Voices

The NFL’s New Deal With Snapchat, and 4 Other Stories You Should Read

Here’s what you missed while you spent the week in a pre-Star Wars hype cocoon…

The Awl: Access Denied

Selected by Erin Nelson, marketing editor

Late to the game, but Dillon introduced me to The Awl, and we now share a writer-crush on John Herrman. His research is intricate, and his prose stays super smooth. (Like Barry-White-of-the-media-world smooth.)

Here he picks at questions we are all trying to answer: How has tech and its associated social channels shifted audience engagement and distribution? Who owns access to the information we want to consume? If the answer is no longer traditional publications, who decides what is newsworthy?

Herrman calls this process “access panic” and uses Donald Trump, Kotaku (Gawker’s gaming blog), and Nicki Minaj to describe the way neutrality and non-partisan reporting are threatened by entities that have powerful followings, gate access to their channels, and whose DGAF attitude fuels their notoriety and influence.

Medium: The 17 Most Pitchforky Sentences of Pitchfork’s Best Albums of 2015 List

Selected by Joe Lazauskas, director of editorial

In the words of our VP of Content Sam Slaughter, “This should be on McSweeney’s, and this should be fictional, but it’s not.”

As readers of TCS know, I love making fun of meaningless jargon. But this is a fun reminder that it isn’t just marketers who are insufferable—pretentious music nerds are too! And to be honest, the two groups are rarely mutually exclusive.

CNBC: Silicon Valley’s Cash Party Is Coming to an End

Selected by Amanda Weatherhead, distribution manager

In this article, Levy assembles a crack team of representatives from white-hot VCs, PE funds, and startups to weigh in on the future of startup investing. The general consensus is that the era of ‘cheap money’ has come to an abrupt end. To quote Todd Chaffee of Institutional Venture Partners, “The cheap capital party is over, but there are a few drunk sailors who didn’t hear last call.” By the end of 2016, the bouncers in the form of mutual funds and critical investors, will have emptied the bar and the party will officially be over.

Have we seen the last of the unicorns? Are we entering the era of the cockroach, when only the strong, cash-flow positive companies survive? At the risk of sounding like a cantankerous geriatric, it’s about time West Coast VCs started analyzing startups with a more critical eye. As Levy predicts in the article, it will not longer be sufficient for entrepreneurs to come into investor meetings with swagger and a dream. Companies now need a solid go-to-market strategy instead of ludicrously negative margins and outlandish burn rates.

As Ajay Agarwal, managing director of Bain Capital, said, “The world of perpetual up rounds is over.” But what does this mean? 2015 saw astronomic growth in startup investment; in fact, in Q3 of 2015, late-stage investment in startups increased by 25 percent year-over-year. Will the death knell of the down round ring around Silicon Valley in 2016? It’s more likely that late-round investors, like GS and JPMC with Square, will be wooed into opening their pocketbooks with the promise of a full ratchet, much to employees’ chagrin.

The Wall Street Journal: NFL Signs On as First Snapchat Explorer Sports Partner

Selected by Jordan Teicher, senior editor

Snapchat sounds great for branding. It’s new, unique, experimental, and plenty of people use it every day. (One estimate puts the total number of daily snaps at 6 billion.) But as an ad platform, it just hasn’t taken off yet. There have been complaints about data and reporting capabilities, and over the last year, Snapchat had to cut the price of ad buys from $700,000 to $100,000 to make them more attractive. Despite the issues and subsequent tinkering, companies still seem committed to making it work.

The NFL is one of those companies, partnering with Snapchat to provide content through Live Stories and the new Story Explorer tool. According to the Wall Street Journal, “These clips include a mix of fan-shot footage and video produced by the league specifically for Snapchat–with Snapchat having the final say on what clips appear in each Story.”

Apparently, these projects are working, reaching more than 10 million users on Sundays. Not only is the viewership increasing, but 40 percent of the audience is international. The goal here is more about growth than revenue—for now—although the NFL is running ads for a few brands. But if the NFL continues to see success, it could be the blue chip partner Snapchat needs to finally earn some content marketing legitimacy.

The New York Times: In a Self-Serve World, Start-ups Find Value in Human Helpers

Selected by Dillon Baker, associate editor

I always enjoy reading Farhad Manjoo’s weekly column, and this is one of the more thought-provoking ones I’ve read. In it, he examines the surprising value many startups derive from an unlikely source: living, breathing humans.

The elimination of huge swathes of the job market by technological progress is something Silicon Valley-types tend to shrug off as part of our eventual march towards the singularity, but it’s something normal folks will have to reckon with. What jobs can, or can’t, be done by AI and robots? And even if they can, does that mean they should?

The Atlantic had a cover story earlier this year examining potential futures of the global labor market, and one of the key takeaways was something Farhad hints at in this piece: that human compassion and interaction will never be replicated by technology, a fact that has an intrinsic—and so far underrated—value for businesses and humanity as a whole. The optimistic part of me hopes this is true. And moving forward, hopefully technologists can focus more on supplementing human ability with technology, rather than replacing us altogether.

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