Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

Sympathy for the Monster – Why we’re all gonna miss Nick Denton

The New Yorker ran a profile of one of my favorite people on Monday and the whole Internet is talking about it.

No, that’s not true. A subset of media-obsessed digerati are talking about it, and I’m following about a hundred of them on Twitter. So I have seen a thousand posts about Nick Denton this week and I expect to see people quoting this article for years.

Ben McGrath has written an awesome piece here — a (relatively gentle) biography of a transformative media figure. It’s not a puff piece or a hit piece; it’s just journalism – an honest portrait of a guy who has taken the “mean and mysterious” thing about as far as it can go.

I’ve been following Denton for years, since Gawker was just a cheeky blog about New York. I always thought he was creating the future of journalism, but this piece has showed me something else. Gawker is still the future of journalism, but that future will never quite arrive.

Any minute now Gawker will experience a perfect nanosecond where they are the world standard for digital journalism; then, an eyeblink later, some other site will leave them behind.

Nick Denton is one of those people who seemed destined to change the world; but the world does not change for nice people. McGrath’s article makes him sound like a charming sociopath, like there’s an alternate Nick Denton out there somewhere, collecting victims in the back of a white van.

Denton is an agent of change, like a forest fire burning away dead wood. And if your reputation gets caught in the blaze, well, that’s just what fires do.

A random quote from Denton reminded me of something in my favorite book. A mentor figure in “The Diamond Age” is devoted to the cultivation of subversiveness in the young. He’s worried that the children in his society have become too comfortable, too complacent, too accepting of authority.

He wants to create an educational program that will encourage the development of entrepreneurs — a new class of subversives who will create a better world by tearing the old one down. Nick Denton is the ultimate subversive – a natural subversive who revels in the destruction of old media, even as he craves attention from the giants who came before.

The most surprising thing in this piece is the sense that it’s all getting away from him. Gawker has become so successful, it can’t really be about New York anymore. Denton created this empire by pandering to his audience, giving them exactly what they want and ruthlessly rejecting anything that didn’t bring in traffic.

But Gawker’s new national audience doesn’t really care about New York anymore. The media figures that Denton loves to provoke are just a bunch of “Old White Men” to them. Denton’s latest attack on New York Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman got 6,000 hits. Candid photos of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg got 300,000.

Nick Denton is the Rupert Murdoch of digital media, but he can’t indulge personal obsessions on Gawker anymore. The readers are in charge now, and Nick is just along for the ride.

This is the real difference between old media and new media. People aren’t afraid of Nick Denton; they’re afraid of his readers. Old media is about what readers should want. New media is about what they actually want. And what they want is so raw, even Nick Denton sounds overwhelmed by it.

McGrath says, “Denton’s own writers live in constant dread of diminishing word counts and the inevitable dumbing down of the culture.”

“How things show up on Twitter, these days, matters more than the full text,” Denton says.

Nick Denton may be a monster, but he’s not the real enemy. He was just the first guy to see the shape of this, selling news to the invading army of Internet users, hungry for snark, gossip and celebrity flesh.

Denton’s successor won’t be a ruthless Brit with a soft spot for Spy Magazine. The next Nick Denton won’t even be human. The next generation of gossip sites will be soulless collections of algorithms and keywords, sucking in readers with laser-targeted bursts of text, precisely measured to match their attention spans.

I’m tipping my hat to the monster here because I remember what really made Gawker great; the one thing McGrath leaves out of his profile. Nick Denton built his empire on voices. Gawker conquered the Internet because Nick Denton has the best “ear” for writing talent that I have ever seen.

The profiles treat them like interchangeable parts, but Denton’s empire was built on the writing talents of people like Elizabeth Spiers, Choire Sicha and Alex Balk – writers who brought the snark but kept that tiny bit of humanity that let you know you were still reading a real person. That personal touch is the difference between news and blogging and it’s that personal touch that kept readers coming back.

Denton has abandoned that strategy now. He doesn’t even measure repeat visitors anymore. There’s no time to form a personal relationship with a writer; no time for any of that sentimental nonsense, in this brave new world of big ads and unique visitors.

Nick Denton is at the mercy of his readers, and now so are we, as the “golden age” of blogging makes way for a new kind of industrial revolution.

People love to hate Nick Denton, but we’re gonna miss him, when word counts shrink to character counts and writers are replaced by blade servers running Microsoft Snark.

Written by Not Jaffo

October 11, 2010 at 04:53

You say you don’t care about Tiger Woods, but Google knows better

I have seen the Next Big Thing in news, and it’s not what you think.

It’s not a new cable network. It’s not a killer app for your phone; it’s not Google, and it’s not Rupert Murdoch, vowing to get rich by removing himself from phone books.

It’s an animated video of Tiger Woods spanking a porn star.

http://lubbockonline.com/stories/121109/col_534414154.shtml

Written by Not Jaffo

December 11, 2009 at 07:21

Posted in Columns, Google, Journalism

Post-award interview with Peggy Olson and Carri Bugbee

michaelduff: @peggyolson is crouched in a stairwell at the #shorty awards, so we’re gonna get started. Peggy, feel free to use more than one tweet.

peggyolson: Will do. Unfortunately, the music is so loud here at the hall where they held the Shorty Awards, I can’t hear myself think.

michaelduff: First off, congratulations, on your big night. How does it feel to be getting an award?

peggyolson: It feels amazing. There were so many people here at the awards show that wanted to meet me, I was surprised.

michaelduff: Were you nervous on stage?

peggyolson: No, I wasn’t nervous at all. But was surprised that the crowd hushed when I walked on stage. Didn’t expect that.

michaelduff: I have to ask, what did Peggy Olson think of MC Hammer?

michaelduff: (Ha, that one made her think!)

peggyolson: A reporter asked to take my picture with that musician and later said that I was more popular tonight than the musician was.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Not Jaffo

February 12, 2009 at 01:59

Posted in Best Of, Culture, Journalism, TV

Transcript of Live Tweets from The Shorty Awards

Live video from Shorty Awards starts in 40 minutes, according to my rudimentary grasp of time zones and basic math. http://shortyawards.com/

Wacky Internet fun time starts now! http://blogs.lubbockonline….

The most prolific Tweeters in the world will be in one room tonight, trying to route their collective genius through one cell tower. #shorty

Got called, “the Joan Rivers of the Shorty awards” yesterday. I have heels and a wig, just need gold lame dress and old lady pearls. #shorty

Apparently the venue is floating on water? Did they remember the giant Styrofoam whale? #shorty

Join me for live interview with @peggyolson after the show. #shorty

Wonder who picked the music here. Last time I heard music like this, Orson Wells broke in for an alien invasion. #shorty

As pre-shows go, I think I prefer the HuffPo inauguration chaos. Geeks in black t-shirts running around with AV equipment. #shorty

Muzak is Frank Sinatra’s My Way. Is this really the tone we’re going for? #shorty

My Way summarized in 140 char: Life rocked. Dead now. Have you married Ava Gardener yet? Get busy! #shorty

So, the revolution won’t be televised, but there will be a band. #shorty

Just think, in 5 years this’ll be the Honda/Snapple Shorty Awards and the video will be obscured by a giant Chili’s banner. #shorty

I wonder if the Mad Men will get in a fight with Tweeters from other shows? Betty could totally take that tramp from @gossipgirl #shorty

@EHolmesWSJ “@PeggyOlson wearing fishnets and red pumps” I probably owe WSJ a royalty for quoting that. #shorty

Song topics include: death, murder, Sinatra and SATAN. For a finale, the Devil will challenge @charlestrippy for a gold guitar. #shorty

Massive props to band for using phrase “corral of glory” I think I have that on VHS. #shorty

Tonight’s “Music to sell your soul by” provided by @tinpanband #shorty

@socialmediagods have quote of the show so far, “Do you want us to make a benediction to kick off your little show?”

I just heard that @peggyolson has 10 people helping with her “big reveal.” What is she revealing that takes 10 people to lift? #shorty

That’s what I came to see. Young men in ties gesturing frantically to the band. #shorty

I think Greg taught me Political Science in 8th Grade. #shorty

“The 10 Commandments are ten Tweets.” Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s follower count. #shorty

Shorty Awards sponsored by Pepsi and the Knight Foundation. #shorty

@ricksanchezcnn is on screen now, so if he tweets in the next two minutes, it’s his assistant. #shorty

“The idea that you can mix old media with new media is pretty crazy.” Reference to “old suits” at CNN. Cough. #shorty

“You are my assignment editors, you are my focus group, you are my friends.”

Nice touch with the failwhale in the skit. #shorty

@ricksanchezcnn is adding class and professionalism to the proceedings. #shorty

He loves to remind people “he’s a Miami guy.” Did it 5 times during each Imus appearance. #shorty

The phrase, “Journalist who gets it” makes my eyes narrow. #shorty

Let’s get ready to Twumble! #shorty

Quick, how many of these people will be drunk? #shorty

Oh lord, first acceptance speech with a URL in it. #shorty

And here’s Peggy! @peggyolson #shorty With AMC Director of Online Media presenting

That’s Carrie Bugbee, the “real person” behind @peggyolson. I’ll be chatting with Carrie after the awards. #shorty

MC Hammer joins the party. Lot of energy in the room. Could perhaps use a bit more on stage. #shorty

Using Twitter for marketing? After these awards, you’ll wonder if it’s used for anything else. #shorty

#shorty And now the @charlestrippy moment, quoting Rick Astley. I think the biggest problem here is that we can’t hear the audience well.

Reading your 140 char speech VERY SLOWLY may be considered cheating. #shorty

Kudos to the Mars Rovers! Nice to see the inanimate objects represented tonight. #shorty

@actionwipes winning out over bitter rival @papertowels #shorty

Maybe not the most polished presentation in history, but there’s a sincerity here that makes it kind of sweet. #shorty

Wow, Twitter, inc. is really phoning this in. “The power of constraints?” Biz Stone #shorty

The Knight Foundation, they do JOURNALISM, or something. Kudos to the Shorty people for providing an open bar during a recession. #shorty

Working out interview details with @peggyolson Cell and Internet traffic must be crazy over there. #shorty

AFAIK, this will be the first real interview done via Twitter. Maybe because it’s a new idea or maybe because it’s a BAD idea. #shorty

Written by Not Jaffo

February 11, 2009 at 20:59

Live Shorty Award coverage starts now!

Everybody jump on Twitter and add me @michaelduff to see my live interview with @peggyolson after the show.

Video stream starts at 6:30 p.m Central.

Join the fun and submit questions as I flounder aimlessly and struggle to fill time before the main event.

Watch as I tell lame jokes and struggle to fill space with empty snark! Watch as I poke fun at celebrities and attempt to mock my betters. Sign up for our riveting “What the hell does Rick Sanchez use on his hair?” game!

Thrill as I think up questions for a fan pretending to be a fictional character who is actually another fictional character!

Submit suggestions for my new project, “100 Ways to Explain Twitter to Newspaper People.”

“You know when you’re at a really bad dinner party and a dozen people are talking at once and you can’t really follow what’s going on, but you have to nod your head and smile and make small talk anyway?”

It’s like that, only it’s on THE INTERNET!

For extra credit, submit entries for my second project, “How the hell are we supposed to make money off this?’

Wacky Internet Twitter fun time starts now.

Oh, and if you see this? It means you broke Twitter and need to put your thimble back on GO!

Written by Not Jaffo

February 11, 2009 at 18:22

Posted in Journalism

New York Times finally gets it right

Eventually, even the New York Times gets it right.

They haven't thrown the switch yet, but NYT is about to take their opinion columns from behind the pay firewall and make Dowd, Krugman and company available for free again.

They're also planning to open up their archives back through 1980 so the entire history of the paper can be accessed from Google or Yahoo.

The powers that be finally realized they can make more money off advertisers than they can from subscribers, and that Google searches bring in more traffic than direct visitors. A blinding insight that's been obvious to Internet users since 1996.

We still have a long way to go when it comes to improving Lubbock Online, but I'm proud to work for a paper with open archives and no registration.

This change is particularly welcome in the case of the New York Times, because their archives really do capture important moments in American history. I'm a huge Mark Twain fan, so on a whim, I put “mark twain oxford” into the Times search box and came up with this priceless story from 1907:

“At this point the author fished a dilapidated cigar from his pocket and finding it of no use threw it overboard, declaring that he would not smoke again. A moment later he begged a cigar from a friend.”

And while you're tromping through history, don't miss this one.

Written by Not Jaffo

September 18, 2007 at 12:39

Posted in Journalism

Fake blogger revealed!

Fake celebrity blogs are a time-honored net.tradition, as old and irreverent as the Internet itself.

Now one of the most famous fake bloggers has been revealed, not as a new-media posterboy, but as an old-media veteran with a secret wild side.

The writer of the infamous “Fake Steve” blog is Dan Lyons, a technology editor at Forbes.

For years, Dan has been pretending to write in the voice of Steve Jobs, poking fun at the arrogance, the attitude, and the Boomer pretensions of Apple's famous founder.

Tech-savvy readers can easily kill an afternoon catching up with Fake Steve. My recent favorite is this entry about Rupert Murdoch's bid for the Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile I just want you to know how excited all of us in Silicon Valley are to see you guys finally getting to experience first-hand the “creative destruction” that you're always celebrating in your own pages. Especially all of you guys who have delighted in tormenting Apple over our accounting practices. We'll be sending you each a special little gift — a black necktie. Marc Benioff is sending miniature coffins filled with breath mints.

Written by Not Jaffo

August 7, 2007 at 13:04

Posted in Apple, Journalism

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