Last week, New York Magazine opened up a dispiriting discussion among those in digital media with an article staking the position that a lot of the Internet is fake.
The concept of “Fake News” — the original literal term, and the subsequent cynical deployment designed to obfuscate — has put the concept in everybody’s mind to a certain degree, but Max Read goes deeper. He says the metrics are fake, in part because users are fake. And if even temporary money can be made off fake metrics and fake users, the businesses can be fake as well, since they don’t have to be built to last. And with a backdrop where everything’s fake, it leads people to suspect that little is genuine.
If that wasn’t enough, the Washington Post’s director of advertising technology went off on his own Twitter rant, echoing some of the article’s refrains and introducing other angles:
While the specifics are new, digital media employees have understood the general reality for a while. Web advertising has never come close to supplanting print, and pretty much every outlet that pivoted to video in hopes of riding Facebook back to glory to ended up bailing because, as a lawsuit against the company argues, all of their figures were made-up, too.
As a grizzled veteran consumer of online content, the pivot to video never made sense. If anybody who preferred watching an article to reading one ever actually existed, he or she was outnumbered by people who said videos were far less convenient for myriad reasons — reading was faster than watching, video made for miserable load times, video couldn’t be easily watched in the office or in public without headphones, etc. But Facebook was supposedly where the money was, until its algorithm began demoting regular videos on the newsfeed, and then it turns out they were overstating the success of video all along.
That Facebook lawsuit came to mind as I finished “Bad Blood,” a book about the rise and fall of Theranos by John Carreyrou, the Wall Street Journal reporter who popped the firm’s balloon. It’s a riveting read; 300-plus pages of crazy, with one whistle-blower after another ignored because those holding the power and money had a deep-seated desire to believe in Theranos’ success, whether out of naivety or sociopathy.
All of it is saddening, because it was all so avoidable even without hindsight. Then again, if the first-guessers were loud, plentiful and nevertheless ignored, maybe it wasn’t avoidable after all. Perhaps the particulars would change, but as long as growth plans include pots of gold, mistakes will be made and jobs will be lost. In the case of Theranos, everybody’s lucky there wasn’t a death toll.
* * * * * * * * *
With that in mind, happy new year, and happy first anniversary to the new Sox Machine. And I seriously mean that, without a whiff of cynicism.
I didn’t exactly know what to expect when I was making everything live one New Year’s Eve ago. I had my reasons to regain independence, and I knew I’d keep writing, but I couldn’t exactly account for all the other things that make a site a site (and a little bit of a business), especially after years with a corporate megaphone and backing, as meager as it was.
One year back at this, my biggest takeaway didn’t register in concrete thought form until I processed the reading materials cited above.
Basically, there’s a lot of pressure to produce content to reach numbers that might be thrown out in a month, for potential audiences that might never hang around if they even see it, around ads that go ignored on a good day. Here, it’s nice to write, as a person, for people. Granted, that’s always been my approach because I want to enjoy myself, but now I don’t have to hear about it from above.
Another takeaway: It’s more fun with a band. I can’t imagine doing this solo, and thanks to Josh, Patrick, Ted and Greg, I don’t have to.
And one more takeaway: Thanks to your support, I can actually invest in the site. I migrated Sox Machine to a superior hosting situation a couple months ago, which now makes it possible to implement some community features.
For instance, Jofp/As Cirensica requested a way to track one’s own comments and discussion, and I’m approaching a solution for that, which will also include the ability to tag other users in comments (and receive notifications when somebody mentions you). Hopefully it’ll work as well sitewide as it’s been working on a limited test, although I’m thinking the lack of ads makes load time less of a concern. (Again, this is what your contributions make possible, eliminating the necessity for programmatic advertising and all.)
Comment searching is also on the agenda. If you have any other ideas for improving the site, let me know. I can’t guarantee anything because my programming skills are limited, but I can explore options.
That’s about it for the Year One progress report. Or maybe it’s Year Six. Or maybe it’s Year 13. Whatever the official count, thanks for your part in making this a decidedly un-fake place to be.
Thanks Jim! As a reader who wasn’t around for the first iteration of Soxmachine, I was sad when you left the old site last year. But this site has certainly delivered; I always look forward to reading your level-headed takes to temper my own meatball tendencies. And if nothing else, I’ll always be here for the Saturday Sporcle! The new changes sound great, as those would be the things I would most like to see added. Keep up the great work!
I’m going to come right out and admit that I am a bot.
Me (a bot): hmmm, sounds like something a human would say
Happy New Year, Jim. Let’s overthrow the corporate masters and seize the means of production. I am sober and this is not sarcastic.
Thank you Jim. I was also not around for the first iteration of Sox Machine. I caught up with you several years ago at SSS. I wasn’t sure where I’d find myself after you made your move a year ago. It has turned out that whenever I take a chance to look at online content for fun and diversion (not things I have to look at), I come to Sox Machine first. The reason is that you Jim Margalus are a great writer producing consistently great content about the Chicago White Sox. You are really good at what you do here. I read other online content about the Sox but no one is close to being as consistent in both have intelligent ideas and writing well about them. I feel very fortunate that the baseball team I’ve been weirdly obsessed with for over 50 years has you covering it. That sounds hokey but it’s true.
The change I’d like to see would be a way to see only the new comments but I’m not sure that is possible. I think if that change happened there would more often be a more lively comment section. This site doesn’t do a game thread as well as the old one for example.
Keep up the great work!
Nice job Margalus. Happy New Year to all Sox Machine Illiterrati. Thanks for the article links and discussion topic. Highly relevant for my line of work.
Interesting bit about the video. I remember when you mentioned the pressure from your previous corporate overlords to do more video and we were all like « don’t do stupid talking head stuff like the guys on fantasy sports sites do.
If someone absolutely had to do video on a blog it should be something educational like scouting basics for us dweebs. What do scouts look at in hitters and pitchers when to us novices it can all look the same.
Anyways Happy New Year. Keep it real.
Some videos that will happen in 2019 is more highlights from the Minors and College Baseball draft prospects.
Thanks Jim, Josh, Greg and Ted and all those who make this site a must read for us diehard White Sox fans. I have been a White Sox fan for over 50 years, and have never been more informed about the team than I am now, thanks to you guys. And I get to spout all my nonsense here! You guys are the best! Keep up the good work! Hopefully we can talk about a playoff team soon!
Stellar year all around. You all turned unwatchable baseball into enjoyably readable baseball. I can’t even imagine what this place will be like if the team is ever good again.
Happy New Year to all my fellow real Sox fans, and good curling.
Happy New Year to all and happy First Anniversary (paper?) to Jim and the rest of the Machine cogs. May the New Year bring us lots of fabulous Sox content to write/read about.
I can’t help that my favorite sports team is a shitty organization. Hopefully, not forever.
Thank you to Sox Machine, it’s contributors and commenters for making the above more bearable for me. Jim, you’re amazing.
could a bot write all the stupid things I do? I don’t think so. Happy New Year to all, and here’s wishing us a watchable team in 2019.
“Here, it’s nice to write, as a person, for people.”
– And the people appreciate writing that is intended to communicate something about the White Sox, rather than clickbait. Thank you, Jim, Josh, Ted, Greg, and Patrick, for your efforts.
I second the Carreyrou recommendation for two reasons. One, the people who were taken in include some of the most sensible-seeming individuals you might imagine. What happened with former Secretary of State George Schultz’s family may accurately be described as Shakespearean. Two, what Carreyrou produced is the kind of deep-sourced investigative reporting that has a constituency these days. I hope the Patreon is able to sustain this site, because the work put into this site deserves to be sustained. Let’s hope for that, for a better year ahead at 35th and Shields, and a better year ahead for all reading Sox Machine.
Happy New Year. Glad you all found a lot of what you wanted from going independent. Thank you for continuing to provide us a place for good content and community.
2018 sucked in a lot of ways, baseball related and not. This place definitely didn’t.
Happy New Year to you Jim and everybody that works alongside you. I find it very fascinating this “pivot-to-video” business model. I have always preferred to read over to watch, mostly because as a reader, I have more control over what content I really want to absorb. Video cripples this control as “readers” are forced to absorb way too much useless information. Time is limited, and I don’t want to be obligated to listen/watch content I don’t want until the one I want shows up in the video (if it does at all).
Also, I like to listen music when I read which is something I cannot do if I am bombarded by videos/audios with every link clicking.
This was a very interesting article. You can write not only compelling White Sox articles, but just articles of any topic because your writing style is gentle and keen at the same time, and above everything intelligently well-written.
Thank you for looking after the comments tracking idea. Appreciated.
I concur with everything you’ve written here.
My one small request would be able to see the line breaks when you hit return. Otherwise, love the site and the great work you guys do!
@PopeDonnPall That’s a Firefox-only issue that’s stumped me forever because either the issue is un-googleable, or nobody has had the same issue. But now that you’ve brought it up again, I have a new idea to try.
Yeah, that’s one I have, too. I use Firefox.
Thanks, Jim. And thanks for the great content. Happy New Year!
Thanks to all who contribute.
Best $3 a month I’ve spent since my Columbia Record and Tape Club membership expired.
Happy New Year!
I would also like to share my appreciation for this site and the actual people doing the things.
Hopefully one day the team will be worthy of the writing done about them.
Happy New Year and just FYI https://www.sfchronicle.com/sports/shea/article/Black-Sox-scandal-SF-native-Thom-Ross-paints-13501028.php
Happy New Year, all! This site is truly the most (only?) enjoyable thing the White Sox have going right now.
Thank you for doing what you do so well. I’m a road gray fan, and I really appreciate the community of suffering souls you’ve built here. It does me good to learn about all the new math too, even if I’m not quite conversant in it yet. I especially get a kick out of your references to my old home, though I grew up a Gazette man out where it’s “State St.” Happy New Year.
Happy New Year to the SoxMachine team as well! Thanks for all the effort put in to creating and providing content. And Bad Blood was an excellent read.
Happy new year and thank you to Jim and all of the other site contributors! (And to all the other users who always make the comment section a good place for discussion!)
The quality of this blog is unparalleled. Can’t wait until the team it’s about can match it!