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Episode 48 January 17, 2017 | 30min

The New, Big Media

Our co-founders have a wide-ranging discussion about media and entertainment.

Show Notes

How do our media landscapes shape our lives? This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade have a wide-ranging conversation about media, from the changing landscape of journalism to the way we consume entertainment to the way we share information. Topics covered include fake news, Netflix, Jeff Bezos, Facebook, television, Fox News, David Letterman, and Peppa Pig (which gives Paul a chance to test-drive a British accent).

Paul Ford: Rich Ziade.

Rich Ziade: Paul Ford.

Paul: It’s good to see you again.

Rich: It’s always good to see you, Paul.

Paul: Everybody, this is Track Changes, the official podcast of Postlight, a digital product studio at 101 Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Rich: You’re throwing the address out.

Paul: I’m proud of that address, not gonna lie.

Rich: It’s a sexy address.

Paul: 101 Fifth Avenue.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: It sounds like we should sell something like…golden handbags.

Rich: Scarves.

Paul: Yeah, woven from digital dreams.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: But instead what we do is create digital products, like the things that you have on your phone or platforms that you use to…I don’t know.

Rich: Book tickets.

Paul: Book tickets, yeah that’s a good one.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: Booking tickets. You’ve done some ticket booking work in your life, right?

Rich: Um…played around with it, advised on it, but not built it.

Paul: You’ve never personally booked a ticket?

Rich: Oh, booked a ticket? Yeah, of course.

Paul: No no no, I was actually…you answered good.

Rich: As a consumer.

Paul: Yeah, you answered the real question I had, but you’ve advised.

Rich: Oh absolutely.

Paul: Do you have opinions on ticket booking?

Rich: I don’t, no.

Paul: OK good, because that’s not what we’re talking about today.

Rich: No, no.

Paul: We’re going to talk about the media today.

Rich: OK.

Paul: It’s a great subject that everybody loves.

Rich: It’s a weird word, right? It’s not — there’s The Media, and then there’s media.

Paul: That’s right.

Rich: Pictures of my kids on my phone are media. Is media?

Paul: Of course we’ve blurred the boundaries — well, OK this is, first of all, yes. It’s a weird Latin plural. That gets everybody in trouble.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: But honestly, nobody should do that anymore. Just go with media as a thing, not as a plural.

Rich: Yeah. Right.

Paul: It’s the media.

Rich: It’s strange days for the media, and I think that’s why we wanted to talk about it.

Paul: Well we should, we should talk about that.

Rich: And media is a big part of our business. We do a lot of work for media.

Paul: That’s true. It’s very blurry. You know, it used to be that, work for media meant come and set up a blog, or build a CMS. Build a content management system, I’ll put my articles in, I’ll take what I know how to do.

Rich: Right.

Paul: And I’ll do it over here in this little box and we’ll publish that on the world wide web. That’s…

Rich: It’s more complicated than that.

Paul: Well, and it also means ads now. Just the word media, if you say, “Well, he’s a media person,” that could mean that it’s a professional digital supply side advertising person.

Rich: Absolutely.

Paul: So Rich, that’s the thing, right? You’ve got these old school, often newspapers, publications, and they have to participate on the web. And now that means all kinds of things: that means words, articles, but it also means video, it means podcasts.

Rich: Sure.

Paul: And so that whole system has changed, and I often…we do work to help people. We do work to help people with their video strategy, and so on. What you notice is, you talk to big organizations, is they’re feeling pressure from places like Netflix, or YouTube, to get that attention.

Rich: It’s a fascinating shift that is now, I think, accelerating. I think there was a day when it was more thought about, well, how do we save the media because of the web, and because people aren’t buying newspapers? That was the narrative for a really long time.

Paul: That’s right. It was a defensive pose.

Rich: Correct.

Paul: So that was the first thing.

Rich: Correct, a sector, an entire industry was under threat.

Paul: And it felt that there was a term — it was going to be very wasteful to go digital, right?

Rich: Right.

Paul: And that a lot of good things were going to go out of the world. And they were right.

Rich: Correct, and what you see today, the best way to sum it up is: this isn’t just about, how does media save itself? This is about how technology has swallowed it whole, and is, in fact, taking the wheel. The best way to sum it up was…Ryan Gosling?

Paul: Sure.

Rich: Thanking Jeff Bezos, who is in one of the front row tables at the Golden Globes.

Paul: Jess Bezos is known as the owner of the Washington Post.

Rich: And…

Paul: Amazon.

Rich: Amazon. The founder of Amazon.

Paul: The founder of Amazon.

Rich: And you look at a business like a Netflix, which thought it was a mail, a DVD mail envelope business. You just subscribed, and they just kept giving you new DVDs back and forth and back and forth, and then reinvented itself to stream the video. So they had to go sign these deals, right? And there’s a quote I love from their chief content officer. So they were signing deals, they have to go to Universal and go to Paramount, and go to all the different production companies that own the content, and they’re signing deals and the deals are time limited. So every month there’s always an article on The Verge, or somewhere, where they tell you what’s coming off of Netflix, and what’s coming on next month. So I got a notification on my phone that Peppa Pig was coming on.

Paul: Oooh. OK. We have little kids, this is big news.

Rich: She’s big news by the way, right.

Paul: Do you want to talk about Peppa Pig for a minute?

Rich: Should we…I think it deserves an aside doesn’t it?

Paul: Are your kids really into Peppa Pig?

Rich: They love Peppa Pig.

Paul: My kids are coming off. For the people who don’t have children, Peppa Pig is a little pig.

Rich: We got to keep this under 30 seconds Paul.

Paul: Yeah. She’s very British, and the entire show is just Daddy Pig, who I share an infinity with because he’s an overweight, sort of useless guy. [laughter] He’s just, “I’m going to climb a tree, Peppa.” And Peppa is just this very British kid like, “Oh daddy, don’t climb a tree!”

Rich: They’re very…they worry a lot.

Paul: About four to five minutes. And they live on this weird hill that… [laughter]

Rich: It’s very British. The amount of apologizing, and worrying.

Paul: Everyone apologizes constantly, yeah.

Rich: It’s just incredibly, it’s incredibly British.

Paul: They’re always deeply concerned.

Rich: Right.

Paul: So it’s a good show if you want to watch people be deeply concerned. There’s also a great episode where they go to Daddy Pig’s work, have you ever seen that?

Rich: No.

Paul: They go to Daddy Pig’s work, and it’s just this woman moving rectangles and triangles around on a screen, and then she hits print. It’s like the most devastating critique of a modern post-industrial knowledge work I’ve ever seen. [laughter] “What do you do?” She just moves shapes and prints them.

Rich: I’m pretty convinced my kids are a little less intelligent after every Peppa Pig.

Paul: It’s tricky that way.

Rich: It’s tricky that way.

Paul: So Peppa Pig shows up…

Rich: On Netflix.

Paul: Right.

Rich: They send out a notification, and Netflix came to a realization. First off, nobody wants DVDs in the mail. People are streaming stuff on YouTube. The technology was heading there, so they, they did a big shift.

Paul: I got to say, too, this is one of those companies where it utterly set out to destroy an entrenched competitor, similar to, say, Uber. But there was so little sympathy for the entrenched competitor, namely Blockbuster and video rental stores.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: That nobody ever cared.

Rich: Yeah, the hell with it. Nobody cared.

Paul: Nobody ever cared, everybody’s just like, “Ugh, God.”

Rich: It was a neighborhood thing, you went to Blockbuster and it was just…

Paul: Yeah. It kept people employed, that was really good.

Rich: I mean, it was a place to…

Paul : But everybody who worked there, hated it.

Rich: Oh yeah, there was hatred, right, right, exactly. So Netflix comes to, first of —

Paul: It’s product was no late fees. It was actually a pain. You’d go get the video, and it would take a while for it to come, and…

Rich: Yeah, you could hold — a lot of times my DVD would sit there for weeks.

Paul: Yeah, there was no…but there was, like, there was no gratification. It was one of the first big, like, if you hold on a minute, we’ll get you on the other side.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: It’s the same with Amazon. It was like, I know this is going to take a minute to come through the mail compared to a bookstore, but trust me —

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: You’re going to end up getting used to it.

Rich: Right.

Paul: It turns out that you can change human behavior if — you can ask people to delay gratification for a couple of days, if you offer them this sort of larger sphere of convenience.

Rich: Yeah, exactly. Then, then they did their own leap frog on themselves and said, “Well, you know what? You don’t even need the mail.”

Paul: And it’s work remembering, this was a disaster. It ended up working well, but they split the company into two, and all this…

Rich: It was, I got to say credit to them for transforming themselves into a completely digital business from one that was very logistically oriented, right?

Paul: I think you can still get the DVDs, right? You just have to pay for them.

Rich: You can, but I mean…

Paul: There was a point where they split it into, like, two separate companies.

Rich: Oh, I didn’t know the backstory.

Paul: Yeah. It was going to be some weird other organization, they gave it a name and a brand. It was such a bad idea that it all rolled back into Netflix and…

Rich: Right.

Paul: Then they started to get their own content.

Rich: Well there’s a quote I love, it’s one of my favorite quotes, because they just knew that they could not be beholding to the content owners, right?

Paul: See and the content owners are doing, they’re doing what I would advise any content owner to do, which is maintain vigilant control over your own copyrights.

Rich: Sure, of course.

Paul: The only thing that happens is is that you get very dissatisfied consumers who are like, “Well, I have a bucket of content, and I want to put my finger in it and get Star Wars. Where’s Star Wars?”

Rich: That’s the thing, right? I pull up the kids’ view of Netflix, and I don’t care —

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: If Clifford the Dog is gone.

Paul: No.

Rich: There are 600 shows, and years of episodes just laying there.

Paul: My kids can learn to love Risney’s the Lion Cow just as well.

Rich: Nobody cares, nobody cares.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: But: so how does Netflix continue to grow? That’s the key question, right? There’s a quote, again, I’ve said this seven times already, but here’s the quote: they said, “Well, why are you making your own content?” I think it was their chief content officer, and I don’t know his name, and he said, “We have to become HBO before HBO becomes us.”

Paul: Fair.

Rich: And first off, what he came to realize was that the differentiator, the way they were going to change the game for themselves, was to have their own content. It was to have content that will never, ever be anywhere else, ever. If you and pause and think about that, right? They are not going to lease out their content.

Paul: To Hulu.

Rich: To Hulu or HBO or anyone else.

Paul: Meanwhile, there’s all these new services coming on, right? I can’t…this is bad because we’ve forgot the chief content officer’s name, but I can’t remember their names because they’re all very hard to distinguish. The way I noticed one of them was, I paid Hulu for the Criterion Collection?

Rich: Mmmm hmmm.

Paul: Because I had this fantasy that I would watch lots of really good movies instead of just watching garbage in my spare time.

Rich: Right.

Paul: It turns out that that was a…

Rich: You wanted garbage?

Paul: I wanted garbage. But I had…I watched a couple very very good movies. There are probably dozens of very good movies.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: And then I forgot about it for a couple of months, and then I went back and I was like, “Oh, I want to watch blah blah blah.”

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: Some French flick from the sixties actually, I wanted to see whoever the guy is who did Mon Oncle, and he does all those very constructed sets. Jacques Tati I think his name is…I wanted to see that movie, and it was just gone. The whole Criterion Collection was gone.

Rich: They just like, expired?

Paul: Yeah, they don’t leave clear paths as to where you should go next.

Rich: Oh no no no.

Paul: It’s just like, “Oh, did that happen?”

Rich: There’s no blast, email blast with this.

Paul: “What? Criterion Collection? Oh, we never had that really.”

Rich: Yeah, yeah. Of course, right. Right.

Paul: Then so I go to the Criterion website, and it’s over on some new — I think it’s owned by, and this is how vague it is…it’s like on something that’s like a Time Warner Cable, which is now called Spectrum Effort or something where you can go and get the Criterion Collection and these other good films.

Rich: You can subscribe or whatever, yeah.

Paul: Yeah, and it’s like, I don’t know, $X bucks a month, and it’s the cognitive cost of another subscription service. Especially because TV is just a little exhausting.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: Like Netflix alone, I spend more time looking for things than I do watching them.

Rich: Oh, I’ve ended nights just going through Netflix.

Paul: Yeah, you wake up with the crappy TV remote in your hand.

Rich: Yeah, right.

Paul: You never actually watched anything.

Rich: That’s right. So what are the consequences of this? I think first off, Amazon owns the Washington Post. Forget Jeff Bezos, he’s just a vehicle in the whole process.

Paul: Well actually it’s tricky. It is his private foundation that owns the Washington Post, but yes.

Rich: This is where we are right?

Paul: Yes.

Rich: This is, and you have some strange phenomenon that come out of this. There was an article recently in The New York Times about how you can just pretty much get…everybody’s talking about echo chambers these days, right? If you could just pretty much pick up the news that you want to hear.

Paul: Right.

Rich: Rather than what’s universally broadcasted.

Paul: It was an article by Farhad Manjoo.

Rich: Correct.

Paul : About how Netflix creates this bubble for you.

Rich: And it’s true. Netflix, amongst others, because there are so many choices, in you know, golden era of television and all that. A successful TV show today with eight or nine million viewers would have been canceled.

Paul: Right, right.

Rich: 20 or 30 years ago or whatever.

Paul: Oh, everything’s cut into niches. So you end up with say, Samantha Bee.

Rich: Right.

Paul: Very focused on a specific kind of lefty audience. You can’t switch from one to the other. She can’t wake up tomorrow, and go, “Actually, I believe that the Republicans are right to repeal health care.”

Rich: Right.

Paul: Or she’ll lose her show.

Rich: Yeah, absolutely. It’s, I mean, it’s not that different than, like, deep cable. If you go way into cable, you’ll start to see stations that are very targeted towards a particular audience.

Paul: Fox News has a huge audience, but it’s incredibly targeted. You don’t go on there and…you know, they invited me once, I wrote a piece for Elle magazine about my daughter, setting up a fund for my daughter to balance out the wage mismatch that she was going to reach over the course of her life. And I got a call from “Fox and Friends.” They were like, “You want to come on, talk about that?” I’m like, “No.”

Rich: You said no?

Paul: Oh my God, no. To hell with them.

Rich: Right, right.

Paul: They’re garbage.

Rich: Right.

Paul: Literally, I was polite, but it’s just like, “My God.” What am I going to do? I’m going to go on and have you just scream at me for 20 minutes?

Rich: They’re garbage to you. For your niche, that’s just not…you’re not the guy.

Paul: Unless I really wanted to promote myself. I just don’t have, I’m not wired quite that way.

Rich: I mean, there are probably others that think you’re garbage.

Paul: Lots of people do.

Rich: Well, I mean that fall into other circles, right?

Paul: No, but anytime you…

Rich: You have a particular viewpoint that you’re not shy about.

Paul: I have a set of beliefs that I can’t really shut my mouth about, and that pisses people off.

Rich: Right.

Paul: And I’m also in the media, and I have a good job, and that pisses people off if they are not in the media.

Rich: You should have no money.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: You should really be struggling.

Paul: They really would like me to not, well, no, not even that, just like, I have a voice, I have a career, I have a —

Rich: Oh right, on top of it, yeah. You didn’t sacrifice your life for that voice.

Paul: That’s right. That’s right. So there’s no…I don’t want to make this about me, right? But if, yeah, if…I definitely look like an East Coast liberal media elite.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: Even though I’m kind of not fully in the media industry anymore, I am a…if you wanted to make just a picture of what that looks like, it could be me.

Rich: Sure. And this is the debate that’s happening right now. People are making this observation about media. We just came out of a pretty wild election season, right?

Paul: Pretty big ride, yeah.

Rich: And we’re seeing it not just bifurcating politics, but also bifurcating culture, right?

Paul: Yeah. So the point —

Rich: Is this bad?

Paul: What was the point of the article?

Rich: I think he was more sharing observations, but I think, you know, what he was implying was that I think this leaves us with a little less empathy for, beyond our circle.

Paul: It is true. I don’t see…

Rich: A little less just sort of understanding of how a lot of other bubbles live.

Paul: That’s true, I don’t…

Rich: Because you live in your own, and you watch what you want to watch that reinforces your belief systems and views and all that.

Paul: Meaning, meaning that like…

Rich: That’s how this boils down, right?

Paul: In the seventies you had shows like “All In The Family,” and these Norman Lear shows where literally the white racist dad and the liberal kids are living together in a house.

Rich: Which had a huge impact on American culture for years, actually. It was transformative, right? In many ways. Mary Tyler Moore, and women, and women in the workplace. You look at shows like “The Jeffersons,” which was essentially a black couple that was very successful, and lived in a high-rise condo.

Paul: That was literally the song.

Rich: Which was novel. Yeah, literally the song, which was put forward as a novel plot line.

Paul: So you fast forward 40, 45 years, and what you have is instead of this one centralized platform, namely television, which probably…there’s never been anything more powerful than an American television network at its peak.

Rich: Yes, I think that’s right.

Paul: Literally they made a movie about it called Network.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: About just the raw insane power that networks have.

Rich: Of course, of course.

Paul: Because they just couldn’t control everything. And as a result, and in a very different way than today, they tended against from, away from any kind of extreme polarity. They were so focused on producing something that would appeal broadly to America, and it created a really specific culture. Did you grow up watching Johnny Carson?

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: Yeah, me too, and David Letterman, too.

Rich: Sure.

Paul: There was a sensibility there where even if they were playing or winking or doing something that was a little bit off…I mean, Carson had a bunch of marriages, we know Letterman got up to stuff. These are tricky people in the entertainment industry.

Rich: Yes.

Paul: But they always played it right down the middle.

Rich: They did, and I think they were wary, and I think forced themselves to think about all those different, like how big the country was, and how important it was to get that reach more broadly.

Paul: I mean Letterman would make fun of it. His thing was more about bringing a certain sensibility to those people, but boy did he, like, stuff like stupid pet tricks, and things like that, which would just like almost old vaudeville routines.

Rich: Yeah. Basic…yes.

Paul: There was always something there for everybody.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: It was a variety show, and it seems like, first of all, there just isn’t room for that anymore. I guess you have your Jimmy Fallons and stuff like that, but I find that almost unwatchable at this point.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: Things that now are just like kind of for middle America don’t seem to have the same level of craft.

Rich: They don’t, and I think middle America’s also…you need to slice that up into its own 20 pieces of the pie.

Paul: So our choice basically like Fox News on one side, Samantha Bee on the other with “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory” in the middle?

Rich: Yeah, I guess.

Paul: That’s bad.

Rich: I guess. I mean, I think it’s even more nu — I mean look, I don’t have the stats in front of me, but the amount of time people are just scrolling up their Facebook feed is way, I think it exceeds time on television.

Paul: I think Facebook is now all three networks of TV in seventies.

Rich: It is, and if you look at, if you think about how Facebook is designed, there aren’t multiple channels.

Paul: It pretends that it has no broadcast capabilities, essentially. That it’s only individuals broadcasting to each other.

Rich: Yes, but media is dominated by Facebook today.

Paul: Well, and just culture, culture is…this is something that you and I could tease out over 6,000 hours, but culture is contained in that product.

Rich: Oh, without a doubt.

Paul: Right? There’s a certain box of a certain size, and it asks you certain questions and certain things to fill out.

Rich: Without a doubt, and I honestly, I think Facebook’s secret formula is that it needs like two or three percent of the people to give it the content, and the rest just flow right in —

Paul: That’s right.

Rich: From, you know, the rest are just, they’re consumers. We are consumers of Facebook. I have a custom-tailored Facebook feed that is driven by my circle of contacts and the like, and that is, if there’s anything that is going to reinforce the idea that media is post-broadcast, it’s that, right? I mean —

Paul: So you’ve got these little boxes, two to three percent of people fill them out.

Rich: Videos autoplay.

Paul: Right. It’s a very stimulating experience, right? We’ve hit this era, and this is what I’m…

Rich: I don’t want to frame this as critical.

Paul: No, it’s just times have changed and it’s the dynamic medium.

Rich: It’s just…this is what it is, yeah exactly.

Paul: Well you know, there’s a thing going on — we’ve worked in media for a long time. Remember “Snowfall?”

Rich: Yes.

Paul: Snowfall was a thing that came out from The New York Times, and it was an article about an avalanche, and it was very full of gee whiz stuff. It had little animations, it had all sorts of rich hypertext experience.

Rich: Yeah. In this little world of feature-piece media, this was a big deal. It’s like people mentioned “The Snowfall” moment, worth noting for those that aren’t familiar.

Paul: That’s right, and so, that was a fantasy that media would get there, and books would all be interconnected, and everything —

Rich: Right.

Paul: Would be in a big incredible like…

Rich: An interactive, and…

Paul: Right. No one ever really figured out how to pay for it. [laughter] But, what happened is that something like Facebook shows up, and it puts all of that emotional and intellectual pressure towards creating those experiences, but they’re experiences that encourage people to just say, “Here’s what I had for dinner.”

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: “Here’s how I did today.” So the actual hypertext fantasy of enriching information actually became this thing where it’s like, “We’re going to enrich experiences that get people to give us information.”

Rich: Right. OK, so I know we’re trying to be so very deferential here, but I’m going to ask the question, because I have strong feelings about it as I’ve observed it: is this bad?

Paul: Is what bad? Is Facebook bad?

Rich: Is…let me pose the question differently. Everybody flipped out about fake news.

Paul: Fake news, which of course now —

Rich: The ethics around it.

Paul: — is becoming it’s own political football, but the kind of fake news we’re talking about here is Macedonian teenagers making up false stories about Hillary Clinton and putting them into a Facebook newsfeed at the height of the election.

Rich: And getting read —

Paul: By millions of people.

Rich: By millions of people. And that didn’t freak me out. If I wanted to dig around five years ago to the darker corners of the web where there’s all kinds of nonsense, I would have found nonsense.

Paul: Sure.

Rich: There’s nonsense everywhere.

Paul: Sure.

Rich: Everybody’s pumping out nonsense.

Paul: Sure.

Rich: That’s not what freaked me out. What freaked me out is, has the collective mindset and the collective psychology changed such that it can be — why was this effective? Why the hell was this effective?

Paul: Are you thinking that it’s because, I mean, one argument we could make, going back to the thing we were just talking about is that there is no center. You know, that things have gotten so polarized that it becomes possible for people to believe that Hillary Clinton molests children in a pizza restaurant in Washington D.C.

Rich: But, but let me push back. Why?

Paul: Here’s what I think: when you introduce chaos into a new system, it takes a surprisingly long time for a cultural immune system to show up. Let me give you an example. I can get really compulsive about reloading Twitter. I’m kind of less worried about my kids getting compulsive about it. I think they’re going to grow up with it, and they’re going to find it mostly boring.

Rich: Interesting.

Paul: The generation right before me was a generation that watched so much TV. They couldn’t stop themselves. But I grew up, I watched TV, and I watch like an hour a day, and then I’d get bored.

Rich: Yep.

Paul: And then I found computers, I thought they were pretty cool, and I also…you know, this is, I did stuff outside. I rode bikes. It was all good, it was just part of a piece.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: And I feel that there is no immune system just yet.

Rich: I think I…we talked about this briefly in a previous podcast, this won’t happen again.

Paul: Not like this, but there’s always something new. There’ll be some new virtual pad or a happy donkey that talks to you on your thumb phone, or whatever.

Rich: Right, or headset, or…yeah.

Paul: Your sneakers will whistle, who the hell knows.

Rich: We won’t be ready for it.

Paul: We won’t be ready for it. But this current wave happened to all come at once.

Rich: Uh huh.

Paul: And this all happened, and you tie it in with American politics which one of the more virulent and also well-funded cultural explosions, right? There’s just an unbelievable amount of heat and light, and you know as you get up to that election, the truth gets very fungible. That was way before fact checkers.

Rich: So you had these new tools. We didn’t know how powerful they were. Well, we did know, but we just didn’t know the boundaries. We didn’t know…

Paul: There’s kind of a moral license to just believe.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: In starting around September, before a vote.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: There’s this sense of like, “Wow, God, anything’s possible. They’re so evil that anything is possible.”

Rich: Right.

Paul: You have this essentially, let’s just play it out epidemiologically, you have this very susceptible population, and you have a very good communicator in Trump, and you have this bizarre set of economics circumstances where Macedonian teenagers can hack into the system, essentially, and like, not hack it, but just walk in with made-up news that is at a level of stupid venality that of course a teen might come up with. We’d all kind of gone further and further down in the limbic system.

Rich: Right.

Paul: And the tech was supporting it, and then finally man, it just all just went apocalyptic.

Rich: Right.

Paul: And those weeks were rough.

Rich: Yeah. Also, I mean, let’s face it, this was a free and open system versus…I could not have pushed this story onto the Washington Post.

Paul: No.

Rich: Or even the New York Post.

Paul: No, and that’s…

Rich: Right? There was a level of accountability there.

Paul: All of our discussions about the virtues of free and open system came back and hit us in the head with a shovel.

Rich: Exactly. Exactly.

Paul: Right? And all of our talk about decentralization and centralization and so on, it’s really ugly.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: It turns out that everyone who’s been aggressively pushing for open this and open that, like we all got smacked across the face real hard.

Rich: Yep.

Paul: I don’t feel good about it. I don’t feel that a lot of the things, a lot of the technology things that I thought were virtuous, when they don’t scale to mass humanity.

Rich: Yep. This is interesting you sort of headed this direction. We actually, we have Nicholas Carr who’s going to be coming on on our next episode.

Paul: Long time internet thinker and social critic of technology.

Rich: Yeah, and you’ve pretty much, I mean, I think this is exactly what he’s been warning about, so to speak, for years, and it’ll be an interesting conversation to sort of get his thoughts on what’s happening today, in light of how he’s been thinking about stuff for so long.

Paul: I mean, that’s where we are now, right? This is, we’ve ended up in a place where it doesn’t feel like utopia, but we have the tools to build utopia.

Rich: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I think fundamentally, Paul, we’re garbage. I don’t want to close it with that, I know you have other thoughts…

Paul: But the evidence isn’t good.

Rich: We might have the title for this podcast here.

Paul: At a macro level. At a micro level, we can be really bad, and there’s a list of things that we do to each other that are really bad.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: At a macro level, we often tend to want things that are good.

Rich: To level it out, yeah I agree with that.

Paul: Yeah, we love each other, we give each other snacks, we try to help each other succeed. Yes, a lot of us are narcissistic beasts, yes a lot of us are selfish, but overall, there’s a general human tendency to want things to be better.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: Unless the economy, whatever that is, whether it’s an economy of, like, fish, or an economy of globalized whatever.

Rich: Right, that can push us big time.

Paul: Yeah, once you get — then we slip, and you see things go real bad real fast. Actually it can take years or months even.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: But as long as we have jobs we’re pretty good.

Rich: Yeah, I agree with that. I agree. There’s…if we’re not being inched towards desperation, I think — I was being funny, just to be clear.

Paul: It’s not even desperation, honestly.

Rich: I’m always being funny. I’m an incredibly optimistic person.

Paul: People are weird, because it’s not even desperation, it’s almost like if my kid can’t get a yellow skateboard, I’m going to have to kill that man.

Rich: They lose their shit, yeah.

Paul: Yeah, they get real, real freaked out over fractional things that might take away that little sense of opportunity.

Rich: Right.

Paul: Which is where people just lose their collective minds. So, all right…

Rich: We went big this week Paul. This isn’t about product management.

Paul: Well we were going to talk about globalized Netflix, and how it all fits in.

Rich: Well, look what Netflix has done!

Paul: It’s true, they’ve taken over the world. They’re getting big in Brazil.

Rich: I did not know that. I imagine they’re getting big globally.

Paul: This big article in Businessweek, they’re getting huge in Brazil. They’re going — because they’re doing it, they’re going for a global media consumer.

Rich: I bet. Yeah, they’re…I mean, that’s where their growth is probably. Elsewhere where they’ve not conquered, right?

Paul: It’s a funny one. They’re a giant player. They’re a big deal.

Rich: Yeah. Yep. Cool.

Paul: All right, on that note.

Rich: We should mention that we love questions, Paul.

Paul: Yeah, send an email to [email protected].

Rich: Yeah, we had a long debate about should we keep saying [email protected]

Paul: [email protected].

Rich: [email protected], both work, but please, hello sounds so much warmer.

Paul: Anything you need, just get in touch. My name is Paul Ford.

Rich: I’m Rich Ziade.

Paul: And this has been Track Changes, the podcast of Postlight, a digital product studio at 101 Fifth Avenue in New York City. [laughter]

Rich: Loving the address.

Paul: [email protected], we’re glad to hear from you and go ahead and rate us on iTunes if it suits your fancy, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Rich: Have a great week.

Paul: Bye.