WordPress owners buy Tumblr (Update: for "less than $3m")

Sarah Krouse reports that Automattic, the company behind WordPress, is buying Tumblr from Verizon. WordPress is the software reportedly powering a third of the world's websites, and was itself originally focused on blogging. Tumblr was the blogging service of choice for millions of young people, but floundered after being sold to AOL Yahoo and subsequently cleansed of smut and other advertiser-unfriendly material when Yahoo was itself sold to Verizon.

Verizon Communications Inc. has agreed to sell its blogging website Tumblr to the owner of popular online-publishing tool WordPress, unloading for a nominal amount a site that once fetched a purchase price of more than $1 billion. Automattic Inc. will buy Tumblr for an undisclosed sum and take on about 200 staffers, the companies said. Tumblr is a free service that hosts millions of blogs where users can upload photos, music and art, but it has been dwarfed by Facebook, Reddit and other services.

Surprise news, and surely good news for those still using Tumblr. It still has plenty of life in it despite the damp carpets and stagnant air. Looking forward to seeing what happens next.

But for one thing, the porn will not be back.

Mr. Mullenweg said his company intends to maintain the existing policy that bans adult content. He said he has long been a Tumblr user and sees the site as complementary to WordPress.com. “It’s just fun,” he said of Tumblr. “We’re not going to change any of that.”

Bought on a whim, for a song. Read the rest

Interview with investigative reporter Seymour Hersh: our world is "run by ignoramuses, wackos and psychotics"

Seymour Hersh (82) has been an investigative reporter for over 50 years. In this Salon interview conducted by Chauncey Devega, Hersh says Trump has trolled journalism by getting them addicted to his "kitty-litter box of tweets."

America is a kakistocracy and a pathocracy. Donald Trump's regime is just the crystallization of that fact. You have decades of experience as a reporter and journalist. How should one write about something that is so utterly outrageous and yet still find a way to make the public care, in a time when so many Americans are numb to it all?

Do you really want me to try and make you feel better? Because I want you to make me feel better. This is where we are. It is incredibly messy. One mistake that was made by the media — and which is constantly being made — is living off Donald Trump's tweets. I call it the kitty-litter box full of Trump's tweets.

The way it works is Donald Trump sends out a tweet. The cable news immediately repeats Trump's tweet, instead of doing what I would have done if I were king of the world and editor. I would look and see the changes inside the bureaucracy and the system. What is Trump doing? He is replacing good people everywhere with these extreme conservatives — they are not all necessarily fascists. These Trump government types do not want to give food to the poor. They don't think that immigrants should be treated well.

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Prince Charles’ gay scandal, Tom Cruise destroys Scientology, and Michael Jackson’s afterlife, in this week’s dubious tabloids

We're through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole in this week’s tabloids that give Alice in Wonderland a run for her money in their wild imaginings.

Can anti-transgender bias in media be measured?

New data visualization project to reveal bias in media coverage on transgender topics could use your support.

The British press used to be amazingly homophobic, and the backsliding has begun

Mediawatch was a column that ran in Britain's Gay Times for almost 25 years, with author Terry Sanderson cataloging coverage of LGBT issues by the mainstream press. The archives are being posted online in a blog format, and Buzzfeed published an interview and retrospective with Sanderson himself.

Poofters. Benders. Shirtlifters. Bumboys. Lezzies. This was how British tabloid headlines referred to gay men and lesbians in the 1980s — an echo of the taunts heard on the street before a beating. The stories beneath would expand on the pejoratives, justifying them with news of “sick”, “evil”, “predatory” gays — all arising from a presumption: that readers would agree.

The twist is that the readers didn't agree. The pervasive homophobia of British newspapers was increasingly out of step with the times, revealing more about the neurotic obsessions of Fleet Street creeps than the country at large. The open bigotry evaporated in the early 1990s as circulations began to decline and reality asserted itself.

But I must admit to being taken aback by just how homophobic they were. Sanderson chronicles not merely slurs and AIDS-baiting headlines, but calls for reprohibition, pogroms and executions--all delivered in the same blurting, jokey yet seething-angry tabloid cadence that foreshadows the reactionary right's approach to social media now.

One thing stood out to me in particular: an old quote from Garry Bushell, then a columnist in The Sun, remarking that Stalin had the right idea by getting rid of the poofs. By the time I hit my teens in the 1990s and started paying attention, such talk was not merely history, but forgotten: Bushell was a mainstream TV star by then, an award-winning critic, but I never saw a whisper of that talk. Read the rest

Debbie Harry has always been a master at on-screen interviews

"Where do you think Blondie will be ten years from now?"

"San Quentin."

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Short animations about how clicky health-claim headlines are often misleading

In these two excellent short animations, data science professor Jeffrey Leek of the Simply Statistics blog and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and his university colleague, postdoctoral research Lucy McGowan, explain how "in medicine, there’s often a disconnect between news headlines and the scientific research they cover."

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Survey: 50% of Americans believe 'made-up news' is a very big problem for the country today. 46% say the same about climate change.

More Americans view made-up news as a 'very big problem' for the country, over terrorism, illegal immigration, racism, and sexism.

How software sterilized rock music

It's not just pitch correction: with modern music-making software, it's as easy to snap analog recordings of instruments to a time signature as it is to program EDM. When everything is quantized, says Rick Beato, it loses its humanity—and becomes boring.

People actually do this. This is why everything sounds like it's on a computer now. Because it is. ... A live drummer turned into a drum machine

Beato's a master of the software and he shows you how to do it, so his critique is technically instructive instead of just a YouTube rant about something he doesn't like. The tracks he uses really do sound uncannily "off" after being quantized. But I can't help but point out that now I want to get Beat Detective.

A good terrible project would be to quantize hits by The Beatles and other artists where isolated tracks are readily available, then reupload them to YouTube without disclosing what's been done, and watching as the quantized versions displace the originals in online media embeds, and TV and radio play, because so many people just get everything from YouTube.

For years I subtly photoshopped famous photos and paintings, posted them at inflated dimensions to fool Google Images into thinking they were the highest-quality versions, and waited for them to turn up elsewhere. I've spotted "my" versions in news stories, TV segments, even a handful of books and magazines. I have no plans to disclose them, but if you ever see, say, Henry Kissinger with mouths for eyes in a school textbook, you know who to blame. Read the rest

Streamers using bizarre makeup jobs that look perfect when filtered

Streamers are adopting peculiar makeup patterns designed to look good—or at least achieve specific effects—when processed through app filters, reports the South China Morning Post. Some commenters are aghast at the supposed vanity and artificality of the youngsters doing the streaming, but it strikes me as very similar to old TV makeup from the black-and-white era. If the image is distorted, correcting the distortion becomes a science and manipulating it an art.

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UK press mostly silent on the matter of Prince William's alleged affair; Twitter ablaze

Odd how the British tabloids are constantly saying that Meghan Markle is ruining the royal family, by doing awful inappropriate things such as closing her own car door, yet are so very quiet concerning Prince William's supposed affair with his wife's bestie.

We’ll quickly introduce the Marchioness of Cholmondeley (pronounced Chumley).

She is the woman at the center of a very royal scandal that has it all: a future monarch with a wandering eye; an elite social circle in the idyllic English countryside; and a strange silence from the British tabloids, who usually leap on every royal misstep (as evidenced by their cruel treatment of Duchess Meghan every other day for the last year.)

Her name is Rose Hanbury, a former model married to the Marquess of Cholmondeley, who is 23 years older than her. Rose already has her own well-established royal connections: her grandmother was bridesmaid at Queen Elizabeth II‘s wedding in 1947.

Props must go to The Sun for hinting at it; but it's American media that make the hay today.

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Fox hit with $179m (including $128m in punitive damages) judgment over shady bookkeeping on "Bones"

Fox has been ordered to pay $179m to profit participants on the longrunning TV show Bones; the judgment includes $128m in punitive damages because the aribitrator that heard the case found that Fox had concealed the show's true earnings and its execs had lied under oath to keep the profit participants from getting their share of the take. Read the rest

Donald Trump thanks MSNBC for exonerating him in Russia scandal

* MSNBC did not actually exonerate him.

This was the first US mainstream television commercial featuring a gay couple

In 1994, Ikea ran this television commercial in major East Coast US markets. (Interestingly, the commercial's art director was Patrick O'Neill who went on to be Chief Creative Officer at everyone's favorite Silicon Valley start-up disaster Theranos!)

From a 1994 article in the Los Angeles Times:

A few East Coast Ikea stores have been targeted by angry protesters who have jammed phone lines since last week. One store in Hicksville, N.Y., was briefly evacuated last week after a bomb scare. No bomb was found.

At issue is the homosexual relationship between the two men in the Ikea ad, who talk about how buying the dining room table together shows their commitment to each other. If it becomes clear to other major marketers that Ikea's business is not harmed--and perhaps even helped--by the ad, it could profoundly affect the way major advertisers speak to gays and lesbians.

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Pioneering punk print 'zine Maximum Rocknroll is ceasing publication after nearly 40 years

Maximum Rocknroll, the seminal punk print 'zine launched in 1982, is ceasing publication of its paper edition. This truly marks the end of an era in punk culture and underground media. According to today's announcement, MRR will continue its weekly radio show, post record reviews online, continue its archiving effort, and launch other new projects that will keep the unbreakable Maximum Rocknroll spirit alive. From MRR:

Maximum Rocknroll began as a radio show in 1977. For the founders of Maximum Rocknroll, the driving impulse behind the radio show was simple: an unabashed, uncompromising love of punk rock. In 1982, buoyed by burgeoning DIY punk and hardcore scenes all over the world, the founders of the show — Tim Yohannan & the gang — launched Maximum Rocknroll as a print fanzine. That first issue drew a line in the sand between the so-called punks who mimicked society’s worst attributes — the “apolitical, anti-historical, and anti-intellectual,” the ignorant, racist, and violent — and MRR’s principled dedication to promoting a true alternative to the doldrums of the mainstream. That dedication included anti-corporate ideals, avowedly leftist politics, and relentless enthusiasm for DIY punk and hardcore bands and scenes from every inhabited continent of the globe. Over the next several decades, what started as a do-it-yourself labor of love among a handful of friends and fellow travelers has extended to include literally thousands of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of readers. Today, forty-two years after that first radio show, there have been well over 1600 episodes of MRR radio and 400 issues of Maximum Rocknroll fanzine — not to mention some show spaces, record stores, and distros started along the way — all capturing the mood and sound of international DIY punk rock: wild, ebullient, irreverent, and oppositional.

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Archive of the incredible mid-1960s magazine, "fact:"

In 1963 Attorney General Robert Kennedy prosecuted Eros magazine publisher Ralph Ginzburg for violating federal obscenity laws when Eros ran 8-pages of photos of a naked black man and naked white woman embracing each other (see page 72 of the fourth and final issue of Eros). After a long trial, which went to the Supreme Court, Ginzburg was found guilty and in 1972 was sent to federal prison. He was released on parole eight months later. (Arthur Miller said of the conviction, a man is going to prison for publishing and advertising stuff a few years ago that today would hardly raise an eyebrow in your dentist's office.")

In 1964, during his legal battles, Ginzburg launched a quarterly social commentary journal called fact:, and it was a masterpiece of design and content. Bringing to mind the best of Esquire, Rolling Stone, Spy, and The Realist, fact: was "dedicated to the proposition that a great magazine, in its quest for truth, will dare to defy not only Convention, not only Big Business, not only the Church and the State, but also — if necessary — its readers." (From the introduction to 1967's The Best of Fact, by Warren Boroson). The first issue had a delicious takedown of Time magazine, the titan of news magazines in 1964, with quotes from dozens of intellectual luminaries attesting to Time's treacherousness, propensity to lie, and prejudices (P.G. Wodehouse: "Time is about the most inaccurate magazine in existence."). The first issue also ran an Madison avenue advertising executive's "sojourns in heaven and hell while experimenting with peyote, belladonna, and marijuana," a profile of American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell (titled "The Man Who Thinks Goldwater is a Communist"), a piece examining "The Sexual Symbolism of Christmas," and an essay by Bertrand Russell on the inadequacy of the nuclear test ban treaty. Read the rest

Internet mostly fake now

When bots finally accounted for half the traffic on the internet, Media Experts speculated that algorithms would start identifying bots as a better advertising target than humans. Max Read points out that fear of "Inversion" is now quaint. Now everything is so fake online that no-one trusts numbers at all.

In the future, when I look back from the high-tech gamer jail in which President PewDiePie will have imprisoned me, I will remember 2018 as the year the internet passed the Inversion, not in some strict numerical sense, since bots already outnumber humans online more years than not, but in the perceptual sense. Everything that once seemed definitively and unquestionably real now seems slightly fake; everything that once seemed slightly fake now has the power and presence of the real. The “fakeness” of the post-Inversion internet is less a calculable falsehood and more a particular quality of experience — the uncanny sense that what you encounter online is not “real” but is also undeniably not “fake,” and indeed may be both at once, or in succession, as you turn it over in your head.

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