Weekly readings – 8th February 2020

Spotify: The Ambient Media Company

Behind Amazon’s HQ2 Fiasco: Jeff Bezos Was Jealous of Elon Musk

Macro trends in tech by Ben Evans

The everything town in the middle of nowhere. An interesting piece on how Amazon changed an obscure town

The year startups took over the Super Bowl

Eating honey is more complicated than you might think

Can Lemon-Scented Stations and Billions of Dollars Get Americans Into Trains?

Eating honey is more complicated than you might think

How Andre Iguodala handled his rare NBA sabbatical

A French Photographer’s Portrait of Saigon in 1866

Germany’s overdose of renewable energy. Part 2 of a two-part series on the role of nuclear power in the age of climate change and the case study of Germany.

On Resigning from Google

A great story with rich visual effects on how climate change has affected Norway.

Thoughts on news outlets

Below are a couple of quick thoughts on news outlets that I have had in mind for a while

Change in business model to avoid “click-bait” culture

News outlets traditionally had revenue mostly from advertising. To sell ads, they needed eyeballs. So everything that could attract a couple of clicks or a few more minutes of attention would be welcome. As a consequence, outlets keep churning out articles or content with the prioritized purpose of creating shock effect, the effect that we are naturally drawn into. I am amazed every time CNN features some pundits or people that they know beforehand that they will disagree with. I have an impression that many CNN daily sessions are just to create controversy and attract attention. The majority of CNN anchors seem to oppose GOP. What do they expect to gain by inviting repeatedly GOP allies to the TV and shouting and arguing when the answer is almost too predictable? Gradually, these attention-seeking interviews erode credibility of the news outlet. Even CNN’s top executive admitted that they aired too much of Trump’s speeches in 2015 and 2016.

If not for concern over credibility, the competition from Facebook and Google should be persuasive enough for the media to change business models. They are two biggest advertising platforms in the world with so much data and years of perfecting their algorithms. New York Time has consistently reported the drop in print advertising and relied more than ever on revenue from other sources such as subscriptions or crosswords. If NYTimes or Economist can do it, why can’t others?

The switch to subscriptions puts consumers first. If readers are not satisfied with the quality of reporting, they will cancel as there is no shortage of alternatives. News outlets relying on subscriptions have no choice but to be vigilant about their reporting and the quality of their delivery.

No Opinion column

My view on this is very simple. News outlets should only report news and factual events. If someone wants to air an opinion, that person should do it on personal channels such as social media or blogs. The Internet makes it frictionless nowadays to access or release information. A few clicks can allow one to create a personal blog or Twitter account to voice opinions. A “No Opinion” column won’t violate any “Free Speech” right.

The reason is that news outlets’ reputation will be tainted by association one way or another by allowing Opinion posts. Under the name of free speech, how can an editor decide what should or shouldn’t be posted? Every Opinion piece is subjective, biased and divisive; which goes against the very mandate that news outlets should maintain: being objective. If a news outlet is fine with publishing biased pieces, then be willing to face the criticisms of not being objective. It’s impossible to have it both ways.