Wednesday, December 9th, 2015


The Chat Pack

"That Tiger Beat poster on the wall now talks to you." That rather ominous statement is the way one industry insider described what followers get from today's teen stars. They follow them on Vine, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and a host of social platforms with names unfamiliar to even the most Internet-addicted adults. It's reality TV meets social media meets adolescence; and its huge. Rolling Stone's Benoit Denizet-Lewis follows a guy named Christian Leave to better understand the strange life of a teen social media celebrity.

+ Slate's Amanda Hess on YouNow: Teens are getting famous on a social network you've probably never heard of.

+ "Millions of teenagers in high schools nationwide are using a smartphone app to anonymously share their deepest anxieties, secret crushes, vulgar assessments of their classmates and even violent threats, all without adults being able to look in." WaPo on the After School app (like real life adolescence, it can get pretty dark).


Phat Chancellor

"When it fell in 1989, she gathered the qualities cultivated as a necessity in the East -- patience, blandness, intellectual rigor and an inconspicuous but ferocious drive -- and changed not only her life but the course of history." Time Magazine's Person of the Year is Angela Merkel.


Suburban Sprawl

"When a lonely Virginia teenager named Ali Amin got curious about the Islamic State last year and went online to learn more, he found a virtual community awaiting. It had its own peculiar language, stirring imagery and just the warm camaraderie, sense of adventure and devotion to a cause that were missing from his dull suburban life." The NYT on the social media "echo chamber" that awaits young Americans who show interest in ISIS.

+ The Chronicle of Higher Education: The ties that bind Jihadists.


Popularity Contested

Medium's Evan Williams has been promoting a new way to measure our interaction with stories; one that focuses not on clicks, but rather on the total time we spend reading something. The NYT borrowed that idea to come up with a new -- and probably slightly less depressing -- way to determine its most impactful stories of the year. Here are the stories that held you the longest in 2015.

+ On Facebook, our most discussed topic of the year was the 2015 presidential election. That explains why so many people have been clamoring for an Unlike button.


Local Zero

Spotlight was one of the best movies I've seen in a long time; and it reminds us of the critical importance of the media at the time when the cable news networks and rancid political rags have left us in dire need of such a reminder. The Boston Globe provides a look back at its reporters' coverage of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

+ The investigation into the sexual abuse and coverups in Boston was a local story that had national and international ramifications. Who will keep an eye on those in power as newspapers cut budgets and local reporters become an endangered species?


Thinking Out Loud

"For a long time the industry treated audiobooks as a subsidiary format, but now we're seeing it's become a primary format for many." In Marketwatch, Jeremy Olshan ponders the reasons why audiobooks have become so popular (in some cases, more popular than print). I think it's all about technology. Playing the audio in your car and on the move has never been easier (and in-car digital dashboards will only accelerate that trend). It's no coincidence that audiobooks and podcasts are both on the rise at the same time.


Full of C-RAP

"We're about to put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of music. We're making a single-sale collector's item. This is like someone having the scepter of an Egyptian king." In the age of digital music, the Wu-Tang Clan decided to go contrarian and sell only a single copy of its latest album which would be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Pretty cool. The guy who bought the album: Martin Shkreli. Not cool.


Exclamation Point for Sale

Yahoo was in the process of spinning off its stake in Alibaba. That's been put on hold. Now the company is reportedly considering the idea of spinning off or selling everything else. Since I missed out on getting the Wu-Tang Clan's album, I made sure I got dibs on the one piece of Yahoo that I really wanted.


Gift Us Up Where We Belong

If you're looking for an ideal gift for that overworker in your life, head to Racked and check out the most excellent gift guide put together by my wife Gina and her partner in crime, Amy Parker.

+ And my syndication bud Jason Kottke is putting together a running list of his favorite gift guides.


Bottom of the News

At long last, someone admits what we've all secretly assumed: Being handsome is a living hell.

+ A product for our times: The FDA approved a device that can plug gunshot wounds in fifteen seconds.

+ Buy a sea turtle at the local food market. Drive a few miles to the ocean and put it back.

+ If you feel like you're being watched now, just wait. Check out the camera that can see around corners.