This Business of Art Fix #3: We Should Have Something On This

Welcome to the third “This Business of Art / Media / Web Fix,” in which I share with you things I read that I loved relating to the work I do here — online media, business, entrepreneurship, women in tech, start-ups, journalism, publishing, management, queer visibility, and so forth. You can expect this sucker to drop every-other Wednesday.

So so so so much stuff to talk about this week, my friends. SO MUCH STUFF.


 

This Business Of Online Media

Take Time, by John Herrman for The Awl – This article — which’s from September, but I just now discovered it — addresses one of the things I hate most on the internet! I’ve read this article like 45 times and have been eagerly anticipating my opportunity to discuss it with you, right here, right now. It uses the then-recent leak of celebrity nude photos as an example story from which to discuss a phenomenon labeled “Take Time”:

This throws the Content industry into a frantic generative mode, initiating a full-spectrum stress test on par with a natural disaster or a war. This weekend was a consumption bonanza, a historic seller’s market for Content was no time for mere reports and analysis, no, that would never be enough. It was Take Time…

There were dozens more of these stories, all about a single tweet, from virtually every outlet that publishes news. And they served their purpose admirably: They left no attention on the table. They represent the “we should have something on this” news impulse stripped to its barest form, left unspoken and carried out as a matter of course. Endless minimalist Takes, obviously duplicative from the producer’s side but not necessarily from the other, all drawing energy from a single glowing unit of information…

Everyone with an outlet—or, really, everyone, since the great democratization of Take distribution tools coaxed previously private Takes out from bars and dining rooms and into the harsh sunlight—found themselves under the spell of that horrible force that newspaper columnists feel every week, the one that eventually ruins every last one: the dreadful pull of a guaranteed audience.

I know we’ve done this in the past but eventually I couldn’t take it anymore, even though takes are good for traffic. The Dish wrote piece about that piece including even MORE words that I agree with wholeheartedly:

The problem is that generating actual news is difficult, time-consuming and expensive. Writing incisive analysis requires time to process, reflect, and refine one’s arguments. But the Internet needs those Takes now, while the topic is trending:… The “we need to have something on this” impulse leads to the worst (professional) writing on the web. We all learn this anew each time some poor 20-something content producer writes some exceptionally dumb take, and everyone spends a few hours piling on the outlet that published it. But the attention-grabbing Offensive Takes only obscure the fact that all the inoffensive takes – the ephemeral, aggregated, feather-light blog posts telling people who already know that something happened that something happened, produced solely in the hopes that the post will, through luck and a bit of dark magic, win the Facebook algorithm lottery – are the most depressing pieces of writing on the web, for the reader and the writer.

+ Which brings me to A Second Look At The Giant Garbage Pile That Is Online Media. This post describes everything I never want us to be.

+ Over at Buzzmachine, Jeff Jarvis argued that we shouldn’t blame the businesses, we should blame the business model:

…shoot the business model and the presumptions of mass media economics. That is what is causing this ridiculous treadmill of making content for content’s sake to get audience for audience’s sake with any original reporting or original thinking being copied and copied again and again until it looks like a the fuzzy, unreadable, 87th Xerox copy of a bad carbon copy. That is what makes media companies think the answer to any business problem is to make more content because that’s what we content makers do. The problem is that the old business model of mass media rewards volume not value.

…I agree, which’s why it’s never been our business model. (advertising is only 12% of our revenue). (Sidenote: If you agree, please join A+! It’s A+ that enables us to cater our work to you, rather than to advertisers, and makes it possible for us to run a site that’ll never make you watch an ad to see content or run site skins or pop-ups.) (Also I talk quite a bit of business of art in The A+ Insider.)

+ In What Has Been Going On, Jacob Clifton talks about TWOP’s shuttering last year, his brief stint at Gawker, and what he’s gonna do now. Jacob Clifton is the second television recapper I fell in love with and his Battlestar recaps are true works of art. He writes that “the first quarter of 2015 was spent discerning exactly what I was interested in—writing, specifically self-publishing, focusing on fiction; getting over my conception of myself as a “company man,” as some kind of soldier that wants in from the cold—and what I was not interested in, which was: Ever writing about media again in my life.” Ultimately that soul-searching led him to decide to devote himself to writing and publishing fiction, publishing recap collections as e-books, and blogging a lot. I’m really excited to see what he does next!

+ Arabelle Sicardi, who has written here many times, each time more wonderful than the last, has resigned from Buzzfeed.

+ In Slack OffAmanda Hess digs into Slack, the program that we use for our “virtual office” here at Autostraddle. It’s also what Gawker Media uses, and what Slate uses. Although it’s made everything in general about five thousand times better and provides ample fodder for The A+ Insider, we’ve begun to notice an unfortunate side-effect of the service which is summed up pretty accurately in this article:

Once employees get addicted to Slack, bosses can drop in to track their every move. Deadspin has instituted “a rule called ‘Slack law,’ where if you’re riffing on something for a particular amount of time on Slack, you have to turn that shit into a post,” says Howard. The rule is a smart editorial insight—if Deadspin staffers can’t stop Slacking about something, that’s a pretty good indication that it will be of interest to readers, too—but it also prevents employees from “talking on and on forever, never working, just enjoying each other’s presence.” Slack too much, and Howard worries they’ll “make me blog instead of working on whatever project I’m doing,” so “when I’m actually writing,” he says, “I try to get the fuck out of Slack.” Nothing quiets a boisterous Slack channel like a Slate editor dropping in to ask, “Who can turn this conversation into a piece of content for Slate.com?”

After reading the article, we have decided to create our own version of Slack Law, and will indicate that everybody needs to decide if this is gonna be a post or not by dropping an emoji of Larry Bloom. Also, our office is 100% virtual, and there were parts of the article that definitely didn’t apply to us ’cause we’re not Slacking while in the same physical space as each other. For us, it provides something we never had before. For these other companies, it seems to be replacing something they already had. So it’s a different way of looking at it.

+ Also, check out YouTube Rarely Promotes Black YouTube Stars. I don’t understand or visit YouTube very often or understand how a person becomes a YouTube star, but this feels true and important.

+ Closing the TV-Guest Gender Gap: “A host reflects on the many challenges of trying to make half of his interview subjects women.”


 

This Business of Business

+ Sam Altman Thinks Startup Burn Rates Are Getting Frightening: I cannot even figure out what all these startups even need that much money at once for! I mean we are talking ridiculous sums of money.

+ America’s CEOs Make Too Much Money:  I COULD NOT POSSIBLY AGREE MORE. Salary caps for CEOs could change the game for pretty much everybody. LITERALLY EVERY HUNMAN IN THIS COUNTRY.


This Business of Journalism

My Love Affair With The New York Observer, by George Gurley for The New York Observer – To be real my #1 feeling about this guy was “he sounds like a douche” and “is this what it’s like to be a man, you just go out there and get what you deserve.”

+ Gawker interviews Ben Smith and Jonah Peretti about “BuzzFeed’s ongoing review of deleted content.” Honestly I found this interview really hard to follow, like nobody completed a sentence at any point. It’s such a luxury to be able to afford to separate church and state, though, I can tell you that. Also it looks like Gawker wants to do a Buzzfeed exposè.

+ The New Republic has published some of the most appallingly racist shit ever, but now it’s turning a new leaf! JUST KIDDING NO IT ISN’T.


 

Businesswoman’s Special: Advice On How To Work Better

+ An Easy Hack to Drive Creativity: This sounds like a good idea.

+ My Morning Routine: These people meditate more than you! No, but I love reading about people’s work routines and work lives, especially people who structure their own time.

+ Why You Should Keep Things Weird At Work: I agree with every fiber of my being.


 

Articles I Wish Someone Would Pitch To Autostraddle:

+ It Happened To Me: I Weaned Myself Off Psychiatric Medications In Order To Get Pregnant

+ Every LGBTQ storyline from the entirety of the Law & Order franchise, ranked

+ I think somebody wants us to write about the Women’s World Cup

+ Still looking for people in the UK to write about UK things !

+ Personal stories about how people have gone through a million paths/jobs/hard times and then found their place

 


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Riese

Riese is the 40-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in California. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2986 articles for us.

29 Comments

    • I like they way they explain the concept comparing it to art. Let us know if you find the courage to try it? :)

      I went to see Best Exotic Marigold Hotel on a Monday afternoon once and everyone else in the room (approx. 7) was 70+ and one fell asleep during the previews and woke up about 5min before the end. I don’t know if the experience made me more creative but it did get me pretty excited about retirement when I too can nap in public places in the middle of the day.

  1. the fucking buzzfeed interview. i am so glad it is in here! that motherfucking buzzfeed interview. that’s it! there it is! media! two incoherent white dudes who can’t even explain their own policies or decisions for an interview that was scheduled and planned around a specific topic. those dudes! who the fuck are those dudes and what are they doing!

    also, i also love morning routines. what’s your morning routine, riese. mine is fumbling around for coffee, watching television indulgently, and making lists. for now.

    • my morning routine is i wake up at 7:15am, have a nespresso, go to the gym for ~45 mins, where I do things that might broadly be considered ‘cardio’ but are more like slowly crawling in an upright position while reading my iPad or catching up on slack on my phone. I leave by 9am ’cause that’s when you have to start paying for parking. I come home and shower, and if Abby is home, she’ll make breakfast, and if she isn’t, I’ll make breakfast eventually. I’ll sign onto slack when I get out of the shower and start checking my email and have our 10am senior editors check-in and then I think the morning is mostly over? I’m bad at routine.

  2. That piece about being weird at work is super interesting, thanks! I know that a lot of my clients have started talking about transforming their culture to celebrate differences and give people freedom to express themselves, it’s so great. If the trend continues then ideally it’ll start opening up great career opportunities for people who’ve never fit the mold and to me that’s really exciting.

  3. Who wants to start watching Law & Order episodes with me for LGBTQ+ content? (But only if we skip “Transitions,” aka the episode where Benson dropped the ball and for, like, the first time in the series didn’t call out Stabler’s bullshit. That episode is definitely the worst, at least in SVU.)

  4. One of my best friends had really severe depression a few years ago after she lost a partner to cancer and was on a whole cocktail of drugs to attempt to keep functioning…
    Last year she was trying to cut down and also quit smoking because the wanted to have a baby with her new partner and she just told me yesterday she’s pregnant!!so excited! !!

    I’m not sure if it’s a journey she wants to write about (as well as being kinda personal, English is a second language for her)… but I can ask!

  5. You had me at the ‘Take Time’ article and your related commentary.

    *Random story warning*

    I work in comms/PR and have been part of a story that went viral. Twice. All in the space of twelve months. The first time was one big rollercoaster ride of adrenalin/terror/wtf/PRwin/yeahohsweetjesus. The second time was a chance to sit back and track the story as it went round the world again.

    It was weird to watch how the original facts were morphed to suit some aim of an online media outlet. It was a cutesie story, nothing serious, but the mechanics would be the same for a story of more gravitas and the consequences a lot more serious.

    It does my head in that even ‘reputable’ news outlets aggregrate and scrape stories with little to no research – an online media arms race to get the most clicks. It was a telling insight into the direction of media today. Online media has blurred the lines of decent journalistic practice and the 4th pillar of democracy is losing its way.

    Anyway… your thoughts on the issue reminded me of the good work done by Autostraddle . Thanks for not playing the game, for staying independent, taking the time to write thoughtful and researched content and for giving voice to people and issues that are silenced elsewhere.

    You’re f’ing rad. And because of that, I just signed up for an A+ membership.

  6. I totally agree that TNR should be called out for its horrible, racist history, but it’s worth noting that TNR’s senior editor, Jamil Smith, wasn’t contacted before Gawker ran their critical piece (https://twitter.com/JamilSmith/status/590914333028315136). Also, Michael Eric Dyson did a Huffington Post interview (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/22/michael-eric-dyson-cornel-west-the-new-republic_n_7117904.html?utm_hp_ref=tw <— has autoplay, FYI) explaining his choice to publish the essay at TNR. I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about the essay and the discussion about it, since there's a lot to work through, but that Gawker piece has its own problems to be highlighted.

  7. Who has visited old blogs from 3/5/10 years ago and gotten really nostalgic about the tone and temper of the internet back then? Thinking style/life blogs but just in general.

    Like right now everything feels like it’s made a jump from zine to tabloid with no in-between. (Everywhere except Autostraddle and The Toast.)

    • “Who has visited old blogs from 3/5/10 years ago and gotten really nostalgic about the tone and temper of the internet back then?”

      ME!

      Social media has changed everything, really. Now you’ve gotta put your shit on facebook or nobody will notice it, whereas I cannot IMAGINE ever posting a link to my personal blog on facebook, back when my blog was my life. And i never feared anybody else would, either. we were all in our tiny little cave together and nobody could see us or get in and it was pretty neat

  8. Re: that Take Time article, I don’t know. I get what the author is saying, about minimalist “takes” that contribute little and only serve to drive traffic to a site. But on the other hand, especially for Autostraddle and similar sites, a “take” on an event like the nude photo leak could instead be more of a “perspective”. Maybe that’s splitting hairs, but for so much of what happens in the world, I like reading about Autostraddle’s perspective on things, because AS writers write from a different place than other media, and your articles come at current events and issues from a different angle. Maybe that’s the difference between a “take” and a “perspective” – the former is merely a regurgitation, while the latter offers a unique perspective on the topic.

    • I think the basic problem with the “hot take” situation is that everybody is writing a take on it because it’s trending on facebook/twitter and thus every publication feels like it’s gotta write something on that story to cash in on the energy around this story as quickly as possible. We write our opinions of various news happenings all the time — but only because we have a writer who’s dying to talk it out with our readers, not ’cause “we should have something on this.” Or it’s because we have a writer who can write from a perspective that isn’t being heard in other media (this is especially true of trans issues, since so few outlets have trans women who can write about issues relevant to trans women). We’re also trying as of late to make sure we’re really only focusing on stories that actually matter and have a real impact on the world instead of stories that only exist because there’s a 24-7 news cycle and nothing else to talk about. does that make sense?

      • Yes, yes, and yes, that all makes sense. And I don’t mean that I want an AS opinion piece on every “what colour is the damn dress” non-story. But, for instance, two of the top things trending on Facebook as I write this are the Native American actors who walked off the set of Adam Sandler’s latest production, and Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson being charged with assault. My initial reaction after reading about both those things was “hmmm, I wonder what AS has to say about this” because both stories are right in Autostraddle’s wheelhouse, and Autostraddle has writers who can approach both those stories from unique perspectives that other media outlets don’t have. (And yes, I did read the AS article on Griner and Johnson).

        Maybe it’s the intention behind the piece that matters? If the intention is “Wow, this thing happened, and it’s probably of interest to our readers, and we have a writer with a unique perspective to offer who really wants to talk about this thing” then having a “take” on that thing is probably good.

        Sorry, I’m really not trying to tell you what articles to write, I’m literally just brainstorming out loud (or rather, in writing) to wrap my mind around what I think of as a “good reason to write a take” and a “bad reason to write a take”.

        Gahhh, okay, so here’s my legal education at work:

        Rule For When To Write A “Hot Take”:

        You (or your website/organization/news outlet/whatever) should write your own “take” on a thing, IF AND ONLY IF:

        1) That thing is of interest to your readers;
        2) That thing is relevant to your mission statement/area of focus;
        3) That thing actually matters and has a real impact on the world;
        4) You (or a writer who works with/for you) have a unique perspective to offer about the thing that is underrepresented elsewhere in the media; AND
        5) You (or that writer who works with/for you) really wants to talk about this thing.

        And so if all 5 of those conditions are NOT met, you should probably not write about that thing.

        Obviously, AS does not have to follow this totally spontaneous rule I just made up. But that was useful in helping me figure out in my own head why I like to read some takes on certain things, but find others a waste of time. Does THAT make sense?

  9. I realized yesterday that I have a morning routine for the first time in years. But only because I got a dog and he requires things like potty trips outdoors on a regular basis and walks. I’d always dreamed that a morning routine would make me a more functional human being, but so far it’s not at all.

  10. “Personal stories about how people have gone through a million paths/jobs/hard times and then found their place”

    I’m only halfway here (and my path changes like every 5 years or so) but if I ever get to that point I’ll let you know :P

    and OMG that Taking Time thing. When I was factchecking the MH370 news to death that was one of the BIGGEST problems with the reporting, whether from mainstream sources or from social media laypeople. Everyone was so in a rush to cover the next thing that every little aside or comment or theory became WE HAVE NEW EVIDENCE. Then when you fact-check or verify it you’ll find that it either has no source, or they got the source utterly wrong, or they made a mountain out of a molehill. It was really tricky for us because we really wanted to take our time on what we reported, but the news kept piling on us and we could barely keep up.

    • Taking Time is definitely not limited to the internet either. The MH370 crash was the perfect example, the news shows and papers here (France) were just spinning in circles looking for ANYTHING to say to keep people watching/reading. and in the rush to say something, nothing really substantial is said.

      I imagine trying to sort through it all must have felt like digging for gold in quick sand.

  11. I would love someone to write about the World Cup. Women’s football is great. Missus and I were amazed at the speed when we watched the Euros and the Olympics.
    We often discuss how we both gave up on the men’s game independently years ago as it’s become so dull and slow and ugh. But the women’s game is exciting and fast paced with a high goal rate…and they have great hair!
    Please please please write about it!

  12. YES please write about the women’s world cup. Daily? Please? I’m pretty sure I’m not the only American homogay who traces her root back to the 98 US win.

    Also “Personal stories about how people have gone through a million paths/jobs/hard times and then found their place”. These sorts of stories are pretty much what gets me out of bed these days.

    Come to think of it, I may have begged you for this in the little gold A+ comment box (JOIN A+ Y’ALL) or a survey or something recently.

  13. Attention writing type people with vague interest in women’s soccer!
    It is not currently in my emotional capacity to write anything longer than a comment or a text message HOWEVER if anyone wants to write about the Women’s World Cup and needs an obsessive Women’s Soccer researcher, I am your woman!

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