Links for 3/30/2021

Problem with going a week or more between big links posts is I bookmark a lot of things that aren’t so relevant now. Lots of great Suez Canal memes, but that ship has sailed (#dadjoke). Anyways…

Microsoft is supposedly talking with Discord about an acquisition for more than $10 billion. When digging through the J’s Notes archives I’m finding a lot of historical acquisitions, like Google buying Pyra (Blogger), and how acquisition seemed to be the norm but the price point has changed drastically and now seems so quaint. In 2007 Google bought DoubleClick for $3.1 billion when it’s advertising revenue was $16.41 billion. Google rolled DoubleClick into their overall marketing platform and logged nearly $147 billion in ad revenue in 2020.

Marvel Comics is finding a new distributor – Penguin Random House

Marvel’s new agreement with PRHPS follows the unexpected departure of DC from Diamond in 2020. The new distribution agreement means that the Big Two of American superhero comics—Marvel and DC—which are also Diamond’s two biggest accounts as well as pillars of the direct market, have left Diamond Comics Distributors. It is unclear how this will impact Diamond and the comics shop market going forward but it does mark the end of Diamond’s dominance of periodical comics distribution.

Comics shop retailers, however, will still be able order Marvel comics from Diamond. The deal effectively turns Diamond into a wholesaler account (they will get their stock from PRHPS) although this is likely to effect the discounts available to retailers that order via Diamond. Direct market retailers will be able to choose between ordering Marvel products directly from PRHPS or through Diamond. Hachette Book Group will continue to manage the distribution of Marvel’s graphic novels and trade collections to the book market, including independent bookstores and elsewhere.

On its face this seems good because Diamond’s hold on the comic industry after inking exclusive deals during the heydays of the ’90s has drastically impacted the comic book market in ways that strangled stores and limited distribution through so many potential channels. Depends on what kind of arrangements comic shops can make with multiple distributors to ensure profitability.

We’re way past the time of comics selling millions of copies of a single issue (1991’s X-Men #1 is the best selling comic of all time at 8.1 MILLION copies, 2020’s best selling comic Batman: Three Jokers #1 sold 190 thousand copies) but the market’s still there.

RIP Jessica Walter.

By the time Arrested premiered in 2003, Walter had already earned an Emmy for her performance as a trailblazing detective on the short-lived Amy Prentiss,in 1975. But the cult classic Bluth sitcom would introduce her to an entirely new audience. Arrested Development wasn’t just contemporary; it was light-years ahead of its time, too niche to last long on broadcast but popular enough in its afterlife to fuel the rise of Netflix, which shrewdly saw a revival as a shortcut into subscribers’ hearts. And Walter was key to its success. The bitchy grande dame is a classic archetype, but Walter carried it into an era of shaky, handheld cameras and layered, meta in-jokes, years before 30 Rock or The Office.

RIP Beverly Cleary.

“I think children want to read about normal, everyday kids. That’s what I wanted to read about when I was growing up,” Cleary told NPR’s Linda Wertheimer in 1999. “I wanted to read about the sort of boys and girls that I knew in my neighborhood and in my school. And in my childhood, many years ago, children’s books seemed to be about English children, or pioneer children. And that wasn’t what I wanted to read. And I think children like to find themselves in books.”

RIP Larry McMurtry.

Whatever you think of McMurtry as a writer, it’s worth reflecting on this plain fact: No other writer has ever had a career remotely like his, and no writer ever again will have such a career.

Alan Jacobs – Snakes and Ladders

Growing up on a family ranch outside the town of Archer City, Texas, Larry McMurtry recalls that the family told one another stories by necessity: They owned no books. The prolific author has been making up for it ever since; in addition to his own large body of work—which includes The Last Picture ShowLonesome DoveTerms of Endearment, and the screenplay to Brokeback Mountain—he is the owner of a virtual town’s worth of volumes. Indeed, in Archer City, books outnumber people by a good margin.

Inside the ‘Vibrant Intellectual Ecosystem’ of Larry McMurtry’s Home Library

Welcome back, Tower Records?

If Tower can become the place people go to buy vinyl, it might carve out a nice niche. But there are a lot of problems here. First of all, streaming and digital downloads still make up about 90 percent of music revenue. To sell records is to play in a relatively small sandbox. And even within the world of physical media, you’ve got a vicious competitor in Amazon, a tough foe for anyone selling and shipping anything. Danny seems to think that for Tower Records to become the place where people choose to shop for music, there will have to be some emotional connection with the brand, some added value, some tribal bond.

One idea is to have in-house music experts—maybe customers pay a monthly subscription fee to access them, talk about records, get suggestions for new artists to try. “Just like when I was a kid, going into the store and learning about music and the store clerk or store specialist telling me, ‘You need to buy this, you need to buy that. Have you heard of this person and this artist?’ That’s the stuff that we want to bring back, and we’re trying to do that online as much as we can,” Zeijdel says. “Yes, maybe for a dollar cheaper, you can go to Amazon. But that’s it, that’s where it stops. You’re not really interacting. We’re building out a site where it becomes something more.”

In an era of subscription boxes of random stuff like clothing, jewelry, games, makeup, grab-bags personally curated for you based on your tastes and preferences (or an algorithm), seeing the same for records isn’t a bad idea. It’s a small audience with refined tastes but a willingness to spend. And using a known nostalgia inducing brand name like Tower Records to run it? Could work. Certainly not on the scale that Tower once was, but the idea has merit.

Loosely related:

It is one of my life’s greatest heartbreaks that Kurt isn’t still here to write more amazing songs

NME – Dave Grohl says Kurt Cobain was “the greatest songwriter of our generation”

From the twits:

OK, maybe one more Suez Canal joke…
Ah, working from home…

Living on the .net

A lifetime ago I first registered jasonkenney.net because who doesn’t want their very own vanity URL of their name? jasonkenney.com was taken, of course (I’m not the most important/famous Jason Kenney on the Internet, I guess).*

I had to let the ownership lapse after a while due to life and through the years it switched hands among pro and anti Jason Kenney folks (not me because, again, not that famous).

Until this week. When it finally came home.

That’s right, kiddos, Uncle Jay’s got jasonkenney.net again!

And that’s it. Just a post of however many words to say I bought a URL that’ll redirect to jsnotes.com.

* jsnotes.com was also taken at the time, so I couldn’t even get the proper URL for my blog.

Medium Never Got Large

Over at NiemanLab, Laura Hazard Owen covers “the long, complicated, and extremely frustrating history of Medium” and I’m still trying to figure out what problem Medium was trying to solve. I guess acting as a hub for folks who want to write longform pieces but not maintain their own websites?

“They believed if you write it, they will come,” one employee told me. “And it never worked that way.”

Via The Mess At Medium

The pay model was (is?) interesting, but with Substack* and other services giving authors a way to monetize and distribute their work the model may need to shift. Yesterday Medium announced an overhaul to their editorial strategy, so maybe the shift has begun?

Or not:

Meanwhile, the company will continue to rely on Google and Facebook traffic to generate hits it can convert into paid subscribers. The acquisition of the e-book publisher, Glose, is intended to create a bigger library of “evergreen” content on Medium that will drive more traffic to the site via search engines. Like Blogger and Twitter before it, Medium will bet on unpaid labor and algorithms.

Check out the whole piece at The Verge to get a deeper dive into the voices behind Medium’s success and where it stands now.

As someone who enjoys longform writing, both as a consumer and not-as-often-as-I’d-like producer, I’ve liked the idea of Medium but I’m not sure if it is a genuine need being filled or trying to convince folks “hey, longform can be cool too!” in a world of tweets and headline skimming.

Throw into that the fact that its model seems to be dependent upon self promoted user generated content feeding third-party algorithms and you really just have a new way of doing Buzzfeed or The Huffington Post from ten years ago. All of which runs contrary to the initial premise of not to sweat SEO and metrics and analytics because the cream will rise to the top and that rising tide will lift all boats in the Medium pond.

The idea of elevating, feeding, promoting, and paying good content and its creators is a noble venture. Trying to figure out a way to do that successfully – both in informing but also profitability – is the Internet nut so many have been trying to crack for more than twenty years now. Too often the former, informing, is thrown by the wayside for the latter, profitability (see Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post model ten years ago). And you can try to go back to the former once you succeed at the latter, but then credibility (or lack thereof) comes into play.

Maybe, in the end, the unspoken harsh truth is people just don’t care anymore.

Real writing, journalism, thoughtful longform written content is now a niche instead of the norm. Perhaps the secret is just figuring out how to help individuals find their 1,000 true fans and letting the world rebuild from there.

Or maybe Medium will figure it out?

This Medium rabbit hole was inspired by Guy Gonzalez, who you should read more often.

* I have an only half-joking running debate with Kenney the Elder that Substack is essentially OnlyFans for writers in that it’s a platform for folks to monetize what social media encourages folks to give away. Perhaps that’s a post for another day…

Links for 3/19/2021

An oral history of Quentin Tarantino as told to me by men I’ve dated

From the Archives:

Makeout Creek Now Available (2/21/2008)

Style Weekly: When taking sides is an audition (2/19/2008)

Did the “coming crackdown” on blogging ever happen? (3/3/2005)

The Gift Of Music: Ben Folds (3/17/2006)

Links for 3/19/2002

From the twits:

From The Archive

Bit by bit I’m using an old archive of J’s Notes to review content from the last nearly TWENTY YEARS (good gravy!) and reposting it here.

How much content? The version of J’s Notes you’re viewing now has 294 published posts. The J’s Notes Archive has 3,785 posts.

Not all of those are going to survive the transition. Content may no longer be relevant, may be embarrassing (I’ve grown at least a little bit in the last 20 years), may have been an image that’s just not around anymore, etc. I’m filtering. It’s for your own good.

It’s quite an adventure, traveling down memory lane and seeing what interested me, my opinion on things, my writing that, I think, has gotten better through the years, etc.

Admittedly the biggest challenge isn’t filtering through my embarrassing myself in my 20s (that’s easy to filter) — it’s the links.

So much of my blogging has been what was one time called “metablogging” – resharing of links of other blogs or articles and sites collected from around the internet. It’s the exact kind of blogging that Twitter and Facebook easily replaced. Find a neat link? Just share it!

The thing is, there are a LOT of dead websites out there. Or, especially in the case of news sites, URLs have changed and the old links no longer point to anything.

Thank goodness for the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine.

As I repopulate J’s Notes the archive on the sidebar will start filling in more. I’ll also share some notable reblogs in my “Links For…” posts. I’ve also started pulling out links related to naval gazing on blogging through the years and the transition to Social Media as it was viewed by me and adding them to a page here. Will append with links to my thoughtful posts as notations. This may only be fascinating to me, but that’s true of most things I’m into.

Links for 3/18/2021

THIS…IS…PAINTING!!!!!!

Throwback from 2012

Fun little find from the EPI archives: Nipper Runs Amok

Fast forward many decades and a strange spool of such photos was unearthed in one of EMI’s offices. Not of a dancing lady but of “Nipper”, the famous dog featured in Francis Barraud’s iconic painting “His Master’s Voice”, to which we will return in future blogs. Of course, the dog featured wasn’t Nipper – he’d died even before Mr Barraud painted him! – but seemingly The Gramophone Company in Germany, for totally unexplained reasons, chose to make the mutoscope with a dog and a gramophone. What their intentions were and what they expected to happen remain two of life’s many mysteries, but we can only assume it was not what actually happened! Why was it made; where did the mutoscope reside- not on a seaside pier, that’s for sure – the Germans aren’t renowned for their beach holidays!

Lou Ottens, the inventor of the cassette tape and pioneer of the CD, passed away this month at the age of 94.

The cassette tape’s success stemmed from its simplicity, Ottens said in an interview published by the Philips Museum.

“It was a breakthrough because it was foolproof,” he said, adding that players and recorders also could run on batteries, making them very user-friendly and, ultimately, portable.

“Everybody could put music in their pocket,” Ottens said.

This year I made my wife a legit old-school mix tape for Valentine’s Day. A throwback to simpler times. All made possible by Mr. Ottens. RIP, sir.

Maybe I’m not reading into it deep enough, but I like the simplicity of Hemingway. Colin Dickey rips it, saying “Hemingway’s prose is the prose of ugly-hearted men afraid of their own emotions,” which, ok. But here comes Joan Didion to the rescue.

What an uncomfortable recognition, to face how much the ever-beloved Didion saw in the perpetually loathed Hemingway’s style and how much she strove to emulate it in her own writing. She opens the essay with the first paragraph of A Farewell to Arms, then proceeds to break down the magic of those 126 words, and confess her longstanding attempts to imitate it. “I first read them, at twelve or thirteen, and imagined that if I studied them closely enough and practiced hard enough I might one day arrange 126 such words myself.”

But beyond this youthful ardor, reading Didion on Hemingway makes clear how much his style influenced hers. “The very grammar of a Hemingway sentence,” she writes at one point, “dictated, or was dictated by, a certain way of looking at the world, a way of looking but not joining, a way of moving through but not attaching, a kind of romantic individualism distinctly adapted to its time and source.”

Some favorites from Twitter:

Lou Ottens, who invented the cassette tape and pioneered the CD, dies

Lou Ottens, the Dutch inventor who pioneered the compact disc and invented the cassette tape — the medium of choice for millions of homemade mix tapes — has died at a care facility in the Netherlands. Ottens died March 6 at 94, the Dutch electronic conglomerate Philips announced.

Link

Not so COVIDWISE

Adoption Is Low for COVID-19 Exposure Apps, Rendering Them Effectively Useless (via USA Today via Daring Fireball)

Fewer than half of U.S. states offer Android and iOS tools for the “exposure notification” system the two companies announced last April, which estimate other people’s proximity via anonymous Bluetooth beacons sent from phones with the same software.

Most people in participating states have yet to activate these apps. Those who do opt in and then test positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 must opt in again by entering a doctor-provided verification code into their apps.

That second voluntary step generates anonymous warnings to other app users who got close enough to the positive user for long enough — again, as approximated from Bluetooth signals, not pinned down via GPS — to risk infection and to need a COVID-19 test.

So if your copy of one of these apps has remained silent, you’re not alone.

“Nobody in my circle has gotten the phone alert,” said Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics in Baltimore and editor of a 2020 book on the ethics of digital contact tracing.

Virginia rolled out COVIDWISE last summer (Spring? Time has lost meaning.) to some fanfare but limited adoption that never really improved. Earned media, some billboards and other advertising spots pushed it to a degree, but then nothing.

Having been tested for COVID twice, at neither point was I given any literature or told about the app by the two different facilities. How hard would it have been to work with localities or companies to include a note in utility or other bills?

So adoption has been low, and probably mainly among a core audience taking COVID most seriously, so those who are more likely to be following physical distancing recommendations and trying to limit their exposure to begin with. Making the apps even more useless.