Gillmor Gang: Trick or Treat

On the last Gang recording session in early October before the birth of our first grandchild, I tried to stir the pot by attacking Democratic Progressives for capsizing the second of two Infrastructure bills. The moderates, led by the recalcitrant Joe Manchin and his silent sidekick Kyrsten Sinema, were successfully gumming up the Democrats’ best chance for holding control of the House and perhaps Senate. What else is new, you say?

In tech news, Facebook was busily exploiting the tone deaf policy of getting slightly irritated with growing pressure from whistleblowers, former venture capital critics who built their careers on the company’s early success, and a two-fisted teamup from a Congress in over its head and the media looking for a good story to replace Donald Trump’s devolution as credible threat. Today, Facebook ads talk of reforming Section 230 and otherwise providing rules for the company to follow. Infrastructure bingo has whittled down the cost by 60%; the plan is to get it passed in time to influence the election of the Governor of Virginia.

As I write this, it’s the end of October. I went to Ray Wang’s CCE conference down the coast in Half Moon Bay. The Ritz exists in a time warp, where the details of the outside world fade into the sound of the Pacific Ocean lapping up against the gentle lawns. Like the Ritz, conferences are testing the principles of the last economy against the shimmer of the next one. We could call it Work from Anywhere or Build Back Better or the last Beatle record, but I suggest we dig in to the fundamental shift and play in the surf of a new reality.

It’s a reality where each of us with a little coin in our pockets and a phone can participate in the new media. It’s not quite an even playing field, as accumulating a meaningful audience is not provided with the available cloud tools. But what is provided is plenty to start with: a free newsletter tool, free social audio tools to broadcast and evangelize the newsletter’s editorial agenda, and tickets to a dazzling array of services and streaming choices to distribute your stuff. So, a few freemium products to jumpstart things and then look out, hold on to your wallets. The net result of this is called the creator economy by vendors and prospective producers, but it’s more likely a consumers economy.

We saw this with blogs and then podcasts, born out of RSS and its attachment extension. The RSS readers gave us civilians the ability to aggregate the stuff we wanted in what looked like an email client but also a newsgroup. Twitter added a layer of social graph which broad- or narrowcast our preferences to an emerging social cloud, a sphere of influence that both aggregated media and inserted us into that media flow on equal terms. As someone who was lucky enough to find access to the technology press pre-blog, I knew full well what a powerful hand-hold this new technology proffered. I can see the same fingerprints in this new economy as certain newsletter nodes create a pecking order for what I and our virtual cohort deems valuable. Social signals provide clues and notification trails to identify, amplify, and negotiate tickets to what I perceive as the new post-pandemic conference.

At CCE, a Salesforce colleague allowed as how he’s stopped watching the Gang because our Trump talk is too depressing. Of course, who really needs another podcast anyway. To be fair, Trump has been largely replaced by Manchin, but the pain point is more and more the media’s difficulty in defining a rationale for coverage that doesn’t descend into picking fights and promoting a lifestyle of anxiety and anger for ratings. This should be good news for the new economists, but secretly we all want to become the “real” media and are subverted into a similar editorial model. So my complaining about conflict of interest in the media is about as inconsequential as worrying about Trump. If I don’t like it, build it back better.

Well, I’d like to, but I have to wait a while longer for the promised Record/Replay function to ship on Clubhouse, Twitter, and everywhere. I’ve had the ability to record for months, but what I’m waiting for is everybody to have access to the marketplace. Talent will out, and not just talent in words or one-directional podcasts but in marketing, analytical insights, pure promotion, and actionable ideas that shape all these domains. And this means holding these folks accountable to their promises. Clubhouse said “weeks” more than a month ago.

A day ago, Twitter announced new features for its Twitter Labs early look subscription service, unfortunately only available currently in Canada and Australia. I’d gladly pay $4.95 a month to test out new features. And more importantly, who else would? C’mon, @jack, I’ll even pay with bitcoin if I have to. But things are moving quickly: Twitter just announced record tools are now in beta and will ship to creators and listeners in a couple of weeks. Et tu, Clubhouse?

At CCE I met with Paul Greenberg, who, with his partner (and Gillmor Gang member) Brent Leary, are building a series of what he calls live streaming shows around the CRM Playaz banner. Paul says he looks forward to this column/newsletter and that I should write more and more often. I recognize what Paul and Brent are doing in live streaming as the leading edge of what this moment is about, so I understand what they mean by encouraging this work I’m doing. These tools, together with the experiences and network of colleagues and friends I’ve accumulated along the way, give me an extraordinary opportunity to extend ideas, styles, and the actual music of what we crave as the consumer economy. When what I do works, even I appreciate it, and in truth has always been my northern light in talking with an audience no matter how large or undetectable. And the rewards on the upside can be astonishing.

We all know how the Grateful Dead spawned a forest of recorders and microphones at their concerts, not just allowing but encouraging it by letting some of them plug into the group’s live mixing board. By the late Eighties, a band that was largely a touring outfit had transcended the record business and stood as the largest grossing live act on the planet. It also spawned a hit album and only Top Ten single, Touch of Grey, through the force of the Dead micro-community, not the other way around.

the latest Gillmor Gang Newsletter


The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, October 29, 2021.

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

@fradice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang

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