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Meta's doing another referral traffic bait-and-switch

Read to the end for the official jam of the season

Distributed Garbage Results So Far

A couple weeks ago, I finally got over myself and decided it was time to embrace the new status quo of the internet. The halcyon days of turning weirdly-good Twitter traffic into endless newsletter signups is over and I need to accept that. But I’ve been dragging my feet about finding new ways of promoting Garbage Day around the web because, after many years of slaving away in the content mines, I know for a fact that to do well on algorithmic platforms you have to make content in the particular way a platform wants you to. And I like what I do here in Garbage Day and I like how I do it. I don’t particularly want to eat ice cream out of a toilet bowl for views.

So I decided to take the strategy I’ve been using to promote Garbage Day for the last few years — what I call The One Good Paragraph — and adapt it for different platforms. I devised a little workflow that seemed to make sense and got to work “flooding the zone with shit,” as they say. And after a few weeks, I think I’ve figured out what works for me, which might be interesting and/or helpful for other lost millennials struggling to figure out How To Be Online now. Here’s where I ended up.

First, let’s talk workflow. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I write Garbage Day as I normally would and promote it by sharing a screenshot of what I think is the juiciest section on X, Threads, Bluesky, and Tumblr. Then, on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays, I do the same thing, but with a short video of me talking through what’s in that juicy section. Then I put those videos on X, Threads, TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. I’m not making platform-specific videos, but, instead, sharing whatever I make on every platform. And because YouTube has a 60-second limit for Shorts, I make all of my videos under a minute.

My video about MrBeast’s weird charity stuff did, hands down, the best across all platforms, but performed particularly well on YouTube (makes sense) and Instagram. Though I noticed my video about fake podcasts from OnlyFans models did pretty well on X and Threads, most likely because users are older there. I, also, briefly experimented with making simple slideshow-style social videos that didn’t feature me as a talking head and they did very badly, which is great news because they’re also boring to make.

In terms of how I’m making these videos, I’m using my phone and a Shure MV88 USB microphone and I edit them on DaVinci Resolve. I spent years making viral videos on Adobe Premiere and hated every single minute of it, so I decided to try out a new program to see if I would be any faster or better at making videos if I didn’t have to deal with Premiere. Turns out the answer is yes! Resolve is free, it’s easy to use, and if you pay for the one-time license, it can subtitle your videos for you. I think the biggest lesson of my adult life has been: If you don’t like doing something on the computer, see if there’s another program you can do it with because chances are you just hate that program (looking at you Logic Pro X).

So the next question is, of course, whether or not all of this is worth the effort. And, well, it’s complicated, but I think so, yes. At some point in the last two-three years, a likely-permanent shift happened online. It’s a video-first medium now. And most major social platforms use short videos as coal for their recommendation engine and if you want to build up an account quickly in 2023, which in turn helps you promote the content you’re making online, then the easiest way to do that is with video. Also, my mom says it’s nice to see me on camera, but I should smile more and comb my hair better and wear a nicer shir—

I’ve also quickly learned where my content is doing best and where it’s doing the worst. In terms of engagement, Bluesky and Tumblr are where I’m getting the most native sharing. But Bluesky and Tumblr users don’t click. And, even worse for poor ol’ Tumblr, trying to flip a Garbage Day post into a Tumblr post that will do well takes way too much time and effort for me to keep up with it. And, while it’s nice that Bluesky users like what I’m doing, at least, in theory, they don’t click and even fewer signup. According to my stats, only one Bluesky user ever has paid for a subscription and, apparently, not one single user on Tumblr has ever clicked over to Garbage Day, even on posts of mine with thousands of notes.

TikTok is also a bit of a black hole for me, as well. I’m not getting any growth or views there at all. Now, it could be that I am just not ever going to be popular with young people. But, also, most of my friends working in social media suspect that TikTok deprioritizes content that isn’t being made inside of TikTok with TikTok’s filters and features. Which I’m not doing. My theory is I would do better if I treated it more like Twitter and just dueted people and got into fights all day. So I’m considering making-TikTok-specific videos to test this out, but I’m skeptical that it’s ultimately worth the effort.

As for where I’m doing best, Threads is the clear winner. My videos do well there, my account there is growing the fastest, and it’s bringing in the most traffic to Garbage Day. Substack’s metrics label Threads traffic as coming from “Instagram.com” and if the current growth rate continues, it will overtake Twitter/X as the sixth-biggest referral for me by next month. But Meta pulls this bait-and-switch with referral traffic every three years or so when it wants to onboard a bunch of users, so who knows how long this will last. But if I can “capture” people’s emails, so to speak, does it matter how badly Meta bricks Threads when it finally decides to enshit itself?

I think a lot of people, myself included, are stuck in the mindset that you have to be online still. That there’s still some kind of social pressure for logging into the Hell Site to be afflicted by discourse, or whatever. But my main takeaway from these early days living out in the wilderness of the new internet is that everything is a big mess right now and you can kind of go and do whatever you want wherever you want. Which is, obviously, a little scary for folks who haven’t used their browser’s URL bar in a while, but four of the biggest platforms are all showing the same recycled video content and the smaller social networks that aren’t are, well, just social networks. Which means platforms don’t really matter anymore. We’re in a moment of possibility and, sure, I wish I could just write my little emails and call it a day, but exploring the web and figuring out what works for me isn’t the worst thing in the world either.

Turns Out Twitter Is Literally 9gag Now

—By Adam Bumas

According to our most recent bit of research into X, the site formerly known as Twitter, last month, the three fastest-growing accounts on the site were all part of the same project: Memeland, a new Web3 platform made by 9gag. Memeland has a DAO, or decentralized autonomous organization, several types of NFTs, a crypto token called Memecoin, and is posting a lot of jokes that might have been funny four or five years ago.

All the Memeland accounts gained basically identical numbers last month, since they gave free Memecoin to people who completed “quests,” which mostly amounted to following and boosting the associated accounts. They’re only paying in crypto, but it feels like a major turning point. The old joke with Twitter was “This website is free,” but it’s now bad enough people are starting to expect compensation.

Ryan didn’t know about this last week, when he reached the conclusion that Twitter is just 9gag now, and he wasn’t expecting such a big piece of confirmation so fast. Meanwhile, I’m a little surprised to see anything to do with Web3 get this much money in 2023, but maybe it’s fitting that a website that shows you seven-year-old memes would jump on a two-year-old content trend.

If you want to get more analysis like this, you should sign up for the monthly Garbage Intelligence reports. They’re $150 for a year and you get all the other Garbage Day subscriber benefits when you sign up. Plus, if you’re already a subscriber, you only pay the difference. Hit the green button to find out more.

OK, Maybe SNL Isn’t Ready To Be This Online?

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how Saturday Night Live suddenly felt a lot more online than it used to. Skits had become shorter and the humor felt a lot fresher. Part of that is thanks to the guys from Please Don’t Destroy, the Gen Z Lonely Island that makes digital shorts for the show now.

Well, this week something kind of weird happened. A Please Don’t Destroy skit featuring Timothée Chalamet went viral for including a joke about Hamas. People were mad about it and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about, so I clicked on it and discovered something even weirder.

In the skit, the joke is that Chalamet’s character is in a terrible band (called Hamas, pronounced “Hay-mas”) and he plays some of his music for the Please Don’t Destroy guys. But when Chalamet plays the music, it sounds almost identical to music from a video that went viral last week. Can’t embed it, but you can listen to the viral video here and the SNL version here at 0:52.

I’m pretty big into synth YouTube, so I know this guy’s videos. I featured one in Garbage Day last month. He goes by Eddie EWI and his videos get shared a lot and, almost every time, people say he makes “frog music,” to the point where in one of his recent videos, he turned himself into a frog with an AI. Which is exactly the joke the Please Don’t Destroy guys make in the SNL skit. From what I can tell, they didn’t license one of Eddie EWI’s songs and just made something that sounds similar? Though, I haven’t been able to confirm this because Eddie makes A LOT of music and it all sounds like, well, frog music lol. But I went through a bunch of his songs trying to see if it’s one of his or not and I didn’t find a match. Eddie EWI sorta-kinda commented on SNL “referencing” him in an Instagram Story that may or may not be sort of snarky, writing, “Frog music?” underneath a Reel of the skit.

More than anything this is just a bummer because this guy’s videos are great and more people could learn about him. That said, it’s also pretty weird that this happened in the same SNL episode where they seemingly fell for a fake Britney Spears memoir excerpt that had also recently gone viral on X? Anyways, I personally know dozens of recently-laid off digital culture writers that would be more than happy to help SNL’s writers room navigate this stuff better.

AI Needs A Hardware Hook That People Can Actually Use

I’m not sure if I’ve ever disclosed this before, but I’m big into smart home junk. Years ago, I bought a Google Home and a bunch of WiFi-powered outlets and, up until an inevitable software update bricked everything, had a setup where I could come home and as my lights to turn on. I felt like I was living in Star Trek. It was pretty fun!

These days, I’ve ditched most of the accessories and, instead, just keep a Google Nest in each room, which I mainly use for listening to music, asking what the weather’s going to be like, and — when it feels like actually doing it — controlling an iRobot vacuum cleaner. And as cool as I think these tools are, I’ll be the first to tell you that almost all of them suck major ass and barely work on a good day.

So I’ve been sort of confounded by the new Humane AI pin, which costs $700, requires a $300-a-year subscription to run it, looks ugly, and appears to have been designed solely for venture capitalists to have some new to talk about during an ayahuasca-fueled yoga retreat. Because, instead of making another wearable no one wants to wear, smart home devices literally already exist and are not good, but easily could be with the help of AI. Even funnier, the Humane pin appears to run on Android OS, which has led some redditors to wonder if it could be jailbroken and sideloaded with actually interesting apps.

My point is that we’re so deep into AI hype right now that very few of these companies are thinking about how we’re supposed to use this technology. Instead of releasing a big dumb AI-powered “rob me” badge, what if someone, literally anyone, just made the smart speaker work properly first?

Miley Cyrus Stans Are Upset About Pitchfork

Fifteen year rule, baby! What’s old becomes new again. This week, a Miley Cyrus fan account called @MileyEdition made a callout post against a writer named Eric Bennett who appears to have contributed to Pitchfork about three times. The reason for the digital dogpile was because Bennett had the gall to tweet that Miley Cyrus was their “Grammy season villain”.

Bennett went private, but a bunch of other writers came their defense, including culture journalist Josh Terry, who wrote, “Editor-in-chief of Pitchfork here: Being a stan is a mental illness. I’m going to call your parents.” Which then kicked off days of confused harassment against Terry from stans that both did and did not understand that he was not, in fact, the editor-in-chief of Pitchfork.

Anyways, not all fandoms are like this, of course, but there is a big chunk of pop music fandom composed entirely of fanatical monarchists but for pop singers. They’re obsessed with their review scores and award counts and sales charts and become violently enraged when anyone questions why that is. And, yes, in my personal experience whacking this hornets nest more than a few times, almost all of them are 14. But beyond that, imagining stanning Miley Cyrus in 2023? It’s Taylor’s Era now. Flop behavior if you ask me.

Ninja Streamed On X

Elon Musk is still trying to turn X into a platform that can compete with Twitch and YouTube when it comes to livestreaming. Which is especially ironic considering he chased away all the legitimate journalists that have literally spent a decade-plus using the site for broadcasting news.

Ninja did a test of X’s livestreaming product on Saturday. The video got around four million “views” and his tweet sharing it got around 37 million “views”. What’s nice about this is that Ninja streams on Twitch and YouTube, so we can do a bit of math to figure out exactly how over-inflated a view on X is. Ninja’s Fortnite stream on YouTube was viewed about 400,000 times and about 780,000 times on Twitch — which are both big, but pretty normal view counts for multi-hour livestreams. Both platforms use concurrent views for livestreams. So the minute you open up the stream, you’re counted as one view. They also continue to count views after the stream ends.

While both platforms are pretty inflated to begin with, according to X’s numbers, four-times as many people watched Ninja on X than they did on both Twitch and YouTube combined. And then an additional 33 million more views came in to the tweet announcing it. C’mon, man.

Cigarette Corona Torpedo Guy Is The Hot New Meme (Again)

This video first went viral back in 2022, when a user synced it up with Pokémon sound effects. It’s going viral again, now with the sound fonts of a bunch of other video games. Here is a short list of my favorites:

Some Stray Links

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


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