by Shelton Bumgarner
Some thoughts on NYC media.
by Shelton Bumgarner
Some thoughts on NYC media.
by Shelton Bumgarner
Executive Summary: Since the demise of both The Village Voice and Gawker, a market and audience in New York City is currently being completely unserved.
I do not live in New York City.
Let me repeat — I do not live in New York City.
Having said that, I was recently in the city New Year’s Day and I found myself in a nice dive bar in the East Village, the name of which eludes me. While I was there, I was wasted and I had an “ah-ha” moment — right now, there’s no small gritty publication that covers New York City that is known outside of the city itself or individual neighborhoods that micro publications might cover.
As such, the following is not even a daydream. It’s more of an idle observation about the state of the publishing world in New York City. As of right now, there’s a young, hip audience in New York City (one that frequent sets trends nationally) that is not being served in a manner that is known outside the confines of the city itself.
I’m not saying I’m the person to fix that issue because, well, like I mentioned, I don’t live in the city. What’s more, I don’t have any money and don’t really know anyone in the city. I do, however, have a unique skill set that if I was to magically find myself in the city for, say, six months, I feel could probably endup in something pretty cool happening.
But absolutely no one, but no one, owes me anything, so the following is more about me letting off steam while I develop a novel that any belief that it will cause anyone to help me out. I have a proven track record in strategic thinking when it comes to a publication, in the guise of the late, great ROKon Magazine in Seoul about 10 years ago.
All this verbiage is me simply me realizing that an audience and its associate market is currently not being served in any demonstrable manner. Of course, there are two things that are causing this — one is the Web is mature. Blogs really don’t have the cultural cache that they used to have because of the other big issue — the diffuse nature of social media.
What young people used to find on a site like, say, Gawker, they now find on Twitter or whatever video platform of the moment they might be interested in. So, in a sense, this post is more about me lamenting my lost youth than anything else, I guess.
I would idly note that you might be able to game the system by doing essentially a zine at first that you handed out in front of major publications around the city and then once it got some attention then you could launch it as a Website.
But it’s just fun to think about.
No one owes me — or anyone else — anything. And besides not having any money, not living in the city and not having any contacts in the city, the entire idea of a blog is now kind of passe.
Anyway. Maybe this blog post will inspire someone else to do what I can’t.
Shelton Bumgarner is a writer and photographer living in Richmond, Va. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail (dot) com.
I’m just idly avoiding developing a novel at this point on a sunny summer afternoon, so indulge me. The only way to establish a new online media Website is to completely break the mold. I’ve talked at great length about social media platform based on the concepts of Usenet, but it seems as though there is only one niche that it would actually work with.
If you were going to start a new Website like, say, Gawker, it just wouldn’t work in the traditional sense. The Web has grown too large and apps like Facebook and Twitter have segmented the online media world to such an extent that it’s pretty pointless to throw the necessary money at a blog to grow it into something like what Gawker used to be.
But what if you managed to buy the Gawker domain name, what could you do with it? It has an established mind-share, so it would really help in starting a new site. But don’t try to bring back the old Gawker, do something revolutionary. Use my concept of a social media network based on the concepts of Usenet to completely disrupt how we think of online content delivery.
You get a small, young passionate group of writers to churn out snarky material that doesn’t go into a blog, but starts threads in this new social media service. If you did it right, the service could be quite successful in my opinion. It would be hailed as the “Uber for online news” by the industry press. This concept is so obvious that it’s sad no one will ever do anything with it. I could go into an enormous amount of detail about this all, but I’ll refrain.
No one listens to me. Why should they?
Julia Allison is an avatar of a simpler, more innocent time. The only reason I even write about her at this point is she has popped back up in the news because of an article in The New York Post. I’m so indifferent, in real terms, to anything she has to do or say at this moment that I haven’t read the article and I’m just talking about her because of her involvement with Gawker just over 10 years ago.
I don’t remember exactly when it was — I’m too lazy and indifferent to look it up — but she and Gawker had a love-hate relationship which was unique, to say the least. For me as a reader it was a lot of fun to see what kind of silly hi-jinks Allison would think up to get Gawker’s attention and how they would subsequently make fun of it.
But, like all fun-interesting things, this eventually devolved into something darker. My first encounter with the Dark Web was when I was writing a lot about Allison because I was daydreaming about how Gawker needed a new mascot like Allison. Or, I think, if I recall correctly I was struggling to think of ways that I, personally, could start a Website that would challenge Gawker by doing fun-interesting things with a new person similar to Allison. I’m embarrassed by it now — for obvious reasons — and if I ever became famous for some reason it’s one of many things that would be used to prove that I’m completely bonkers and I’d turn, like Ken Bone, from hero to zero pretty quick.
What happened is I started to get a lot of hits from a URL (this is when I was completely addicted to studying my Webstats to such an extent that it was getting in the way of basic personal decisions) and I looked at the site only to discover something so frightening that I got a chill down my spine. The site was one entirely devoted to attacking Allison on the most basic personal level possible. That that many people would come together for the sheer joy of hating on someone who isn’t even that famous in real terms is unnerving.
Anyway, I started to write about THAT and I tried to visit the site one day and I was blocked. My IP address was blocked and I couldn’t look at the site. To this day that memory is an unsettling one.
All I can say at this point is, Godspeed Julia Allison.
It’s times like these when I wish Gawker still existed. Gawker was felled, as you may recall, by its sheer hubris. It did not take very seriously a lawsuit funded by Peter Thiel. As the lawsuit progressed, Nick Denton, Gawker’s founder and publisher, couldn’t or wouldn’t realize struck at the very heart of his publication.
But the issue for me is that Gawker is sorely needed right now in this era of Trumplandia. I have romanticized Gawker’s golden age a great deal, but I still would like to think that if golden age Gawker would alive in this surreal age that we live in that the pee-pee tape would probably be on FOX News by this point.
The old Gawker really had a lot of spunk. You got the sense that you were hanging out with a really smart old friend who had seen all, done all and always had a smartass answer to the even the most jaded of events.
And, yet, over the years Gawker lost its way. It didn’t seem to have the spunk that it had when it first came out. It became less a really cool friend with something to say and more of an angry person drunk of success and arrogance.
The only thing is, Gawker was a one-stop-shop for the kind of content I was interesting reading. I can honestly say that since Gawker’s untimely demise, I don’t read any Websites except for Twitter and Facebook. What’s worse, it’s unlikely that any site will take Gawker’s place. The age of blogs is long dead and it’s highly unlikely you could start a new Gawker-like blog. The web universe is simply too large now and the money isn’t there anymore.
So, we’re just going to have to deal with the toxic waste of Twitter I guess. But for those of us who remember Gawker, we will have fond memories if nothing else.
I was a huge fan of Gawker for much of its existence and was greatly sadden to see it die an untimely death. Though, I must note, it died in large part because of its own self-importance and arrogance. Had it been a little bit more humble when it was needed, it would probably still be in existence today. And in its later years the site had strangly lost its way. It was adrift and had been stripped of its charm to become just nasty for the sake of being nasty.
So, right now, two things are true. The guy who killed Gawker — Peter Thiel — is interested in buying its corpse so he can do God-only-knows what with it. Meanwhile, vile piece of shit Steve Bannon is out of a job. It seems like a perfect fit: Thiel buys the Gawker domain name and puts Bannon in charge of it. I would wince if this were to happen, but it would make a lot of sense.
It probably won’t happen. I hope it doesn’t happen. But who knows. Only time will tell.
Sometimes, the absence of something can oddly be just as noticeable as the presence of something. It wasn’t too long ago — less than 10 years ago — when the nattering nabobs of the New York media world were aflutter over snark, smarm and the the difference between the two.
At the center of this debate was the late, sometimes-not-so-great Gawker Media. It is interesting that Gawker was at its best in the 2003-2004 era when it was new, just starting and was commenting on the early George W. Bush era. It was the age of the Second Iraq War and for people like me, Gawker.com really tapped into the zeitgeist.
It did, at least, for people like me.
In those early years of Gawker as we settled into the long war of Iraq, the site was a place to go and get a good chuckle over the foolishness of it all. In 2004 Wonkette was still under the Gawker Media umbrella at it, too, was really cool. It was really snarky and fun and was talking about stupid shit that the Bush Administration was up to.
But gradually, things changed. Some of it had to do with the loss of focus on the part of Gawker Media founder Nick Denton and some of it had to do with, well, Obama being president. It was difficult to be snarky and mean about how stupid The Powers That Be were when, like, we had a Cool Dad as president. The battle over snark versus smarm was joined and the issue became so muddled that eventually the lights got turned on, the beer drained and the party was definitely over.
Flash forward to now and it seems as though we’ve entered the post-snark era. This is really, really odd because there’s so much to be snarky about. If ever there was something to be unabashedly snarky about, Trumplandia is definitely it. The absence of any real snark as practiced by Gawker.com and before that Spy Magazine and Late Night With David Letterman is a quite a head scratcher.
Some of it, probably has to do with demographics. The people who most likely be the generators of snark — young people — are probably just a little bit too young to reach that 20-25 age era of their life when they want to crack wise at everything. Or not. I don’t know. It is interesting that the closest thing to any kind of protest or snark in pop culture is the pretty bland “woke” pop music you hear every now and again. Pop culture in general really hasn’t changed much since Trump’s victory. There are a few pings here and there of Hollywood getting its act together and helping people process Trump’s ascendance, but not nearly as much as you might think. Some of it is that it takes time to develop scripted material, I know, but still. You’d think they’d fast track that shit or something. Times are kind of desperate.
But there’s no site right now that is tapping into the anger that a lot of people are still feeling from the events of November 2016. What’s weird is, we have Axios. Axios relies upon “access journalism” for its scoops on the Trump Administration and it plays it right down the middle. No snark, no quips, no figurative raised eye brows, no anything. Just plain, boring facts about the insane clown shit-show that is the Trumplandia era. I guess what I’m suggesting is that The Resistance needs it’s own version of Axios. An anti-Axios. Something that does for The Resistance what Axios does for Trumplandia. It would be irreverent, snarky and cool like Spy Magazine was 30 years go.
You’d think that someone, somewhere would see what I see — that there is both an audience and a market for a snarky site like the old Gawker or Wonkette. Something for people like me to read and have the occasional cathartic laugh through. The closest thing we have right now is the podcast company Crooked Media. The only problem with Crooked Media is it always leave me wanting more. I listen to Pod Save America or Pod Save The World and I get so stirred up, so angry that I want to read articles about what they’ve been talking about. But, to date at least, they haven’t started to generate that kind of content. That would be the obvious thing for them to do to take their site to the next level, I must note.
This brings up the interesting idea of what my would be neo-Gawker would be like. In my imagination, it would be a lot like the Gawker.com of 2003-2004, but with a lot more video. Like, I would like most blog posts to have a 2 minute clip from the writer of the post explaining what they have written. I would also like regular video podcasts. Though Trumplandia has caused me to become addicted to podcasts, I think video podcasts are the future. I used to do one on the now defunct Blab platform and it was a lot of fun. If you’re all that interested in what I did, you can samples of my “show” on my YouTube channel.
I have suggested on more than on occasion that of all the existing media companies out there, that Playboy has the biggest vested interest in re-tooling itself as something of a neo-Gawker. I’m sure it’s a lot more difficult for them to do this than I think, but they have the means, motive and opportunity to do as I suggest. They are a legacy brand with a history of progressive leanings and they’re desperate to be relevant again. It would make a lot of sense for them to poach lot of Jezebel.com writers and completely retool Playboy.com to become the site that people like visit to process what is going on with Trumplandia.
Another thing I might suggest is having someone, say, Ilana Glazer, be a roving reporter for the site. I really liked what Gawker did with Julia Allison way back when and it would be fun to recreate that silly experience of having a young, attractive woman running around the streets of New York City having zany hi-jinks. I just think that’s really cool. I really like the concept.
Regardless, maybe the media world has changed to such an extent that what I want simply isn’t possible. It could be that the amount of money needed to start a major blog is now such that the whole endeavor is cost prohibitive. That makes me sad. It would be so much fun to have one site that was the go-to site for The Resistance. Something that really tapped into this anger that many of us are feeling.
I would start such a media company myself — The Trumplandia Report is kind of my vision of what it would look like — but, alas, I don’t have any money and generally no one listens to me. But I need somewhere to vent, so I write here whenever the mood strikes me. I hope that doing my little part for The Resistance helps in some way.
Shelton Bumgarner is the editor and publisher of The Trumplandia Report. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail.com.
As I keep saying, I’m hard at work on a novel about this bizarre era we live in, so I kind of have all of this on the brain right now. Here are two things I’ve mentioned before that The Resistance needs that I will review.
1. A Gawker-Like Website
The Resistance needs a Gawker-Like — or Spy Magazine — for this era. We need a go-to site for woke commentary in blog form about what’s going on in this era. Trump isn’t going anywhere and the sooner we understand that, the better. It seem as though some people think they shouldn’t start anything that would help The Resistance because they think Trump is going to resign or be impeached sometime soon. That just isn’t going to happen. I have suggested Playboy could be the media organization that would most benefit from such a thing, but it doesn’t seem they’re going to pay me any attention or even know that I’m talking about it.
2. A Twitter Killer
We need a better mousetrap. Twitter is great in some ways, but a real pain in the but Trump became president, in part, because of his use of Twitter. All of this is insane. We need something that uses the concepts of the old Usenet from 20 years ago in a modern way. At least I thin we do.
Anyway, no one cares. No one is listening to me. We’re going to just suffer as the Trump era grinds on and nothing changes, except for the worst.
I have spoken at length about this before, but I really enjoy this topic, so I will come at it from a slightly different angle. I have written about how I think a startup blog should try to be the Spy Magazine-like Anti-Axios of our day. A neo-Gawker, if you will.
And, yet, I suspect that due to the changing nature of the broader Internet, that’s just not going to happen. No one with the means, motive and opportunity is going to invest in such an idea simply because Twitter exists and the blog universe has become so large and saturated that it would be difficult for such a person to see any immediate ROI. Or something like that.
So I turn my attention, again, to Playboy.
It just makes too much sense for Playboy to throw everything up in the air and completely switch gears. It makes too much sense for it to hire a bunch of Jezebel writers and turn Playboy.com into the biting political site that we’ve all been looking for. I really enjoy what The Atlantic has been producing and Crooked Media does a good job, but it is, to date, a podcasting company. It just doesn’t seem all that interested in doing what I want.
But Playboy not only has an existing audience, it has a name brand that is already associated with liberal progressive causes. And it’s really, really desperate to be relevant again. Doing as I suggest would do just that. It would really get people buzzing again about the brand and I feel the market would be there, as well.
It’s possible, though, that what I want is not something a legacy brand can provide. It could be that only a startup could do it. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for someone to see what I see. Maybe they never will.
By Shelton Bumgarner
Right now, as best I can tell, there isn’t a site online devoted to snarky take-downs of Trumplandia and its citizens. For serious journalism, you go to The New York Times or The Washington Post, for liberal hand-wringing about Trumplandia, you go to The New Yorker or New York Magazine.
But there isn’t the type of site I want to read. I want to read a Gawker-like site devoted to thoughtful, yet angry and snarky diatribes about Trumplandia. As the days pass, I find the absence of such a site more and more odd. It’s curious, to say the least. Such an absence may say more about the blog industry than it does the the opportunity to serve that market and audience.
In other words, it could be that the blog industry is so dead in some ways because of saturation that it just doesn’t make economic sense to found the type of startup I suggest. It could be that all the energy that would otherwise be devoted to founding a startup to address Trumplandia in a snarky manner is instead finding an outlet on Twitter.
It could be that Twitter, in a sense, killed the blogging star. Maybe people would rather hash out Trumplandia’s near daily scandal explosions in real time on Twitter rather than read a 500 or 1000 word piece about how we’re all going to hell and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Or it could be that I’m just being really impatient. I started The Trumplandia Report for no other reason than I, myself, wanted this content to read and also I just wasn’t able to properly express myself on Twitter using threads. I needed space to stretch out and a traditional blog seemed the way to go.
Having said all that, I wish someone would found the type of site I want. I can write on this blog all I want to, but very few people, in real terms, are reading it and there’s little I can do at the moment to fix that given my limited personal resources.
It will be very interesting to see how all of this works out. It is odd that there is this gaping hole in the media ecosystem that no one, as of yet, has filled. Right now, if you want want I am suggesting, you watch Stephen Colbert’s monologue or listen to something like Pod Save America.
I guess what I want is a Pod Save America in text that comes out on a regular basis during the course of the day. So, in that sense, it may be up to someone like the folks at Crooked Media to make my personal dream a reality.
Shelton Bumgarner is the editor and publisher of The Trumplandia Report. He can be reached at migukin (at) gmail.com.