CELEBRITY COLLAPSE: The ENIGMA of NEW MEDIA (MUSIC, PUBLISHING) and the ambiguity of CELEBRITY…

I didn’t hatch my blog for economic reasons, nor dreams of market saturation. As a novelist, I was frustrated by my inability to convey and comment in fiction all that was happening on a daily basis in our 24/7 world. And let’s be honest: STUFF is HAPPENING every single day. The role of the novel can’t be as a STRUCTURED CONTAINER for all this. At best, it can only offer post-facto analysis nine moths or years later. So the blog was a way for me to reach out to my readers and potentially find a few kindred souls who had no clue I existed.

Why the preamble Mutation Master, studier of all things Collapse? Well one of the things that seemed to augur well for a successful entry into ONLINE JOURNALISM was a PERSONAL BRAND or CELEBRITY STATUS. This also seemed to go for PRODUCT LAUNCHING. However, I read two articles in the past few days that were both severe blows to CELEBRITY CULTURE myth. They fascinated me, left me with questions, and seemed to point to a new mutation. Let’s examine both below…

The first article is by MICHAEL WOLFF, a frequently on-point entertainment and occasional political journalist. His piece is on the RE/CODE merger with VOX. The second is by BOB LEFSETZ, a semi-controversial music analyst and blogger. He discusses why APPLE’S MUSIC STREAMING SERVICE is likely to FAIL.

Now my fellow Collapsers are busy folk, we’re all busy counting the mutations, so I’ll do my best to summarize (and in some cases paraphrase/direct quote) each of Wolff and Lefsetz’s main points.

WOLFF talks about how there’s been another SEISMIC SHIFT in DIGITAL MEDIA. The prior shift was the rise of a “New model of PERSONAL BRANDED JOURNALISM…”. Journalists like NATE SILVER, EZRA KLEIN, GLEEN GREENWALD, and RE/CODE (the cream of tech journalism) were all going out on THEIR OWN, launching their own sites. They didn’t need to be latched to OLD MEDIA anymore.

But as WOLFF knowingly points out: “DIGITAL MEDIA SUCCESS had already moved on, it was no longer about how to AVAIL YOURSELF of EASY ACCESS to your AUDIENCE and PROMOTE and MONETIZE your PERSONAL FOLLOWING…”..it’s now about how to MAXIMIZE TRAFFIC TO YOUR SITE, “…a business more like DIRECT MAIL than traditional publishing.”

WOLFF reiterates many times that it’s all about BUZZFEED now. “ADVERTISERS now buy based upon BULK AUDIENCE BUYS, and not SPECIFIC BRANDS.” His analysis is that OLD SCHOOL JOURNALISTIC CONTENT needs some OLD-SCHOOL MEDIA MONEY to back it up, if it’s going to survive.

The crux of course is that OLD-SCHOOL MEDIA MONEY is cutting deals with FACEBOOK. And the only forms of NEW DIGITAL MEDIA MONEY big enough to buy anyone are: VICE, VOX (they absorbed RE-CODE), and BUZZFEED. These sites operate based upon TRAFFIC METRICS and AD REVENUE. Not PERSONAL BRANDING. Can you name more than one or two BRAND JOURNALISTS who report for these sites?

So what is the takeaway here:

There are no PERSONAL BRANDS big enough to satiate the urge of ADVERTISERS now that they’ve gotten a taste for VICE and BUZZFEED. This is one case in which CELEBRITY isn’t worth what it COSTS ADVERTISERS.

BUZZFEED is an AD GENERATED BEHEMOTH that sometimes publishes journalism. VICE is a site that was built to generate enough TRAFFIC to GET THE “BRAND” ON TELEVISION (and they really were ahead of the paradigm here, which looks like: SITE, PLATFORM, CABLE, and then BROADBAND PROVIDER, all morphing into ONE ENTITY). And VOX is piling on more and more VIDEO CONTENT…

…The SITE is the BRAND, the lure for AD TRAFFIC. In short, in the world of ONLINE MEDIA — CELEBRITY LOOKS OVER unless anchored to a BRANDED SITE, which doesn’t really need the ADDED EXPENSE of high-powered journalism.

LEFSETZ says something quite similar in his newsletter, but he cuts across a WIDER SWATH of both PERSONAL and COMPANY BRANDING.

APPLE will be launching its newly reconfigured MUSIC STREAMING PROGRAM, and Lefsetz argues that APPLE will not revolutionize the STREAMING MARKET, because it doesn’t have a FREE AD-SPONSORED OPTION like SPOTIFY. APPLE will only offer a $10/month STREAMING SERVICE, and of course iTUNES RADIO (with special DJ-curated content), which I didn’t even know existed. So in short: NO FREE. WE ARE APPLE.

LEFSETZ argues for the necessity of the FREE AD-SPONSORED OPTION. That if people like the product, eventually, they will pay for the PREMIUM. But APPLE feels like because it’s APPLE, and “it has everyone’s credit card number” that people will just PAY without experiencing it for FREE FIRST.

He then invokes, and quite astutely, the example of JAY-Z and TIDAL. Just because JAY-Z attached his name to the site, and told people to use it, NO ONE CARED. In fact, TIDAL has decimated most of it’s management and is desperately looking to sell. It became an even bigger JOKE when it took on JAY-Z. And if an actual music insider and proven entrepreneur like JAY-Z couldn’t make people desert SPOTIFY’S AD-SPONSORED SERVICE, neither will APPLE.

So what does this tell us?

It says that in the ROLE OF CONTENT, and in the ROLE OF CONTENT PROVIDER, CELEBRITY isn’t going to get you as far as it used to. ADVERTISERS pay for CLICKS (BUZZFEED), and USERS only pay after they’ve sampled the product (SPOTIFY). They don’t care seem to care AT ALL what GLENN GREENWALD or JAY-Z tell them to READ or BUY.

Thoughts, comments…All are welcome…What are we looking at here?

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