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Ramsayings

A Blog About Nothing in Particular

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.

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?

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.

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.

Goodbye, Letterly Street

We go to set­tle­ment on our Let­ter­ly Street home in a few hours. Once it’s over, it’ll be the first time nei­ther Helen nor I have rent­ed or owned a prop­er­ty in the Philadel­phia area since we met in 1996.

You were good to us, Let­ter­ly Street. Thanks for all the won­der­ful mem­o­ries.