chase martyn

1920s Time compared to the Buzzfeed of today ⇒

The magazine’s method differed from BuzzFeed’s in key ways. While BuzzFeed News draws on a Politico-infused sensibility that withholds no tidbit, however small, from its potential audience, Time made a name for itself by leaving things out and selling putatively comprehensive summary. But both techniques promise their own kind of all-knowingness.

And BuzzFeed’s trajectory can mimic Time’s, often uncannily. Writing in the mid-1960s, the magazine historian Theodore Peterson noted that Hadden and Luce’s lack of professional experience always informed the Timestyle. No member of the founding staff “was more than three years out of college.” When the magazine tried relocating to Cleveland, it had to move back to Manhattan because it “missed the supply of adventuresome young intellectuals whom they could hire for comparatively small salaries in New York.”

Bonus points for Nietzsche.

20 April 2015, 2:48 am ⸭ Permalink

Capturing a moment ‘on behalf of Apple’

On the cusp of a a career-defining product launch, Tim Cook published an op-ed in Sunday's Washington Post opposing Indiana's new 'religious freedom' law and similar state laws meant to subvert equality for LGBT Americans.

America’s business community recognized a long time ago that discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business. At Apple, we are in business to empower and enrich our customers’ lives. We strive to do business in a way that is just and fair. That’s why, on behalf of Apple, I’m standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation — wherever it emerges. I’m writing in the hopes that many more will join this movement. From North Carolina to Nevada, these bills under consideration truly will hurt jobs, growth and the economic vibrancy of parts of the country where a 21st-century economy was once welcomed with open arms.

What's most remarkable to me is that this statement has the explicit support of Apple and its board. Tim Cook could have made a big difference without drawing a direct (and public) connection to Apple. He could have called Gov. Mike Pence and other officials in Indiana personally (I hope he has done this, as it is as likely as anything to make a difference). He could have allowed himself to be interviewed about it for an article. He could have posted on his personal social media accounts. Or he could have written an op-ed as a private citizen, without explicit reference to Apple or its official positions. Instead, Cook and the company consciously chose to enter the conversation together.

Apple may claim that this was a purely moral decision, and that they made absolutely no effort to determine how it would affect the Apple Watch launch or the rest of their business before Tim Cook published the piece "on behalf of Apple."

I doubt it.And to me, that makes this moment significantly more important.

This could only have happened in a world where doing the right thing is acutally in the interests of Apple's bottom line. To paraphrase Joe Biden paraphrasing Seamus Heaney, hope and history may have begun to rhyme.

I don't know what Apple's primary demographic targets are for the watch in the United States, but among all Americans under 50, support for equal marriage rights is nearing 70%. If you only count people who own iPhones -- the only people for whom the watches will be usable -- that number is probably higher based on geography, education, and income.

I, for one, am more comfortable with the idea of wearing an Apple-branded device on my wrist today than I was last week, because I know that the company stands for something that is obvious to me and yet controversial to too many others.

Put that way, this could could be a case study in earning brand loyalty2 from a generation of consumers that has (so far) been characterized by disillusionment and indecisiveness.

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  1. Frankly, I hope Apple did some polling (or some other kind of research) before this was rolled out, because it isn't worth it unless they have a plan in place that they expect to work. The modern gay rights movement has been extremely strategic, and that has been key to its rapid progress. There can't be story next month about how the Apple Watch missed expectations because of Tim Cook's quixotic obsession with equal rights. Apple has a responsibility to either play the game strategically or stay out of the pool.
  2. While I generally see "branding" as a synonym for "unaccountable PR expenditure" and brand advertising as snake oil, a customer's willingness to publicly associate with a company (or brand) is undeniably important -- especially when the company sells watches.
30 March 2015, 1:11 am ⸭ Permalink

“Is the MPAA even necessary anymore?” ⇒

Yet, when it comes to the net neutrality debate, the MPAA's silence has been deafening. The reason? Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, making the $149 billion company both a producer of movies through Universal Studios and a distributor of them through its cable and ISP operation. Though Comcast makes content, that part of its business is much less profitable than its distribution operation, and as a result, its corporate position is to not support net neutrality's Title II proposition, which calls for regulating Internet service providers much like a public utility. The issue is of even greater importance to Comcast when looked at through the prism of its impending $42 billion merger with Time Warner Cable, a deal done primarily to solidify its position as the nation's biggest Internet service provider.

I've been a Chris Dodd fan for a long time, but his MPAA job was an opportunity for him to transform an industry, and he seems to be treating it like it's just a paycheck.

27 February 2015, 1:31 am ⸭ Permalink

‘Really more about death and difficult-to-navigate interior spaces than wrestling’ ⇒

John Darnielle announces a new Mountain Goats album:

All that glory. All that shine. Nameless bodies in unremembered rooms. Some people might be thinking to themselves, JD, wrestling, I don’t know, I’ve never really been into wrestling, but did I steer you wrong with the Bible album, even though you may not have been super-into the Bible? Fear not.

22 January 2015, 2:57 pm ⸭ Permalink

Old Fashioned ⇒

This microsite about the Old Fashioned isn't new, but it's great.

As for choosing the right liquor for an Old Fashioned, here's my guide from cheapest to most expensive:

  1. Evan Williams: Cheap but surprisingly serviceable. (Don't skimp on bitters.)
  2. Bulleit: Both the rye and the bourbon are solid. Combining them is also good. (Use a normal amount of bitters.)
  3. Templeton Rye: A pretty light, drinkable rye. (Go lighter on the bitters.)
  4. Whiskey Pig: Almost blasphemous to make an Old Fashioned with this, but it's really great. (Any more than one dash of Angostura, and you're crazy.)

In lieu of fresh oranges, I tend to like experimenting with layering a hint of citrus- or fruit-flavored bitters on top of the Angostura. It's a lot more practical. (But only after you've mastered the original.)

27 December 2014, 4:07 am ⸭ Permalink

How to promote a press conference ⇒

The state-run TV network Russia-1 is promoting a live press conference with President Vladimir Putin using the spot below:

16 December 2014, 1:22 pm ⸭ Permalink

‘The Siliconian came down like the wolf on the fold’ ⇒

Over the past two years, it seemed to me that The New Republic had built a pretty good digital media company. There was experimentation. Their website underwent a number of changes that (as a web developer and former online journalist) I found really interesting. Their social media presence was significant, and they seemed to be as effective as anybody at writing tweets and engaging with their audience. 

Apparently these efforts were not being rewarded with hockey-stick traffic or revenue growth, but that would never have been a realistic goal. TNR should have been able to build a healthy publication and a self-sustaining business without that.

Using Buzzfeed or The Huffington Post as a yardstick for TNR's success in 2014 is as silly as comparing its circulation to Time's or The New York Post's in the 1980s. All of the aforementioned publications are legitimate, but there are important differences in their value propositions. Customers hire them for very different "jobs to be done." TNR was never a mass-market publication. Its business model was always to cultivate a community of subscribers that would never be as large as Time's, but that would be far more deeply engaged. This is central to its brand and its value proposition. Monetizing this deep engagement was obviously a challenge from the beginning, but there's no question that its relatively small audience is deeply engaged.

What's crazy is that the internet is practically purpose-built for this kind of business. Everything that's happening to make content available instantly to more people makes it easier for a niche publication or product to find a sustainable audience, geography be damned. Deep engagement is a lot more scalable than it used to be.

I won't claim that anybody has completely figured out the business model that would guarantee a profitable TNR next year, but I am sure of this: TNR's existing value proposition showed a lot more potential in 2014 than at any other point in its 100-year history. That's the saddest part of this whole story for me.

12 December 2014, 3:35 pm ⸭ Permalink

Seven years ago

Seven years ago this month, trailing in the polls with two months until the Iowa Caucuses, then-Sen. Barack Obama gave the speech of his political life.

(Gets especially good around the 15:00 mark. Which is also technically when the speech was supposed to end, but that wasn't going to happen.)

If the delivery seems uncharacteristically rough, note that this was the first time most of those lines had ever been delivered. It would be far from the last. In the room at the time, our minds were being blown repeatedly.

13 November 2014, 2:58 am ⸭ Permalink

Cognitive load in an era of political self-examination

In "The ideological right vs. the group benefits left: Asymmetric politics in America," Matt Grossman and David A. Hopkins examine the differences between what motivates the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States:

[T]he two sides perceive politics differently and behave asymmetrically. The right is built on ideological commitment; the left is built on the policy demands of constituency groups. Their distinct governing styles reflect these consistent underlying differences. At both the mass and elite levels, Democrats think and act very differently from Republicans, in ways that have important implications for the American political system. 

This isn't a completely new analysis, but the authors' empirical methodology is interesting and compelling:

To assess our claims, we analyze a variety of empirical evidence to substantiate the fundamental asymmetry of the American left and right. We begin by examining this phenomenon among the mass public, finding that citizens are attracted to the Republican Party due to shared ideological affinity and to the Democrats on the basis of specific policy positions and social group identity. This distinction endures as we move from party identifiers in the electorate through the activist and donor classes to party leaders and elected officials.

Voters -- and humans in general -- have always made decisions and formed preferences that are irrational or inconsistent with one another. Perhaps one result of our culture -- of super PAC ads, talk radio rants, cable news "facts," and news by meme -- is that some of these inconsistencies are actually more difficult to sustain. We're living more self-examined political lives, for better or worse, and ticket-splitting between candidates who seem like the best potential drinking buddies is no longer the path of least cognitive resistance.

Ideology is now the intellectually-easiest framework for voting: it tells you exactly what to care about and, more important, what not to care about. The things it tells you to care about usually sound respectable -- and often sound downright inspiring -- when distilled into the format of a conversation among friends. And figuring out which candidates to support doesn't usually require any work.

Unfortunately for Democrats, as Grossman and Hopkins explain at length, our campaigns and governing styles just aren't wired for this phenomenon.1

None of this means that voters are less smart or less worthy than they used to be. I don't think every voter will ever make decisions like a dispassionate public policy expert or academic, though there's probably a (boring) dystopian film idea in that. Specialization has existed since the dawn of society, and cognitive load has been a factor in every human decision since the dawn of cognition. 

As Democrats, we should simply remain conscious of this and make it a goal in our campaigns to reduce the cognitive load required for each voter to choose to support our candidates. We need to reduce friction and make it easier to be a Democratic voter however we can -- legally, physically, temporally, and cognitively.

 


  1. Straight-ticket voting, which Democratic campaigns are in many cases wired for, may also seem like an intellectually "easy" framework for voting. But I'd argue that these days, continuing to justify total party loyalty can be cognitively difficult. For example, our culture has long fetishized "voting for the person, not the party," which shames straight-ticket voting but does little to offer an alternative.
07 November 2014, 3:31 pm ⸭ Permalink

Siracusa on OS X 10.10 Yosemite ⇒

To signal the Mac’s newfound confidence, Apple has traded 10.9’s obscure surfing location for one of the best known and most beautiful national parks: Yosemite. The new OS’s headline feature is one that’s sure to make for a noteworthy chapter in the annals of OS X: an all-new user interface appearance. Of course, this change comes a year after iOS got its extreme makeover.

Ah, the old tension: which platform does Apple love more? iOS continues to dominate Apple’s business in terms of unit sales, revenue, and profits. Last year, some Apple watchers had openly wondered whether Apple would even bother updating the look of OS X. And yet for the past several years, Apple has loudly and publicly insisted that it remains committed to the Mac as a strong, independent platform. Yosemite aims to fulfill that commitment—but in an interesting way.

16 October 2014, 8:52 pm ⸭ Permalink
Chase Martyn Chase Martyn is a political consultant, web developer, and (former) journalist. He currently lives in Chicago, and his opinions are purely his own.