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The Awl Inflection Point
Who are the slut gnomes of false berlin?
According to legend, in 2009 Choire Sicha and Alex Balk were ejected from the collapsing rubble of Radar magazine, the last print magazine to exist. Out of boredom they started a blog called The Awl. I don’t “remember things,” so this history is cobbled together from Wikipedia and reading between the lines of the deranged performance art interviews Choire was giving at the time. But my sense is that the state of the c.2009 media industry was so dire that The Awl was less a plausible business opportunity and more a “why not?” HTML was cheap, and there were no paying magazine jobs to be had anyway. What did they have to lose?
Choire has always been very serious about the business of media, as well as an incorrigible liar, so I bet there was more calculation involved than this myth usually acknowledges. But I always look at The Awl’s founding as one of the first snowflakes in what would become an avalanche of new media startups by 2011 (The Verge, BuzzFeed News, The Daily Dot, Grantland, Mic, VICE Media, etc.) which in turn became an online media industry so booming that by 2015 The Awl would publish the immortal “I hate myself because I can’t work for BuzzFeed” letter.
Today we sit in the newer, shinier, platform-driven collapsing rubble of that era of the media industry. The Verge seems to be doing fine, some of the others kind of still exist, pretty much everyone is laying off staff and making ominous noises about replacing the rest with AI soon. But if I know one fact (and I do) it’s that there will always be people with no other interests or life skills except finding out what’s happening and writing it down. You can give them big paychecks, but it won’t make them work any faster. You can fire them, but it won’t make them work any less. The moneyfolk come and go from media for reasons I will never understand, but when they’re gone—when things look the most bleak—that’s when your true reporter goblins come out to play.
Four ex-Kotaku staffers are launching a new subscriber-based video games and culture publication: Aftermath. The website, which is now live, will be co-owned by Nathan Grayson, Gita Jackson, Riley MacLeod, and Luke Plunkett — all Kotaku mainstays who helped shape its incisive voice before leaving the site for one reason or another.
Aftermath joins the growing ranks of journalist founded and often coöperatively owned, subscription based news startups like Hell Gate, 404 Media, Defector, Discourse Blog, the newly-announced newslettering coöp from Brick House called Flaming Hydra, our pals Garbage Day and Platformer who have both added staff, and probably more that I am forgetting right now.
When the platforms turned off the click hose and hedge fund herbs started buying the tattered remnants of 2010-era blog networks to chop them up for scrap, I wondered when we’d reach the Awl inflection point, where the tools to start a subscription-funded blog were cheap enough and the pool of unemployed reporter goblins was deep enough to start generating a new cohort of publications like this. I think I’m ready to say it’s now, and personally I love to see it.
Will everyone be able to afford to pay for a subscription to every worker-owned coöperative news website? Absolutely not. But whatever! Media isn’t a business anyone can solve, except temporarily. The Awl should have lasted forever, but it shut down in 2018. Some of this new class will survive for nine years and some won’t, but either way people will keep finding out what’s happening and writing it down.
Not to belabor the obvious but Today in Tabs is a reader-supported publication, and I’d really appreciate if you chose to pay me to keep writing it.
Well, that was weird! I didn’t realize I had a little essay on the media business in me today. Luckily Intern Kira is here to bring us back to our roots.
Wake up, sheeple! We stand athwart the confluence of verisimilitude and artifice. Or to be less pretentious: “here’s a meme.” Let’s start with some backstory.
Season 14 of The Real Housewives of New York City premiered this year as a soft-reboot of the show, meaning we were introduced to all new Housewives. The biggest casting news was the addition of Jenna Lyons, a rich power lesbian who immediately had thirsty MILF-lovers in a tizzy. The other wives weren’t quite sure what to do with Jenna at first, but Brynn Whitfield, woman of multiple failed engagements, did her best to charm the pants off Jenna. (Jenna’s pants stayed on, for multiple reasons.)
Jenna is now maybe en-gay-ged to a photographer, but last weekend Brynn, still out here throwing around her faux-ditzy charm, attended BravoCon (the first legitimately successful reality TV convention) and lost an item of clothing herself (also not her pants). As she walked down the escalator to join a panel (on camera, of course), her Louboutins got stuck. The resulting image looked right out of The Wizard of Oz, which Brynn made sure to comment on immediately. She memed the image before anyone else could, taking control of the narrative like a good PR person.
Because Brynn? She’s not a housewife—she’s a girlboss. While Season 14 was airing, Brynn got pissed about the haters calling her a sugar baby and clapped back with her marketing and PR resume, which includes this stunning line: “Whitfield’s highlights include: working on the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill.” Working on the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill!!! She made losing her heels in an escalator look adorable, and she tried to make one of the worst oil spills in human history look like an oopsie. Gatekeep, gaslight, gusher, besties!
—Kira Deshler is bloody shoes.
When I say I cackled at the Wicked Witch of BravoCon video, I mean it. And I recognize the irony.
New York Magazine has an except from Rob Copeland’s new book about Ray Dalio and his hedge fund Bridgewater Associates that starts with piss on the floor and then gets into Dalio’s nonsense “375 Principles” cult-management system:
[Short-lived co-CEO Jon] Rubinstein, who declined to comment, was cognizant of everything he’d heard about the Bridgewater founder’s love of raw honesty and decided to tell Dalio what was on his mind: “You’ve got 375 Principles. Those aren’t principles. Toyota has 14 principles. Amazon has 14 principles. The Bible has ten. Three hundred and seventy-five can’t possibly be principles. They are an instruction manual.”
I found a poster with all of Dalio’s “Principles” online:
This mass mobilization [for Palestine] is wonderful. It’s just about the only wonderful thing that has happened over the past month. And there’s an added bonus: it has Joe Biden absolutely terrified.
No doubt Biden is also looking at polls from the Times that show his support absolutely cratering among young voters, which according to Philip Bump:
…suggests that Biden has a significant individual problem with younger voters, that younger voters are trending away from Democrats, or that this poll in particular is overestimating young voter support for Trump.
/Etc: Orcas got another one. Eruption imminent in Iceland? Changelings spotted in Grindavik. Panic honcho Cabel Sasser digitized over fifty five vintage DAK gadget catalogs, along with nine Products That Think catalogs. I read most of this blog post before I was sure it was about a real thing and not a very clever MJT-style alternate-history fic. Also today in the collapse of media: Staff Escapes Escapist. Cybertruck cybersucks. “…attempted actress Gal Gadot.”
And Finally: New York Times “look at these weirdos” correspondent Joseph Bernstein is back with the boys of the Looksmaxxing community.
When he was 18, Mr. Shami watched “American Psycho,” the 2000 film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s shocking novel, which lingers on the murderous main character’s toned body and elaborate beauty regimen. Mr. Shami’s main takeaway from the film was not its mordant satire of consumerism, but that it was an aspirational lifestyle guide.
Today’s Song: Cardi B., “Bodak Yellow”
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