More media paywalls rise--in price, too

Bloomberg's new paywall isn't terribly remarkable, but the price--$35 a month--suggests a new type of walled garden. Danny Chrichton favors the paywall model, but...

Incentive alignment is one thing, and my wallet is another. All of these subscriptions are starting to add up. These days, my media subscriptions are hovering around $80 a month, and I don’t even have TV. Storage costs for Google, Apple, and Dropbox are another $13 a month. Cable and cell service are another $200 a month combined. Software subscriptions are probably about $20 a month (although so many are annualized its hard to keep track of them). Amazon Prime and a few others total in around $25 a month.

Worse, subscriptions aren’t getting any cheaper. Amazon Prime just increased its price to $120 a year, Netflix increased its popular middle-tier plan to $11 a month late last year, and YouTube increased its TV pricing to $40 a month last month. Add in new paywalls, and the burden of subscriptions is rising far faster than consumer incomes.

I’m frustrated with this hell. I’m frustrated that the web’s promise of instant and free access to the world’s information appears to be dying.

The return of media to "channels" is inevitable because the internet is infested with normalcy and the forces involved are too great to stop, but so is the return to bundling. It'll ride in on the horse of "all your paywalls, one low monthly fee." Read the rest

Newspaper runs gun show ad on front page below Parkland massacre story

Fort Lauderdale, Florida's Sun Sentinel daily newspaper published an ad for a gun show on the front page just below stories about a benefit for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and another article about the guilty plea of the man who killed 5 people last year at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport. After Stoneman Douglas families and others responded with WTF, the paper apologized and then later announced a moratorium on gun ads. From the Miami New Times:

"It's a mess. It's horrible," says Julie Anderson, the Sun Sentinel's editor in chief. "We're taking every step possible to make sure our editorial staff always see ads before publication so something like this doesn't slip through."

In her statement, publisher Nancy Meyer said, "We deeply regret placement of a gun advertisement on our front page Wednesday morning. It has been against our policy to run gun and other types of controversial advertising on our front page."

(Thanks, Charles Pescovitz!)

Read the rest

"The Biology of Disinformation," a paper by Rushkoff, Pescovitz, and Dunagan

My Institute for the Future colleagues Douglas Rushkoff, Jake Dunagan, and I wrote a research paper on the "Biology of Disinformation" and how media viruses, bots and computational propaganda have redefined how information is weaponized for propaganda campaigns. While technological solutions may seem like the most practical and effective remedy, fortifying social relationships that define human communication may be the best way to combat “ideological warfare” that is designed to push us toward isolation. As Rushkoff says, "adding more AI's and algorithms to protect users from bad social media is counterproductive: how about increasing our cultural immune response to destructively virulent memes, instead?" From The Biology of Disinformation:

The specter of widespread computational propaganda that leverages memetics through persuasive technologies looms large. Already, artificially intelligent software can evolve false political and social constructs highly targeted to sway specific audiences. Users find themselves in highly individualized, algorithmically determined news and information feeds, intentionally designed to: isolate them from conflicting evidence or opinions, create self-reinforcing feedback loops of confirmation, and untether them from fact-based reality. And these are just early days. If memes and disinformation have been weaponized on social media, it is still in the musket stage. Sam Woolley, director of the Institute for the Future’s (IFTF) Digital Intelligence Lab, has concluded that defenders of anything approaching “objective” truth are woefully behind in dealing with computational propaganda. This is the case in both technological responses and neuro-cultural defenses. Moreover, the 2018 and 2020 US election cycles are going to see this kind of cognitive warfare on an unprecedented scale and reach.

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Oft-cited student loan expert turns out to be fake persona affiliated with lenders

If you've been keeping up with the slow-burning student loan crisis -- the lifetime of debt imposed by the exploding cost of higher education -- you've probably read a thing or ten from Drew Cloud, one of the foremost experts on the subject. He's been quoted and featured in numerous articles, appearing in major news outlets such as The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and CNBC, always ready with insightful remarks and stunning statistics. But there's a problem with Drew. He doesn't exist.

After The Chronicle spent more than a week trying to verify Cloud’s existence, the company that owns The Student Loan Report confirmed that Cloud was fake. "Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education," wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of LendEDU.

Before that admission, however, Cloud had corresponded at length with many journalists, pitching them stories and offering email interviews, many of which were published. When The Chronicle attempted to contact him through the address last week, Cloud said he was traveling and had limited access to his account. He didn’t respond to additional inquiries.

And on Monday, as The Chronicle continued to seek comment, Cloud suddenly evaporated.

There's going to be a lot more of these manifestations. One more thing that was charmingly cyberpunk when it was just pop stars or twitter avatars, but not so hot when it's a moneylender undermining youngsters embarking upon adult life while prtending to be advocates for their financial wellbeing. Read the rest

Stolen Department of Revenue hard drives used for storing Xbox games

A few weeks back, a number of external hard drives full of state taxpayer information were poached from the offices of Florida's Department of Revenue. Why these drives full of sensitive data were left out in the open where anyone could walk with one is a question I'm betting there's a really entertaining answer to. Maybe we'll get to hear it someday. In the meantime, here we go: the drives have been recovered and the criminal mastermind behind the theft was a janitor that wanted more storage in which to download Xbox games.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida man (of course) Andru Rae’sion Reed was cleaning the offices of the Florida Department of Revenue when he saw the hard drives and decided to take it upon himself to liberate them from the day-to-day drudgery of storing a whack of taxpayer information. As he took them to their new forever home, Reed promised the hard drives that they could spend their days chewing on game files while they were attached to his Xbox.

On March 30, FDLE agents dropped by Reed's home to see how he was doing and see if he, I don't know, knew anything about the missing hard drives. Reed came clean on the fact that he did indeed have the drives, stating that he had no idea of what was on them. From what the FDLE has to say, it doesn't look like any of the taxpayer information on the drives was shared by Reed, but they're going to do a little more digital digging, just to make sure. Read the rest

Late-stage journalism

Tis sweet to know that stocks will stand, When we with daisies lie, That commerce will continue, And trades as briskly fly. Read the rest

Interview with the founders of io9

Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders on 10 years of io9.

Annalee: We wanted to have a vision of the future for our readers that wasn’t completely silly but that wasn’t hopeless and dystopian. And again, part of covering science was very important to that because it was about how our stories could actually infect reality in a good way, and that what we dream can come true and that science and science fiction are part of the same project, which is to progressively improve reality for the maximum number of people.

They planned on naming it "Futurista" but couldn't get the domain. 'io9.com' turned out to be tough because of i/1 and 0/O confusion, and because the domain was heavily penalized by google due to prior use for porn, but the site was so good (and so successful) it didn't matter for long. Read the rest

Publishers play dumb after buying traffic

Ozy was paid to run sponsored stories for clients such as JPMorgan. Ozy, among many others, bought traffic to run up the page view counter, making them appear successful and exposing sponsors' branding to "millions" of "readers". Now the nature of that traffic has been exposed and excuses are being made.

The incident is the latest glimpse at the roots of a crisis of trust in online publishing. Blue-chip advertisers increasingly doubt whether their online ad spending reaches real audiences, and JPMorgan in particular has taken steps to ensure its ads only appear on quality sites. But even quality sites present risks.

Working in collaboration with ad-fraud consultancy Social Puncher, BuzzFeed News identified several other reputable publishers who also received the same invalid traffic during a similar timeframe as Ozy. They include Funny or Die, a video comedy site founded by actor Will Ferrell and several Hollywood producers; Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., a publisher of local newspapers in more than 20 states, which receives the traffic as part of a deal with video company Tout; Bustle Digital Group, a fast-growing digital publisher focused on young women; and PCMag, the venerable computing publication. All except CNHI say they have stopped using the traffic in question.

The charitable view, which casts publishers as desperate rather than fraudulent, is that they think human beings were paid to visit the sites. Even then, this is as legit as chaining a dog to a TV set because someone told you Nielsen boxes are motion-activated. Buzzfeed reports that it's all bots anyway. Read the rest

Breitbart plotted to ruin Twitter, emails show

Breitbart, Steve Bannon and co. mused often about destroying Twitter, reports Buzzfeed, exploring financial and legal options to bring the site to heel and Jack Dorsey to his knees.

On Jan. 15, Yiannopoulos sent a peace offering to Twitter — a cordial email to Jack Dorsey asking for his verification to be restored in exchange for a detente. A screenshot of an email tracker Yiannopoulos used registered that the email was opened 111 times.

But Dorsey never responded.

And so the “#war,” as Bannon called it, carried on.

Begging is not a position of strength. But Twitter ignoring the alt right and its fellow travelers still had consequences.

This is hilarious, though:

[Chuck] Johnson didn’t just short Twitter from behind the scenes. He had helped create a Twitter account @shortthebird in July 2015 and organized a campaign to put stickers and posters up around the company’s San Francisco headquarters with the hashtag #shorttwitter. (The hashtag never really took off, however, as it was simultaneously being employed by Twitter users to joke about their physical stature.)

Read the rest

NBC fires Matt Lauer over "inappropriate sexual behavior"

NBC fired Matt Lauer after learning Monday of The Today Show presenter's "inappropriate sexual behavior".

Co-host Savannah Guthrie announced the firing on-air, flanked by Hoda Kotb. A statement, attributed to NBC News chairman Andrew Lack, described a "a detailed complaint" that "represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company’s standards. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment."

"While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he’s been at NBC News," Lack continued, "we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”

A New York Times exposé of The Today Show presenter is also expected imminently; questions related to it may have informed the decision to fire Lauer without delay.

"We just learned this moment ago, this morning," said Guthrie. "As I'm sure you can imagine, we are devastated. ... We do not know more than what we shared with you. ... I'm heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner and he is loved by many people here. And I'm heartbroken for my brave colleague who came forward to tell her story."

Photo: David Shankbone Read the rest

"Save Free TV": Fun 1970s anti-cable TV public service announcement that showed in movie theaters

Back in the 1970s, cinemas saw cable TV as a threat to their business model. So they attempted to sway public opinion with PSAs like this. (r/ObscureMedia)

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Blog collects clips of anime floppy disks

Anime floppy disks is dedicated to collecting depictions of floppy disks in anime, but offers occasional special treats such as magneto-optical disks in anime.

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Jon Stewart visits Colbert, lampoons Trump

Orange Julius wants "equal time" in the media. Jon Stewart attempts to balance out Colbert's obvious bias, and show Trump some love. Read the rest

Disney paid 'at least' $177 million to settle #pinkslime lawsuit over ABC News reports on gross meat product

This summer, ABC News made a historically large payout to settle a defamation lawsuit over 'pink slime,' or what the meat industry likes to call 'lean finely textured beef.'

No, that's not referring to Hulk Hogan, but there is a worrisome connection between this media lawsuit and the one backed by Peter Thiel against Gawker, which silenced that publication. Read the rest

Armed with leaked transcript, Politico exposes all of Wall Street Journal's chummy interview with Trump

It seems someone at the Wall Street Journal wasn't happy with how its interview with President Trump came out, because the raw transcript—revealing plenty of "meat left on the proverbial carcass"—ended up being published at a different venue.

In this case, that perception [of the Journal's obsequious smarm] will also be fed by the Journal’s decision not to release a more complete transcript. Plenty of reporters have declined to challenge Trump on each outrageous claim he makes. Others have shown a willingness to engage in small talk and stroke Trump’s ego. But their outlets have been largely transparent in reproducing those conversations for the record. By failing to follow the precedent set by other newsrooms, the Journal played into the narrative that it has taken a softer approach.

One thing the transcript exposes is how Trump's compulsive, obvious lies ("the leader of the Boy Scouts told him his jamboree speech was “the greatest speech ever made to them.”") are politely ignored despite being perfectly topical and worthy of fact-checking and reporting. Friendly media smooths over his endless bullshit, while adversarial media takes it at face value. All agree that the resulting circus is worth it, but don't care much to think whether it was worth it. Read the rest

The heartwarming story behind the internet's premier testicle clickbait site

K. Thor Jenson, one of the enduring lights of web culture, spent two years writing clickbait about balls for a good cause: testicular cancer research.

I signed on with the foundation in early 2015. Together, we developed a business plan for the site. We quickly realized that a 100% testicle-focused site would run out of material pretty quickly, so we started brainstorming what would be under the umbrella. Testicular stories, sure, but also stories of “ballsy” behavior. Sports, as long as the ball was the focus of the piece. Ball pits. Energy balls. Balls of snakes. You get the idea.

Since 2015, The Ball Report has published 1,073 posts, many astoundingly successful, and with serious journalistic work amid all the bollocks: "When a viral story about a gang member dying after spray-painting his testicles gold started to spread, I was one of the first to debunk it. I wrote a dense history of the practice of “teabagging” in video games."

[Cheers, John!] Read the rest

RIP John Severson, Surfer Magazine founder

John Severson, the iconic figure of surfing media, has died at age 83. His 1961 film Big Wednesday is arguably the greatest of the early surf films, part of a lifetime of innovations in surf media. Read the rest

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