S-curve neck and feathered white. Lots of float and little flight.
Aristocratic for a bird. In German, ach!, a dirty word.
On a lake or on a pond. It’s a swan swan swan.
Yeah a swan swan swan.
Come on baby shake it loose. It ain’t a duck and ain’t a goose.
It’s a swan swan swan. It’s a swan.
So, yeah, this is my swan song.
After four years at MediaPost, I'm leaving to pursue personal interests. Maybe do a little consulting. No, I'm going to work on that novel. No, I'm gonna spend more time with my family. Yeah, that's it, more time with my family.
Or whatever. MediaPost is like the bartender at closing time. “You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.”
No malice or firing for cause, mind you. And absolutely no hard feelings. I just happen to work in the very industry whose slow and tortuous death I make a living documenting. It's like an entomologist dying of bee stings.
Or something. I'd come up with a better analogy, but why bother? When I hit “send” I'm off the clock.
I must say this, however. It has been a great four years. MediaPost has given me absolute freedom to opine on any subject I chose, and absolute freedom in my style of doing it. Apart from the copyediting that has saved my sorry ass from embarrassment more times than I can count, my thoughts have been delivered to you without the slightest interference. And when readers have complained about my tone or my politics, management has unfailingly had my back.
So this is the most amicable divorce ever. I get to see other people. They get the house.
Naturally, I've gone back to review what has gone on in this space over the course of 200 columns. What I discovered was a wide variety of subject matter: The “Ben Franklin Effect” in consumer psychology, the Super Bowl, P.R. malfeasance, Forbes, Grumpy Cat, AOL, Abercrombie & Fitch, the soft-drink business, Comcast, bots, the French, Bitcoin and who knows what all.
The other thing I discovered was a short list of hobby horses.
Without actually tabulating, I estimate that 100 of my MediaPost pieces have mainly concerned Facebook, native advertising, Facebook, the ongoing media-revenue catastrophe, ad tech, social media dystopia, Trump, Facebook and Facebook. That is because in one way or another, all of these subjects pose grave threats to the media industry, to marketing, to democracy and to society writ large. Facebook is intriguing because it is such a valuable utility for a billion-plus users. But it is also a black hole whose incalculable gravity sucks too much attention, money, democracy and privacy into its all-consuming maw.
I'd fix the mixed metaphor, but why bother? When I hit “send” I'll be off the clock.
So since this is indeed my MediaPost swan song, let me go all Eisenhower on you and remind you what to fear. Not the military-industrial complex, but other institutions and practices that superficially seem to represent security and progress but also pose grave threats:
1) Ad tech. This is a force in the media economy that is something like Wall Street in the general economy. It takes money, but adds little value. It is instead a middleman, consuming ever-larger percentages of media spend (with astonishing lack of accountability) at the expense of marketers and media alike. But after 15 years, has it boosted the underlying consumer businesses? The answer is plainly no.
2) Native. This is not merely deception, but a conspiracy of deception. Whether the “content” is good or bad is irrelevant. What is relevant is that it can win engagement only if it camouflages itself as editorial matter. Anyone who tells you differently is lying. It also doesn't scale. So the best it will ever do -- while it steadily, inexorably barters away the dearly won trust of audiences to media brands -- is a labor-intensive, low-margin adjunct source of revenue. It's like turning tricks to help make ends meet….but still not covering the light bill.
3) The Duopoly. Facebook and Google are taking all the money out of the system. They are simply too big, and increasingly too dominant both vertically and horizontally. Simply on economic-power terms, they need to be broken up, like Standard Oil of Ohio and the old AT&T. But their very technology also has unleashed dark forces -- among them fake news, filter bubbles, privacy invasion and phishing on a mass scale. Once again, they deliver priceless benefits for free. But it is a deal with the devil.
Yeah, I know that's a bit of a cliché. Oh, well. I'm off the clock.