But “platform” is a buzzword now for publications. Medium, for instance, really is a platform: it has no dedicated writing staff, though it has assigning editors. BuzzFeed is sometimes a platform, such as when it throws up its hands at its inability to keep contributing “authors” such as The Heritage Foundation from publishing lies on its website. These publications have open publication technology. Elite Daily does not. It is a traditional publication where writers send stories which are published by an editor. Using the descriptor of “platform” is common now because it makes media companies sound more valuable and more like a technology startup. The phrase has the useful byproduct of distancing both the owners and the editorial staff from its most objectionable content, which remains, in the end, objectionable.
I’ve been thinking about this paragraph a lot. It’s from near the end of The Awl’s thorough yet bloodless evisceration of a TechCrunch article that was itself a response to an Awl exposé of a strange and frightening website whose existence and semi/seeming popularity I have a hard time holding in my mind for too long without becoming depressed.
The definitions of both “publisher” and “platform” are shifting around, and this description is as good as any I’ve seen of exactly where we stand right now. But what are the responsibilities of a publisher, and what are those of a platform— and what ought each to be? What could a hybrid that isn’t a hybrid of both models’ worst tendencies look like? Figuring that out is, you know, OUR ONLY HOPE FOR THE FUTURE.
He said he had his epiphany about technology while working for Transitions, an organization that promotes the development of independent journalism in Europe and Central Asia. “I would show up in Tajikistan with this PowerPoint and tell them about Wikipedia and Flickr and YouTube, they were like: ‘Dude, we have no electricity. What are you talking about?’ ”
There was a reason posthumanism developed in tandem with the information superhighway. Virtuality still offered the possibility for new realities, not a replication of the real world with all its top-down management, predictable flows of capital, and prescribed social roles. Why does this optimism sound utopian or naïve today? It’s partially because the historical moment of posthumanism has been characterized as irrational, unrealistic, mystical, bodily, sentimental, weakly scientific. In short, the posthuman era became a girl.
Back in 1998, when Amazon was just a classic Internet company, full of bits and vinegar, it got into some scrum with Barnes & Noble (more would follow) and issued a press release saying: “Goliath is always in range of a good slingshot.” Real talk! “Your company,” responded Barnes & Noble, “is now worth more than Barnes & Noble, Borders, and all of the independent booksellers combined.” Amazon replied with a memorable one-word press release: “Oh.” It’s not so puckish anymore, because it doesn’t have to be.
For years, people who write about TV have been wondering just what the tipping point would be, when DVR usage, online streaming, and pirated viewing of TV broadcasts would become so significant that networks would essentially have to invent a new business model. The networks aren’t at that point yet, but they’re so close that everybody’s talking about it with great confidence, as if the Internet hasn’t thrown a great fear of the unknown into their souls. There’s still far more money to be made in the old model, the sort of money that can still afford to produce big, ambitious shows like Revolution, as opposed to smaller-scale things like reality series and multi-camera sitcoms, than there is to be made under any new model. But the tipping point is almost here.
We get bullshit turf battles like Tumblr not being able to find your Twitter friends or Facebook not letting Instagram photos show up on Twitter because of giant companies pursuing their agendas instead of collaborating in a way that would serve users. And we get a generation of entrepreneurs encouraged to make more narrow-minded, web-hostile products like these because it continues to make a small number of wealthy people even more wealthy, instead of letting lots of people build innovative new opportunities for themselves on top of the web itself.
Amazon is special. Wall Street has essentially granted Bezos the right to operate an extremely forward-looking charitable venture on the theory that at some future point it will acquire monopoly pricing power and start screwing us all. Personally, I’m skeptical that theory makes sense, so I’m just going to enjoy the ride. But don’t hate on Amazon’s competitors for not offering as good a value proposition. Pity them. I’m sure the bosses here at the Washington Post Company would love the opportunity to just deliver products regardless of profit, never pay dividends, and get hailed as geniuses for figuring out that the key to running a great media brand is for expenses to be unrelated to costs.
Jennifer Egan’s storyboard manuscript for her Twitter story, “Black Box”
As discussed at @codemeetprint’s #twitterfiction event last night. Analog creation of a digital artifact that was also printed in the physical magazine.