In a January 6th blog posting, actress, writer, and all-around nerd-genre-genius Felicia Day takes to task an article published in a recent issue of Vanity Fair magazine. The article, written by Vanessa Grigoriadis, is about women who have used Twitter successfully to raise their professional profile – to gain “Twilebrity” status, as the article puts it. Day herself, whose feed has more than 1.7 million subscribers, was one of those women profiled.
As Day notes, on one level the fact that this article was written at all is fairly exciting for people interested in social media, since it means that a major mainstream news outlet is taking an interest in a still fringe-y media source, providing a certain degree of validation for those whose claims that social media is the future have long been met with skepticism and ostentatious eye-rolling. Furthermore, the article focuses on women who are helping to lead the evolution of the media landscape, an area not always known for being equally accessible to both sexes. Good stuff all around.
Or at least it would be good stuff if not for the numerous examples that Day points out indicating that the writer either doesn’t know a thing about social media or doesn’t take it or its practitioners particularly seriously (or, more likely, both). Take these little gems for example:
“For tweeple, e-mail messages are sonnets, Facebook is practically Tolstoy. ‘Facebook is just way too slow,’ says Stefanie Michaels. ‘I can’t deal with that kind of deep engagement.'”
“‘Sometimes,’ says Julia Roy, a 26-year-old New York social strategist turned twilebrity, scrunching her face, ‘when you’re Twittering all the time, you even start to think in 140 characters.'”
(I particularly like Day’s response to the second quotation: “‘Scrunching her face?!’ Oh gosh, thinking is hard!”)
I’ll dispense with any further analysis, since Day’s blog does a much better job of that than I could, so you’re probably best off just to read her posting on the subject. Go ahead, read it now – I’ll wait.
But there is one thing I would like to point out, and that’s the likely motivation for the tone of this stupid article: fear.
The traditional publishing industry is in serious trouble. More and more consumers are getting their news, entertainment gossip, and whatever else was formerly available strictly on the newsstand from online media sources. Now that hand-held web-browsers are in such wide circulation, the rate at which people abandon their daily newspapers and monthly celebrity magazines in favour of their iPhones and BlackBerries is only going to increase.
Not only that, the rise of social media has made it possible for anyone to be a publisher (this is not news). And as more and more talented writers choose to publish online rather than through traditional channels, those online sources are rapidly gaining credibility (this is sort of news), taking away one of the few major advantages the traditional media had left and flooding the media pool with competition – competition that, unlike say Vanity Fair, has low overhead and has learned that you write for business development, not for business. These people are therefore much less worried about the revenue from their media outlet and can give their content away for free, which gives them a significant competitive advantage over the old-guard (this is big news).
The scariest part for peddlers of traditional media is that these low-cost outlets are proving just as desirable for readers as their high-cost competitors. Felica Day’s Twitter feed (@feliciaday), for example, has more than 1.7 million subscribers; Vanity Fair‘s monthly subscribers only number about 1.1 million. Those are scary numbers for an organization with a vested interest in making sure that their (much more expensive) medium is the one attracting the most readers.
So it’s no wonder that they’d take such a snarky tone towards social media – if their capital can’t help them, what weapon do they have left to protect their market share, aside from barely-veiled attacks on their competition’s credibility? To be fair, it may just be that the writer isn’t into social media and – mistakenly – adopted a tone appropriate for a fluff piece about a faddish, passing trend, rather than a proper examination of a media game-changer.
Either way, you can’t ignore the fact that there is blood in the water – and from reading between the lines in this article, Vanity Fair knows it.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Digital media, Music, Nine Inch Nails, The Slip
A couple of weeks ago, I went on a Nine Inch Nails bender and listened to nothing but NIN for about 10 days straight (it was largely thanks to this trailer for Terminator: Salvation, which is one of the better movie trailers I’ve seen in quite some time). Invariably, I wound up returning to NIN’s 2008 album The Slip. And I got to thinking how brilliant it is.
It’s not brilliant in terms of the music – personally, I much prefer The Fragile. But it is brilliant in terms of how well it embraces digital music distribution.
For one, it is distributed for free online under a creative commons license, which means that not only can anyone interested get a copy at no cost, they can do whatever they want with it – copy it, redistribute, use it in a podcast, remix it, sample it, WHATEVER.*
One problem I think some content producers have with internet distribution is that once you release something in the ether of the interwebs, you pretty much give up all control over it. You can’t stop someone from messing around with it and you can never, ever delete it. For people who still think that their content belongs to them once it’s been released to an audience, this is scary. NIN obviously has no trouble with it, which is nice to see.
Another neat thing about The Slip is how well it incorporates visual media into the digital release. If you’re listening to it on an iPod Touch, for example, each song is displayed with its own cover art and if you tap to click over to the alternate screen, you get an alternate piece of artwork with the lyrics superimposed over-top.
I think this was the first time I’d seen an album that so cohesively incorporates visual elements into the album experience and does so with such a sharp eye to the way that the album will be experienced through hand-held digital players (if anyone has examples of others, I’m interested to hear about them).
To me, this album represents a moment analagous to when learners of new languages go from composing in their maternal language and translating to the acquired one to thinking and composing entirely in the new language.
Up to now (or, I guess, May 2008 when The Slip came out), the approach to media on the internet seemed to be to put stuff online, but to continue to try to apply and enforce the old rules of distribution (e.g., by controlling redistribution based on copyright). As the RIAA can probably tell you, that wasn’t a huge success. The Slip is an example of someone fully embracing new media – or, if you will, finally thinking in the new language of digital distribution.
It’s a pretty neat development and I hope it continues.
*As noted in this review http://www.wired.com/listening_post/2008/05/nine-inch-nails/