The Destruction of Silicon Valley, and 4 Other Stories We Loved in April
Here’s what you missed in marketing, media, and tech while you were wondering why celebrities wear such bad clothes to the Met Gala…
The New Yorker: #Vanlife, the Bohemian Social-Media Movement
Selected by Erin Nelson, marketing editor
In “#VanLife, The Bohemian Social Movement,” Rachel Monroe chronicles the rise of #VanLife, the millennial phenomenon whereby twenty and thirtysomethings quit their jobs and make a living by curating sponsored social media images of their experience on the road. In the story, Monroe becomes a character in one #VanLife journey, traveling with a young couple and their dog through Southern California.
As I read Monroe’s opening passages about Emily King and Corey Smith, the central couple in the story, I felt a strong sense of envy. #VanLife—traveling to beautiful locations with my partner and dog in the comfort of a VW home—sounded like a pretty good gig. Yet as Monroe paints a picture of living in a cramped space that takes on the smells of the humans, animals, and trash it hosts, I started to feel the claustrophobia of that lifestyle choice.
What’s more, Monroe details the way “lifestyle” images are a carefully contrived representative of the type of bohemian life many millennials and middle-aged hippies lust after. In reality, King and Smith spend hours curating images and analyzing engagement analytics to appease the very sponsors that support their journey. It’s capitalism through the lens of those who reject it, told from a gilded cage on wheels.
The New York Times: How YouTube’s Shifting Algorithms Hurt Independent Media
Selected by Dillon Baker, technology editor
As advertisers use Google’s recent controversies to leverage better prices and better placements, YouTubers are suffering. Many—some with controversial content, some without—have taken major hits to their revenue as advertisers pull out and YouTube’s algorithm demonetizes videos with little explanation.
I have no doubt that many of those hurt by this produce content I don’t agree with or would support. But it’s one more step towards an internet controlled by the whims of sensitive brands and detached algorithms, rather than people. Some will survive thanks to services like Patreon, but as Amanda Hess writes, “it puts the wild, independent internet in danger of becoming more boring than TV.”
Selected by Brian Maehl, talent development manager
Photographed in a hard hat next to factory workers. Sitting at a table surrounded by police officers to discuss how to better connect with a community. In 2017, the parallels between running for office and running a tech company are awfully blurry.
Much has been said about the political undertones of Mark Zuckerberg’s public appearances of late but, in the words of Nitasha Tiku at Buzzfeed, “Zuckerberg’s listening tour is less a presidential gambit than a focus group with Facebook users.”
While there’s clearly a motive to project Facebook in a more positive light, Tiku suggests that Zuckerberg’s own curiosity is the fuel for this campaigning. He’s simply looking to better understand the world, and informing Facebook’s direction is one of the many bonuses.
While skepticism will likely follow the head of such a dominant company, much worse has been written about the executive’s intentions. Public perception of him seems to be coming a long way since The Social Network days—calculated or not.
The Ringer: Are Chat-Fiction Apps the New YA Novels?
Selected by Jordan Teicher, managing editor
Print is supposed to be dying. Novels are supposed to be on the decline. Hyperbole aside, both of those statements are probably true to an extent. But as anyone from Contently will tell you, storytelling is on the rise. The only difference seems to be how we’re telling the stories.
Last month, Alyssa Bereznak took a look at an unusual (and successful) type of content: chat fiction. Think of it as the millennial version of an epistolary novel—the narrative slowly unwinding through text conversations. Since 2014, Hooked, a chat-fiction app, has been downloaded more than 10 million times. Last month, the app generated more than $500,000 in subscription revenue. It may not be for everyone, but as book sales decline and kids spend more time reading online, this model could become the future of fiction.
In other words, we can keep lamenting the death of the way things used to be, or we can be proactive and find innovative ways to carry along the history of storytelling.
Business Insider: The evidence is piling up — Silicon Valley is being destroyed
Selected by Joe Lazauskas, editor-in-chief
I remember when I was 23 and went to my first New York tech Meetup. The year was 2010. Taio Cruz topped the Billboard charts. And everyone still thought of the New York tech scene as this scrappy, tight-knit community of underdogs fighting for a new, exciting world—as opposed to: Kind of like the finance industry, but with jeans!
Now, innovation is stagnating. Not inside the world’s biggest tech companies, but in the tech industry at large. You see this in obvious places—like social networking, where we’ve permanently settled into an era where the big six of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest dominate, and a serious new player hasn’t entered the market in years. But it’s also affecting other areas. Martech startups have little chance in a battle against established giants like Adobe and Oracle. Mobile advertising startups haven’t chipped away at the 85 percent of the industry Facebook and Google control.
In this piece, Matt Stoller does his best Bernie Sanders impression and makes his case for a bold move: Break them up.Image by Pexels / CC Zero