The Hub Cool News

King Comics

kingNewspaper comic strips “are having a cultural moment” even as newspapers fade, reports George Gene Gustines in The New York Times (11/9/15). Brendan Burford of King Features is doing his best to make the most of the moment. To celebrate King’s 100th Anniversary, it will run “a colorful 16-page insert of classic newspaper strips” this Sunday in “hundreds of newspapers across the country.” Brendan is also “one of the chief architects” of a “hefty hardcover” called King of the Comics: 100 Years of King Features.

Brendan is “catering to a mix of old and new media relationships. He administers to the needs of the cartoonists of 65 syndicated strips that are published in more than 2,800 newspapers in 72 countries.” As he explains, he is responsible for “expansion into the entertainment space — seeing how we can make these comic properties into more than just comic strips.” He sees ample opportunity: “The thing about comic strips is that they are all the same enough and different enough.” Some, like Peanuts, work best as animation, while Flash Gordon is live-action.

A new Peanuts animated movie has just been released and a live-action Flash Gordon movie is, in fact, in the works. A Popeye animated film is also under development. “I don’t think Popeye’s success is hinging on Peanuts’s success,” says Brendan. “But if Peanuts is successful, you might find some producers and studios saying we should be mining that comics page to see what other Peanuts might be hiding there.” Meanwhile, a next generation of comic strip artists are carrying on the tradition by “creating their own strips on their own sites,” says comics blogger Josh Fruhlinger, aka The Comics Curmudgeon.

NPR Voice

radio-micThe rise of amateur broadcasters is changing the cadence of public speaking, writes Teddy Wayne in The New York Times (10/25/15). The style is toward “looser language,” more pauses, “and at the end of sentences, emphatic inflection … A result is the suggestion of spontaneous speech and unadulterated emotion. The irony is that such presentations are highly rehearsed, with each caesura calculated and every syllable stressed in advance.” Teddy calls this “plague of pregnant pauses and off-kilter pronunciations.” He calls it “NPR voice,” given its prevalence in NPR podcasts, as well as TED talks and “anywhere that features semi-informal first-person narration.”

These amateurs, says Teddy, “may not have the thespian skills necessary to restrain the staginess of their elocution, leading to ‘indicating,’ or overreacting to express emotion.” He says he even heard this in Michelle Obama’s delivery at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Walter Kirn, writing in The New Republic, said the First Lady was “overacting.” In an NPR interview he said: “The emotions that were gushing up in her were exactly on cue with the lines coming up on the teleprompter … That to me seems prima facie evidence of acting.” Teddy suggests that NPR voice is a function of increasingly skeptical consumers, and is designed to project sincerity by manufacturing imperfections.

Ira Glass, host of NPR’s This American Life, is “the most influential contemporary speaker of NPR voice,” says Teddy. Ira says the style is a reaction to the broadcasting style of his youth. “Back when we were kids, authority came from enunciation, precision,” he says. “Any story hits you harder if the person delivering it doesn’t sound like a news robot but, in fact, sounds like a real person having the reactions in a real person world.” Of course, the Internet, and social media — “where the casual riposte trumps the carefully wrought,” and where, for fear of appearing soulless and corporate, “users typically traffic in, um, slangy approachability” — further, y’know, fuels the … phenomenon.

Yankee Magazine

yankee-magAn 80-year-old print magazine is succeeding by changing as little as possible, reports Sydney Ember in The New York Times (10/5/15). Founded in September of 1935, Yankee magazine is still family owned and is still “run out of the same barn-red building” in Dublin, New Hampshire (pop. 1,600). It is such a fixture in the community that townsfolk walk “in off the street to chat.” “They think of us as a neighbor,” says Brook Holmberg, publisher. After all these years, despite “the challenges of the digital age,” Yankee “depends on print subscriptions, which cost $28 a year, for the bulk of its revenue. Its website does not have a paywall.” The magazine’s “content has not changed much, either.”

“We tell good stories, but I think it’s New England that’s responsible for us being around for 80 years,” says Mel Allen, editor. The magazine has held steady to its original stated mission as “the expression and perhaps, indirectly, the preservation of that great culture in which every real Yank must live.” Featuring things like New England travel tips and recipes, Yankee “stays away from topics like sports, and despite New Hampshire’s central role in the presidential campaign, articles about politics rarely make it into the magazine’s coverage.” Instead, says James Trowbridge, chief executive of Yankee Publishing and grandson of founder Robb Sagendorph, the coverage is more “cultural.”

At one time this included publishing poetry and fiction (it has published Stephen King, among others), but now the emphasis is on travel, food and “important regional issues like the erosion of Nantucket beaches.” Its loyal readers tend to be 56 years old, on average, and two thirds of them live in New England. Paid circulation “has dropped below 300,000, from a peak of one million in the 1980s.” Mel says he’s thinking about how to translate its storytelling online, and in fact its website “attracts more than a half million unique visitors a month, an increase of 300 percent in the last three years.” But its main appeal may be as an “escape from the frenzy of the digital world,” a “postcard from home.”


stampylongheadKids today see online videos as just another kind of conversation, reports Noel Murray in The New York Times (10/5/15). This is great for YouTube, as “year to year, the number of hours people spend watching videos … keeps growing — up 50 percent over last year,” according to “the site’s own statistics page.” Most interesting is that “a lot of those watchers make the transition to becoming creators.” This has paid off in a big way for Joseph Garrett, better known to YouTubers as Stampylonghead, “who started posting Minecraft-themed videos when he was a teenager.” Today, he’s in his mid-20s “and has a deal with Maker Studios, a producer of short-form videos and a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company.”

However, “viewers under 18 are not seeing the Internet as a farm system for Hollywood, the way major studios hope.” YouTube stars like Stampylonghead and Emile Rosales (aka Chuggaaconroy) “are less interested in personal branding than in sharing their enthusiasm.” Emile has “nearly a million subscribers to his YouTube channel and more than 760 million views” of his videos. He makes enough money at this that he has no other job, but he does “not have much day-to-day interaction with anyone at YouTube.” Most of his followers found him simply by following the “if you liked that, try this” suggestions YouTube provides.

Fans not only post comments but also “their own artwork and response videos.” While “YouTube has built production facilities — called Space — to provide their best-known creators with access to soundstages and equipment,” many of the site’s most popular creators are loved “for their handmade charm, not their professional polish.” Some of their fans don’t “know or care much about the people making their favorite videos.” They are more interested in developing their own video-making chops and generating a response of their own. This “transition from watching to creating happened quickly and naturally” and has “spawned a world of its own,” far away from that of television and Hollywood.

The Lifestream

lifestreamsThe future of the web will look more like a parade than a beach towel, write David Gelernter and Eric Freeman in The Wall Street Journal (10/8/15). The difference is that a beach towel is organized by space (“pineapples upper left, mermaids lower right”) while a parade is organized along time (“first this band, three minutes later this float, 40 seconds later that band”). On the web, the trend is toward the latter with “flowing data — in streams, feeds, blogs.” David and Eric predicted this back in the mid-1990s with a concept they called “lifestreams,” in which every “new document, email, bookmark or video became a bead threaded onto a single wire in the Cloud, in order of arrival.”

You could either search the stream or watch it as it flows, as each new bead arrives. As “you add a bead to the lifestream, you specify who may see it: everyone, my friends, me. Each post is as private as you make it.” Today, the idea sounds something like Facebook, but David and Eric began using “lifestream software in 1996,” and in 2001, it “became the first modern social network.” This was at Yale, and the first posts, by a test group, were about meetings and software specs, but then someone in the group “got engaged and posted a photo of her ring … Soon the stream was full of pet photos, vacation experiences and scanned-in menus for local takeout.”

They predict that in the future, your homepage — be it “on your phone, laptop or TV” — will be “a bouquet of your favorite streams from all over,” and “just one part of the world stream.” You can “adjust each stream’s flow rate,” slowing it down “by replacing many entries with one that lists short summaries.” Twitter is the closest thing to a lifestream in its simplest form, and “could convert itself into a true world stream and make the Web superfluous. But then it would have to let users post not just tiny tweets but documents of any size and type … It could be done — but history suggests only by a new company with new attitudes” and its “management and search costs would be staggering.”

Social Television

social-tvThe rise of social media is returning television to its communal roots, reports Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times (10/5/15). In days gone by, while watching television was generally a solitary experience, everybody was watching the same thing at the same time and talked about it the next day. Time-shifting — and more recently binge-watching — changed this. Now, with running commentary on hit shows on Twitter and elsewhere, the trend is toward watching shows when most other people are too. So, for a show like Scandal, “Twitter has become a vital part of the show; watching Scandal without following tweets about Scandal is a lesser experience, like watching it in black-and-white, or on mute.”

Snapchat is capitalizing on this behavioral change with “Live Stories, a series of daily video vignettes stitched from multiple users’ perspectives and covering a range of topics … Every day, Snapchat presents the same handful of new stories to most of the app’s user base … After a day, you get a slate of new videos, and the old ones disappear … everyone is watching pretty much the same thing at the same time.” Periscope, which is owned by Twitter, “lets users film and broadcast videos of their surroundings” and then “superimposes audience comments on the video” so viewers can see “how the audience is reacting on-screen.”

Meanwhile, Neilsen finds that even though the release of House of Cards “in full season bursts” enables viewers to binge or otherwise watch shows at their own pace, most people still watch each episode of Game of Thrones “the day it came out.” “We’re still wired for that week-to-week cultural conversation,” says Fred Graver of Twitter. “It’s rewarding for the community, and it’s even rewarding for the creators.” Some types of shows are better for communal viewing than others, however. For example, a “contemplative drama” like Mad Men makes it “more difficult to take your eyes off the screen to tweet. Comedies also don’t inspire much communal viewing.”

Swipe Nation

sharon-loveBuilding brand relationships can be as easy as right for ‘yes’ and left for ‘no.’ A Hub White Paper by Sharon Love of TPN. The current digital equivalent to a head nod is the swipe: right for ‘yes’ and left for ‘no.’ Few actions are as easy or intuitive as the swipe. Response is based on a visual cue and a mental reflex, with a positive or negative review completed within seconds.

Popularized by Tinder, the online dating app owned by the same holding company as, the swipe is becoming mainstream technology with apps extending the ‘right for yes/left for no’ concept to job opportunities, restaurant options, designer shoes, and bargain deals on anything from cars to electronics.

On the surface, a shopper’s affinity for a system so incredibly simple is obvious. Our brains have never before been so taxed — needing to make thousands of decisions daily fueled by ever-increasing stimuli, courtesy of technology. In a very necessary attempt to funnel decisions, our reflex is to reduce options as quickly as possible. There may be no more expeditious manner of decision-making than swiping right for ‘yes’ and left for ‘no.’ Continue Reading

Points of Influence

lisa-klauserFocus on where the shopper is influenced, not where the sale is made. A Hub White Paper by Lisa Klauser of IN Marketing Services. Technology has created a ‘new normal’ in the way we experience life. Whether it’s the museum visit enhanced via a tour accessed on a mobile phone, a gym membership that prompts fitness goals tracked on a phone to trigger on-premise class recommendations, or an online wish list inspiring a brick-and-mortar shopping spree, we seamlessly float between the virtual and physical. We live in an omnichannel world, where consumers opt-in, research their preferences, and expect a seamless experience across electronic devices and retailer formats whenever and wherever they want to shop.

With technology blurring retail channels into a holistic shopping experience, corporate leadership is struggling to deliver the seamless and profitable omnichannel promise. In fact, a recent PwC study revealed that achieving profitable growth via a cross-channel experience is the number-one priority of both retailer and consumer-goods CEOs today. To realize the promise of omnichannel, organizations must gear up to better understand what drives the brand experience and closes the sale.

At the foundation of the solution must be an ongoing commitment to understand the critical points-of-influence across the path-to-purchase and strategically connect these touchpoints to deepen and personalize brand engagement. Since the channel that helps build brand awareness can often be separate from the channel in which the product is purchased, the imperative is to focus on where the shopper is influenced across the journey, not just where the purchase occurs. Continue Reading.

Brand Faith

rob-duboffRational market research is the key to understanding irrational consumer behavior. A Hub White Paper by Rob Duboff of HawkPartners. So much has changed so fast in the marketplace that we need to question anything that hasn’t changed. One of the last things to change is always our own mindset. The rational decision-making paradigm for managing brand experience is one of those stubborn factors.

How does a business know how best to design and execute brand experience? The core rational bases are sales and/or market research. There can be qualitative information, as well — the best of which is input from those in the channel, such as sales people, along with discussions with most-valued customers.

As digital channels have come online, there has been an avalanche of new data to quantify steps in the purchase process. Layer in customer databases that can track behavior on an individual basis, and decision-makers have a basis to feel they have a surfeit of information upon which to make decisions to improve brand experience. Continue Reading

Art of Omni

lovegroveWhat does great design look like in an omnichannel world? A Hub white paper by Michael Lovegrove and Sandy Stein of TracyLocke. What can we say about omnichannel marketing that hasn’t already been said? Millions of words have been written on the subject from leading strategists, analysts and channel-specific experts — many of which have appeared in this magazine. But one aspect of omnichannel has not been talked about enough: the creative perspective.While many people speak of omnichannel in theory, it’s the creative teams that are challenged to put it into practice every day. So, doesn’t it make sense to look at how art directors, writers and designers approach omnichannel?

The problem is, many creatives approach it the wrong way. They see the word ‘omnichannel’ and they think it means ‘every channel.’ When they get an omnichannel brief, they immediately start making everything. What’s worse, they make everything look exactly the same. Admittedly, we’ve all been guilty of this at one time or another. It’s time to hit the ‘pause button’ and ask ourselves: “What does great design look like in an omnichannel world?” Not just aesthetic design, technological design or synergistic design, but true brand experience design. For too long, too many creative people have been doing omnichannel by default, not by design. Plenty has been said about the science of omnichannel. Now it’s time to talk about the art. Continue Reading.

Street Dreams

street-dreamsA print magazine is making stars out of Instagram photographers, reports Valeriya Safronova in The New York Times (9/3/15). Street Dreams was founded by “three young friends” who have turned “their love of street photography” into “an expanding publishing and social-media brand.” “Now, you can start with an Instagram page and turn it into something bigger,” says Eric Veloso, editorial and creative director. Each issue of Street Dreams features a total of “six photographers: three women and three men whose Instagram followings range from about 3,000 to more than 50,000.” The balance is filled with photos crowd-sourced from Instagram.

Street Dreams has so far published six issues, with a total print run of just 800 copies per issue, but “readers can download a digital copy from the website for eight Canadian dollars.” The magazine “has also attracted the attention of fashion brands, cultural institutions and large corporations.” Coach, for example, had some of its shoes, accessories and clothes photographed by Street Dreams photographers, which the company then posted on its own Instagram feed and at Kinfolk 94, a Brooklyn nightclub and gallery. David Duplantis, global president of marketing for Coach, thinks it’s a great way to reach millennials and “cool kids.”

“We discovered them early on and were intrigued by their disruptive approach to the magazine,” says David. The Tribeca Film Festival has also “teamed up with Street Dreams to document the festival.” AT&T and Iceland Air have hired it “for social media campaigns.” Street Dreams also organizes “photo walks” about four times per year, which typically attracts 200-300 enthusiasts. “We want to showcase the talent of people who might never have their work published otherwise,” says co-founder Michael Cobarrubia. “We want to be their voice.” About 500 people showed up at a release party for the magazine’s latest issue.

Omni Potent

roundtable68So many touchpoints. So little time. A roundtable discussion on the “omnichannel” brand experience featuring Douwe Bergsma of Georgia-Pacific, Rob Sorensen of Lenscrafters, Bari Harlam of BJs Wholesale Club, Scott Galloway of NYU/Stern/L2, and Stanton Kawer of Blue Chip.

What is the biggest obstacle to creating a great digital experience?

Douwe Bergsma: The first obstacle for digital is that the space to communicate content is smaller and the time you have to communicate is shorter. The amount of content you need in the digital world is another challenge. In the past, with traditional media, content would last longer. You would have a few ads that you could air for several months. You could track how each ad was doing and if it tapered off you would replace it. In this digital world, people are always hungry for new content.

The second part is, how do you reach the right people at the right time at the right place? We’ve made so much progress over recent years, but this is still a challenge. Even if you believe you can do it, you need the right tools, skills, knowledge and capabilities in-house. So, the challenges are the content, the media and the in-house capabilities. All three need to be working together to have the cumulative effect of reaching the right consumers at the right time and place. Read The Rest of The Roundtable.

Fargo Values

wells-fargo When Henry Wells and William Fargo established Wells Fargo in 1852, omnichannel meant the efficient delivery of messages and financial services by ship, horseback, railroad and stagecoach. It wasn’t long before the telegraph enabled electronic transactions, later followed by radio, the telephone and, of course, the World Wide Web. Yet while the technology that animates the Wells Fargo brand experience has changed dramatically over the past 160 years or more, the essence of that experience has remained remarkably unchanged. Then, as now, the mission is to help customers — whenever, wherever and however needed. To this day, the Wells Fargo culture is grounded in the philosophy that providing financial services is more about building relationships than enabling transactions.

In other words, omnichannel is not about the channels, or the means through which Wells Fargo communicates or delivers services to its customers; it is about the many interactions that color its customers’ daily lives. As Chief Marketing Officer Jamie Moldafsky explains: “We think of the brand experience as the totality of how people feel about our brand and engage with it … There is that very practical, rational level of just getting things done as quickly and efficiently as possible, but connecting with the brand emotionally goes to a different place. It means we’re committed to the relationship and are always there to help our customers.” That might sound kind of warm-and-fuzzy, especially for a bank. Then again, money certainly packs an emotional punch, and a focus on how customers feel arguably is more important than anything else.

This presents challenges not only for Wells Fargo, but also every brand striving to balance the efficiencies of technology with the vagaries of humanity. The bottom line is that Wells Fargo today is the most valuable bank on earth, with a market capitalization of $300 billion. The Wall Street Journal reported that this is “thanks largely to its relatively simple business, which doesn’t rely on many complex derivatives or risky trades using borrowed money.” It simply accepts deposits and lends that money, not unlike the way Henry Wells and William Fargo (also founders of American Express) did it back in the day. This speaks to the values that guide the Wells Fargo brand experience every bit as much as the way its associates treat customers at local branches across America. “It’s not just about providing the right solutions,” says Jamie. “It’s understanding who our customers are and why we have the right solution.” Read The Hub Interview with Jamie Moldafsky

Disney’s Vision

disneylandWalt Disney’s “obsession with vintage locomotives” inspired his vision for Disneyland, reports Will Friedwald in The Wall Street Journal (7/15/15). Walt “conceived the whole place as the miniature railway layout of the gods.” The impetus was fan mail from Disney “moviegoers of all ages, some of whom wanted to see how cartoons were produced, but many more who wanted to visit Mickey Mouse and Cinderella where they actually lived.” The execution, at first, was far from perfect, however.

When Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955, “difficulties with both the plumbing system and the labor unions made it impossible for anyone to get a drink.” Only a few rides were open, and “most of those were continually breaking down and closing.” The temperature on opening day was 101, and “all the asphalt — poured only a few hours earlier” — stuck to to the shoes of the 28,000 visitors. Disneyland would not be fully operational for another three years, but in true Disney fashion, it was driven by Walt’s “desire to tell stories in a way that necessitated the creation of new media and entire artistic disciplines to go with them.”

Disneyland triumphed by taking “the concept of narrative to the extreme,” immersing visitors “in the story itself … You didn’t just ride a roller coaster — you became Snow White being chased through the forest.” The rides “were as painstakingly conceived as any feature film (or any blockbuster video game today),” complete with “full-scale soundtracks that included original songs.” Meanwhile, Walt struck an innovative media deal with ABC-TV, under which Disney produced a TV show that cross-promoted both the park and its movies in return for ABC helping “to underwrite the park’s construction.”

Broadcast Hysteria

broadcast-hysteriaThe news media response to War of the Worlds in 1938 reverberates today, reports Richard J. Tofel in a Wall Street Journal review of Broadcast Hysteria by A. Brad Schwartz (5/15/15). “The hysteria” when Orson Welles “took to the airwaves of CBS with a fake newscast reporting a Martian invasion of New Jersey” was mostly a result of the ensuing news media coverage. “There were no car accidents, no miscarriages, no suicides,” Brad writes in the book. Only false news reports that there were.

Of the six million listeners, about one million “seem to have mistaken the drama for a news show, at least at first. Most of them appear to have missed the part about the Martians and thought there was either a natural disaster or some sort of battle going on west of New York. Yet if radio listeners did not panic, newspaper reporters surely did … publicizing ‘a nationwide panic that never actually existed’.” One result was “a campaign to rein in the power of radio, a relatively new mass medium that might, it was thought, produce hysteria generally.”

War of the Worlds sounded plausible at the time because radio listeners were used to hearing bulletins about Hitler’s threats and subsequent actions, for example. True reports of hurricanes leaving hundreds dead also made the fake newscast sound plausible. Radio’s power endures to the present day — versus television and the Internet — largely because it forces listeners to visualize its creations. “It’s not so much that picturing Martians in one’s head makes them easier to believe in as it is that people see the Martians they are ready to see,” Brad writes.

American Megazine

american-megazineOther print media may be downsizing, but not American Megazine, reports Greg Beato in The New York Times (3/19/15). “American Megazine is five feet tall and more than three feet wide. Open it up, and it grows bigger than all but the biggest flatscreens. It does what newspapers and evening news broadcasts routinely did when the mass media were still massive: It demands that you pay attention.” It also demands that you pay up: Each issue of American Megazine sells for $12,000. Only one copy has been sold so far. But still.

As you’ve likely surmised, American Megazine is the work of an artist. Lisa Anne Auerbach got the idea after a project photographing megachurches, which she didn’t think would display well in a gallery. “It would be almost suffocating to be in a room filled with images of these buildings, or at least that was my fear,” she explains. So, she decided to publish her work in a magazine instead, and “given the capabilities of her Epson 11880 64-inch inkjet printer she could do so without diminishing the size or quality of her photos.”

The result is now “reaching a global audience through museum and gallery appearances,” in which “two human page turners wearing T-shirts that read ‘Bigger’ and ‘Better’ accompany it … their presence serves as a wry take on the state of print media: LIke all paper-based publications” it requires “an absurd amount of labor to reach readers.” It is also “literally Big Media, more physically impressive than anything the world’s largest newspaper and magazine empires would dream of producing at this moment.”

Words Onscreen

words-onscreenDigital’s rise could be bad news for reading comprehension and "even our very culture," reports Steven Poole in a Wall Street Journal review of Words Onscreen by Naomi S. Baron (2/20/15). Naomi points out, for example, that students "forced to study using e-texts complain about eyestrain, distractibility and poorer recall of material … She contrasts ‘deep reading’ — the concentrated, continuous attention we pay to a fine novel or absorbing non-fiction book — with a more stop-start, goal-oriented kind that she calls ‘reading on the prowl’."

Naomi also "draws illuminating historical comparisons: between Reader’s Digest Condensed Books … and Summly, which automatically compresses news stories into bite-sized nuggets." Naomi further acknowledges that "deep reading" is actually a relatively new phenomenon, that "probably began only with the rise of the novel as entertainment. Reading on the prowl, on the other hand, has been the way most readers have consumed most books since the book was invented. (Consider, for example, how people use the Bible)."

Magazines, in fact, were developed as informational summaries (the word ‘magazine’ basically means "a place to store things" in French). It is true, as well, as Steven points out, that "there is no necessary correlation between word count and nutrition complexity. Someone reading a Wallace Stevens poem on an iPad is getting a better brain workout than someone reading a mediocre thriller in paperback," he writes, adding: "What you choose to read will always be much more important than how the text is delivered to your eyes."

Silly Love Songs

wingsGreensleeves may originally have been a tawdry love song, reports the Economist in a review of Love Songs by Ted Giola (2/14/15). The title may have referred "to grass stains on the clothing of (ladies of the night) who entertained their clients outdoors." This is among other trivia bits in the book, which also includes "that among the 64 talents the Kama Sutra recommends for elite lovers are singing, dancing, metallurgy and teaching parrots how to talk; and that Gene Simmons, the lead singer of Kiss, has slept with 4,897 women."

Ted seeks to revise the love song’s reputation as "wimpy music," and argue that they are, in fact, "radical and disruptive." Love songs "have survived repression, expanded human freedom and proved uniquely hospitable to the voices of the marginalized. Ted’s capacious definition of love … includes bizarre Sumerian fertility rites" and "chivalric troubadour songs." Incidentally, "a lament sung outside a lover’s door is called a paraklausithyron." Both troubadours and rock stars "owe tremendous debts to African and Middle Eastern influences."

Ted’s takes "a Darwinian view of love songs — that they are an evolutionary necessity, fulfilling a role similar in nature and intent to bird songs." Objections "to love songs," meanwhile, "sound similar across cultures" — the common complaint is that they threaten "to turn young listeners away from a stable and virtuous life." The sharpest criticism of rock ‘n’ roll debauchery has been "levelled against the tango in the 20th century, the waltz in the 19th and the sarabande in the 16th … the love song has outlasted … objections for centuries."


fameCelebrity is shrinking in tandem with media, reports Alex Williams in The New York Times (2/8/15). The trend is nothing new, however "as social media have splintered into ever tinier subcultures, the atomization of fame has only accelerated." What New York magazine termed "microfame" in 2008, as YouTube exploded with microcelebrities, is now nanocelebrity thanks to the proliferation of the likes of Vine, Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest, and stars specific to each platform. At this point, YouTube "basically qualifies as a legacy media outfit."

Those who built their fame on YouTube seem to be a different breed, as well. They tended "to be overtly careerist," working as they did in "longer-form media." They also "enjoyed a modicum of mainstream appeal. Nanofamers, by contrast, enjoy no staying power. They work in snippets of bite-size content (six-second Vines, say) and are confined to niche audiences (often teenagers) … Nanofamers may be idolized by their million-plus followers, but they are often unknown to those on the outside."

We’re certainly come a long way from a culture of "permanent fame." Leo Braudy, author of The Frenzy of Renown, notes that pharoahs once built stone statues as "their claim on posterity." As recently as 20th-century Hollywood, "being famous meant your name would live forever" with handprints in cement or a star on Hollywood Boulevard. The digital world changed all that. "The more transient the medium, the more transient the fame," says Leo. "When there are a lot of people making a public claim for their own importance, each gets a smaller bit."

Magzter Magazines

magzterWhat Netflix and Spotify did for movies and music, Magzter hopes to do for magazines, reports Joshua Brustein in Bloomberg Businessweek (1/19/15). So far, "the idea of paying a flat fee for unlimited access" to magazines "hasn’t caught on," however Next Issue Media has been attempting such a model since 2011, but to date has attracted only "hundreds of thousands" of subscribers willing to pay "$15 a month for access to about 140 magazines." Netflix, by comparison, has "50 million" subscribers and Spotify "12.5 million."

Magzter, meanwhile, is trying a different approach. Magzter’s plan is just $10 a month, and it "thinks it can gain traction where Next Issue hasn’t by offering a larger selection of more obscure titles and by selling subscriptions internationally." About 5,000 publishers are using Magzter to sell standalone issues, and 2,000 are participating in its "all-access subscription service." "It’s the last great white space in streaming media," says Magzter CEO Girish Ramdas. "Everyone else has made the jump."

The opportunity might seem ripe, especially since "drawing readers to single-title magazine apps that mimic the print experience" hasn’t caught on — "app subscribers make up less than 4 percent of overall magazine circulation." However, "it’s not clear that anyone but the most voracious readers will save money … If a Netflix for magazines ever does catch on, it would preserve one consistent aspect of the magazine industry: relying on readers to subscribe to far more material than they have time to read."