In other words with great power comes great laziness. And there’s a parallel here for those of us who navigate rapidly changing technology to find and spread ideas.
Whether you’re sharing a Facebook update or unveiling a new project like an app – course – or book – you’re feeding your creative work into a vast agglutination of content processing algorithms and funnels in the (increasingly dim) hopes that your creation will make it to the people who will appreciate it – Charlie Chaplin getting sucked through the gears in Modern Times.
Even the social media experts have begun to agree that no one person really understands the mechanics of the process and it’s becoming next to impossible for individuals (as opposed to content farms employing teams of data analysts) to keep up with algorithmic ‘best practices’ to amass clicks likes faves hearts stars and clovers.
We don’t understand why some things catch on and others don’t so we imitate the tone and cadence of the content farms and we pray for rain to come. New media is a cargo cult.
Every day excellent and unusual writing continues to fall through the cracks as we’re fed one ‘weird trick’ after another. We reassure each other by saying the Web generally helps the cream rise to the top eventually – if you just um follow these top 5 tips for writing a great headline that my friend just shared on LinkedIn.
Meanwhile scratch the surface of a ‘viral phenomenon’ that ‘came out of nowhere’ and you’ll find four ad agencies standing on the back of a giant pile of corporate cash standing on the back of a giant turtle. (It’s turtles all the way down.)
Gawker Media may become a union shop. The company’s editorial staff will hold an election on Wednesday to determine if its reporters will join a union – including all staff writers of its popular sites like Jezebel – Gizmodo – and Deadspin. It’s a watershed moment not just for Gawker – but for the media industry as a whole—the first time such a vote has taken place in a digital-first newsroom.
But it’s not exactly a revolution. Collective bargaining may be a new idea for young publishers like Gawker – but journalists have a long history of organizing—staffers at the New York Times – the Associated Press – and countless regional newspapers are in fact already organized. If anything the union campaign at Gawker is a sign that everything new is old again.
Digital news upstarts and tech companies in general have largely tamped down the will to organize by offering employees competitive salaries and benefits – flexible workplaces – and corporate cultures that preach employee empowerment. But the members of Gawker’s staff who are campaigning very publicly to organize its writers say that’s not enough. They want the kind of power that comes from having the terms of their employment spelled out in black-and-white – a contract as a shield against the pervasive uncertainty about how the business of media works today.
For publishers, ad blockers are the elephant in the room: Everybody sees them – no one talks about them. The common understanding is that the first to speak up will be dead—it will acknowledge that the volume of ads actually delivered can in fact be 30% to 50% smaller than claimed—and invoiced. Publishers fear retaliation from media buying agencies—even though the ad community is quick to forget that it dug its own grave by flooding the web with intolerable amounts of promotional formats.