It's Been a Terrible Week for the Internet We Grew Up With
Just a bad week for people who make things in general, actually.
A few thoughts on the week in film, TV, tech, and the media, coming right up:
It’s been a terrible week for the internet many of us grew up with. Consider that in the course of a few days, we learned that:
Omegle is shutting down
Vice is laying off staff and shutting down news shows
The Escapist fired its editor-in-chief resulting in mass resignations of staff (most notably including Yahtzee Croshaw of Zero Punctuation, one of the most consistently popular YouTube creators of all time)
Tumblr’s staff has been reduced to a skeleton crew. While the site will continue to be maintained, it seems like Automattic was not able to make it as profitable as desired.
Each of these situations is the result of specific circumstances but many of them (Omegle excepted) stem from the overall collapse of digital publishing as a business model. Related: I appreciated this piece by Charlie Warzel recently, in which he explains that consumers are falling out of love with conventional news in general. According to a pew study, 38% of American adults followed the news closely in 2021 or 2022, compared to 52% in 2018. Warzel concludes:
It would be wrong to suggest that news—and especially commentary about the news— will vanish. But the future might very well look like slivers of the present, where individual influencers command large audiences, and social networking and text-based media take a back seat to video platforms with recommendation-forward algorithms, like TikTok’s. This seems likely to coincide with news organizations’ continued loss of cultural power and influence.
I think he’s dead-on. Aside from a handful of legacy news organizations, I’m guessing the future will be dominated by individual influencers and personality-driven media because it’s one of the few ways to create things for a mass audience with a profitable business model. And that is a shame, because while the previous model had its share of issues, we’ll probably be less informed overall when it’s gone.
The SAG-AFTRA strike is over! After a grueling 118 days, the actors have reached an agreement with the studios, which is going to the national board for approval today. We won’t know the full details of the contract for awhile but apparently AI became a real sticking point in the final days of the strike. I hope that actors are happy with the new contract and that it sets them up to have more sustainable careers. I remain flummoxed and angered by the studios’ willingness to take a torch to their entire industry over some of these deal points. But overall, I fear that between COVID and these strikes, Hollywood is in a tough downward spiral right now that will be difficult to pull out of.
Matt Belloni did a podcast interview with Duncan Crabtree-Ireland from SAG-AFTRA to discuss how the deal went down.
Humane is launching an AIPin. A company called Humane is launching a pin that attaches to your lapel and can do things like make calls, translate conversations, take photos, and tell you how many calories are in the food you are eating. The pin cost $699 and requires a $24/month T-mobile plan. It’s positioned as a device that can theoretically replace your smartphone.
I’m one of those freaks that thinks this thing is super cool and has amazing ideas — in particular, the gesture-based interactions feel like they are from the future (even if they don’t work very well in sunlight). I’m generally supportive of any tech that tries to get us away from our screens. But I also think this product (at least v1 of it) will totally fail as there are just too many compromises for people to feel comfortable relying on it as their primary communications device. Plus, the price is hard to justify for a device that offers only slightly more convenience than Siri or Google Assistance.
[I still might get one just to do a review on it. I’m very intrigued!]
- has a [paywalled] write-up of the device.
Check out the below video for Humane’s demonstration of the technology.
Warner Bros head David Zaslav continues to demonstrate that Warner Bros is one of the most talent-hostile studios in existence. This week we learned that Warner Bros has permanently shelved an upcoming movie about Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner called Coyote vs. Acme. The movie cost around $72 million to make, was co-written by James Gunn, and had great test scores. It was originally planned for HBO Max, eventually received a theatrical release date for July 2023, and is now never going to be released or even sold. Apparently it’s not worth the cost to Warner Bros. to release the film theatrically and they’d rather take a $30 million write-down on it. This follows their decision to shelve already completed Batgirl movie and a Scoob holiday film. A few reactions:
I’m old enough to remember when a studio shelving a movie like this was pretty much unheard of. For Zaslav to take reputational hit from shelving Batgirl/Scoob and then come back for seconds really shows that this man simply DGAF.
One of the most heartbreaking things about this has been seeing people post all the behind-the-scenes stuff online about the making of this film. You really get a sense of how much artistry and effort goes into any film project and how easily it can all be vaporized because of an accounting decision.
At some point I wonder if the guilds will step in to prevent something like this from happening, or if contracts will be modified somehow to account for this scenario. Feels unsustainable in its current state.
There’s no way to know if this ends up being true, but my guess is whatever amount of money Warners saves with the write-down will be far outweighed by all the talent they repel with these decisions. Their previous regime already drove away Christopher Nolan and his most recent film made about $1 billion. Who knows how much value will simply never created because a filmmaker or creator decides it’s not worth the risk to work with Warner Bros.
Darren Aronofsky is making a movie about Elon Musk. I don’t think we need more Musk content in the world, but if there’s anyone’s story that demands a psychologically horrifying descent into madness that makes you question the nature of morality and existence, it’s this one. Here’s hoping he gives Musk the Black Swan or Requiem for a Dream (or even mother!) treatment for this.
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