The Ellen Oscars selfie has fallen

Read to the end for a good post about "Mythbusters"

The Internet’s Not Just For News Anymore… Again

Earlier this week, the Hollywood Reporter published an article titled, “The 40(ish) Most Important People in Podcasting in 2023”. It’s a bizarre list of some genuinely big names in podcasting, mixed together with a bunch of names I can only describe as “Today Show segment safe”. And it was swiftly called out for being a weird, sloppy mess.

“Once more, mainstream entertainment media engages with podcasting and their findings are ‘The 40 most important people in podcasts are tech executives, Hollywood agents, podcasting division of old media, and famous people who started podcasts in the last three years’,” podcast host and producer Henry Gilbert tweeted (xeeted?).

Gilbert went on to ask why the list featured Joe Rogan and Ben Shapiro, but didn’t include Chapo Trap House, which is probably the most successfully crowdfunded podcast ever. And I’d go further and say any list about our current podcasting moment that doesn’t include Adam Friedland, journalist Michael Hobbes, or Bobbi Althoff feels pretty incomplete. The list does mention Althoff, but only in a blurb about her (male) agent. Curious! And that’s to say nothing of those massively popular trash podcasts dominating TikTok right now, like the godforsaken Whatever show, which also isn’t on this list.

But the Hollywood Reporter podcast roundup is just another example of a trend that is becoming harder and harder to ignore: The Media’s Internet and the Real(er) Internet aren’t really the same thing anymore and the Media’s Internet feels noticeably out of step with the Real(er) one.

Ten years ago, there wasn’t really a coherent centralized idea of what was on the internet. There were news sites, social networks and online communities, blogs, and entertainment content, just like there is now, but there wasn’t really one dominate point of view of what American internet culture was. Then Facebook’s algorithm flickered on in 2012, digital media publishers were flooded with traffic, legacy publishers were forced to fully embrace online publishing to compete, and, for a while, everything just became news content. A lot of independent publishers vanished, venture capital turned the big surviving blogs into newsrooms, and not only was all of the most viral content news content, but viral content became newsworthy in and of itself.

And this had a funny effect on our perception of what the internet was. Big publishers, in tandem with corporate social networks, and, eventually, broadcasters could project their point of view of what was popular online and it sort of worked as a self-fulfilling prophecy for a while. I’d say it wasn’t until COVID that the cracks started to show.

This transition from the fairly diverse digital publishing ecosystem of the 2000s, to the glossy Facebook-powered corporate content orgy of the 2010s, to, now, the increasingly irrelevant e-sludge of the early 2020s, was actually really succinctly illustrated in a recent Atlantic piece by Charlie Warzel about the worsening vibes over at post-New York Times acquisition Wirecutter.

“Is there a place on an ever more commercialized web for long, obsessive letters from an anti-consumerist, gadget-loving friend,” Warzel asks at the end of his piece. “Or is the craft and care of the meticulous product review now a digital antique?”

Though I don’t disagree and wonder the same thing, I would argue something else is happening. And to bring it back to the aforementioned podcast list above, Joe Rogan is an interesting counterpoint to Wirecutter. One was subsumed into the mainstream media and lost its grassroots sizzle, while the other stayed independent and morphed into a dangerously popular populist juggernaut. And that distinction is becoming more obvious because as Twitter continues to degrade because we still haven’t found a new hospitable centralized feed for journalists and, more importantly, their editors to move to. And until we do — if we ever do — the vibes at most digital publishers will continue to worsen. I sympathize with any reporter who has had an editor slack them a random Bluesky link in the last month with the inevitable question of, “is this anything???”

Considering how dire the situation is at the old big digital media outlets and how ascendent the new Pop Crave generation of social publishers have become, it might be worth asking if digital publishing, as we’ve understood it, as a bunch of websites that people work for, will last long enough to make it to the next Twitter. I hesitate to treat anything Twitter (X) does with any sort of seriousness, but the fact that the site, in the same week, accidentally nuked all links and images before 2014, including the pinnacle of corporate digital media, the Ellen Oscars selfie, and also announced they would be removing headlines from third-party links seems like a portent sign of where we’re headed.

Which makes the timing of the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes all the more interesting. Because when the remainder of America’s media apparatus comes back online, I assume TV shows will start to feel as off as news outlets do now. Gone are the days of cartoon horses talking about how trending topics make them depressed. Without access to a Twitter that feels representative of the wider internet, mainstream media’s shortcut to the zeitgeist has been severed. Mass media is losing its claim to the “mass” and things are going to feel very strange for a while as a new, more pluralistic status quo emerges. If it emerges at all.

I assume TikTok will be mined for pop culture the way Twitter was, but it doesn’t really work the same way. Which means our near-future will most likely be streaming shows referencing memes you’ve never heard of featuring talent famous on an app you only half-recognize while the news on your TV — which you watch clips of on YouTube — tells you about Jason Bateman’s new podcast, which is apparently very popular, which you can watch it, not listen to it, on a streaming app you might not have.

Garbage Day Live! October! Brooklyn!

👉🏻👉🏻👉🏻 Tickets Here!

If you can’t come and don’t already subscribe to Garbage Day, think about signing up. You get a bunch of great bonus content. If you can’t come and already subscribe, you’re cool. Don’t sweat it. I love you.

The Verdict On Garbage Day Summer Hours

At the start of June, I scaled back my schedule pretty considerably, dropping from three free issues and one paid issue a week to one free and one paid. There was a bunch of stuff beyond the newsletter I wanted to square away and realized if I didn’t do it now, I’d never do it. I wrote a live stage version of Garbage Day, took it on a small international tour, finished up the Random Garbage web app, and brought on a researcher, Adam Bumas, and launched the monthly Garbage Intelligence reports. And I’m happy to say I came out of this summer with the business side of Garbage Day in much stronger place. Which is a huge relief. But, as a big metrics weirdo, I was curious what a sparser publishing schedule meant for my N U M B E R S. Well, here’s what happened:

The most interesting thing is that, compared to a similar stretch of time between January and March, my rate of new free reader signups this summer only decreased by 3%. That’s actually crazy when you consider I cut my output in half. Now, obviously, my total traffic dropped, though, once again, not as much as I expected. Substack’s metrics aren’t super easy to parse when it comes to this sort of thing, but I had around 1.4 million total views during that January-March period. From June up until now, I’m at around 800,000-900,000 views. (Not that traffic really matters for me because I’m not supported by ads, but it’s cool to know.) And, finally, from what I can tell, summer hours increased my average open rate, which was sagging a bit in the spring. It’s now back over 50%, though, Substack doesn’t distinguish open rates for free and paid issues when it calculates your average, which, to me, feels like cheating, but, hey, I’ll take it anyways.

So, am I sticking with this schedule forever? Well, unfortunately for the further optimization of my newsletter, the dumb human animal in me is honestly not very good at brevity. I spent the summer feeling either too early or too late to stories I wanted to cover, which was frustrating. Right now, my plan is to come back in September with a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule, but keep the Friday issue the paywalled weekend digest. And that’s sort of what my plan is for the foreseeable future I think. Thanks for rolling with this and I’m excited to further torment your inboxes at a slightly increased frequency next month.

Linda Yaccarino’s Cyber Hell

Yo, what is this lady’s deal? She is supposedly “CEO” of Twitter, but I have no idea what she actually does. Her tweets are ChatGPT-level vaporcontent and her replies are full of verified sub-500-follower accounts writing things like “cool” and “ok”. That’s not a joke by the way:

I know I am in the minority when it comes to having fun online. I enjoy an internet full of people creating and sharing interesting things. Which, according to The Invisible Hand Of The Market, is not good. But I just can’t imagine anyone could look at this and think that this is anything. Anyways, I’m sure Yaccarino’s bizarre tweets and grim replies has nothing to do with the fact that after Elon Musk bought the site, it was flooded with millions of fake and/or inactive accounts. I’m confident there are a lots of real people both running the site and using it still.

Conservatives Are Still Obsessed With iTunes

The newest right-wing iTunes success is Oliver Anthony and his new “hit” song “Rich Men North Of Richmond”. I had put off listening to it while I was on vacation and, yeah, it sucks ass and that’s coming from me, a lifelong folk punk fan who can happily listen to the worst conceivable version of this kind of music, which is often performed by people who literally eat trash.

Regardless of the head-scratching about how this song has become the number one hit in America, it does seem naive to try and claim that this isn’t an organic hit. That said, the early buzz from right-wing influencers and the Verified Twitter set about Anthony’s success on iTunes, shouldn’t go overlooked either. For months, conservatives have been trying to figure out how to use iTunes as a way to launch content, starting with former President Donald Trump’s awful January 6th choir song. And then, back in April, I noted that MAGA rappers were also becoming fixated on iTunes sales, as well. Forgiato Blow, that right-wing rapper who looks like every guy who ever left blunt guts on my coffee table in college, released a song in the spring called “Fock Bud Light” and then spent weeks bragging about it’s placement on iTunes, an application that does not appear to be accessible on my Macbook anymore? Maybe it’s inside of Apple Music, but I, honestly, don’t care enough to check.

As for why conservatives are so interested in iTunes, my theory is it’s because it’s one of the last sectors tracking pop culture that you can easily inject cash into to climb its leaderboard. I’m not saying that Anthony’s song hit number one because Republican dark money got pumped into iTunes, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if that wasn’t part of it and definitely establishing a playbook for doing more of this sort of things.

Those Who Do Not Learn From Pokémon Go To The Polls Are Doomed To, Once Again, Pokémon Go To The Polls

Conservatives being obsessed with iTunes is only slightly more sane that whatever the plan was behind the Dark Brandon Fox News ads. According to People, who had the exclusive on this for some reason, all day today, the front page of Fox News’ website will feature a “Dark Brandon” ad promising to bring “Roe back”.

Here’s what the ad looked like when I checked it this morning:

Very cool. I’m sure people will both notice this ad and also understand that it’s supposed to be pro-Biden before clicking on the top story next to it about a Catholic orchard owner suing the city of East Lansing, Michigan.

As Media Matters For America’s Matthew Gertz tweeted, “Owning the GOP by shoveling money at its top propaganda organ featuring messaging impenetrable to its audience to place an exclusive in People. I’m dubious.”

An Important Philosophical Question About TikTok

Over the weekend, a Twitter user named @fiImgal posted a TikTok from a user named @thatsnotlove. The TikTok was about how to avoid seeing nudity while going to watch Oppenheimer. It turns out @thatsnotlove is a Christian anti-porn activist and, per her videos, her husband is a recovering porn addict who can’t see nudity without triggering a relapse. You know, there’s like a million things in those last few sentences that I could comment on, but let’s just keep moving and not think too hard about any of that. Here’s an example of a typical @thatsnotlove video. The one that went viral seems to have been deleted.

This morning, after days of discourse and backlash, @thatsnotlove posted a tearful apology, saying she’s sorry she embarrassed her family and her husband and that she just wanted to be part of the anti-porn movement and help other women.

Amid the viral chatter about the video, a Twitter user named @zachheltzel posed an interesting question, writing, “Have people gone insane or were they always like this and now we can see it because of the internet?”

And I think this video’s viral life cycle, from the way it was yanked out of the context of its original feed, to the discovery that it was part of a broader “movement,” to the eventual apology response video, is a really good example of How Things Work Now and an answer to that question.

I think most people are extremely weird and don’t know it. And the deranged content they were unawarely posting to their friends and families on Facebook 10 years ago, is now going on TikTok in the form of a video that features their face. When they post that content, it attracts other similar weirdos, but also a ton of attention from people who aren’t the same kind of weirdo. And that attention is often terrifying because, unlike getting yelled at on Facebook for a bad post, people are yelling at your face and the words coming out of your mouth. So, you either have to double down or cave and apologize.

Honestly, I’m surprised people are still using TikTok this way.

Forbidden Smooth Coke

Some Stray Links

P.S. here’s a good post about Mythbusters.

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

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