Another day, another podcasts startup attracting significant investment, amid the wider excitement around the spoken-word format. This time it’s a Los Angeles-based startup called Luminary, which is launching a slate of more than 40 podcasts including the likes of Lena Dunham, Malcolm Gladwell, Trevor Noah and Conan O’Brien as hosts. What’s more, the New York Times reports that Luminary has already secured nearly $100m of funding.
Its CEO Matt Sacks certainly has all the right lines when it comes to signifying ambitions, too. “We want to become synonymous with podcasting in the same way Netflix has become synonymous with streaming,” he said. “I know how ambitious that sounds. We think it can be done, and some of the top creators in the space agree.”
The way Luminary has gone after some of the most prominent podcasters to create their next shows for its company mirrors what Spotify is doing – there’s something of a land-grab going on for anyone who’s proven their ability to engage listeners with this format. Luminary isn’t just a producer though: it’s launching its own app, which will offer an $8 monthly subscription for ad-free access to its entire lineup. The app will also have an ad-supported free section.
Shoshana Zuboff is the author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. She talks with Leo Laporte about how social media is being used to influence people.
Even for the people who are steeped in some of the ideas of surveillance capitalism, ad tech, and dark patterns, there’s a lot here to still be surprised about. If you’re on social media, this should be required listening/watching.
I can’t wait to get the copy of her book.
Folks in the IndieWeb movement have begun to fix portions of the problem, but Shoshana Zuboff indicates that there are several additional levels of humane understanding that will need to be bridged to make sure their efforts aren’t just in vain. We’ll likely need to do more than just own our own data, but we’ll need to go a step or two further as well.
The thing I was shocked to not hear in this interview (and which may not be in the book either) is something that I think has been generally left unmentioned with respect to Facebook and elections and election tampering (29:18). Zuboff and Laporte discuss Facebook’s experiments in influencing people to vote in several tests for which they published academic papers. Even with the rumors that Mark Zuckerberg was eyeing a potential presidential run in 2020 with his trip across America and meeting people of all walks of life, no one floated the general idea that as the CEO of Facebook, he might use what they learned in those social experiments to help get himself (or even someone else) elected by sending social signals to certain communities to prevent them from voting while sending other signals to other communities to encourage them to vote. The research indicates that in a very divided political climate that with the right sorts of voting data, it wouldn’t take a whole lot of work for Facebook to help effectuate a landslide victory for particular candidates or even entire political parties!! And of course because of the distributed nature of such an attack on democracy, Facebook’s black box algorithms, and the subtlety of the experiments, it would be incredibly hard to prove that such a thing was even done.
I like her broad concept (around 43:00) where she discusses the idea of how people tend to frame new situations using pre-existing experience and that this may not always be the most useful thing to do for what can be complex ideas that don’t or won’t necessarily play out the same way given the potential massive shifts in paradigms.
Also of great interest is the idea of instrumentarianism as opposed to the older ideas of totalitarianism. (43:49) Totalitarian leaders used to rule by fear and intimidation and now big data stores can potentially create these same types of dynamics, but without the need for the fear and intimidation by more subtly influencing particular groups of people. When combined with the ideas behind “swarming” phenomenon or Mark Granovetter’s ideas of threshold reactions in psychology, only a very small number of people may need to be influenced digitally to create drastic outcomes. I don’t recall the reference specifically, but I recall a paper about the mathematics with respect to creating ethnic neighborhoods that only about 17% of people needed to be racists and move out of a neighborhood to begin to create ethnic homogeneity and drastically less diversity within a community.
Also tangentially touched on here, but not discussed directly, I can’t help but think that all of this data with some useful complexity theory might actually go a long way toward better defining (and being able to actually control) Adam Smith’s economic “invisible hand.”
There’s just so much to consider here that it’s going to take several revisits to the ideas and some additional research to tease this all apart.
Smartphone apps track a staggering amount of data about our whereabouts every day. That data has become a hot commodity.
Just the national security implications for this alone should require regulations of these tech companies.
Turns out, a lot of it, actually.
Weblogs: A new source of News
An awesome “old” and prescient post about blogging and journalism. It’s interesting to look at this through the modern lens of social media and IndieWeb. Of course this article was written at a time when IndieWeb was the only thing that existed.
Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia
media organizations would do well to incorporate them [blogs] into their Web sites as an important new addition to the journalistic toolkit. ❧
December 21, 2018 at 08:09PM
Regular readers of Gillmor’s eJournal will recognize his commitment to user participation. “One of the things I’m sure about in journalism right now is that my readers know more than I do,” he says. “To the extent that I can take advantage of that in a way that does something for everyone involved ó that strikes me as pretty cool.”
One fascinating aspect of Gillmor’s Weblog is how he lifts the veil from the workings of the journalism profession. “There have been occasions where I put up a note saying, ‘I’m working on the following and here’s what I think I know,’ and the invitation is for the reader to either tell me I’m on the right track, I’m wrong, or at the very least help me find the missing pieces,” he says. “That’s a pretty interesting thing. Many thousands more people read my column in the newspaper than online, but I do hear back from a fair number of people from the Weblog.” ❧
My listen post
December 21, 2018 at 08:20PM
Anyone who’s dealt with networks knows that the network knows more than the individual.” ❧
December 22, 2018 at 09:15AM
Man, this is a beast that’s hungry all the time.” ❧
December 22, 2018 at 09:18AM
While many blogs get dozens or hundreds of visitors, Searls’ site attracts thousands. “I partly don’t want to care what the number is,” he says. “I used to work in broadcasting, where everyone was obsessed by that. I don’t want an audience. I feel I’m writing stuff that’s part of a conversation. Conversations don’t have audiences.” ❧
December 22, 2018 at 09:22AM
“The blog serves as a kind of steam valve for me,” he says. “I put stuff out there that I’m forming an opinion about, and another blogger starts arguing with me and giving me feedback, and I haven’t even finished what I was posting!” ❧
December 22, 2018 at 09:24AM
The Weblog community is basically a whole bunch of expert witnesses who increase their expertise constantly through a sort of reputation engine.” ❧
December 22, 2018 at 09:28AM
His dream is to put a live Web server with easy-to-edit pages on every person’s desktop, then connect them all in a robust network that feeds off itself and informs other media. ❧
December 22, 2018 at 09:31AM
He suggests that struggling sites like Salon begin broadening their content offerings by hosting user-created Weblogs, creating a sort of farm system for essayists. “Salon could highlight the best ones on page one and invest time and effort in the ones that are inspiring and exceptional.” ❧
December 22, 2018 at 09:35AM
Indeed, Winer says his most gratifying moments come when he posts an entry without running the idea by his colleagues first. “It can be a very scary moment when you take a stand on something and you don’t know if your argument holds together and you hit the send button and it’s out there and you can’t take it back. That’s a moment that professional journalists may never experience in their careers, the feeling that it’s just me, exposed to the world. That’s a pretty powerful rush, the power to publish as an individual.” ❧
December 22, 2018 at 09:36AM
Just hit that sparkle, fam
Apparently so many people are using shortcuts like “filter:follows -filter:replies” from a few months back that they’ve decided to fix their UI.
Of course the article indicates that it seems to be higher engagement (aka clicks for advertising) as the motivator rather than simply making a stronger and more usable product:
Keith Coleman, vice president of product at Twitter, told The Verge that in tests, users who had access to the easy toggle participated in more conversations than average.
In the Wild West of “influencer” marketing, there are few protections and plenty of easy marks.
Of the multi-billion dollar business and the issues with needing to give away one’s password to be tracked within this field, the real loss here seems to be that Instagram isn’t building infrastructure for their users to take advantage of these opportunities. Even if they were only taking a small fraction of the income for facilitating the market, they’re missing out on hundreds of millions.
It’s not mentioned here, but the fact that there are businesses built around the idea of “link in bio” means that Instagram really isn’t innovating on their platform.
Is Instagram really so deaf to the needs of their userbase?
Go indie, go punk, call it web, notice the good support, and offer an alternative to the old-school, advertising-based, closed internet.
A clarion call on the open internet for more of the open internet (aka IndieWeb.)
Friday's plunge sends Yelp to a 52-week low and makes for the stock's worst day of trading since going public in 2012.
I’ve been thinking very similarly along these lines for six months or more, but with a particular slant at journalistic enterprises. I’ve specifically been considering what would happen if small local newspapers and other journalistic outlets were running IndieWeb-esque platforms for their local communities. This would potentially help to moderate and encourage local conversations and consumption of local grown content and journalism and potentially improve the toxicity of general social media or massive issues like those that Facebook is facing with genocidal effects of their platform in Myanmar where they didn’t have any local presence or moderation much less people in-house who had language capabilities to even begin to deal with these issues. This type of mission could better empower entities to improve both local journalism by binding it to a different substrate as a financial model and fix many of the issues we see with social media simultaneously.
This general idea also isn’t too dissimilar from Greg McVerry’s idea of having local libraries allow patrons to “check out” (aka set up) their own domains and social presences/identities using their library cards.
The difficulty I see is that as the world moves toward increased specialization, that looking for newspapers or even municipalities to oversee and maintain such infrastructure may be difficult. I already see issues with smaller outlets building and maintaining their own publishing platforms with simple out-of-the-box CMS solutions that are relatively easy-to-use and modify with simple plugins. (In a recent inventory of my local news sources, I’ll note here that nearly 100% of the local online news sources for my community are running on WordPress, but not all of them have a huge amount of technical knowledge about what and how they’re doing it in those spaces). The growth of content management systems like Ghost, which has a journalistic bent, also indicates that there isn’t a “perfect solution” to the CMS problem, much less the issues of running IndieWeb-like platforms/clusters based on simpler platforms like WordPress or even Known. There’s certainly a lot of space out there for third party companies to help grow and expand in both of these areas (community-based social platforms as well as journalism platforms and admixtures thereof.)
If local institutions or even governments did move in this direction, then their users are at the potential mercy of third-party businesses which may not necessarily be aligned with local values. An example of something akin to this was covered recently in The Daily on their episode Taking Over Local News. I’m also reminded about of my poor experiences with un-moderated third party platforms like Nextdoor.com can be.
Another microcosm to look at is how hundreds of thousands of public libraries are interfacing with the four or more media suppliers of e-books and what that financial model looks like as, if taken, I would suspect a similar trajectory for local social public media. Similarly looking at how municipalities interface with cable franchising can reveal some pitfalls to avoid moving forward with respect to monopolies and competition.
Certainly some additional thought about how to solve these issues at the smaller local and personal levels is welcome. Thanks for dipping into and expanding my surface area of thinking Ben.
The words “digital exhaust” also come to mind…
I have a problem with algorithms that sort my posts by parameters I don’t know about, made by people who want to sell my attention to others. ❧
A major, two-night investigation of the powerful social media platform’s impact on privacy and democracy in the U.S. and around the world.
The promise of Facebook was to create a more open and connected world. But from the company’s failure to protect millions of users’ data, to the proliferation of “fake news” and disinformation, mounting crises have raised the question: Is Facebook more harmful than helpful? On Monday, Oct. 29, and Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, FRONTLINE presents The Facebook Dilemma. This major, two-night event investigates a series of warnings to Facebook as the company grew from Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room to a global empire. With dozens of original interviews and rare footage, The Facebook Dilemma examines the powerful social media platform’s impact on privacy and democracy in the U.S. and around the world.
Some great journalism, but somehow I don’t think it’s as frightening as it should be.
It did spark some great debate within the house though.
Abstract: The News Study research report presents findings about how a sample of U.S. college students gather information and engage with news in the digital age. Results are included from an online survey of 5,844 respondents and telephone interviews with 37 participants from 11 U.S. colleges and universities selected for their regional, demographic, and red/blue state diversity. A computational analysis was conducted using Twitter data associated with the survey respondents and a Twitter panel of 135,891 college-age people. Six recommendations are included for educators, journalists, and librarians working to make students effective news consumers. To explore the implications of this study’s findings, concise commentaries from leading thinkers in education, libraries, media research, and journalism are included.
A great little paper about how teens and college students are finding, reading, sharing, and generally interacting with news. There’s some nice overlap here on both the topics of journalism and education which I find completely fascinating. In general, however, I think in a few places students are mis-reporting their general uses, so I’m glad a portion of the paper actually looks at data from Twitter in the wild to see what real world use cases actually are.
As I read this, I can’t help but think of some things I’ve seen Michael Caulfield writing about news and social media over the past several months. As I look, I notice that he’s already read and written a bit about a press release for this particular paper. I’ll have to take a look at his take on it tomorrow. I’m particularly interested in any insights he’s got on lateral reading and fake news above and beyond his prior thoughts.
Perhaps I missed it hiding in there reading so late at night, but another potentially good source for this paper’s recommended section would be Caulfield’s book Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers.
Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia
The purpose of this study was to better understand the preferences, practices, and motivations of young news consumers, while focusing on what students actually do, rather than what they do not do. ❧
October 22, 2018 at 08:28PM
YouTube (54%), Instagram (51%) or Snapchat (55%) ❧
I’m curious to know which sources in particular they’re using on these platforms. Snapchat was growing news sources a year ago, but I’ve heard those sources are declining. What is the general quality of these sources?
For example, getting news from television can range from PBS News Hour and cable news networks (more traditional sources) to comedy shows like Stephen Colbert and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah which have some underlying news in the comedy, but are far from traditional sources.
October 22, 2018 at 08:35PM
Some students (28%) received news from podcasts in the preceding week. ❧
October 22, 2018 at 08:38PM
news is stressful and has little impact on the day-to-day routines —use it for class assignments, avoid it otherwise.” While a few students like this one practiced news abstinence, such students were rare. ❧
This sounds a bit like my college experience, though I didn’t avoid it because of stressful news (and there wasn’t social media yet). I generally missed it because I didn’t subscribe directly to publications or watch much television. Most of my news consumption was the local college newspaper.
October 22, 2018 at 08:46PM
But on the Web, stories of all kinds can show up anywhere and information and news are all mixed together. Light features rotate through prominent spots on the “page” with the same weight as breaking news, sports coverage, and investigative pieces, even on mainstream news sites. Advertorial “features” and opinion pieces are not always clearly identified in digitalspaces. ❧
This difference is one of the things I miss about reading a particular newspaper and experiencing the outlet’s particular curation of their own stories. Perhaps I should spend more time looking at the “front page” of various news sites?
October 22, 2018 at 08:57PM
Some (36%) said they agreed that the threat of “‘fake news’ had made them distrust the credibility of any news.” Almost half (45%) lacked confidence with discerning “real news” from “fake news,” and only 14% said they were “very confident” that they could detect “fake news.” ❧
These numbers are insane!
October 22, 2018 at 09:04PM
As a matter of recourse, some students in the study “read the news laterally,” meaning they used sources elsewhere on the Internet to compare versions of a story in an attempt to verify its facts, bias, and ultimately, its credibility.25 ❧
This reminds me how much I miss the old daily analysis that Slate use to do for the day’s top news stories in various outlets in their Today’s Papers segment.
October 22, 2018 at 09:15PM
Some respondents, though not all, did evaluate the veracity of news they shared on social media. More (62%) said they checked to see how current an item was, while 59% read the complete story before sharing and 57% checked the URL to see where a story originated (Figure 7). Fewer read comments about a post (55%) or looked to see how many times an item was tweeted or shared (39%). ❧
I’m not sure I believe these self-reported numbers at all. 59% read the complete story before sharing?! 57% checked the URL? I’ll bet that not that many could probably define what a URL is.
October 22, 2018 at 10:00PM
information diet ❧
October 22, 2018 at 11:02PM
At the tactical level, there are likely many small things that could be tested with younger audiences to help them better orient themselves to the crowded news landscape. For example, some news organizations are more clearly identifying different types of content such as editorials, features, and backgrounders/news analysis.57More consistent and more obvious use of these typological tags would help all news consumers, not just youth, and could also travel with content as itis posted and shared in social media. News organizations should engage more actively with younger audiences to see what might be helpful. ❧
October 22, 2018 at 11:37PM
When news began moving into the first digital spaces in the early 1990s, pro-Web journalists touted the possibilities of hypertext links that would give news consumers the context they needed. Within a couple of years, hypertext links slowly began to disappear from many news stories. Today, hypertext links are all but gone from most mainstream news stories. ❧
October 22, 2018 at 11:38PM
October 22, 2018 at 11:40PM