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June 5, 2014

native advertising and diminishing returns

One of the last things I thought I'd be posting about is website design and native advertising and such, but the universe disagreed.  At the same time I'm wondering about, whither digital journalism/writing?, Brooklyn Magazine runs a headscratching profile of my pals over at the Awl.  Why headscratching?  Well, because there was a regime change very recently and the New Awl is not an awful lot like the Old Awl, so the timing seems funny?

Sorry — inside baseball hogwash.  But then I see the man known as Copyranter absolutely tee off on former employer Buzzfeed and its business plan — well, that's some good shit.

The kicker is: BuzzFeed's native advertising is really--ultimately--terrible for brands. But it's great for BuzzFeed. And this giddy circle jerk underway between media sites desperate for revenue and misguided advertisers desperate to feel instant gratification, continues.

To step back, think of broadcast television back when attenae were still in vogue.  TV station needs to generate revenue, but there's no mechanism to extract money from the users.  So the stations convince businesses that advertising, first through sponsorships and then through advertising, is a value that can be tolled.  And in order to convince advertisers that this benefit was somehow measurable, they came up with a metric (i.e., the Neilsons) to demonstrate exactly how many viewers were being reached.  And then of course the art of advertising, the selling your goods and services to strangers, began to blossom into the industry we know today.

What Copyranter is positing is a nascent industry (and Buzzfeed is not the only perp obviously) that is obsessed with ginning up metric after metric (pageviews, clickthroughs, etc.) that can be used to convince leery businesses to fork over the money, but that the metrics are crappy and in effect throttling the art of actually making the advertising in its crib.

It's a market bubble.  The Buzzfeeds of the world are inflating the value/cost of the fruits of their business model, which model is great at swaying clients to pay but terrible at actually advertising and promoting.

So naturally when the clients figure this out, then the whole bottom falls out!

Ominous.  I like it.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:03 AM

June 4, 2014

everything is suddenly the same all different

I'm not sure how to fully verbalize this, but for the past, oh, forty-eight hours, I've had the strong strong feeling that we are on the precipice of some point where we wake up one morning and everything is all different.  ("Tipping point," you could say, appropriating the tools of your oppressor.)  I don't mean some mystical conversion or cataclysmic event or singularity or anything dramatic like that.  A fork in the road maybe, or just a moment where we all take a breath and notice the distance traveled.

Of course, this could be just me finally noticing something that's already in effect, or, worse, me being uselessly grandiose.  But I do get the sense that like tonight someone is going to sneak into my apartment while I sleep and replace everything I own with exact replicas.

And I swear to God, the proximate cause is not some news story or current event, but rather the sudden celebrity of Patricia Lockwood.  I kid you not.

Hurry up and wait, I guess.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:27 AM

June 2, 2014

science and the end of the world and that sort of thing

I was going to share this contemplation of the five most likely extinction events that may or may not happen some day with question why climate change and meteor impacts were not included.
You might wonder why climate change or meteor impacts have been left off this list. Climate change, no matter how scary, is unlikely to make the entire planet uninhabitable (but it could compound other threats if our defences to it break down). Meteors could certainly wipe us out, but we would have to be very unlucky. The average mammalian species survives for about a million years. Hence, the background natural extinction rate is roughly one in a million per year. This is much lower than the nuclear-war risk, which after 70 years is still the biggest threat to our continued existence.

Which is why you always read the whole thing before you link it.  But it's a good read, and only a little bit scary.  Think of it as humbling.

And while we're talking cosmology of sorts, why is it that our space alien brothers and sisters have not yet contacted us?  Neil DeGrasse Tyson thinks that it's because we're too dumb.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:27 PM