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Tumblr Adds Subscriptions
I’ve been following the roll out of different payment systems for social platforms over the last six months and it’s now time to add Tumblr to the growing list of what Homebrew’s Hunter Walk has called “digital busking” services. To catch you up, here is a list that is by no means exhaustive of what sites are offering currently:
Twitter has a “tip jar”
Clubhouse has “payments”
Facebook has “stars,” which I had actually never heard of until I sat down to write this, but it works similarly to Reddit Gold, where users can award creators with stars, which they can convert into real money.
OnlyFans has “tipping”
Twitch has “bits”
YouTube has “super stickers” and a “view applause” feature
Instagram supports “badges” during lives
TikTok has “virtual gifts” during lives
Oh, and YouTube just this morning announced “Super Thanks”. I am both optimistic and skeptical of all of these services (more on that in a sec).
Tumblr’s new Post+ works like Substack or Patreon and will allow users to set a subscription for their content with prices starting $3.99. Starting today, users that are part of the beta test will see a checkbox which puts the content behind their paywall. The paywalled post will only be allowed to be liked, reblogged, or commented on by subscribers. Tumblr takes a 5% cut from the subscription revenue.
Tumblr’s architecture is really unique, in the sense that heavily reblogged posts travel around the site for years (I have three million-note posts that are still reblogged every day). With Post+, non-subscribers will only see a teaser text on the dashboard when the posts are reblogged. And users will be banned if they try and pirate paywalled content.
I honestly think Tumblr is probably one of the online communities best served by monetization features. Users over the years have found ways to hack it to make money, whether it’s artists doing direct commission work, GoFundMe’s for struggling activists or vulnerable young people, or connecting private blog invites to Patreon. There’s a huge creator world there that has been largely underserved and I feel like paywalls could be really useful particularly for things like serialized fan fiction.
But as I said, as exciting as this all is, I’m also skeptical. Which brings me to our next topic…
The Rise Of The Hustle Bro
This week I have a piece in Foreign Policy about El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele, Bitcoin, and a new particular kind of political-financial movement I’m calling “hustle bro populism”. It turned out to be a little tricky to define — many of the researchers I spoke to for the piece got really frustrated trying to describe this very specific kind of millennial man who loves crypto, meme stocks, glamorous Instagram photos of business deals, and, of course, bullying people on Twitter and then acting like he’s victim. But I took a whack at defining it as it relates to El Salvador’s millennial authoritarian president:
His light authoritarianism is built on a sense of coolness. His public image is shaped by glamorous Instagram photos of him wearing aviator sunglasses and meeting with other powerful men, and a Twitter account that alternates between updates about the country’s COVID-19 cases and retweets of his followers sharing reaction memes. His entire online persona is akin to that of Jake Paul, the mega-popular American YouTuber who has tried to parlay his internet fame into a second career as an entrepreneur. Bukele is crushing it every day, and his 2.7 million Twitter followers make sure everyone in El Salvador knows it…
…He has become more authoritarian and autocratic while also veering toward a very specific kind of millennial maximalist economic liberalism, something that’s sometimes derided online as “hustle bro” culture.
It feels like this kind of guy is popping up everywhere right now. In the same way that in every small town there is a baby boomer man who think of himself as the Trump of his community, I suspect there’s a Bukele complaining about women journalists in a Clubhouse room in every city right now.
And this all ties into a larger a trend you can see on sites like YouTube and TikTok, where influencers promote pyramid schemes and “financial hacks” to millions of followers. I recently put together a YouTube video about this and this week’s episode of The Content Mines podcast will explore this idea even more.
I think there are several reasons why this kind of guy is popping up and why they are so popular, but I think the biggest reason is that as huge platforms offer monetization features to users, without turning down the dial on the algorithmic trending topics that power their apps, commerce and virality are increasing intertwined. And this is a problem because political power and virality are also now intertwined. So the end result is a world where financial structures, political mechanisms, and internet clout are becoming the same thing.
Which brings me to our next topic…
Marjorie Taylor Greene Won’t Say If She’s Been Vaccinated
Yesterday, sentient Applebee’s margarita Marjorie Taylor Greene received a 12-hour suspension from Twitter for posting misinformation about COVID-19. Ah, yes, I’m sure that will absolutely fix things. Her tweets will also stay up, but now they have a warning that they contain misleading information. Great job, Twitter. All better. Everyone loves vaccines now.
Then, during an impromptu meeting with the press in her office yesterday, Greene refused to admit whether or not she had been vaccinated yet. She claimed it was a violation of her HIPAA rights (it’s not).
But it really doesn’t matter for Greene’s supporters that she, one, doesn’t know what HIPAA is or, two, didn’t really answer the reporter’s question. This is a game. It’s the same game being played by Fox News, which currently requires a vaccine passport to enter the building it uses to broadcast anti-vax content from.
The entire conservative political strategy right now is to break the functions of society and rebuild it in a way that better suits them and their main wrecking ball is viral clips and online misinformation. And you better believe that this party-wide spew of dizzying bull shit has a financial angle to it.
New York Times religion writer Sam Kestenbaum posted an absolutely wild thread over the weekend documenting his time at Clay Clark’s rHealth and Freedom tour. Clark is a right-wing podcaster and self-described “entrepreneur extraordinaire” and business coach. And his Health and Freedom tour is essentially the church of Q, a Republican tent revival service complete with a facelift kit booth. Clark was also connected to the bizarre Michael Flynn whiteboard from a few weeks ago. You should click through and read Kestenbaum’s whole thread.
As chilling as it all is, the Health and Freedom tour also is a great look at what this is all about. Over the course of the last five years, the Republican party has absorbed the believers of every fringe conspiracy theory that exists in America, as well as every grifter and con artist. And, now, in the absence of Trump, all of these warring factions are trying to figure out how to fill the vacuum. Is it anti-vax? Is it Christianity? Is it anti-critical race theory? Is it being pro-porn or anti-porn? Is it crypto? Only time will tell, but the pathways between viral content, online outrage, political power, and financial capital are connected now and this year’s Gamestop pump was only the beginning.
A Good Tweet
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Another Good Tweet
The Great Event Invite Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Point: VICE’s Katie Way says that the best way to invite a person to a party right now is via Instagram’s Close Friends feature. Way writes, “It’s enticing, but not aggressive. It’s selective, but the bar is low for entering the pool of potential selectees. At this point, email invites feel too formal, like for an engagement party; texting is for pre-games; and Facebook is for finding out which one of your high school teachers just retired.”
Counter-point: Embedded’s Kate Lindsay says Instagram Close Friends is NOT the best way to invite people to something because many people could miss the invite. Lindsay writes, “Facebook reminds you about the event whether or not you've replied, which means that everyone has simply forgotten how to manually add events to their calendars. My friend Nancy ran into this problem at her own birthday last week. She had sent out a combination of emails and text messages about her gathering in the park, but found herself the day before sending out reminders on the assumption that they had received the invite and then promptly forgotten about it.”
I thought I’d have an opinion on this, but I actually don’t. I’m turning 32 this year, most of my friends are getting married and moving out of major cities, and I have the phone numbers of anyone I would want to hang out with. But I do think it’s weird that there really isn’t a way to easily invite a bunch of people to an event anymore! Though, technically, this is how things were before Facebook Events, so maybe we’re returning to a more natural state of socializing?
I should be clear, I wrote this in a way that sounds like Facebook Events don’t exist anymore. They do, but a Facebook Event these days feels like a tool better suited for like inviting folks to an accelerationist terror cell’s meeting to overthrow the government than organizing a birthday party.
A New Foe Has Appeared: Hugh Neutron
Mark DeCarlo, the voice after for Hugh Neutron on Jimmy Neutron has answered a few fan requests recently and they are incredible.
First, DeCarlo recorded Hugh Neutron saying, “looks like you’re getting zero’d to death there, Jimbo” for Twitter user @EspadaAmorosa. Which is hilarious and you can watch below.
Espada @EspadaAmorosaI need yall to RT / LIKE this tweet right now 🤣🤣🤣 One of my childhood heroes is willing to deliver! https://t.co/iyAjTXDTlc
And then, a few days later, DeCarlo recorded Hugh Neutron sending Jimmy to the Shadow Realm a la Yu-Gi-Oh! and it’s even better.
DeCarlo’s account is very funny and definitely worth checking out!
Kodak Deleted Instagram Photos From Xinjiang
This week, Kodak posted and then deleted 10 pictures from French photographer Patrick Wack. Kodak then replaced the photos with a lengthy statement, apologizing for the “misunderstanding or offense” caused by the post.
Wack’s photos, a few of which you can see here, were taken over the last five years and depict Xinjiang, China, as an “Orwellian dystopia” for the Uyghurs living there.
A Sonic Thread Tweeted And Deleted
OK, so, Garbage Day comes out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On Thursdays, I edit a podcast and sometimes publish an extra Garbage Day issue. This means that my main day to run errands, handle logistical things for the newsletter, and work on freelance projects is Tuesday. Because of that I typically try and close Twitter and put my head down and work. But yesterday I didn’t get to have that moment of productive offline-ness because MULTIPLE readers sent me the Sonic plush thread.
Even more annoying, the OP of the thread, user @justincousson deleted it after it started going viral. So I can’t even use it properly in this issue. But, on the off chance that @justincousson decides to repost it or screenshots surface, I will leave you with this absolutely chilling NSFW tweet about what the Sonic plushie thread was about:
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a really cool picture I like.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***