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The Message

Phase 1: 1980-2000


  • USA Today (1982) envisions a simplified world, one that could be encapsulated with a punchy blurbs and bright graphics. With innovations like Snapshots and the first full-color weather section, USA Today becomes the second-largest American newspaper by 1985.
  • Siskel & Ebert (1986), presaging our Like button culture, simplifies the movie-going experience to a simple binary: thumbs up or thumbs down.
  • Entertainment Weekly (1990) empowers a class of people who want to be culturally savvy without enduring the dreariness of a humanities degree. You can now discuss Infinite Jest without reading, debate Hill Street Blues without watching, and chat about Tupac without listening.
  • The Week (1995) applies the same principles to news.
  • The Daily Show (1996) revolutionizes the potential of accelerated media — all the news in a few minutes, plus a few good Monica jokes.
  • MSNBC (1996) and FOX News (1996) hone CNN’s surface news by adding a political prism.

Phase 2: 2000–2010


  • Blogger (1999) forecasts a future where every person creates their own content empire. This triggers a decade of schizoid seizures in old media companies, as they debate whether “user-generated content” will eat their businesses.
  • Napster (1999) transforms your computer into a music database server, as the history of human recording becomes instantly available.
  • Wikipedia (2001) turns human knowledge into a massive data repository, so we never forget the time Ted Danson roasted his girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg while in blackface.
  • Google News (2002) is invented to capture all the content that media companies were moving to digital platforms. Google soon follows with other mass-archival products — Google Books (2004), Google Maps (2005), Google Video (2005), and Google Finance (2006).
  • The Long Tail (2004), a seminal phrase coined by Chris Anderson in a Wired story, screams the business mantra of this era: Capture the value in your archive!
  • YouTube (2005) begins to archive every moving image ever created, ending the notion of cultural rarity.
  • Demand Media (2006), a massive content farm that ballooned to a $2 billion valuation, creates mountains of cheap Google-friendly content.
  • NYT Topics (2006), a huge taxonomic archive of the New York Times, launches; TimesMachine comes a couple years later. In 2010, NYT licenses FiveThirtyEight, one of the first attempts to control the data deluge.
  • Netflix Streaming (2007) shifts Netflix from a superficial “surfing” technology (three DVDs, no more) to a “drowning” experience with bottomless archives of old programming.

Phase 3: 2010–?


Recap & Binge

Waves of Media

  1. Phase One: Surfing. Netflix (1997) launches the quintessential skimming technology: A service that provides a few DVDs by mail. You can’t binge on a show, but you can finally express cogent opinions about Rashomon and Lawrence of Arabia.
  2. Phase Two: Drowning. With the launch of streaming technology (2007), Netflix shifts emphasis to building a massive archive. Finally, you have access to every episode of Family Ties.
  3. Phase Three: Diving. Netflix captures the zeitgeist again by focusing on premium “binge” programming like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards (2013).




A Pandaemonium Revolver Collection. Season 2 stars @anildash @alanalevinson @ftrain @hipstercrite @itsthebrandi @jamielaurenkeiles @vijithassar @yungrama @zeynep. Season 1 available on DVD shortly.

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Rex Sorgatz

Rex Sorgatz

creative technologist, author, entrepreneur, designer, consultant

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