A Random Walk Through Ben Smith History

Nous allons tous mourir.

This weekend, Embedded broke the news that Ben Smith is only allowed in one quarantined narc-Slack at the New York Times. In his somewhat chaotic list of favorite newsletters, Ben included “Today in Tabs, naturally,” which is very kind of him because I’ve roasted Ben in this ‘sletter a fair amount through the years, according to Google and the gently composting Tabs archive. Most recently I called him the “New York Times Substack correspondent,” which I guess he’s still doing a decent job of. There was the time in 2015 that I called Buzzfeedan ad agency with a content arm” because Ben deleted a post that made Pepsi mad. And even earlier, there was the time Ben went to a dinner party and heard a rumor, the story that might serve more than any other as a template for the column he writes today.

That last post also includes a link about Airbnb’s “lifestyle magazine” Pineapple which I forgot ever existed. What happened to that? Well, it published one issue, which you can partially leaf through but not purchase at indy magazine store LOREM. There’s a feature about Hans Ulrich Obrist! Someone tell Alex Marraccini (j/k, I am positive she already owns a copy). And then four long Pineapple-less quarters passed before a fresh-faced young media reporter named Steven Perlberg, then at the Wall St. Journal, told us “What Happened to Pineapple, Airbnb’s One-Off Print Magazine.” What happened was Airbnb killed it, saying “those who have launched a magazine know what an iterative process it is,” using the word “iterative” in its lesser known sense of “doing something only once, ever.” Like how life is an iterative process you experience once before starting your new phase of being dead (aka being “in talks with Hearst Corp. to launch a new magazine as a joint venture”).

Perhaps the same iterative process is at work today at Future, the content marketing blog of Egg & The Gang at Andreessen Horowitz, which Alex Kantrowitz noticed hasn’t been updated since June 24th. It’s certainly at work for the products that chaos marketing oddity MSCHF has memorialized as toys in its 50th drop, “Dead Startup Toys,” which include the One Laptop Per Child laptop, the Theranos blood fraud machine, and my own favorite, the Juicero, which I’ve always regretted lived its short and absurd life entirely during the Tabs 2016-2020 Season 3 hiatus. If you ever wondered what was inside that machine, this video teardown is awe-inspiring. Back in the media business, News Corp.’s short-lived aggregator Knews is iterating off into the sunset, directing visitors to “some of the world’s most trusted news sources” such as Realtor.com and Mansion Global. And G/O Media’s editorial head Jim Rich is iterating to unemployment, for being incompetent even by Vichy Deadspin standards. Nous allons tous mourir.

But iteration will not be contained. Iteration breaks free, and crashes through new barriers. Painfully, maybe even dangerously but, iteration, uh… finds a way. And Axios’s Sara Fischer reports that iteration has found a way to drop $10 million in funding from a United Arab Emirates media fund and “a U.S.-based individual that the company declines to name” on a bunch of people from Vox, ABC News, NPR, and so forth to start a new media company covering a random grab bag of boring topics. Also Matt Yglesias will be involved somehow. Highly placed Tabs sources tell me it will be named: The Outline. They aim to hire 60 people and have the money to pay them for potentially up to 9 months, which in media counts as strong job security.

I started this random walk with Ben Smith so let’s end with his last column before he goes on vacation, where he asserts that he’s “erred on the side of revealing messy conflicts and damaging decisions,” and offers us instead “5 Pieces of Good News About the News.” That’s fine I guess, but can any of us, in our heart, honestly say that we’re not mainly here for the messy conflicts and damaging decisions? I sure can’t. Please Ben, keep going to dinner parties.

Today’s Song: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, “Gimme Some Salt”

~ Je suis un docteur en onglets ~

I spent the weekend on a mountain and I think the altitude did something to my brain. Maybe tomorrow will be less odd? But maybe it will be more odd? Either way, there’s a 0% chance I’ll ever care about anything Richard Branson does. I’m on Twitter, obviously. Do your friend a favor or your enemy a disservice and tell them to read Tabs.

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