Facebook’s March to China, and 3 Other Stories You Should Read

Here’s what you missed while you were realizing the internet isn’t nearly as stable as you thought

The New York Review of Books: They’ve Got You, Wherever You Are

Selected by Dillon Baker, associate editor

In this book review, Jacob Weisberg covers the evolution of advertising from the 19th century to today. It’s an argument others have made: that media, today, is based almost entirely on capturing and repackaging attention and consumer data to advertisers, no matter what it takes. And that that attention is increasingly hard to come by.

The result is the cynical cycle of growth, addiction, tracking, and monetization that we’ve seen play out with both Facebook and Google, whose founders were initially anti-advertising before succumbing to the awesome financial windfall it promised.

It’s worth asking now if we’ve reached peak attention—how much more of our time, when many already spend the majority of their days online, can be commoditized and sold to advertisers? That’s the promise of VR, AR, and the IoT. But whether consumers, already showing signs of revolt against the attention economy 1, can take any more remains to be seen.

Wired: Hey Silicon Valley: President Obama Has a To-Do List for You

Selected by Erin Nelson, marketing editor

In his final months as leader of the free world, Barack Obama tasked Silicon Valley with developing technology that would tackle six of the globe’s biggest problems. Among them: lessening inequality, strengthening cybersecurity, preventing terrorists from using the internet to do harm, and making clean energy mainstream.

Obama’s requests, though lofty, yielded blueprints for how to use technology to reach real outcomes. The respondents included the CEO of General Motors, head of R&D at Jigsaw, Mark Zuckerberg, and a handful of VCs. The article reads like a long-overdue conversation between Washington, D.C., and Silicon Valley, with an informal reconciliation summarized best by Tim O’Reilly, investor and founder of O’Reilly Media: “Start with a real problem—not an invented one—and then find ways for technology to help solve it.”

The Ringer: Lainey Is Yours in Gossip

Selected by Jordan Teicher, senior editor

I used to read Grantland mostly for the sports. Don’t get me wrong, the site’s entire output was wildly creative, but the pop-culture articles were secondary. On The Ringer, that dynamic has flipped. Grantland’s descendant lost some key sports writers, but it’s coverage of tech and media keeps me coming back every day.

This week’s standout is a profile on the gossip blogger and personality Lainey. Even if you hate the obsession with celebrity culture, you should still respect Lainey’s shrewd approach to media. While other gossip blogs like TMZ and Perez Hilton are just peddling superficial news for cheap traffic, Lainey offers readers more analysis. She also doesn’t cover the Kardashians at all.

In an unusual field, she took all the principles that people need to be successful publishers. She found a creative way to stand out from her competitors, applied her expertise to different platforms like TV, and built up a following back in 2002 by starting an email newsletter. Oh yeah, did I mention she doesn’t cover the Kardashians?

MIT Technology Review: Mark Zuckerberg’s Long March to China

Selected by Amanda Weatherhead, sales strategist

As the world’s most populous nation, China is a veritable goldmine for companies. U.S. tech giants, in particular, have been trying to break into that behemoth economy, but titans like Google and Microsoft have been felled by governmental regulation and censorship.

Undeterred, Mark Zuckerberg has made it his mission to bring Facebook to China. It seems that the net gain of grabbing even a tiny piece of market share outweighs the costs of battling the Chinese government dealing with potential media backlash should Facebook ever get accused of censoring content or sharing data.

  1. See: ad blocking, ad-free subscription services, etc.
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