Thinking

The Art of January Releases

Malkmus and Jicks

It’s March and SXSW is wrap­ping up in Austin, which is the kick­off to the spring push in the music indus­try. What am I still pay­ing atten­tion, too? The lat­est Jicks record, Wig Out at Jag­bags. What else? The Against Me! album, Trans­gen­der Dys­pho­ria Blues.

Why? The answer is sim­ple. Both are Jan­u­ary releases. Jan­u­ary is a great month for media Mon­ey­ball. The owned the media cycle for a quiet month and noth­ing really rose to dethrone them in Feb­ru­ary, at least from a cov­er­age per­spec­tive in the social streams I fol­low. Will these albums be over­looked or given short shrift come year end? Sure, but who cares? How much are year end lists worth in 2014 any­how? (Could be a lot; tell me if I’m wrong.)

Jan­u­ary is the per­fect month to release an album. Ever since LCD Soundsys­tem released their debut in Jan­u­ary 2005, I’ve asked why more bands don’t do this. Break away from the March and Octo­ber cycle, make as much noise as pos­si­ble and then tour if you can. This is espe­cially genius with a “legacy” artist like Malk­mus, who has a pretty well-defined fan base. Maybe this bought him some addi­tional expo­sure. Jan­u­ary offers more “run­way” for an artist than the com­mer­cial claus­tro­pho­bia of March.

But why is it so smart to push an album before March rolls around?

A few reasons:

  • Crit­ics are just like us! They make res­o­lu­tions! Things like “I will lis­ten to more music this year.” Put out an album in Jan­u­ary and you’re the sole beneficiary.
  • There is no other news. I must’ve read 4 or more fan­tas­tic, gen­er­ous inter­views with Malk­mus and prob­a­bly twice as many with Against Me!‘s Laura Jane Grace.
  • Release an album in Jan­u­ary and you get expan­sive “nar­ra­tive space.” Malkmus’s story is nowhere near as grip­ping as Laura Jane Grace’s, yet the nar­ra­tive that he’s been with the Jicks longer than Pave­ment shone through and the cov­er­age human­ized him unlike ever before. The inter­play with his kids’ lis­ten­ing habits was fan­tas­tic and the image of him singing to Avicii in a mini­van amazed me.

If you still think release dates are mean­ing­ful inas­much as it allows you to pre­pare for a news cycle, break free of the old meth­ods. To apply some busi­ness speak from Havard Busi­ness Review, adopt a blue ocean strat­egy and get your client out there in the open. To bring it back to Billy Beane, find the mar­ket inef­fi­ciency and take advantage.

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Watching

True Detective

I loved True Detec­tive. I’m still read­ing arti­cles about how the show will end and all the spec­u­la­tion sur­round­ing it. Heck, they could inter­view any­one who was on set, even if it was just for a day, and I’d prob­a­bly read that.

Here’s the Vulture’s inter­view with the pro­duc­tion designer talk­ing about the effort that went into build­ing Car­cosa. It’s amazing.

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Thinking

How to Use Twitter Like a Human Being

I love Twit­ter. It’s my favorite social net­work. I started using it in 2008 when I went to SXSW Music. I imme­di­ately saw its value for cov­er­ing live events. That fall, I used it exten­sively dur­ing the Phillies’ post­sea­son cam­paign. Twit­ter is a great plat­form for your pas­sions. Except when it isn’t.

Some­where along the way, Twit­ter changed. My friend Mark cap­tured one key dif­fer­ence in his tweet below.

For all the talk about being authen­tic and engag­ing on social, you’ll often find that the most fol­lowed accounts are noth­ing more than linkbots with a human face. It’s a head-scratcher. At a time when peo­ple com­plain of infor­ma­tion over­load, hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple will fol­low accounts that recy­cle memes and other online flotsam.

If that doesn’t depress you, A Tale of Two Twit­ter Per­sonas will. MG Siegler writes:

For me, given my back­ground and line of work, that’s obvi­ously tech­nol­ogy. But I too have other inter­ests — shock­ing, I know. Film is def­i­nitely one. Beer is def­i­nitely another. And sports is way up there. Yes, some peo­ple in the tech indus­try are as obsessed with sports as any­one else in the world. Blasphemy!

What does per­sonal brand­ing mean when the most pop­u­lar social media accounts lack personality?

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Thinking

Anil Dash on Streams and Pages

I for­got that the stream ver­sus page debate started over a year ago. Here’s Anil Dash’s roundup.

As Choire notes, this really only works if you ditch own­ing your con­tent. There was an inter­est­ing debate on that last sum­mer. Marco Arment argued against Medium, while Scoble more or less stopped blogging.

I think this takes us back to Madri­gal on the stream. We’re liv­ing in a media envi­ron­ment where live­blog­ging is the norm. We want to fol­low break­ing news in real time and we want to watch heated debates unfold on Twit­ter from the social side­lines. But if we care enough, we want to read analy­sis, too.

Madrigal’s point on FOMO is crit­i­cal here. There are com­mu­ni­ties on the web that want to be in on every­thing as it hap­pens. That doesn’t work because under­stand­ing doesn’t scale. This may explain why jour­nal­ists TL;DR their own stuff in social. The chal­lenge isn’t a ques­tion of for­mat but rel­e­vance and the lat­ter is chal­lenged by the former.

We need to be bet­ter edi­tors in every sense. We need to iden­tify what’s impor­tant and nec­es­sary. We can’t dip our toe into the stream and learn by osmosis.

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Thinking

The Golden Age of Content Strategy

A few notes and links on the death of the blog, peak stream and the golden age of con­tent strat­egy. Please join the con­ver­sa­tion and share links in the comments.

  • First, Kot­tke at Nie­man Jour­nal­ism Lab. I don’t think the stream killed the blog. I don’t even think firsties killed the blog. What killed blogs for me was that once they matured as a medium, they were indis­tin­guish­able from the media they pur­port­edly replaced. I observed this among my fel­low music crit­ics, many of whom advanced from writ­ing about music on their per­sonal blogs to jobs at media out­lets where they took over dig­i­tal respon­si­bil­i­ties at those media prop­er­ties. I wrote about that phe­nom­e­non here. I don’t think it means the medium died; it’s that the pageview-driven busi­ness model and the edi­to­r­ial aspi­ra­tions are out of sync.
  • This brings me to Alexis Madrigal’s piece on the impor­tance of “now­ness” to the stream. We’re rac­ing faster down the infor­ma­tion super­high­way than ever before and we’re toss­ing all of our sou­venirs into Pocket, Instapa­per and Ever­note as we go. What Madri­gal gets absolutely right is how a fear of miss­ing out pow­ers the ambi­tion to read every­thing exhaus­tively. This is cer­tainly true among cer­tain dis­cur­sive cir­cles on the web. When I hit eject on music crit­i­cism, it was mere cul­tural moments before Odd Future hit. To this day, I have not heard Odd Future. This is not me say­ing, “I don’t even own a TV;” this is me say­ing that my life con­tin­ued with­out this infor­ma­tion. What Madri­gal longs for is the Inter­net of the past. He’s under­es­ti­mat­ing the Inter­net of the present.
  • Read­ers still crave des­ti­na­tions. Maybe the fetishiza­tion of the lon­gread goes too far, since we’re prob­a­bly just squir­rel­ing those arti­cles away for a day that never comes, but peo­ple still want to land some­where, at least for now. What Kot­tke and Madrigal’s pieces sug­gest to me is ush­er­ing in a golden age of con­tent strat­egy. Con­tent strat­egy was invented to improve busi­ness web­sites, but I’ve seen it applied for edi­to­r­ial, too. Dead­spin, among other places, does a great job repub­lish­ing sto­ries and giv­ing them new life, often decades later. I think that’s what Madri­gal wants from the web. That Inter­net is there if you want it.

Atten­tion still mat­ters most. The best way to over­come FOMO online is let­ting your friends tell you about sto­ries. You don’t need to have a “take” hol­stered for every topic out there. Your time and atten­tion are still very valu­able pos­ses­sions. Cher­ish them.

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Doing

The Philadelphia Phillies: End of An Era

The last two sea­sons have been tough in Philadel­phia. After a glo­ri­ous run as one of the best team’s in base­ball, the Phillies crashed back to Earth. Char­lie Manuel, a beloved fig­ure for any­one who’s fol­lowed the Phils, was tossed aside. Roy Hal­la­day, a player who more than any­one made Philadel­phia a des­ti­na­tion for free agents, retired after two injury-riddled sea­sons. It was a mag­i­cal time and now it is over.

The next phase is a famil­iar one. The Phillies will likely be hard to watch for a long time. With com­mit­ments made to an aging core and lit­tle to no tal­ent in the farm sys­tem, the boom has gone bust. For any­one who remem­bers what hap­pened to the team after 1993, we know what hap­pens next. It won’t be pretty, but we’ll still be in the stands, bask­ing in the ball­park, thank­ful for the mem­o­ries the Phillies gave us.

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Doing

No Goal But Mileage

It’s been a while since I called myself a run­ner. After run­ning con­sec­u­tive marathons in ’08 and ’09, I took a long hia­tus. Turns out being awake all hours with a sleep­less infant isn’t con­ducive to dis­tance run­ning. I tried com­ing back in clas­sic couch-to-marathon style last year, only to injure myself about halfway through train­ing. After months of phys­i­cal ther­apy, I still didn’t feel quite right, but that didn’t stop me from try­ing again this year, only to meet the same end. It’s been frus­trat­ing since I still want to run that Boston qual­i­fier I just missed in freez­ing temps in ’08.
A few weeks ago I started run­ning again. Just three miles, five times a week. No goal but mileage. It’s tak­ing me back to a time before I had a Garmin watch, before I micro­man­aged every step I took on a run. I’m just out there in the cool fall air putting one foot in front of the other. I’m feel­ing bet­ter than I have in years. Turns out run­ning with­out a race in sight is help­ing me build the base I need to get back on track.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I signed up for a half marathon at the end of March. I couldn’t help myself. I need a rea­son to stay moti­vated dur­ing these long, dark win­ter months run­ning along­side the Cooper River. In the mean­time, I’ll be log­ging miles at a snail’s pace until I feel good enough to push toward my real goal of qual­i­fy­ing for Boston.

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