Now Reading: The digital media bubble, American Hustle’s flaws, Brian Stelter’s rise, prayers

‘Now Reading’ is a collection and sharing of online stories and is meant for minimal consumption by the few readers of this blog. Topics include books, food, culture, photography, media and technology … there are no rules. Have a story to add? Share it in the comments.

Carr on the online news bubble

David Carr of The New York Times followed up on a piece he wrote recently about Ezra Klein leaving The Washington Post for Vox Media with a deeper look into what’s going on in the digital content industry. Specifically, Carr is interested in one question: Is the digital boom we’re seeing in the media business a bubble or simply the foundation upon which the future of news will be built?

The executives and media types quoted in Carr’s piece firmly believe the digital movement is just beginning, which seems true; we’re certainly not going backward from here. The idea of a digital bubble popping up is compelling, but I don’t see it – it’s not like our world is getting less mobile or our culture is going to cease being fascinated with the advancement of technology.

What’s more interesting – and practical, in my opinion – is the discussion of how to compete and survive in this kind of industry. Carr addresses this and asks others about it – give his piece a read for differing perspectives on how to approach business in an industry where product is so easily ripped off.

We’ve learned in the early growth of digital media that there are ways to make lean livings, but some of those come at the cost of content. This system of packaging and engineering content to go viral on the Internet isn’t debilitating in and of itself, but it can be at some point if too much of the Web does this without investing in the production of original content. At that point, we’ll just be cannibalizing ourselves.

The best sites, I think, will always be the ones that create the most original and smartest and most compelling content. How do you do that while being a profitable business? There’s some room to experiment with different models in that framework. It may be that the expensive forms of journalism find fewer homes around the Web – such as ambitious projects that require writers being on the road for extended periods and racking up thousands upon thousands of dollars in bills – or that, if you want to be in that business, you need to create a multi-stream model to sustain it.

Whether that comes from digital video revenue or television money or a subscriber system for exclusive content or something else, I’m not sure, but it could be difficult for a site subsisting solely on one form of ad revenue to compete with those backed by larger coffers.

However it works out, I think content always wins. What outlets do with that content to monetize it will change, but if you can produce the goods, you should be a leader in an industry where so many sit back and react.

Willa Paskin takes “American Hustle” to task

I’m not that familiar with Willa Paskin’s work as Slate’s TV critic, but I thoroughly enjoyed her piece on “American Hustle” and how the film is flashy but ultimately empty.

I saw Hustle and was entertained by it, but I didn’t love it and that’s probably due to one of Willa’s main points: The film consistently backs itself out of even semi-threatening situations or discussions. In Willa’s words:

The film pulls back, chickens out on the realistic possibility of anything life-threatening happening in this underworld of low lives, scam artists, shady characters, and wise guys. Ugly consequences wouldn’t be any fun at all.

Good read – give it a look if you’re into biting culture commentary.

The remarkable rise of Brian Stelter

The New Republic recently ran a profile on Brian Stelter, CNN’s senior media correspondent and the host of “Reliable Sources.”

Stelter is a fascinating guy, but I don’t find his appeal in his age – although to do what he’s done by his late 20s is pretty extraordinary – but rather in how he built his profile in the TV news industry.

In college, Stelter started a blog based on his infatuation with the television industry, and he was early enough in the Internet wave to smartly exploit an advantage over newspapers covering TV: He could publish as frequently as he wanted, and by posting rumors and gossip and tips, his blog became must-read if you wanted to be current on the whispers of the industry.

That earned him the attention of executives, who became trusted sources, and off Stelter was into a career of robust media coverage.

Prayers of the dead

I can’t adequately describe this story from Casey N. Cep in The New Yorker about an old woman who wrote out prayers in code as she was dying.

All I can say is it’s fascinating and not very long and you should read it.

Twitter: @TMitrosilis Email: tmitrosilis@gmail.com

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