Apropos of Nothing: Say It Ain’t So, Dr. Z

Apropos of Nothing… I write a weekly email called Apropos of Nothing. It features thoughts and links on stuff in the product, tech, media space, as well as a good dose of stuff that’s Apropos of… you get the idea. So get the newsletter! Here’s the most recent edition. Sign up for more.

Happy New Year Aproponents!

Let’s start with the week’s biggest news. Let’s see… Occupy Oregon? North Korean nukes? No! Dr. Zizmor retired! And the subway will never be the same without his campy, rainbow ads, unblemished visage and promise that you — yes, you! — can get a chemical peel that will make all your dreams come true.

I actually interviewed Dr. Z in 2004 for a WNYC piece on 100 years of subway advertising. Nice dude. A mensch, as his friends told the Daily News. And, contrary to what I’d assumed, he told me he did not put his face in his ads for any sort of ego trip. Rather, “People want to see a face. […] The subway is dehumanizing.”

And, of course, he’s right. Putting people’s faces in ads and products does typically boost engagement and general good vibes.

Why Curate

“As a life long “note taker” writing and thinking out loud in public spaces has been a way for me to sharpen my opinions and broaden my thinking. Curating a weekly email newsletter is part of that thinking process. And selfish as it my reasons might be, I think it allows one to highlight the “good work” done by hard working writers. We can all use a few more readers and supporters in this era of listicles and click bait headlines.”

Om Malik wrote that in “The Curation Conundrum”, but it fairly well sums up my own “selfish” reasons for write this weekly newsletter. I read a lot and writing about what I read is a hack to boost retention and force me to think critically. (If I were back in college, these newsletters would be graded on a check / check-plus basis.) Writing a weekly newsletter also forces me to write… wait for it… weekly. I firmly believe that quantity leads to quality. Plus, as a former radio DJ, curation / juxtaposition / choosing that deep cut or making that unexpected segue… it’s fun! Sadly, as Om continues: “Though curation as a philosophy is a necessity, curation as a business is a bit of a Chimera. The problem with curation is that no one wants to pay for it.”

Peak Content

Curation, aggregation, and personalization are responses to the glut of content that’s out there on the web. But stay hopeful, Internet:

“The ecosystem we’re in right now is at highest editorial capacity for content, coupled with a shifting revenue stream away from publishers and to networks and large tech companies. There’s no hack that I or many smart people can see. That’s why we’ve reached “Peak Content.”
“It means that we’re at the top of the bell curve, probably exposed to more information and content than ever before. But it also means this to my optimistic self: we might just be at the worst of it, and we’re going to have to come down. Hey! You! Reader! Take a deep breath. Sigh out. Make an audible noise if that feels good. Fist pump on a dragon. This is FANTASTIC.”

That’s Erica Berger writing (and dropping lots of NeverEnding Story inside jokes) on Medium. Naturally, she’s launching a curated newsletter. With Peak Content also comes Peak Curation.

+ Venture capitalist Fred Wilson published his (intentionally hyperbolic quasi-unrealistic)2016 predictions. Here’s one that caught my eye, given that I’m the product lead at the Times for our foray into Facebook Instant Articles:

The trend towards publishing inside of social networks (Facebook being the most popular one) will go badly for a number of high profile publishers who won’t be able to monetize as effectively inside social networks and there will be at least one high profile victim of this strategy who will go under as a result.

Peak Vinyl?

You can already buy vinyl at Whole Foods and Urban Outfitters. Here’s another sign we’re reaching peak vinyl: Columbia House — Columbia House!!! — is returning soon with a focus on vinyl. Basically, they plan to re-embrace their old membership model or, as they may market themselves to millennials, they’ll be the “Birchbox for Vinyl.”

+ Shinola, the “made in Detroit” manufacturer of hipster bikes, watches, and notebooks is about to introduce its own line of turntables. (This NYT profile of the company, its marketing strategy and the authenticity of its Detroit-ness — and whether we should care — is a great read.)

+ You knew it was coming… Apparently audio cassettes are also making a comeback.

Apropos of Nothing

A follow up on my three year old’s love for Paul Simon that relates to yet another bygone media format… Kodachrome! I’ve been singing Leo that song at bedtime ever since he was a baby. Only I’d modify the opening line to “When I think back on all the *stuff* I learned in high school…” Well, now that Leo is listening to Paul’s original version he knows better. He interrupted me last week to tell me that it’s “crap”! Very well, son. I now sing that line accurately — and with gusto!

That’s all friends. I hope this email was check-plus worthy. If so — or even if it’s crap! (because it isn’t Scottish) — please share with a friend. Friends: sign up here.

Until next week,

Dan Blumberg


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