What We’re Reading: The Death of Grantland, Star Wars, and Bernie Sanders’ Reddit Army
Here’s what you missed while lamenting the death of Grantland… 1
Backchannel: Homejoy at the Unicorn Glue Factory
Selected by Jordan Teicher, senior editor
Earlier this week, Christina Farr wrote an eye-opening post-mortem about Homejoy, a startup that was attempting to become the Uber for cleaning.
The story takes a look at startups, freelancing, tech culture—basically every major concept Contently cares about—and through detailed reporting, Farr shows the dark side of what happens when companies prioritize growth over everything else. Uber and Snapchat can lose hundreds of millions of dollars and still have valuations that are worth more than the GDPs of most countries, but these are rare exceptions, as you’ll see in this cautionary tale.
Selected by Ryan Galloway, senior managing editor
Josh Dean’s piece about the tragic death of a young student is long, but forgivably so. It’s an exhaustively researched and well-reported piece that accomplishes a lot.
Dean analyzes and ultimately dispels the conspiracies that have swirled around Lam’s death for years. And, in so doing, manages to restore a measure of humanity to someone who’d become a kind of fetish object for scores of armchair detectives. It’s very worth your time.
The New Republic: Can Bernie Sanders’s Reddit Army Get Organized?
Selected by Esme Cribb, editorial intern
How do you translate the glacial pace of politics into the real-time frenzy of dialogue on the Internet? And how do you convert online hype into real-world organization, especially on Reddit?
If the Internet evens the playing field for every opinion—good, bad, and memetic—is there any way to put those beliefs into practice, specifically to win a presidential election? This article raises more questions than it answers, but given the intense conversation around the 2016 election more than a year out, it’s a must-read.
The New York Times: ‘Star Wars’ Doesn’t Belong to George Lucas. It Belongs to the Fans
Selected by Dillon Baker, associate editor
I love Star Wars. I grew up reading the books, watching the movies, and playing the games; I wear my Star Wars t-shirt to work regularly; I forced my parents to name my dog Luke; and I may2 have begun to cry while watching the first teaser trailer for the newest film in the series, The Force Awakens. It’s a big part of my life.
But I also had a realization recently: The movies kind of suck. I came to this conclusion while watching the 4th and 5th episodes with my girlfriend, who, to my horror, had never seen Star Wars before3.
She was unimpressed. “God, the dialogue is so cheesy.” “Luke is a terrible actor.” And worst of all: “Really, that’s the big twist?” I found myself instinctively trying to defend the movies, but I couldn’t—all of her points were undeniably true. As pieces of filmmaking, they have not aged well compared to other classics like Jaws or even the very samurai films that inspired them.
But I still love the Star Wars universe, even if I don’t love the Star Wars movies that started it all. This insightful New York Times piece gets at a lot of reasons why, while also diving into the intertwined history of the Star Wars films, marketing, and the movie industry.
Manohla Dargis concludes, rightfully so, that Star Wars is only Star Wars because of the rabid fans and thousands of creators who expanded the universe beyond what George Lucas could have possibly dreamed. That’s not a new idea, but one that bears repeating in light of the new film and the Internet’s normalization of the kind of symbiotic relationship between creators and fans that Star Wars pioneered.
But the buried takeaway here is the longstanding connection between Star Wars and Disney, a company I find endlessly fascinating and the now-owners of Star Wars properties as of 2012. The two are meant for each other. As Dargis writes, Disney devised the “cradle-to-grave entertainment” marketing scheme Star Wars perfected. Seeing them together should be one of the more interesting marketing/entertainment stories of the coming years.
Selected by Kieran Dahl, social media editor
Grantland, my favorite way of feeling in touch with big-time sports I don’t follow and wildly popular TV shows I don’t watch, is dead. ESPN has just shut it down. This makes me and everyone from media Twitter denizens to Game of Thrones fanatics sad, least of all because ESPN’s press release reveals precisely why Grantland should still exist: “Grantland distinguished itself with quality writing, smart ideas, original thinking and fun.”
Quality! Smart! Original! Fun! (Fun!) These are words you’d use to describe a good website. Grantland was a good—great—website, but it’s dead, likely because of the same thing that has been responsible for the downfall of many wonderful Internet publications: money. Grantland’s traffic paled in comparison to its competitors, and without pageviews, there’s no advertising revenue.
In other news, Skip Bayless still has a job:
Grantland got shut down today. https://t.co/brCyO3wZ8u
— Ken Tremendous (@KenTremendous) October 30, 2015
- If you need a refresher of what this series is, take a look at the first post.
- She’d also somehow never seen Indiana Jones or Lord of the Rings