It’s Friday, time for the mailbag.
By the time you read this I’ll be en route to up-state Michigan where I’m going to vanish into cool summer oblivion with the family for next week. There’s good news coming for Outkick, but I’ll be gone for all of next week from radio and Periscope and Facebook Live.
With that in mind, here we go:
“I’m close to your age and have two boys that are eight and five. So the Marvel movies are a big part of our life right now and maybe yours as well. Been great to watch the oldest really latch on the most recent ones too. Especially Guardians of the Galaxy.
How does James Gunn, the director of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, get fired versus how Keith Olbermann gets hired with their current twitter history?
Is it just the fact that Gunn made more jokes about rape and Disney considers that more offensive than claiming Trump is a Nazi? Even though he emphasized it with motherfucker?
You should start a gambling segment on who will be the next domino to fall based on their twitter history. Keith has to be the favorite?”
I’m not a fan of going back through someone’s Twitter history and grabbing Tweets you don’t like from a decade ago to get them fired — or publicly shamed — today. That’s whether it’s a famous movie director who used not to be regular guy or an athlete who is totally anonymous as a teenager and then becomes famous as an adult.
That’s particularly the case when an athlete is under 18 years old. As a society we’ve decided that adolescents, as a general rule, get their pre-adulthood crimes destroyed when the reach 18. Why do we do that? Because we believe children and minors shouldn’t be held to the criminal standard of adults when they are still under 18. (Clearly we can make exceptions when a minor does something particularly egregious, but the general rule is crimes by those under 18 are handled by the juvenile justice system).
If that’s the case with actual crimes of violence, how in the world is our standard not the same when it comes to a teenager Tweeting out rap lyrics or making inappropriate comments? It seems like the media should decide that these aren’t stories worth covering.
In the case of James Gunn, yes, he was much older when he sent those Tweets, but I still think there ought to be a statute of limitations on outrage. Can you really go back in time, publicize Tweets no one had seen before, and then express retroactive outrage that they exist?
I think the entire concept of these being stories, whether the target is liberal or conservative, is absurd. I’m pretty much opposed to outrage, pitchfork and mob behavior online in general, but at the very least shouldn’t we demand that response be predicated on current behavior?
When you seek out Tweets no one knows exist and express outrage a decade later, isn’t the person seeking out the Tweets the person actually creating the outrage? I understand the concept of going after someone who is conservative because of what was done to a liberal or someone going after a liberal because of what was done as a conservative, but my general position is that no one should be fired for decade old Tweets.
If you don’t like something, don’t read, watch or listen to it. I’m troubled by the new trend of demanding that a company or advertiser not be affiliated with an individual because of a joke or comment some members of an online mob decide they don’t like. People aren’t perfect.
Certainly I think about this in my own life too. For instance, I say millions of words a year on live radio. I’ve been doing that for a decade now. Has every sentence I’ve ever uttered been Shakespearean? Has every argument or opinion been perfectly crafted? Of course not. But I would hope people judge me on the balance of my commentary, not the one paragraph or sentence that someone decides to be offended by.
Yet, and this is what I find troubling in cases like these, your own audience isn’t the one judging you. They don’t contextualize your comment among everything else you’ve ever said, the angry mob just goes straight for the worst possible reading of that commentary and they don’t contextualize it at all.
I don’t pretend to know what Gunn believes or thinks, but I do know he made two really good movies. I’d rather him make a third really good movie than get fired for something he Tweeted a decade ago. That’s because I’d rather judge him at his best work than his worst words. Furthermore, I embrace creative freedom. And sometimes creative freedom is messy. Maybe in testing the bounds of acceptable comedic speech in his youth Gunn was better able to channel his voice to the masses in his older age.
Anyway, all of this is a round about way of saying, when I call out someone like Keith Olbermann, I’m not demanding he be fired (or not hired) I’m saying the standard for sports media should be the same for Olbermann’s liberal speech as it is for Schilling’s conservative speech. I don’t believe you can fire Schilling for sharing a Facebook meme on transgender bathroom issues — even if a company disagrees with you — and employ Olbermann or Jemele Hill who have said every bit as ridiculous liberal things.
I don’t want anyone fired, I just want standards and precedents to be applied fairly and evenly regardless of who is involved in the stories.
“You recently retweeted Frank Isola’s tweet commenting on his layoff — one among many at the New York Daily News in a heartless purge by Tronc. As I dug down the rabbit hole that is Twitter, I also found this tweet by T.J. Quinn, a former NYDN reporter. While I agreed with his assertion that the layoffs were “despicable”, I question his logic that says companies should get into journalism because “you believe in it, not because it makes you rich”. You have written extensively about the business of sports media, and frankly I trust your knowledge over some of my journalism professors at my school.
Isn’t the point of any business — news or otherwise — to make money? I understand journalism’s mission (to promulgate objective, reasonable facts about today’s world) is admirable. I want to thrive in this industry too. I get it. But the money ultimately does the talking. People my age get their news from Twitter. The news isn’t hidden anymore. I like the idea of making consumers pay for content, but that content better be pretty fucking good because even if every news entity in the world put their news, commentary and even tweets behind a paywall then the headlines will still find a way onto Twitter. So the only solution for these bigger media conglomerates is to find a better business model or produce superior content. You often point out the smaller business strategy worked for you and it should for others too. But what is your advice to these bigger companies? How would you improve their business model so the reporters can keep on keeping on?”
We also had Isola on Outkick this morning and he was fantastic talking about the importance of the New York Daily News to the city of New York and what writing at a newspaper like that had meant for him. I’d encourage you to go listen to the podcast.
Let’s first diagnose the big problem here. The reason why the reporters are losing their jobs is twofold: 1. The internet killed every newspaper’s classified ads business, which used to be the most lucrative part of the newspaper and 2. Lots of people want to work in news and are willing to take low salaries to do so. The business model, not the difficulty of the job, kept journalism jobs artificially subsidized and also helped keep salaries high and then when that business model collapsed the jobs went with them.
This is how the American economy works.
Let’s take it outside of journalism and talk about a job that millions of girls, I bet, would like to have — cheerleading. Let’s leave aside the sexism allegations and just look at this from a pure business perspective. Every year there are thousands and thousands of good looking women who want to work as NFL cheerleaders. The result is there is a huge overload of supply and there are limited jobs. Many women have the requisite skills — good looks, dance and gymnastic skills, great bodies — to work as NFL cheerleaders.
So the NFL has a job in high demand with ample candidates who could do the job well. That is, it’s hard to distinguish one cheerleader from another when it comes to overall skill. Indeed, unlike say, the football team which you couldn’t replace with the next 53 guys up without the team being much worse, the average NFL cheerleading squad probably wouldn’t look that much different if instead of being made up of the top 1-32 girls, it were made up of the top 132 to 164 girls.
What typically happens when a job is in high demand and many people can do the job well? The pay isn’t very high unless, and this is key, the revenue produced is massive. Now I haven’t seen the books on cheerleading, but my bet is that cheerleading squads, at best, make a couple of hundred thousand of dollars a year for a team. And many may lose money that’s rolled into the overall marketing budget.
So many people, in fact, desire to be cheerleaders that I bet a team could charge every girl $5k to be on the team and most would pay it rather than receive $10k or so just for the cachet and celebrity status that comes from the gig.
Now you may be thinking to yourself, why in the world is Clay writing about cheerleaders? Because I think journalism is somewhat similar. I think, especially in sports, that there are tens of thousands of people out there who would love to make a living writing about sports one day. I know this because I used to be one of these people. In fact, I wanted to make a living writing about sports so much that I wrote for years for free while practicing law. This isn’t uncommon in writing, by the way, where thousands and thousands of people every year sit down to write their own novel and do so entirely for free in the hopes that one day their book might be published.
There are way more people who want to make a living writing than there are good writing jobs. WAY more. That was the case even when newspapers were flourishing. But each local newspaper used to have a substantial moat. “We do the local news here so everyone has to buy ads with us,” was basically their existing business model. The result was a bevy of high paying jobs.
That worked well for generations — you got the news delivered to your doorstep and in exchange the newspaper was able to put ads in your paper. From a business perspective the journalism only mattered as a function of the number of people who would buy the ads to increase the circulation/impression of ads. But in theory this was a virtuous business circle, the better or more interesting the written quality of the journalism and its front page cover photos, the more people who read the newspaper and the more the ads cost.
But then the Internet came.
Now here’s where things fall apart — instead of making their product a premium offering online and still charging for the best written product they could produce, whether it was online or offline — something that, say, The Wall Street Journal has been doing for the longest time and something “The New York Times” and “The Washington Post” have recently become more aggressive on as well — newspapers as a group made the decision they were going to give away their content online. The goal was that online advertising dollars were going to make up for the money they lost by giving away their product for free.
There was also a huge fear that the Internet was going to destroy their business, but this really didn’t make sense either — how many truly great local newspapers have been launched online that worked? I can’t even think of any. Hell, how many truly great national websites in general have launched in the past twenty years and been even a fraction as profitable as a good newspaper in 1994?
I don’t think there are any either.
In fact, putting the news online for free did something else entirely — it conditioned readers that all news should be free.
Worse than that, newspapers and other websites agreed to let advertisers pay based on pageviews. And pageviews were infinite. Whereas in the past a newspaper or magazine had a finite number of ads to sell because the newspaper had a fixed number of pages — which created demand — they sold infinity ads to everyone, which made them worthless.
Then, as if that weren’t bad enough, those advertiser dollars continued to collapse, going lower and lower, due to the infinite supply — and then they put their staffs to work cranking out the same story on every site all day long. We had guys at FoxSports.com getting ten million “readers” a month who couldn’t have gotten 100 readers if they’d written their own opinions instead of posting the latest viral video. Their “readership” was all just Facebook traffic from the algorithm and no one had any idea who the writer was or even which site they’d clicked on. The result was everyone got homogenized. And writers became totally interchangeable.
It turned out there were many too many writers and journalists to fit the business.
The business had collapsed. And when a business collapses it’s hard to expect to be able to continue to work in that industry.
I think it sucks when people lose their jobs, it has happened to me several times in my career, but everything in American capitalism is predicated on making money. It’s great if you want to work in something you love, but there’s no guarantee you deserve that job.
I had several buddies who wanted to work in public interest law and they would occasionally lament, “Man, there’s no money to do these jobs.”
Yeah, that’s because someone has to underwrite your passion because it doesn’t pay for itself. If you want to truly make a difference in journalism, get rich. Jeff Bezos has done more for journalism by himself than a hundred thousand American journalists have combined. Do you know why? Because he figured out a business rationale for the Post — or he’s so rich he’s just decided to underwrite the losses, we don’t really know.
I do know this, I was shopping in Georgetown in D.C. on Wednesday and I went into an Amazon bookstore for the first time. It was absolutely fabulous. I loved the way it was organized. The wackiest thing of all? There were no set prices just bar codes. I wondered about that until I checked out when the lady at the desk told me I could get the Amazon prime price on the website if I remembered my Amazon login. Of course I don’t remember any of these because they are saved on my computers or my phone and I’ve got way too many of them to remember now so I said I didn’t. Whereupon she told me if I just used the credit card I’d ever used to buy anything on Amazon Prime before my account would be synced.
Now you can question what that says about Amazon’s knowledge of our own lives, but I was blown away. Boom, I bought my books, paid 40% off cover price, and walked right out. It was fabulous, I felt like, twenty years after I’d been in college and walked up to the Barnes and Noble superstore that used to be in Georgetwoen — since replaced — I was officially in the future.
Technology doesn’t have to destroy, it can and often does make existing businesses better if the stewards of those businesses make smart financial decisions on behalf of the business.
Imagine if books had responded to the Internet by racing online to put their texts up for free in the hopes that advertising would replace the cost of print books. Well, eventually, books would have died because people would have gotten all the stories they could possibly stomach and they’d refuse to buy from bookstores.
Instead, books have thrived, even with ebooks diving into the picture, and my new book coming out this fall will have a massive audience able to read the print volume, the audible version of me reading the book, and an ebook version.
I wish I knew how to save the future of newspapers, but I don’t. Because I think the business logic, outside of major brands, just doesn’t exist.
“What do you think about Kevin Durant going on CJ McCollum’s podcast in person and then awkwardly going at each other hours later on Twitter? Does this prove that NBA players are by far the softest professional athletes?”
I think this is just typical Twitter bullshit.
When people meet face to face, shocker, they tend to like each other and reach some form of mutual collegiality. That’s what happens on podcasts. The minute they go on Twitter that face to face interaction is gone and random people are obsessively Tweeting them demanding a response to a Tweet and it leads to an artificial drumbeat in their head. “Oh, my God, (insert person here) called me out and if I don’t respond I’m going to look like a punk!”
I used to think that way, but now I take several hours off of Twitter every day and what you’ll see is that most Twitter battles last an hour or two and then everyone forgets about it. Feeling the need to respond to everyone who takes a shot at you (or praises you for that matter) becomes exhausting.
And I say that as a guy with a pinprick of Kevin Durant’s fame.
It’s incredible to me that the second best basketball player in the world sits on social media, reads what anonymous trolls say about him, and then chooses to respond to them, sometimes from his own anonymous troll accounts.
I’ve never created an anonymous Twitter account — I’m too much of a narcissist to give anyone else credit for my Tweets, but I do sometimes shiv someone in the prison cafeteria just to send a message to everyone else that occasionally the tiger decides to respond to the people making faces on the other side of the cage and you better be aware it could happen, but the idea that a pro athlete would choose to spend his time this way is bonkers to me.
It used to be the phone was a convenience, now I increasingly am starting to view it as an anchor. The other day I was driving out to the lake with my wife and family and my phone was blowing up so much with questions and demands from a variety of places all simultaneously that when we slowed to a stop alongside her mom’s lakehouse I rolled down my window and threw my phone outside into the grass because I’d gotten so many calls and demands during the two hours I’d been driving to the lakehouse. And, to be honest, I kind of wanted to leave it there.
It used to be when I was out on a boat my biggest fear was losing my phone in the water, now everyone’s on the cloud — whatever that is– and I was thinking the other day, “Eh, wouldn’t be the worst thing to lose my phone in the lake.”
Down at the beach this summer I’d try to take most of days off my phone and I did the same thing last year in Europe and at Disney World. Next week I’m on vacation with my family and I’m going to try and just check my phone once in the morning and then once again in the evening before bed. Otherwise I’m going to be present with my kids.
I think many of us are addicted to our phones and that can’t be healthy in the long run. So I’m taking more and longer breaks from my phone.
Hope y’all have great weekends.
See you in a week.
Thanks for reading Outkick.