Nutrient Recycling And Favorable Habitats
Another Sunday, Another Naive Weekly - Observations From The Internet Wilderness.
I immediately know where most of the stories I link to in this newsletter come from. I do not need to count or think twice. The answer is The New York Times. The 168 years old company is producing some of the best journalism at a pace few, if any, publications can follow.
Last year the company broke a record with 5M paying subscribers. No less than 3.2M of these are digital subscribers paying roughly $10 per month to gain unlimited access to the articles, quizzes, and daily sudokus — and, as the company is not shy of mentioning, support quality journalism.
The New York Times was one of the first newspapers to bet on digital. And the bet seems to be paying off. Today the company employs more than 1,500 journalists. That is a lot. If each journalist would publish just one article per month, the company could still release 49 new articles every single day of the year.
I know this is not how it works, the journalists at The New York Times are required to publish more frequently, but just for a moment imagine only reading articles written by incredible journalists given one full month to observe, dig and articulate happenings and their impact to you. It sounds like we all would be much better off; avoiding clickbait and poorly researched articles. And looking at the media landscape today, it is the direction we are going, with multiple newspapers intentionally focusing on producing quality over quantity, reducing the number of published articles meanwhile growing their readership.
The model is attractive to journalists. Imagine being given the time, support and distribution to focus solely on the topics and causes closest to your heart. It is no surprise that big names from The Atlantic, Buzzfeed and other media companies have left their comfortable, senior positions to join The New York Times.
So please do not read what follows as a criticism of The New York Times. I’m impressed with every word Taylor Lorenz, Kevin Roose, Kashmir Hill, Erin Griffith and all the other journalists publish. And these are just the journalists covering technology. The company does impressive journalism across topics.
However, I feel that I, and others, sometimes can’t see the forest from the trees. Because of the centralization of talent and distribution power, The New York Times quickly becomes the default media company. Especially for moderate and left-leaning people it often seems like The New York Times is the company we put our faith into cleaning the toxic air.
But just like the forest needs an understory to enrich the diversity and nurture new plants, I believe that journalism, democracy, and society needs a plethora of different voices, initiatives, outlets, and institutions.
I know it exists out there. So I am asking you to help me identify the people and organizations publishing quality articles, videos, podcasts, cartoons on technology and internet culture so I can share them in this newsletter. Although these people and organizations thrive in the shadow, I believe we can all learn more by visiting the edge. Not (just) because the edges are marginalized, but because the edges often are glimpses of our future.
Internet Black Hole
Why Don't We Get the News We Need?
When Kashmir Hill’s story about the facial recognition company Clearview went viral a few weeks ago, I noted some people arguing that the story initially had been Buzzfeed’s, but New York Times had beaten them to the print deadline. What no one mentioned was that the story was by no means new. In this article, Vicki Boykis unfolds the tale of a Russian company that has been doing exactly the same as Clearview but since 2017, proving that the real story is that “all around the world, smart, bored young people are fooling around with facial recognition algorithms, without thinking about the consequences”. Vicki tells this story to reflect on the flaws in the media system we rely on to get our news. (See also: We are banning facial recognition. We are missing the whole point.)
1,000 True Fans? Try 100
I’ve seen this article float around the web last week and I find it rather disturbing. In the article, venture capitalist Li Jin proposes what she labels a Framework for the Future of the Passion Economy, based on Kevin Kelly’s much cited 2008 blogpost 1,000 true fans. Li seems to ignore that the reality of relying on 1,000 fans is still debated. And much more important, who actually dreams of a world where creators cater to 100 fans who can afford paying $1,000/year? I for sure don’t! So dear ignorant VCs, let’s try 10,000 fans paying $10? (please note: 10,000 fans brings problems too).
1,000 Beautiful Landscapes in Google Earth View
Google compiled and released 1,000 photos of some of the most beautiful Earth photos. And since I think it is questionable that a private advertisement company has the most detailed catalogue of our world, I just want to add this link showing real time contributions to Open Street Map. Pretty cool, huh?
2,000 Slack Groups and Communities
Slack continues to be growing and while I was an early believer, I am now increasingly sceptical. Not just because I feel it is a distraction, overwhelming and provides low-quality interaction compared with a face-to-face interaction, but because I am growing itchy around this whole “closed groups” trend. Am I the only one concerned whether everything really is better when humans form closed invite-only groups? I need to spend more energy considering this, but curious what you are thinking.
Neal Agarwal - Printing Money
Neal, the creator behind Deep Sea (featured a few weeks back) just launched a money flow visualization. Witness the speed of how fast you make money and compare it with the minimum wage, the salaries of fortune 500 CEOs, and the U.S. deficit increase.
Casper ter Kuile
Casper is the co-founder of Sacred Design Lab and writes a weekly newsletter on the interface between community, spirituality, and cultural change. I loved his latest newsletter edition on the future of friendships, reflecting on weekend conversations with people like Meetup founder, Scott Heiferman. Casper is deeply engaged with how sacred wisdom can help us in our everyday lives, publishing reports on topics including How We Gather and Design for the Human Soul.
It’s Freezing in LA! - Issue 3: Protest
Absolutely loved this independent magazine about climate change. Strong editorial direction, beautiful graphic design and non-obvious, yet highly relevant stories and profiles.
After last week’s newsletter, Sarah asked me what my favourite flower is. I generally don’t do favourites, but I must admit that I really appreciate the eranthis and snowdrops popping up everywhere promising that spring is just around the corner.
“I love tulips! And also peonies and sweat peas.” - Sarah
Hi, I’m Kristoffer and you have just read Naive Weekly - Observations From The Internet Wilderness.
Last week this newsletter was sent to 282 subscribers. 12 people are crazy enough to chip in every month/year to support me making time to write this newsletter: Nikolaj, Antal, Søren, Dries, Mikkel, Tina, Aydo, Lukas, Hans, Csongor, Ida Marie & Angela!
Photograph by Ana Santl.