Ad-based media companies are desperate for a high-margin answer to scaled marketplaces on social media and search that are otherwise depreciating their businesses.

Well yeah, of course ad-based media companies are interested in a high-margin product. So there are indeed deep incentives. But on the other side of the buying equation there are brands that are interested in differentiated ways to reach consumers. Search and social (FB, Twitter) have scaled to where the buys have graduated out of the experimental budgets, and into standard line items in the marketing budget. “Native” is still in the experimental stage — but it’s the right set of experiments.

Assume for a minute there will be a revolving tier of “social / content” networks/apps that aren’t yet at Google, Facebook or Twitter scale. Driven by (a) address book graphs and (b) distribution through the big networks above, the networks in this tier will feel “nichey” compared to the top tier, but drive bursts (some more sustained than others) of passionate activity from communities of users. Each of those networks may not be able to support their own marketplace and their own customized native ad unit. But if the audience is growing and engaged…marketers will experiment.

Take Dubsmash, for instance. In December the publisher of Dubsmash, Mobile Motion, came out of nowhere to break into the top ten of App Annie’s worldwide list. Now, who knows if they can sustain their growth. But if you’re Dubsmash, your native ad product plans includes sponsored audio clips. And if you’re Taco Bell, you’ll experiment there. Because that’s what experimental budgets are for: an investment in learning, a hedge against the inherent risk the future holds. And one potential future seems to be short, stupid videos set against pop culture audio clips.

In the meantime, I think you’ll see a lot more action around ways to identify and cultivate interesting talent in the network; microstars with their own organic reach. Now, YouTube isn’t by any stretch “experimental.” But there is an argument to be made that Obama doing an interview with Bethany Mota, Hank Green and GloZell Green is one form of native advertising, and for the White House communications department, this was definitely an experiment.

See also the bet that Tumblr is making, with their Creatrs Network. Tumblr helps brands find Tumblr talent to help produce content that will be distributed on Tumblr. The Creatrs Network won’t scale the way that Tumblr’s sponsored posts product will, but it’s a way for them to encourage, facilitate and participate in these transactions. And if Tumblr can help drive some money into the hands of its “Creatrs,” all the better. You’ve got to believe they pushed hard on this point in their positioning with the trade press. This line is from the AdAge piece linked above:

Tumblr doesn’t see the Creators Network as circumventing or displacing creative agencies, noting that the Network has over 20 production partners, which Tumblr will announce soon.

One final note and then I’ll stop. A few months ago I asked my teenaged daughter “If you could meet any celebrity, who would it be?” I expected an answer like Taylor Swift, or Beyonce…but instead she rattled off her three favorite YouTubers. When I asked her why, the answer was simple: “It’s because I think I would relate to them. They’re real people! What would Beyonce and I have in common? What would we talk about?”

And if things weren’t getting interesting enough, Snapchat = platisher.

When Snapchat launches its long-awaited Discover feature at the end of the month, it will start publishing media that it created itself, as well as content from other media companies, turning the messaging platform into a platform-publisher hybrid squarely aimed at young media consumers. … The platform has spent the last several months hiring a host of journalists, videographers and animators.

This will be fun: Bill Gates to guest edit The Verge for the month of February.

Throughout February, Bill will be narrating episodes of our animated series The Big Future to explain and illustrate his vision. We’ll also be publishing in-depth features examining how rapid change in health, farming, banking, and education might improve the lives of impoverished communities around the world.

The Verge will be a great platform for Gates to spread the word about the foundation’s big bet for the future. (If you haven’t read their 2015 letter, go read it. Inspiring.)

Finally, because one thing the web is good at is providing a platform for obsessives, I love that there is a professor at NYU — Louise Harpman — obsessed with coffee cup lids. Watch this:

Yep, I’ve been away for a few weeks. Sorry! If you’re really bored, you can go read filtered from the end of December.

Written by

Labs @ Medium. Avid reader, long time blogger.

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