Off the Media

The New Media Dilemma: Eschewing Crap for Quality, Despite the Incentives

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When I say that Vox and FiveThirtyEight have quickly gone from promising to clickbait hackery, they almost make it too easy. I mean, “This is what Pangaea would look like with modern borders”? C’mon. Even Gawker was aghast.

But that’s my point, it is so easy to criticize. What’s harder is the dilemma that every web publisher today is facing, including myself and the leadership at Betabeat.

This stuff gets traffic. Are we just not supposed to publish it? Read More

Expert Thoughts

How 3D Printing Is Bringing An Ancient Art Form Back to the Future

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(Photo via Joe Carr)

On my desk sits a small marble bust of the emperor Marcus Aurelius. It was carved in 1840, twenty years before Matthew Arnold’s famous essay about the philosopher king, but a thousand and a half years after the great man walked on earth.

Marcus and the other stoics would say that these years matter very little in the grand scope of time. That between then and now, people have done the same thing they’ve always done: lived, died, slept, cheated, hated, loved, excelled, failed and on and on. Read More

Off the Media

For Giants Like the New York Times, Problems Are Hidden in Plain Sight

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It’s a pleasant surprise to see Jonah Peretti make the most salient criticism of the New York Times’ recently controversial (and leaked) innovation report. Why is the Times being so hard on its tech and product teams while ignoring the real elephant in the room?

They spend an estimated $644 million combined on delivery and printing costs, plus untold hundreds of millions to be based in the heart of Manhattan. Aren’t these the real, daily business concerns that the newspaper should be looking at more closely?  Read More

Off the Media

Skimming Off The Top: Social Giving Sites Take a Huge Cut Of The Check

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Last week, a friend from elementary school’s house burned down. She lost everything. Since they were renters, none of the stuff in the house was insured. Worse yet, it was the cherry on top of an already heartbreaking week in which her little dog had been killed by another dog.

Due to the marvel of social media and social tools, another friend immediately set up a campaign with the site Give Forward to raise $12,000 for a “Start From Scratch Fund” on my friend’s behalf. Almost immediately, the first $10,000 was raised. Read More

Digital Publishing

Tim Ferriss Publishes Betabeat Editor Under New Audiobook Venture

Tim Ferriss (Photo: Virtual Business Lifestyle)

In 2013, I bumped into mega best-selling author Tim Ferriss at a hotel in Amsterdam. I’ve known Tim — who sometimes writes for Betabeat sister site New York Observer, as well as being an occasional subject 0f their fascination —  and worked with on several occasions. We were both speaking at the same conference. But I was there for another reason: a few days later I would be heading to Rome to put the final touches on my book about stoicism, The Obstacle Is The Way.

I showed Tim the book, as a friend. He read it that night and approached me the next day: He was starting an audiobook publishing venture and would I want to be one of the first authors to participate. Of course, my answer was YES, YES, YES. Read More

Sad Things

Personal Science Pioneer Seth Roberts Passes Away

Seth Roberts (sethroberts.net)

Yesterday I got the most unexpected and most awful of texts.

My friend, the peerless professor and scientist Seth Roberts had died. According to his sister, who posted on his popular blog, Seth collapsed while hiking over the weekend.

The news hit me extra hard because on Wednesday Seth had submitted what was to be the first of a long awaited column here at Betabeat called “Personal Science.” And worse, I was overloaded and I put off responding. I starred the email and intended to respond today. Read More

Off the Media

I Was Plagiarized By Arbitrage Magazine, But I’m The One Who Feels Terrible About It

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A few weeks ago, my work was shamelessly plagiarized by a staff writer at the Toronto-based Arbitrage Magazine.

I know this not because I am an Arbitrage reader, but because the writer tweeted the article to me.

But honestly I feel terrible that it happened. I’m not angry at the writer (to the point that I have decided not to include his name here to spare him a bad Google-Scarlet-Letter forever). Though he clearly made mistakes, it was really his magazine and its negligent and cowardly leadership that failed us both. Read More