The CEO Passive Content Obsession

Read to the end for a tranq’d out bear falling from a tree into a waiting tarp

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Congrats, You Reinvented Muzak, Dumbass

I remember, years ago, I watched an important digital video executive declare to a big crowd that the future of video — all video, including movies and TV shows — was “post-language” and “post-verbal”. This was at the height of Facebook’s auto-playing, silent video boom and he had decided that 35-second videos where no one talks were about to conquer the world. And I remember thinking that was the dumbest thing I had ever heard. Yeah man, the future of media are nickelodeons.

Suffice it to say, that guy doesn’t have a job anymore. But I’ve never forgotten that extremely stupid presentation because, for me, it perfectly encapsulates a very bizarre tendency for tech and media executives to become obsessed with increasingly passive and boring kinds of content.

I assume this is a consequence of scale. At a certain audience size, you just assume those people are locked in and will consume anything you throw at them. Then it just becomes a game of lowering your production costs and increasing your prices to increase your margins. This is why executives love AI and why the average American can’t afford to eat at McDonald’s anymore.

And I was reminded again of the CEO Passive Content Obsession last week, when Spotify CEO Daniel Ek wrote on X, “With the cost of creating content being close to zero, people can share an incredible amount of content.” He also wrote a bunch of dumb nonsense about stoicism and Marcus Aurelius (it was a long post), but most people have been focusing on the part about content being basically free to create. Which folks are not happy about. Here’s a good #CEOTip: Do not ruminate on the how little you value the widgets in your marketplace literally as you’re raising the price of accessing said marketplace. Listening, learning, etc.

Yes, technology has made making art cheaper in certain ways. Microphones, cameras, digital work stations, they’re all cheaper. Which would be great if it weren’t for platforms like Spotify making it harder than ever to make any money with those newly inexpensive tools.

And the backlash led Ek to apologize — well, clarify. He didn’t actually say sorry. But he explained that he was talking about the need to protect “world-changing ideas and pieces of art” from being lost in the noise created by a world where everyone can make content.

The fact that the CEO of Spotify, of all companies, is musing on the destruction of intellectual legacies is very funny. Not just because Spotify has underpaid artists on their platform for years, but also because unlike, say, Meta, which has started to at least try and label synthetic content on its apps, Spotify has refused to do anything about the influx of AI content that’s been filling up the site since last year.

“If I was a creative, especially, a musician, I would likely take umbrage,” technologist Om Malik wrote in response to Ek’s post. “Because making ‘content’ means there is no difference, real difference between ‘AI Slop’ and Neil Young’s music.”

But, of course, Ek purposely did not make a distinction between “content” and “AI slop” because Spotify is hoping the slop becomes good enough to compete with, if not outright replace the content that’s already on their platform.

And I’ll admit that a platform of purely AI-generated streaming content, music or otherwise, is something that sounded so stupid and shameless to me that I just assumed no real company would actually try it. But I recently got a peak at how it might work. And I still think it’s shameless, but I don’t think it’s as far-fetched as I used to.

Last month, I started poking around AI music generators like Suno and Udio. I was surprised to discover that both had more in common with Spotify or Apple Music than they did ChatGPT or Midjourney. And there are subreddits for these apps where users share what they’re making. They treat AI music like a gacha game, paying for credits, hoping to generate the song they hear in their head, and then agonize on Reddit about it when it falls short. (Which is, honestly, a very real musician problem that I love these guys are suffering from, as well.)

And here’s where I’ve started to see the deeply dystopian vision. What’s not being spoken out loud by all of the new “infinite AI-generated Netflix” startups or whatever popping up every week is that the AI slop is just the baseline. They want us to to pay to subscribe to their background noise app and they want us to populate it for them, now that they’ve made, as Spotify’s CEO put it, “the cost of creating content close to zero.” And then they’ll want us to pay more to ask the AI slot machine to generate something we actually want.

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Meh is too boring for Garbage Day to write about

Meh works hard to stay simple - it’s a daily deal site that has yet to devolve into plastering hundreds of deals on their site. They’ve avoided jamming terrible ads in every available pixel. And they haven’t (yet) launched their own mediocre burger.

So they don’t typically get covered in newsletters like this one, that do an excellent job of telling you about those other awful companies and people making hilariously horrible decisions.

Which is understandable, but also a little too bad, because it’d be nice to hear more about boring, simple companies that find what they’re good at and then…do that. If that’s something you like, you’ll probably like Meh, and if you’ll probably like Meh, this is probably the best time to click over and see what they’re all about.

It won’t take long…they’re pretty simple.

Garbage Day’s first-ever West Coast event is finally happening! It’s at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco on July 12th. The show will also feature some very exciting guests, including visual artist Danielle Baskin, Platformer's Casey Newton, V-Tuber Shindigs, and The Onion's Stan Kelly.

Big Mood

This was dropped in the Garbage Day Discord by the other Allegra. As funny as this is, it’s probably worth mentioning here that Rep. John Rose is Not Good.

Internet long-hauler Hank Green posted a great YouTube Short the other day answering a question I’ve been wondering about. Namely, why aren’t TikTok creators getting bigger anymore?

Sure, there are plenty of big TikTok accounts, but, at least compared to three or four years ago, it now feels like there’s really nowhere else for someone with TikTok fame to go.

I figured this was actually more of a statement on legacy media. Long gone are the days where a YouTuber or influencer might daydream about graduating to something more “real” or “legitimate” like hosting a talk show on linear television or something.

But as Green explains in his video, it also might be related to how TikTok, as an app, functions. The question that Green is responding to was about why TikTokers don’t do meetups anymore. But Green’s theory extends to any form of promotion a big user on the app might want to do — a book, a new project, a product line, etc.

Basically, the majority of TikTok interactions happen algorithmically, through the app’s For You page. And the machine-learning that powers that page is only concerned with keeping you entertained and, more recently, selling you waterpiks or whatever. And so, even if you have a million followers on the app, if you post something that isn’t just more content, it’s not going to be seen by anyone.

Instagram Is Testing Unskippable Ads

(r/Instagram)

Meta is testing ad breaks in Instagram videos. This was first spotted by a user on r/Instagram. And Instagram confirmed with The Verge that it is being tested.

Look, I’m not going to mince words here. There is not a single piece of content on any Meta platform that is worth sitting through an unskippable ad to watch the entirety of. In fact, you could argue that Meta’s entire business model is based on bundling together the worst, most worthless content on the internet and delivering at a scale where quality no longer actually matters. And, most hilariously, every creator I’ve ever met that makes their living on Meta platforms knows this. They make bad content, on purpose, for users they, at best, don’t consider fully sentient human beings or, at worst, actively loathe. And that dynamic drives the entire ecosystem.

And those creators are not going to suddenly make content that is worth sitting through an ad to watch. If this ships officially — and I doubt it will — all that’s going to happen is a wave of new, weird attention hacks to keep people watching past the ad break, only to piss them off when it goes back into the video.

X, The Only Mainstream Social Network That Has Ever Allowed Porn, Now Officially Allows Porn

Well, I say only, but Tumblr did, then didn’t, now sort of does. And Reddit does too, at least up until one of its NSFW communities starts doing something illegal.

The official policy update from X regarding adult content was added last month, and it reads, “You may share consensually produced and distributed adult nudity or sexual behavior, provided it's properly labeled and not prominently displayed.”

The big question here will be how Apple responds, if they do at all. According to The Guardian, as of right now, X is not in danger of being taken off the App Store because NSFW content is, by default, hidden by a content warning, and not viewable to any user that doesn’t verify they’re over the age of 18.

Of course, that all depends on X continuing to moderate themselves properly. But at least for now, P U S S Y I N B I O reigns supreme.

The Drake “Hey There, Delilah” Remix Has Broken My Brain

I heard this song the other night and started laughing so hard I had to put my phone down and just go to sleep. I think it’s actually in the running for one of the worst songs ever released. The question is: Is it bad on purpose?

I assumed this was AI-generated. I can’t say for certain if it is or not. The only thing we have to go on is that Drake shared a screenshot of it on his Instagram Story, which doesn’t really tell us much.

The other artist on the track, Snowd4y, was described by Billboard as a “parody rapper,” and on a recent podcast appearance, he seemed to hint that this was a joke.

So, based on everything we currently know, my take on this is that Canadian satire is indecipherable from cringe.

Here’s A Good Baking Tutorial

@outbackrak

Wide Load #tutorial

Did you know Garbage Day has a merch store?

***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***

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