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rickwebb's tumblrmajig

Hi. I'm Rick. I write, advise, and invest.

Venture Partner, Quotidian Ventures / CEO, Secret Clubhouse.

Formerly Co-Founder Barbarian Group & Consultant Tumblr

rickwebb.net / On Medium / Music From My Past / Maps Without Alaska

Archenemy Record Co. / The Longbox Society / Rock Tourist

My Music Making / about my investments

Posts tagged social media:

My one and only SXSW post, I promise.

I did an experiment and hit SXSW without saying anything on it on social media. I used Foursquare and GroupMe for some local action, so I could find friends and the like, but didn’t do anything on more widespread social media. I didn’t want to contribute to others’ FOMO. I did post a few pictures on Instagram, but they were only of non-human things, cute photos, stuff that could have been anywhere - a laptop stand, an oil painting, a statue. You know, hipster emo stuff. No bands, no friends, no panels, no action. No mention of SXSW. 

After doing so, I can now say it was really cathartic, and the world would be a better place if everyone did the same thing. 

We are, after all, being played. I sat down for a lovely interview with a reporter named Norene Malone from the New Republic, who expressed skepticism that all the marketing work there was worth it. I walked her through the numbers, both from an earned media perspective and a Tipping Point/brand influencers perspective, and assured her it was actually totally worth it for someone like GE to spend 200, 300 grand at SXSW, and how there’s even a pretty solid argument for a young startup to make a go of it. It really does make financial sense for these brands to be here. And it makes sense because we are all too happy to talk about it. 

Now, I mean, I’m not saying this in some curmudgeonly anti-advertising way, grumble grumble, get off my lawn. I don’t think advertising is evil. But man, it sure does feel weird at this level at SXSW. I can’t help but feel like we’re not only all being played, but we’re also helping brands figure out how to play everyone else. Why is that? I’ve sort of been mulling it over, and I think it’s because we view SXSW as a window into our future a bit. We try out these apps that need a high density of connected users all in one place, and we see if they work or not, so we have some insight into whether they COULD work in a world where millions of people have downloaded them. The whole place is a bit of a future lab. And when I think of SXSW that way, I LOVE GroupMe and Foursquare, but, man, Twitter sure gets annoying, and Instagram gets pretty insufferable - I don’t want all of my friends to be in the same place doing the same things one block up the road. I want them out in the world doing amazing different things. Whatever, I digress. The advertising, though, is terrifying, isn’t it? If that is our future? A future with a branded experience every 50 feet? I suppose it is. I suppose we’ll buy everything online and brands will need real-world outlets just as brand activators, points of interest to give influencers an anchor to their branded tweets. 

It’s interesting. Online, brands are getting smarter and better and learning to do awesome shit for us. But offline, they’re almost getting more annoying. No, no, that’s too harsh. A Samsung Galaxy Lounge™ is definitely less annoying than a giant billboard on the side of a building. 

This is the thing - all of this is really just being done so that brands don’t have to pay for media, so they don’t have to pay for our news. Yes, it’s more authentic to have a brand recommendation coming from a friend. Yes, I will listen to friends more. But can that be the ONLY thing? No. I want brands to support the media. I’m writing a whole book about it, but generally speaking when economists talk about whether advertising is good or bad for our economy, they agree broadly that it’s good, but the number one thing that puts it over the edge into the good camp is that it pays for our media. I am starting to think we should respect brands who are willing to pony up and support the NY Times and whatnot rather than just trying to leverage social. Because when they save that money, when they only have to spend $10 million on media instead of $100 million on media, where does that savings go? What happens to that other $90 million? Does it go to the customers in lower prices? No. Do the employees get raises? No. It goes to the shareholders. 

This reads more like an attempt at a manifesto than I mean it to. I am just saying, wow, it was nice to not tweet a lot about SXSW. And even though I was actually at SXSW, it was nice to not read about SXSW on Twitter the whole time. 

I WILL SAY, SXSW themselves? They did a great job. The conference has largely worked out its growing pains. Austin could use one or two more large hotels - the housing situation is a joke. A complete catastrophe, but that’s out of the SXSW’s control, I suppose. I thought it was going to be terrible, and it wasn’t. Congrats, SXSW. I suspect you’re plotting to move the whole thing to Vegas or something, but, really, it was a wonderful time in Austin, as always. 

Forget Instagram’s billion-dollar payday. Forget IPOs, past and future, from Facebook, Groupon, LinkedIn and the like. And ignore, please, the online ramblings of attention-hungry venture capitalists and narcissistic Silicon Valley journalists with the off-putting habit of making their inside-baseball sound like the World Series. Their stories, to paraphrase Shakespeare, are tales told by idiots, full of sound and fury, but signifying very little about the impact of technology on most of our lives.

Paul Smalera (via soupsoup)

While this is probably directed to my ilk, I take no offense. Most people, including myself, don’t particularly know what they’re talking about with this deal. And we’re all guessing on the future impact of technology.

But do feel compelled to point out to you that the Facebook-Instagram deal is significantly bigger than the World Series by every conceivable measure: economic, number of people effected, societal, cultural. The most profitable world series ever raked in about $50 million in ad revenue and attendance revenue: 1/20th the economics of this single deal. The largest viewership ever totalled 25 million: 1/40th the number of people involved this deal. Americans spend about 12 times more time per year on Facebook than they do watching even a 7 game series. Even in terms of games, Zynga makes forty times more money per year than the World Series does. Most of that is on Facebook. Though sadly they do not have a baseball game yet.   

With all due respect, the World Series is child’s play compared to this deal. A poor metaphor.

In all of these cases, the medium — a blog, Twitter, the Kindle, even the Internet itself — isn’t the important thing. It’s just a way of connecting people with things that matter to them, and with other people who matter to them. That is the real power, regardless of the medium.

Why the Medium Is Not the Message  (via courtenaybird)

I don’t debate what this article says, essentially, but as an intentional play on MacLuhan’s maxim “The Medium is the Message,” it’s kind of a mess. I recently re-read Understanding Media, for the book I’m working on. There’s a new critical edition out that helps immensely in understanding Understanding Media.

If you take the message behind MacLuhan and apply it to this article, it’s actually exactly backwards. MacLuhan uses the medium of the lightbulb as an example of a medium without a message. That medium, even without a message, changed our world, by bringing us the ability to work at night. Through this reading, MacLuhan would say, absolutely, that the medium is the important thing. Blogging, as Malik points out, totally changed the news industry. That’s the important thing. Twitter totally changed the way news was collected in repressive regimes. That’s the important thing. And the kindle is changing books. As Jonathan Ames put it the other day, “these gadgets are going to change the way novels are written and conceived, and I’m against change when it comes to things I do.”

Twitter, the medium, is very much the message in blogging, along with Tumblr. They are changing the way we blog. The fact that we’re still saying something is important, but they have lowered the barrier in how to say things. They’ve made it easier. And they’ve changed the conversation in the process. They’ve encouraged a simpler type of conversation and message, which is more incluive but has had an impact on more nuanced, lengthy discourse. The’re not “just a way of connecting people with things that matter to them and with other people who matter to them.” They shape the volume and strength of those connections. They change and forge the connections themselves. They’re not dumb pipes any more than electricity was just a dumb pipe for getting lamplight into your house.  MacLuhan would argue that THAT is the “real power” - the radical medium transformations and the impact we’ve had. 

(via courtenaybird)


“If you are building social platforms that require more time of users, you will not be successful. And we believe this will sweep away some of the nonsense like Foursquare and [other] of these time-wasting social applications.”

-George Colony, CEO of Forrester Research 

I’m sorry, this makes no sense. 80-90% of some countries’ populations are on social media, and presumably the social media they are already on are the high-touch, “time-wasting” type he says we… now will not use? Didn’t 80-90% of the population just prove we will? And we’ve already seen that people will migrate to new, better high-touch social media outlets (ie Myspace to Facebook). So why does this mean no one will use any new ones? It’s illogical. 

Personally, I’m uninterested in building another social tool. But I absolutely do not buy the theory that none of the new ones being built will be successful. Instagram is disproving this theory even as the words come out of Colony’s mouth.