Yellow Submarine

Now that the midterms are (mostly) over, we can only hope the great experiment that is the Musk Twitter takeover will produce some actual data about what I consider a valuable service. I know I’m in a shrinking minority of those who remember the promise of the site and its current state. But I’m old enough to remember (interesting phrase, that) it wan’t just Twitter that unravelled. Facebook no longer has my attention except as a furtive run to catch up on friends and pandemic challenged events that have yet to fully grasp the opportunities of the hybrid world. Twitter is largely reduced for me to a glancing stream of curated follows in the notification stream, which the latest version of IOS has hidden inside Scheduled Summaries. I still get the sense of the flow, but there’s a race underway to improve it.

By that I mean what Substack has been doing with the so-called newsletter space. Global chats are nascent and underpowered, but I recall not actually signing on to Twitter for more than a year after Gabe Rivera hipped me to the site. But the setting to only make comments visible to those who subscribe is key to Substack getting the kind of scale that will populate an active social graph. I appreciate the paid subscription ecosystem the startup has fostered, but for now I’m moving free subscribers into the full Monty of a private space while Substack keeps its business model afloat. The midterms and Muskmania have attracted a lot of paywall baiting, but so far the blazing headlines can be detected without succumbing to the lure of many of the players. And that means mainstream as well as the new space. The real coin of the realm is not access, but trust.

The new TV is about 6 months ahead of the new print crowd. Case in point is Paramount Plus, the old CBS All Access, and its hit show-runner Taylor Sheridan. Frank Radice on this episode of the Gang tells us of some sort of bundle offering in the UK where he’s based, but I finally gave up and subscribed for some way to see the fifth season opener of Yellowstone, the show that spawned the burgeoning prequel and spinoff frenzy Sheridan has produced. I think Frank or someone else mentioned the bloom is off the rose on Yellowstone, but a Sylvester Stallone crime drama called Tulsa King more than made up for the weakening flagship. There’s even a Western reminiscent of the more successful 1883 prequel called The English, the most important development being the addition of another producer/writer to supplement Sheridan.

This is really not about how we’re going to spend our evenings, or replace cable news networks with notification streams and lower thirds. It’s about the signals necessary to propagate virtually connected groups of consumers and communicators who can flesh out the effects of consumer behavior into viable economic pools of talent and advocates. The game is afoot to smooth the rough (and brutal) edges of a faltering economy as the electric vehicle wave takes hold and synchs up with the virtual hoteling and appointment travel of hybrid composite lifestyles. The hybrid retail and wholesale product bundling strategies of CostCo speak to the power of this moment, where Facetime and water cooler television stitch families and friends together in a way not possible before. The linear drama of Musk v. Wall Street will be supplanted by the same kind of lack of word of mouth that is hurting Trump’s “new” campaign. When the numbers get added up, a slim but decisive plurality may just be good enough to scrape the most egregious low quality candidates away from upending democracy.

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