What Brian and Amanda Read This Week

Here’s what you missed while watching a guy literally eat his shirt because of a basketball game involving some wizard named Steph Curry…

(Editor’s note: With nearly all our regular contributors to “What We’re Reading” having gone on vacation early for Memorial Day weekend—such hard workers!—this installment is by the only two people who remained in the office: Brian Maehl, our talent development manager, and Amanda Weatherhead, our distribution manager.)

The New York Times: In Silicon Valley, Gossip, Anger and Revenge

Selected by Amanda

For weeks, Gawker’s increasingly frenetic claims that someone had been backing Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against the new-media brand have seemed to me the ravings of a madman. So my jaw hit the proverbial floor when I read that Peter Thiel had been the mastermind funding the case. Virtually every publication is covering this scandal—I think Gawker itself has posted at least a dozen pieces about it—but this New York Times story is the most compelling one that I’ve read for several reasons, including the authors’ relatively neutral stance. (It’s almost too easy to lambast Thiel, former libertarian and current seeker of immortality, for attempting to quell free speech and quash journalistic integrity.) Additionally, the authors weigh myriad and diverse perspectives, like that of cartoonist Scott Adams, who interprets Thiel’s actions as both an attempt to “make the world a better place” (Silicon Valley’s unofficial motto) and to rectify a situation in which the government should have interfered. If you’re going to read one article about the scandal, make it this one.

Fast Company: Don’t Be Surprised if Google’s New Animated Short Wins an Oscar

Selected by Brian

In the same week we discussed how brands are getting involved with investigative reporting, Fast Company covered a short film by Google that may have Academy Award aspirations. The short film comes out of Spotlight Stories, Google’s experimental filmmaking division that includes alums from the geniuses at Pixar.

While the prospect of brands investing in such ambitious production is exciting, what’s most interesting is how the talent recruitment process for such work is so similar. In this case, artists and storytellers from renowned animation companies are joining Google, which makes JJ Abrams directing a movie for Tesla in the next few years seem like more than a pipe dream. In any event, the lines between working for a brand and a traditional production company are thinning. Sound a bit like brand journalism?

The New York Times: 12 New Books We’re Reading This Summer (and 6 Not So New)

Selected by Brian

It’s high time for both grillmaster grudges and summer reading lists, and The New York Times here takes a crack at informing the latter. Few things are more meta than suggesting things to read in a story about what we’re reading.

Social Media Week: Influencer Marketing’s Second Act

Selected by Brian

Influencer marketing is entering the age of scaling, and the story appearing on Social Media Week predicts how it will continue to evolve—tying nicely, in fact, to our own piece about Wattpad becoming a popular influencer marketing platform. Wattpad allows brands to connect with popular fiction writers who contribute to their platform, and brands can then tap into a unique group of engaged consumers who follow that particular writer.

Writers Ian Schafer and Kevin Jonas predict that influencers will be “briefed like creatives” (such as finding fiction contributors on the platform and informing them your strategy) and “evaluated like paid media” (Wattpad indeed has some parallels to a content distribution service). Sound predictions, to be sure, but what to make of influencer marketing’s big-picture problems?

The Washington Post: This dark side of the Internet is costing young people their jobs and social lives

Selected by Brian

While the jury is largely still out on what qualifies as “internet addiction,” a rehabilitation center called reSTART outside of Seattle is treating several young Americans for just that. 

The disorder hasn’t been officially recognized in the United States, but reSTART’s focus on temporarily freeing people from a technology-minded world sounds impactful. Being totally disconnected can certainly work wonders even when the situation isn’t so extreme—there’s a reason why “off-the-grid” vacations can be life-changing. I should note, however, that this comes at the end of four straight write-ups of what I read online this week, so I could just be going grocery shopping while hungry.

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