The Wire told you so

Almost ten years ago, in the final season of the tv milestone that is The Wire, there is a scene when the Baltimore Sun announced layoffs that were sold as “inevitable”:


The show was created by David Simon, a former Baltimore Sun author and police reporter. He wrote after the series finale:

We will all soon enough live in cities and towns where politicians and bureaucrats gambol freely without worry, where it is never a risk to shine shit and call it gold. A good newspaper covers its city and acquires not just the quantitative account of a day’s events, but the qualitative truth and meaning behind those events. A great newspaper does this routinely on a multitude of issues, across its entire region. Such a newspaper was not chronicled on The Wire.

In fact he documented the downturn consequences of the absence of any sustainable strategy in the publishing industry. It was a local newspaper problem then. Until 2017, when the New York Times, one of the biggest newspapers of the United States pushed massive layoffs in the copy-editor department. The publishing bubble did burst the same way it did all the years before. The Outline recently lamented The Revolution Will Not Be Proofread in regards to the epidemic bubble bursting in the publishing industry but couldn’t help to ask:

What are readers supposed to make of a media operation that is often, by necessity, just as consumed with itself as it is with the world beyond?

If sustainability is equally meant for the good of the readers as well as for the authors and editors, then sustainability has not been the first priority on the strategy side so far. It means also, whoever is in charge for local or nationwide publishing is doing the research part of the digital realm not very well. May it be missing The Wire (it’s on Netflix) or the free advice by Ben Thompson:

Popping The Publishing Bubble (09/2015)

Publishers going forward need to have the exact opposite attitude from publishers in the past: instead of focusing on journalism and getting the business model for free, publishers need to start with a sustainable business model and focus on journalism that works hand-in-hand with the business model they have chosen.

The Local News Business Modell (05/2017)

This is the crux of why many ad-based newspapers will find it all but impossible to switch to a real subscription business model. When asking people to pay, quality matters far more than quantity, and the ratio matters: a publication with 1 valuable article a day about a well-defined topic will more easily earn subscriptions than one with 3 valuable articles and 20 worthless ones covering a variety of subjects.

If your digital strategy does not include quality as a matter of sustainability, then the bubble around you will inevitably pop.


Is youth culture really getting killed by the experience economy?

Ask yourself what came first: one became rootless (if you hear the song in your head now, I’m really sorry) because of disconnected boredom or did suddenly the experience economy emerge and did create a market out of thin air for the people to become rootless?

The experience economy encourages us to give up and try somewhere else as soon as we get bored. We flit from club to club, following the most exciting booking, and change pubs every Friday based on which one Time Out says is best for us this week. (…) What do you do in your spare time? “Things. I experience things.” (…) In constantly lionising the different and the new, we start to neglect the importance of investment and consistency. Subcultures, scenes, identities and communities aren’t built over the space of an evening.

The Vice article is perfect clickbait for people who are thankful for years of being part of a subculture or a club scene. The answer on how to invest and build against rootless or disconnected boredom is not to be found there. You’ll know in a few years when you try though.

The Problem with Muzak

The shrinking visibility of fanzines, music blogs and media platforms through forced paid distribution models on Facebook, Instagram etc. is building a cultural demise which nobody really was or is looking for. Yet the clever discovery algorithms of Spotify, Apple Music etc. win over the overworked, context-disconnected indiviual in a heartbeat because we like to be surprised by the machine. The flatrate streaming services bid to remodel an industry lies in the instantaneous magic of converting your preference, an unprecedented amount of data and “human-machine technology” to quantify your tastes – forever.

We should call this what it is: the automation of selling out.

Liz Pelly, The Baffler