Media Haves and Have-Nots

Thursday was my favorite day of the week growing up. That may seem like an odd call, but it's the day that, roughly 50 weeks a year, Sports Illustrated arrived in the mail. 

Back in the 1970s and 80s, the magazine fed my obsession with sports — whether it be Franco Harris, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Super Bowls against the Dallas Cowboys; fictional (and almost fictional) characters like pitchers Sidd Finch and Mark “The Bird” Fidrych; and as I’d later come to appreciate, the originality of writers like Dan Jenkins, whose style was a precursor to new journalism practiced by icons outside of sport like Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese.

Sports Illustrated was a factory for profitable ideas like Sportsman of the Year, Faces in the Crowd and the annual Swimsuit Issue. These concepts transcended the magazine into standalone platforms and spawned numerous copycats that make up sports media today.

I thought about the fading legacy and creative depth of magazines like Sports Illustrated while exploring Apple’s shiny new news bundle, Apple News+. With the decline of publishing dating back more than a decade, Apple News+ as a model for media engagement is especially consequential considering the 1.3 billion iOS devices that can now run it. 

As reported in The New York Times — ironically joining The Washington Post as one of the few major publications who declined to join up — $9.95 a month gets us access to a digital newsstand carrying more than 300 publications. Selection ranges from high-end magazines like The New YorkerVanity Fair and Vogue, to newspapers including The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, to a deep catalog of branded and niche content like Airbnb Magazine and Salt Water Sportsman

The Apple News+ user experience presents conventions like “publications,” “magazines” and “newspapers” as fading constructs given the content blend it presents from hundreds of sources. The experience leans on previous investment in its digital newsstand, Texture (where many titles were PDF replicas of print copies), combined with repackaged articles and curated summaries included in the first rev of Apple News. 

As only Apple can do, the all-you-can-eat media buffet attracted over 200,000 subscribers in the first 48 hours. As a frequent user of Texture, I was quick to sign up and can say without question that its both awesome in its inventory, and daunting when it comes to where to direct my attention. I say this in both a personal and professional context. 

As a content consumer, gone are the days of deep, scheduled reading that leads to anticipation and appreciation for a content brand like Sports Illustrated. In its place is a venue better suited for breezing through story fragments, across an array of interests from a multitude of sources. 

In a professional context, gone too are the days of solely directing energy toward getting clients primary coverage in known entities. In its place is a mandate to continually assess and work with the most engaging voices — irrespective of past categorization — by taking an analytical view at a moment in time. 

While anyone with an internet connection can be a content producer, what’s not democratic is content dissemination and choice of where we choose to divert our attention. Apple News+ is the latest and perhaps most visible case of tech platforms assuming power to control just that.

The scale of distribution through Apple's devices, combined with a model that elevates its own editorial curation with algorithmic publishing, gives reporters at venues like Vanity Fair ample reason to question if the company's move represents a “party or wake.” 

My bet is on the latter. As the links below demonstrate, only the strongest, most technically savvy sources will survive. 

Chris Perry 

Learn more about how machine intelligence is fundamentally changing communications with the Media Genius Study Guide. 

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What We're Reading
Content Experience
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Condé Nast recently appointed the former head of music streaming service, Pandora, as the company's first global chief executive. The move reinforces the new reality illuminated by Apple News+ — publishers will accelerate efforts to shed print franchises and reinvest in digitally-driven experiences. 

Media Forensics
Why There's so Little Left of the Early Internet
By Stephen Dowling, BBC

Published content isn't the only media that loses its shelf life — much of our earliest online activity has also disappeared. Because it took nearly five years for anyone to make a concerted effort to archive the Internet, original content like the Million Dollar Homepage is at risk.

Content Experience
At Cosmopolitan Magazine, Data is the New Sex
By Katherine Rosman, The New York Times

At Cosmopolitan, data is embraced as much as the publication has historically embraced sex. The publication's efforts indicate how parent company Hearst Media has recognized the need for analytics to drive creativity. By pulling metrics from Snapchat polls, Instagram accounts and subscription analytics, data informs how to get content to the right audiences. 

Media Forensics
Old, Online, And Fed On Lies: How An Aging Population Will Reshape The Internet
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Although many older Americans have embraced technology, a growing body of research shows they have disproportionately fallen prey to the dangers of internet misinformation and risk being further polarized by their online habits. 

Platform Dominance
E-Sports Embraces Traditional Training Methods: Less Pizza, More Yoga
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Professional gamers often don’t think of themselves as physical human beings, and therefore ignore concepts like eating right, sleeping, exercising and cleaning up for sponsors. But now in the world of professional e-sports, gamers are being shepherded toward a new frontier by the old wisdom of traditional sports.

Leadership Instincts
How NASA’s Pirate Paradigm Challenged The Status Quo
By NOBL Academy

In an organization struggling to innovate, troublemakers can sometimes be saviors. Renegades like NASA’S Pirates work outside of organization norms to challenge everything as means to spot emerging problems and invent radically new responses.

Content Experience
What's The Correct Way to Pronounce 'GIF'? 
By  EditorDavid, Slashdot

Once again, the Internet has been fighting about how to pronounce the word "GIF." Despite attempts to settle this debate when creator of the GIF image format, Steve Wilhite, confirmed the soft G pronunciation, saying the word with a hard G is still very widespread and readily understood.

Emerging Technology
Influencers are Hosting Livestreams for Their Fans to Watch them Shop
By Jill Manoff, Digiday

The next evolution of making shopping a social experience, beyond unboxing videos and influencer hauls, is influencers livestreaming their shopping trips and interacting with their fans along the way.

Deep Take
Here’s Who Owns Everything in Big Media Today
By Rani Molla and Peter Kafka, Recode
The media landscape is remarkable canvas illustrating change. To help sort this out, Recode created a diagram that organizes distributors, content companies and internet video companies by market cap and main lines of business.
Copyright © 2019 Weber Shandwick

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