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Tag Archives: Pop Culture

Why Digg is Dead

The Digg button once used to be as ubiquitous as the Facebook Like button is today. And now completing its final exit to oblivion, Digg has been sold for half a million dollars,  a fraction of the money that hopeful investors plugged into it. The official story is that Digg died because it was overshadowed by Facebook and Twitter.

That’s nonsense. Sure Facebook and Twitter drained some of the traffic out of the pool, but competitors like Reddit are still around. And Digg is deadBuzzfeed, which is just an uglier version of Digg, which hosts its own content, instead of aggregating to linked content, is doing well.

The problem with Digg is that it was never really a social community, it was a social media gaming forum. It was a game where you voted up things. It was gamed by power users and by everyone else until it stopped being a site where you went to see interesting things or kill 5 minutes over a lunch break and became a social media gaming grind.

Reddit works because it’s built around communities. Digg had no communities, it had factions and allies. It was EVE without the spaceships, but with the same drama. Everything that Digg could do, other sites could do better.

Want a list of goofy pictures and pop culture trivia geared to your hipster interests? Try Uproxx or Buzzfeed. You get the graphics up front instead of having to look at a white and blue interface. Want a community of people to yell at about politics, religion or Apple? Reddit has you covered. Or a bunch of other sites.

Want a place that looks like a social media version of an abandoned arcade game where no one is playing any more? Try Digg.

When Every Movie Became a Cartoon

It’s hard to say when exactly Hollywood’s main product became 250 million dollar CG cartoons. The Phantom Menace was probably the opening shot and then came everything else and here we are where the movie factory is just turning out people running around against a green screen and shouting at stuff.

Whether it’s Rise of the Apes or The Phantom Menace or Transformers or Wrath of the Titans, these are just really expensive cartoons with cartoon logic and plots. Tintin makes sense since it’s what Hollywood has been doing for over a decade now, grabbing a recognized brand name, building a loud explosion filled cartoon around it.

Past the 200 million range it doesn’t seem like movies are even being made anymore. It’s modern day versions of comics and serials with huge budgets and worldwide distributions. Stories get in the way of foreign box office sales. Any dialogue more complex than a punch line doesn’t translate as well. And no one really wants to see it anyway.

Movies have become what television used to be. A way to get a bunch of people in the same room and then shut off their brains. It’s not as if there’s a point to these anymore. They’re getting more and more disposable, there’s no acting and no reason for them to exist. Spielberg’s blockbusters at least made you feel something more than bored. These are just cartoons, lavish expensive cartoons.

Conan O’Brien Please Stop

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is the documentary chronicling O’Brien’s post Tonight Show tour which was about his breakup with NBC. His recent viral commencement address and now documentary, more of the same. Being booted from Leno’s old timeslot in favor of Leno gave him a fire in his belly and a new identity. It also made him a one note character.

The old Conan seemed smart and self-aware. The new Conan is obsessed with being forced out of a timeslot and learning to get over it. It’s comedy as therapy, which is funny with some comedians, but not with him. Maybe it’s because Conan’s downfall is hard to relate to. The energy of sticking it to your boss brought people over to Team Coco, but go behind the scenes and you’re looking at a guy who was put in a position he wasn’t ready for, walking away with a 45 million dollar golden parachute and then building a career on insisting that he’s the victim.

I’m not one to argue with a successful media strategy. But I doubt I’m the only one tired of it. Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop raises and partly answers the question of why a rich guy who has been successful beyond any realistic ambition is still obsessed. And the answer isn’t great. The contrast with Jerry Seinfeld who ran through the top comedy half-hour on television and amiably walked away to do standup is telling.

The sad thing is that the job Conan wanted and wants was wrong for him. He’s a funny writer. A very funny one. But he’s not a talk show host. He managed to hang on to his goal of having a late night show to host, and he almost managed to draw the right lesson from it in his commencement speech. Failure is liberating, but Conan didn’t liberate himself from having to be a celebrity and chat with celebrities. He put himself right back in the same cage.

Should Roger Ebert Still Be Reviewing Movies?

Forget, should Roger Ebert have ever been reviewing movies. He shouldn’t have, but his reviews at least used to be plausible. They were things that looked like reviews of movies. Not your uncle’s random stuff typed on a page. Now that’s exactly what it is. Your uncle musing about stuff and then commenting on a movie. Reading these things now is just embarrassing. And I’m not sure anyone does.

It’s not just about Thor. It’s about every review Ebert does. The Thor review is almost passable. Ebert actually at times comments intelligently on the movie and the source material. Even if the whole thing is drowned by his asides and his extended recap of most of what happens in the movie. But that’s rare.

Ebert has taken to Twitter. His condition has made him a media personality. But his reviews which were always sloppy, have stopped even trying to pretend that they’re anything but his random impressions composed in a few minutes or less.

Katie Couric as the New Oprah? Bad Idea

I don’t know why Katie Couric kept trying to reinvent herself, but if she’s serious about trying to replace Oprah, it’s a bad idea. Bad for her anyway. A salvation for CBS News which may be able to replace her with a less expensive personality who might bring some credibility back to the evening news. But Couric is as unqualified to be Oprah as she was to be Dan Rather.

The monster here is the Today Show, or that particular incarnation of it when it was such a dominant force boosting the careers of everyone associated with it and moving them up the Peter Principle career ladder. Its success made Bryant Gumbel think he was such a hot commodity that CBS thought buying him would let them beat Today. Didn’t work. Katie Couric’s Today presence made CBS think that audiences would follow her to the evening news. Didn’t happen either. Let’s not forget Jeff Zucker, the ultimate Today success story.

Katie Couric worked on Today because she was bland. Her voice went in one ear and out the other. That’s exactly why she doesn’t work on the news. And she’s just as qualified to be Oprah, who for all her obnoxious antics has a personality (even if it’s fake), Couric doesn’t. She’s a cheerleader who made a fine career of being pretty and reading things off a screen. She works in that narrow role of being someone it’s okay to listen to in the morning before you’re completely awake. She would be perfect doing commercial voiceovers. That’s it.

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