The Benioffs join Bezos, Jobs, and others who’ve turned to publishing to cement their legacies. But a hands off approach isn’t what journalism needs right now.
The Los Angeles Times was the first newspaper I ever read – I even attended a grammar school named for its founding family (the Chandlers). Later in life I worked at the Times for a summer – and found even back then, the great brand had begun to lose its way.
I began reading The Atlantic as a high schooler in the early 1980s, and in college I dreamt of writing long form narratives for its editors. In graduate school, I even started a publication modeled on The Atlantic‘s brand – I called it The Pacific. My big idea: The west coast was a huge story in desperate need of high-quality narrative journalism. (Yes, this was before Wired.)
NewCo and I are very invested in Medium — we very much want it to thrive. Here are a few suggestions that might make it better.
Over the years I’ve had an increasingly deep relationship with Medium. In the past 18 months, the relationship has become more of a marriage. The publication I started, NewCo Shift, lives there. I even consulted with Medium, briefly, earlier this year, so yes, I do own shares. I’m invested. I’ve pretty much migrated any of my “new” writing to Shift on Medium, leaving my careworn site Searchblog to slowly rot into the fecund soil of the independent web.
I trust the 5,600 or so posts I poured into Searchblog will persist, as long as I pay my hosting fees (and they’re steep, damn it). Can I say the same of the 250 or so pieces I’ve recently written on Medium (I think this one is #251, in fact)? Or of the thousand+ or so we’ve run on Shift? I don’t know, but I’m now invested in the platform’s continuance. With that in mind, here are a few, randomly organized ideas that I think would make the place better.
Let’s discuss the rather sorry state of Internet publishing.
Here are the caveats for the rant I am about to write.
The fact that I am writing this on Medium will cause many of you to dismiss me for hypocrisy. Don’t. Read to the end.
I will be saying the word “F*CK” a lot. If that bothers you, time to depart for calmer waters.
This post will be subject to dismissal due to charges of high nostalgia — I will be accused of living in the past, failing to get the future, not getting with the times, being the old man yelling “get off my lawn,” etc. These characterizations will be entirely correct. And totally irrelevant.
This post will be compared, most likely unfavorably, to the many, many, many, many wonderful (and better) posts that have already been written on this subject. That’s fine. I just want to add my voice to the conversation.
This post will piss off friends of mine at Facebook, Medium, LinkedIn, and probably Google. Sorry in advance. Kinda.
Ok, now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to say something out loud.
Over the course of nearly two decades, I’ve been one of many journalists, analysts, and bloggers who’ve made a career of deciphering the impact of Evan William’s creations. From Blogger, which reshaped media as a two-way conversation, to Twitter, which supercharged it, to Medium which…
…well, in fact, amongst a certain set of media observers, Williams’ latest creation has been both fascinating and confounding. Is it just a better-looking Blogger? A Twitter-like network, but focused on long form writing? A platform for publishers? Something entirely new?
The Boston Globe, founded in 1872, is no NewCo. It’s infuriating, provincial … and absolutely essential to my community. Although I read it almost exclusively online these days, I do enjoy that virtual thud announcing there’s a new Globe available to me every morning, on my screen if not at the end of my driveway.
The Globe has an inventive feature today, a mock front page imagining what life under a Trump administration might look like. It’s reasonably well done from an editorial standpoint and there are plenty of points to argue over, but I believe that the way the Globe is distributing it shows why the publication is even more doomed than I thought (and that feeling of doom goes up all the way to the newspaper’s current editor).
This smart, potentially shareable, maybe even viral feature was published and is being distributed in a quarter-century-old print-centric manner. Here’s what the front page of the Globe looks like online on a phone, where more people every day get their news.
If you’re interested in how we’re going to shift from our current, unsustainable economic culture to a new, more thoughtful approach to business, well, we already like you. We’reNewCo Shift, and we’re making a new kind of publication. We’ve got an overview of it here. It’s a bit earnest, but honestly, we like to laugh as well. (For the juicy bits, read down to the middle).
At our core we’re product people — in that we think there’s value in thinking through the architecture of a publication, the intention of each thing we’re going to create together. We’re just getting started, and if you can imagine a really cool way to tell this story — using visualized data, or long-form features, or short-form video, or heck, even a lis-tickle now and then, well then we’d like to meet you. If you know what “front of the book” means, well, that’s a bonus. Because in a way, we’re looking for items in the front of the book — I sometimes call them “nuggets”. (And yes, for the feature well too, but we’re well on our way there).
Covering the biggest shift in capitalism since the industrial revolution. Keeping our wit nearby as we do.
What Is NewCo Shift?
A new business media property brought to you by folks at NewCo Festivals, who also founded or worked at places like Wired, The Industry Standard, The New York Times, HBR, and other excellent publications. Launched in beta in April, with new features rolling out through 2016.
What Is the Premise of NewCo Shift?
Here’s how we think about it (it gets a bit serious, but stick with us). The muscular brand of American capitalism that dominated the post-WWII era is in fundamental transition. The central premise that companies exist to drive shareholder value above all is increasingly under scrutiny. This “true north” of shareholder value incented our most valuable companies to shape our economic, political, and social landscape to reward short term and blinkered thinking. But society is now demanding that businesses consider the entirety of their impact — on employees, customers, partners, and communities — before making decisions that otherwise might be justified by “shareholder returns.” The result is the greatest shift in our business ecosystem since the industrial revolution.
Four distinct but interconnected forces inform this shift. These forces have been building for the past five decades, but recently they’ve hit a tipping point. First is the role of digital technology in our society. Until recently, technology was understood as a rising new vertical industry. But in the past two decades, technology has become a horizontal force across all industries, driving both a renaissance and a reckoning in every sector of our economy.