DataDownload: Gen Zers and the great American cool

DataDownload: Gen Zers and the great American cool A weekly summary of all things Media, Data, Emerging Tech View this email in your browser

As we move into the depths of summer, talking about hot topics.

Vox has a great piece on the great American cool. TechCrunch writes about file sharing and how it’s driven so much innovation. The NY Times covers Facebook’s internal war with transparency. CJR digs into Richard Branson’s space journey. And Peloton pays more per song stream than Tidal or Spotify.

We’re watching The Economist on how Covid has changed life forever. There’s a podcast series on the Murdoch phone hacking scandal. Finally, we take a deeper look at how Google results vary depending on location.

Hope you’re enjoying the newsletter, have a great summer, and see you soon when we’re all back!


Steven Rosenbaum
Executive Director
The NYC Media Lab Must-Read The Great American Cool

Gen Xers went crate-digging for obscure vinyl and carried it in NPR tote bags to build hipster cred. Millennials acquired their tastes by becoming online sleuths in blogs and forums. But are the days of the middle-class gaining “social and cultural capital” by consuming cool stuff behind us? Is “the great American cool nearly dead, slipping out of the grasp of Gen Z, who seem too busy being themselves to care?”

TikTok creator Ladifa, 20, says: “Style [now] is so much more personalized, especially in the digital space I occupy.” Gen Z sees many once cool enthusiasms and affinities as nostalgia porn at best, and cheugy at worst. “Cool, once narrowly delineated and foisted upon us by marketing cherry-picked from hip kids, has been blown apart for the new generation.”

Vox / 10 min read

Read more Inside Facebook’s Data Wars

CrowdTangle, a data analytics tool owned by Facebook, was supposed to make the platform more transparent. And it did. For example, CrowdTangle showed that right-wing commentators like Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino received much more engagement on their Facebook pages and posts than MSM news outlets. Then, in April, CrowdTangle ceased to operate quasi-independently inside Facebook and was absorbed by the social network’s integrity team. According to Brian Boland, a former Facebook VP who oversaw CrowdTangle: “People were enthusiastic about the transparency [it] provided until it became a problem and created press cycles Facebook didn’t like.”

In summer 2020, using CrowdTangle data, The NY Times’ tech columnist Kevin Roose created Facebook’s Top 10, a daily leaderboard of the social network’s most-engaged link posts. “The account drove [Facebook] executives crazy,” says Roose. Then The Economist published an article saying Facebook offers a distorted view of American news. John Pinette, Facebook’s VP of global comms, emailed the link to fellow execs with the subject line: “The trouble with CloudTangle.” Nick Clegg, VP of Global Affairs, replied, “our own tools are helping journos to consolidate the wrong narrative.” CrowdTangle remains available for now. But for how long? “Facebook would love full transparency if there was a guarantee of positive stories and outcomes,” Boland said. “But when transparency creates uncomfortable moments, their reaction is often to shut down the transparency.”

NY Times / 13 min read Read More Tech+Media Why Did File Sharing Drive So Much Startup Innovation?

What do the founders of Expensify, NS1, and Uber have in common? They all cut their teeth at (illegal) file sharing startups. Travis Kalanick founded P2P platform Red Swoosh — where Expensify’s founder David Barrett was a lead engineer. NS1 founder Kris Beevers got his start at Aimster where he met Raj Dutt, NS1 board member and co-founder at Grafana. TechCrunch’s Danny Crichton noted the founder’s shared file sharing origin stories when editing deep dives into growth-stage companies.

The through-line is that they “learned the trade, built networks of hyperintelligent present and future colleagues, understood business development and growth, and started to create a flywheel of innovation amidst their friends.” Today’s potential launchpad equivalent? Blockchain has “precisely that balance of rebelliousness, democratization, and technical excellence.” And that’s where the next blessing of “extraordinary unicorns” might spring from.

TechCrunch / 5 min read Read More Richard Branson, the Press, and the Space in Between

So, Richard Branson went to space last week. Or did he? Slow Boring pundit Matthew Yglesias tweeted: “I’m sorry, but if you’re not orbiting the earth you’re not a Space Billionaire — we’ve all been in airplanes,” and even the The NY Times caveated Branson’s weightlessness as “apparent”. TV coverage was largely less dubious of Branson’s Virgin trip to the stratosphere. Mark Strassmann said, on CBS, “I have to think that Richard Branson right now is floating on air.”

CNN’s innovation correspondent Rachel Crane said the event gave her “goosebumps” and that she would “put it in the memory book forever.” But, according to chronicler of the mega-rich Teddy Schleifer, the media’s billionaire beat should be less about fawning over “the rich and famous doing crazy stuff” and more “a beat about power, about inequality, about democracy.” As Columbia Journalism Review’s Jon Allsop puts it, “private capital can develop technology that shoots people toward the stars. Its incentive structures can also trap people on earth in cycles of neglect, technological and otherwise.”

Columbia Journalism Review / 11 min read Read More How the Heck Is Peloton the Best-Paying Music Streaming Service?

When you think of music streaming services, Peloton probably isn’t the first platform that comes to mind. But for artists feeling left behind by the streaming economy, the luxury stationery bike business may be more lucrative than Spotify or Apple Music. According to The Trichordist, Peloton’s payout rate per song streamed in 2019 was 3.1 cents, almost 10x Spotify’s rate (0.35 cents) and 5x Apple Music’s (0.68 cents).

Does that make Peloton more artist-friendly than Tidal (0.88 cents)? Not really. In 2019, members of the National Music Publishers’ Association sued Peloton for $150M for streaming unlicensed songs — triple the total amount of music license fees Peloton had paid at the time. NMPA later raised its lawsuit to $300M when it found additional unlicensed usage of songs by artists like The Beatles and Taylor Swift. It’s also a relatively small player. Peloton accounts for 0.07% of global music streams and 1.28% of industry revenue. According to Slate’s Nitish Pahwa: “The total money Peloton is contributing to the music industry’s livelihood still isn’t that much, in the grand scheme of things.”

Slate / 15 min read

Read More What We’re Watching Covid-19: Why Your Life Will Never Be the Same Again

“Across much of the world, Covid-19 restrictions are starting to ease. The Economist has crunched the numbers to calculate how close countries are to pre-pandemic levels of normality — but will life ever be the same again?”

The Economist (YouTube) / 9 min watch

Watch Now What We’re Listening To Podcast: The Murdoch Phone Hacking | The Dark Arts | 1

The News of the World was once the UK’s biggest Sunday tabloid. But if you’ve heard of it on this side of the Atlantic, it’s probably in the context of the phone-hacking scandal that eventually led to its demise. The British Scandal podcast takes a deep dive into the “dark arts” of yellow journalism and how hacking the voicemail of a 13-year old murder victim sunk the Rupert Murdoch-owned scandal sheet.

Spotify / 44 min listen

Listen Now Virtual Events Free Event: SaaS Financial Modeling Workshop
Date: July 20, 12PM-1PM EDT
Join Paul Bianco, CEO of Graphite and former VC at ffVC, for an interactive workshop on SaaS focused financial modeling. Register Here.

Free Event: The B Word
Date: July 21
The B Word is a Bitcoin focused initiative that aims to demystify and destigmatize mainstream narratives about Bitcoin. Register Here. A Deeper Look A New Tool Shows How Google Results Vary Around the World

Users may think Google’s search results are objective, but a new experimental interface illustrates how illusory that neutrality actually is. Search Atlas shows how Google gives different answers to the same query based on the location of the user. According to co-creator Rodrigo Ochigame, a PHD student at MIT, Search Atlas shows that the idea search engines are neutral is a myth.

“Any attempt to quantify relevance necessarily encodes moral and political priorities,” Ochigame says. Safiya Noble, author of Algorithms of Oppression, says Search Atlas could play a role in explaining the true nature of search engines to a wider audience. “It’s very difficult to make visible the ways search engines are not democratic,” Noble said.

WIRED / 6 min read

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