All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday and I’m making sure to get the mailbag up before the inauguration starts. 

Who knows what the hell will happen there?

Thanks to all of you who listened to our first satellite radio broadcast on Sirius/XM channel 83 this morning. If you aren’t making Outkick the Coverage a part of your morning routine from 6-9 am eastern every Monday-Friday, what are you doing with your life? Being on satellite radio channel 83 is going to make us a lot easier to follow. 

Before the mailbag begins, I’ve got a new advertiser to introduce you guys to — y’all know that I love life down on the gulf coast beaches, especially on 30A, and the guys who take care of me when I stay down there — I’ll be there for two weeks over Memorial Day weekend and beyond — are at 30Acottages.com Their houses are fantastic. Why stay in a condo when you can stay in a beachside mansion? Use the code Outkick and you get 5% off bookings in March and April. Go check them out. 

Okay, here we go with the mailbag:

Richard writes:

“What’s your take on the fake news problem in America today? Your extensive research on digital trends to turn your site into the monster that it is plus your legal and media background probably makes you best qualified to have a take here.

I whole-heartedly believe that the most important aspect of a functioning democracy is a well-informed electorate, but I also believe that an uninformed electorate that thinks it’s informed is equally or more dangerous.

Growing up in the rural south, it blows me away how many opinions are swayed by fake news and how many people believe it to be fact. And in some cases I’m talking about intelligent, successful people. Not just the dummies stuck there who never had options to leave. One very intelligent and successful person I’m close to legitimately thinks Hillary killed 114 people and Obama is not an American.

And this isn’t just a far right-wing issue. There’s fake far left-wing news too. I saw tons of it when Bernie supporters were trying to convince themselves he got robbed of the nomination by super delegates while ignoring simple math. I’m just not inundated by those viewers, listeners and readers in the south so I can’t use it as a personal example of its effects.

So my question is, what can and should America do about this? All fake news really is, is propaganda, and that’s been around as long as the written word. But for the first time in human history, the Internet and social media has expanded the power that the written word can have beyond anyone’s wildest dreams even 30 years ago. This expanded power should come with some kind of expanded responsibility, right? But to the contrary, websites are rewarded for clicks in increased advertising dollars so it directly benefits them to produce content as outlandish and polarizing as possible.

Obviously, fake news, even with the worst intentions, still has First Amendment protection. How would any safeguards by Congress or the Courts not be considered censorship and unconstitutional? The last thing anyone wants is to be compared to North Korea. Is there a way to deter knowingly producing and expanding the reach of fake news without being painted as a Communist?

And of course if sites don’t get clicks, they don’t succeed, so going to the root of the problem, is there a way to reach Americans and teach them how to distinguish between legitimate news and fake news and ignore the bullshit?

These are questions that I ask myself a lot. The escalating political ignorance in this country frightens me, and the escalating incentives for media outlets to not provide the public with legitimate news frightens me even more.”

There are so many great questions in here so let me unpack them. 

First, I’ve studied American history for most of my life so I don’t get that worked up about hyperbole from people who know nothing about our country’s history. With the swearing in of Donald Trump today you will hear a ton of far left liberals talk about how this is the scariest time in American history. Anyone who says that is a complete and total idiot. We had actual elections in the middle of the Civil War and World War II. We had an election in the middle of the Great Depression; we had a president die before World War II and a virtual unknown man in Harry Truman take over before the war in Asia was over. When our country was young we had elections tossed into the House of Representatives in 1800 and 1824 and a dirty election in 1876, as our country tried to bind up the wounds of the Civil War, that was resolved via a felonious deal.

Oh, and we also had a sitting Vice President, Aaron Burr, kill one of the most famous politicians in the country, Alexander Hamilton, in a duel and then saw that Vice President flee to start his own country. The president, John F. Kennedy, the man who would have been president, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King all were assassinated within five years of each other as we went to war in Vietnam. 

The British burned down the actual White House and Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover trampled our Constitutional rights to keep tabs on their enemies. My point is simple — nothing that is happening today approaches the level of challenges that we have faced over our past several centuries as a country. 

So everyone out there who argues that the Trump election is somehow one of the most challenging times in American history is an idiot. The truth of the matter is this, America is doing pretty well. Are we perfect? Of course not. But are Americans still safer and better off than 99.99% of all humans who have ever lived on this planet?

Hell yes.

And is our country in better shape right now than it has been for the vast majority of the years that our country has existed? Hell yes.  

Now on to your larger question:

“Fake” news has always existed in America. In fact, I think there’s even less of it now than there ever has been in past decades. How well informed do you think the average voter was in 1820 or 1880 or 1920 or 1940 when the vast majority of voters didn’t graduate from high school? The average American voter today is better educated than the average voter has ever been in American history.

Throughout our history a large percentage of Americans of all political persuasions have always been susceptible to being influenced by fake news. It just wasn’t distributed via online social media back then, it was via rumor in a bar or brothel or political speeches on the corner or via newspapers which, as most have forgotten, used to publish news that supported their candidate’s political viewpoint.

That is, the idea of the “news” as a nonpartisan evenhanded media that didn’t chose sides is a relatively recent construct in our country. For most of American history our “news” was slanted towards one side or the other. 

So I think the concept of fake news changing the outcome of elections is being overplayed by people who haven’t studied much American history. Furthermore, I don’t think “fake news” changes many people’s minds. Because here’s the deal, if you’re susceptible to believing the worst about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, wasn’t your mind already made up about how you were going to vote beforehand? I don’t buy into the idea that fake news is actually changing the way people vote; I think it’s just further solidifying what most voters already believed.

For instance, if you’re going to share this fake news story about Hillary Clinton stocking fake ballots in an Ohio warehouse — which all of you should read — do you really think the person sharing that story was likely to vote for Hillary? Or if you’re sharing awful stories about Donald Trump, fake or not, were you really going to vote for him anyway?

What’s disappointing now is that we all have the ability to rapidly determine whether or not news is fake before we hit share and most people don’t take the time to do so, they’d rather believe the worst about whichever political party they don’t like. In years past it was harder to figure out what the truth actually was. Now it’s easy and most are too lazy to do so. That’s more disappointing to me than the spread of “fake news.”

Further, I suspect that if you studied who shares fake news, it would consistently be the least educated among us. And every election cycle the dumber you are, the less likely you are to vote anyway. So I suspect that the people sharing fake news aren’t voting in high numbers either. I suspect the more intelligent you are the less often people in your social networks share these fake news stories with you. For instance, I didn’t get a single fake news story shared with me this entire election cycle. I would bet that a large percentage of you reading the mailbag were the same, the more education you have the less fake news impacts you because the more educated your social circle is as well.  

Now, the bigger issue as I see it, is that the advertising model is completely broken for online readership. The guy in the article above — READ IT — that made up the fake news story about Hillary made $22,000 off his fake story. That’s what needs to be altered, the incentive for someone to make up something totally fake and reap a massive financial reward for it. Basically, the page view payment system for online news is fundamentally broken because the way many places determine success is by pageviews. The problem is the vast majority of those pageviews are complete crap and instead of incentivizing quality and unique perspectives pageviews incentivize crap.

The banner ad may well be the worst invention in the history of the Internet. 

While I wish fake news didn’t exist, I have a bigger problem with how our online news is being paid for. The problem here is that the ad markets have been seduced by the quantifiable nature of online advertising and have bought into the idea of quantity of impressions instead of quality of impressions.  

Which is the exact opposite of, for instance, what television or radio have done. How are television and radio ads different than the online marketplace? Well, television and radio have limited ad opportunities. If you want to buy an ad in the Super Bowl, there are only so many spots that you can buy. If you want to buy an ad in “Outkick the Coverage,” our morning radio show or “Outkick the Show,” our afternoon Periscope and Facebook Live shows, there are only so many ad placements available in those too. That is, ads are finite in most media. Whereas the Internet is an infinite sea of ad opportunities.

On top of that all TV ads aren’t created equal. The cost for an ad on “Mad Men” was a premium price because the people who watch “Mad Men” were wealthier and better educated than the people who watch Judge Judy. So in addition to offering a limited number of ads, “Mad Men” could charge more for those ads because if you’re Jaguar or Land Rover, those are the people who can afford to buy your vehicles. There’s a reason why check cashing ads aren’t running on Mad Men and run all day on Judge Judy.   

But that premium pricing doesn’t work when it comes to pageviews because there is so much automated ad buying taking place that most advertisers have no idea where their online ads are going. Worse, as the amount of pages increase, which happens at a rapid rate every year, what advertisers pay for those pageviews decreases. So you end up on a treadmill where you have to keep running faster just to stay in the same place. Worst of all, instead of competition making the content better, the quality of the content doesn’t matter at all, it’s just about the impressions.

And, increasingly, those stories, especially in sports media, are all virtually the same because Facebook drives so much traffic that every site in America ends up with the same viral videos. Did you see the viral video of the golfer who falls through the ice after playing his golf shot from on top of the ice? Of course you did, it was everywhere. The problem is if everyone has the same content, why does it matter where the ads run? And in a larger context, do “readers” of a story like that even know what site they’re on or develop brand loyalty from being on that site? Of course not. They just click through for twenty seconds and then they’re gone.  

I believe that what matters isn’t how many people who visit your site, it’s how many people visit your site intentionally and care about your brand. That is, how many of your readers can you directly monetize and motivate to engage with your brand? The pageview model is slowly collapsing because the number of people on the Internet isn’t growing very fast in America and they’re reading less articles.   

What I’ve been arguing for a long time is that the incentives for making great online content are broken based on the advertising market. All pageview values are created relatively equal when it comes to ad dollars. So instead of the competition being like TV and moving in the direction of quality being all that matters to draw eyeballs — “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” and “The Americans” are all extraordinary ad supported creations that arose from a competitive TV marketplace — online content has moved in the direction where all that matters is the quantity of that content, not the quality.

Ultimately online media is broken because the way the money is allocated is broken. Fake news is just a further symptom of that broken system. If TV ads were bought like the Internet then we’d just have a ton of shitty shows that cost nothing to make all showing the same viral videos all day long on constant repeat. But thankfully TV isn’t like that because ad buyers and TV viewers reward quality and originality of content, not sheer volume.

So if you want to get to the root of the fake news problem what you really need to address is the way money is made on the Internet. And money is made on the Internet via ad dollars, which aren’t spent well.     

I’d like to believe that at some point quality will trump quantity when it comes to ad spending. And to that end, that’s what Outkick is focused on. I’ve decided not to chase page views and to focus on delivering quality original content every day on radio and online and on here. I believe that advertisers are taking note of this fact. 

But Outkick is just a tiny part of the sports media marketplace. Fortunately, we’re finding a ton of advertisers that agree with my worldview. Plug, plug, if you want to do Outkick the Show ads in 2017, you better sign up soon. We’ve already sold a presenting sponsorship for Outkick the Show and several hundred thousand dollars in additional ads this year. We only have so many ad spaces this year. So you better hop on board if you want to reach the Outkick audience. Email me at claytravis@gmail.com 

Jonah writes:

“Isn’t Trump the one you’ve been waiting for? I can think of no one who better fits the description “radical moderate.” He’s not ideological, as he is conservative on some issues (tax cuts, Obamacare) and liberal on others (trade, the Iraq war). Importantly, he’s not super Christian and is socially liberal. What’s more, he’s politically incorrect and pisses off the PC Bromanis.

Yes, he may not want Muslims like you to enter the country, but at least he’s cool with gays like you getting married.”

My biggest issue with Trump is that I’m afraid he’s a pussy too. His entire Twitter feed is generally gripes about people not respecting him enough or not being nice to him. His reaction to the cast of “Hamilton” is perfect evidence of that fact. Why do you care how they treat your vice president? Why do you care what Meryl Streep says about you or what Saturday Night Live does?

You won the presidency, stop caring what people say or demanding credit for things. Just go be president. Lower my taxes and get the economy rolling. I think Trump secretly cares way too much about what people think of him. I’d love to have a president like Nick Saban who knew what he was doing and didn’t give a fuck what the general public thought of his decisions.

I’d like a president who said, “If you don’t like me, you can replace me in four years, but in the meantime I’m going to do my best at this job.” 

I’d really respect that. 

Plus, one of the biggest flaws I’ve seen in people in positions of power is when they aren’t intellectually curious. It seems to me that Trump is not that curious about the world around him. He also seems like the kind of guy who will govern entirely from his gut and not be able to make sound decisions when he’s presented with two different arguments. Essentially the president’s job is to make tough decisions, right?

The president’s basically a judge. He has advisers presenting him with two or more options for virtually every decision and he has to weigh the potential impact of that decision and render a just verdict. You can disagree with the decisions that Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and George Bush, Sr. made, but I don’t think you can argue that they didn’t consider all the possible impacts of those decisions. (In fact, overconsideration of options damn near paralyzed Jimmy Carter).

Unfortunately Trump reminds me of George W. Bush in this regard. And George W. Bush, in my opinion, was the worst two term president in the history of our country. He got us into an unwinnable war in Iraq that further destabilized the least stable region in the world. Say what you will about Saddam Hussein, he was clearly a brutal dictator, but brutal dictators are better than religious zealots in my book. You can negotiate with a dictator because they’re generally motivated by money, pussy, or power. Generally all three. I can handle that guy, I understand his motivation. What I can’t handle is when someone truly believes that if they blow themselves up in a crowded marketplace they are going to get 72 virgins in heaven and be rewarded for their decision. That’s more terrifying.

Give me a guy who wants to get rich, fuck, and run shit every day over the guy who thinks there’s one true pathway to heaven.  

I don’t care what religion you are as long as I can jerk off in peace.  

George W. Bush spent trillions of dollars in the Middle East that could have been better spent in this country on nation building; he draped the world in good or evil designations and actually let North Korea, the most dangerous country in the world, remain unmolested while he blew up Iraq and created ISIS. Meanwhile our economy blew up and nearly cratered at home. History will not judge George W. Bush kindly.  

I’m afraid that Trump is most similar to George W. Bush of all the other presidents that we’ve elected in my lifetime. My hope is that Trump just kind of becomes an avuncular uncle and doesn’t do anything that crazy, but my fear is that his lack of intellectual curiosity combined with his bombastic ego leads us into untenable conflict after untenable conflict.

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think Trump is the #dbap president radical moderates like me have been dreaming of.  

Tyler writes:

“The Cubs visited the White House this week and it got me thinking are Lebron and the Cavs a lock to boycott Trump and the White House if they win the title? If not the Cavs, I definitely see some team doing this during his tenure.”

Yes, the Cavs would definitely skip meeting Donald Trump at the White House if they win the title. That’s honestly reason enough for me to root for Golden State. Just to avoid having to talk about this for a month.  

Because MSESPN would turn LeBron and the Cavs skipping the White House into the biggest story you’ve ever seen. By the time MSESPN was done with it they’d have turned this vapid gesture into the equivalent of Ali not going to fight in the Vietnam War.   

The liberal sports media is so thirsty for liberal sports heroes that fucking Colin Kaepernick and Caitlyn Jenner are their heroes. And all they did was kneel and put on a dress. 

Brad writes:

I’ve been thinking about the Soulja Boy vs Chris Brown “fight” that’s brewing and was thinking which athlete feud would I most want to see happen. What are the rivalries where both parties just loathe each other? What matchup(s) would you want to see?

Standard UFC rules, octagon style match. Here are my top 4 matchups and betting odds:

Draymond vs Lebron: Lebron is athletically superior and has a distinct length advantage. Draymond is toughest guy in the league and stronger than he looks, but does he have the discipline to fight and just start throwing haymakers at every opportunity?

XFactor: Draymond has a whole other level of crazy that I don’t think Lebron can match, plus there’s no flopping in the octagon. Draymond 3:1

MJ vs Isiah Thomas: Size isn’t fair here, but Isiah might be the dirtiest player to ever play and I wouldn’t put it past him to sneak in a pair of brass knuckles with him. Add in Isiah’s “little brother” complex and I think MJ would have to kill him before he’d actually quit.

XFactor: MJ punched Steve Kerr. In a practice. What would he be willing to do in an octagon to Isiah Thomas? MJ 10:1

Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady: Both are relatively the same size and equally as slow and unathletic. Peyton needs something else to compete with Brady’s legacy. This would be the most unintentionally funny fight, as both hate getting hit and will look to the ref after every punch. Peyton has the neck injury, but Tom has the knee.

XFactor: Peyton has to have more fight experience. As a middle brother, he has experience as both the underdog and the favorite in disputes. Tom Brady has 3 sisters. Peyton 3:2

Nick Saban vs Lane Kiffin: Lane has the age advantage (42 vs 66) and the size advantage. Perfect chance for Saban to exact revenge on Kiffin for sabotaging the Tide’s national title hopes this year. Two fighters that couldn’t be any more different. Lane is a look at me pretty boy, while Saban is a hard ass that would chew out his mother for over cooking the spaghetti. Lane needs the money after taking a pay cut to head down to Cougar Town and claiming that his ex-wfie and Obama are taking all his money… 

XFactor: Kiffin’s glass jaw. You know Joey Saltwater has never been punched in the face. He would instruct his corner to throw in the towel the first time a jab caught him in the chin. This fight will last as long as Clay in the ADPI house, and like Clay in the ADPI house, he won’t be getting back up anytime soon. 

Saban 50:1

The best sports fight that could exist is Jim Harbaugh vs. Urban Meyer.  

Also, this Soulja Boy vs. Chris Brown fight is fascinating to me because I don’t see how anyone wins here. Neither of these guys is renowned for his toughness. So if one guy beats the other guy’s ass what are we learning here? 

Is anybody going to be like, “Boy, I didn’t know how tough Chris Brown was — other than when he beat up Rihanna — but then I saw him beat Soulja Boy’s ass, and now I’m convinced you don’t want to fuck with that dude.”

Of course not. 

Having said that, I would probably love to see Draymond fight LeBron more than any other existing sports fight. 

Art writes:

“Once you became rich/famous, did you lose all of the friends (or most of the friends) that you had prior to becoming rich/famous?”

First, thanks for calling me rich and famous. 

Second, of course not. I have the exact same friends I’ve always had. 

The challenge once you get to be my age is that neither me nor my friends have any time to do anything. Everyone I’m good friends with has young kids and works their asses off. No one can ever do anything fun. 

When you’re young you typically have no money, but lots of free time. As you get older you get more money, but less free time. That’s why next year I think I’m taking off all of July and August. My contracts are up on June 30, 2018 and I think next year I’m just going to vanish for two months. Take my family to Australia or Asia and just disappear for two months and then come back to work just in time for football season.

It’s going to be the summer of Clay.  

Right now I’ve got a three hour daily radio show at the crack of dawn, a website, and an afternoon show on Facebook and Periscope. All three are rolling and lots of fun but you add those jobs along with having three boys ages 8, 6 and 2 and a wife and you can see why I’m the hardest working guy in sports media.  

So next year I’m bailing for two months and no one is going to be able to find me for about eight weeks. No Twitter, no phone, no emails, no articles, nothing.  

That’s the plan anyway.

I’m starting to think the ultimate badass luxury in 21st century life is not being able to be found.  

In the meantime, go sign up for satellite radio and make sure you don’t miss any episodes of Outkick. 

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