Trivial Posts #10: Superstar Writers, Racebent Hermione, And Long-Form Is Long

Right, that’s the Eurovision Song Contest over, so let’s get back to some triviality online and what has caught my eye online as I get over my time in Vienna?

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Superstars Still Need Infrastructure

I’ve been writing online for many years,sometimes for small sites, sometimes for the new-media companies, and sometimes for the reinvented old-school media names (such as my current regular writing over on Forbes). Reading Bob Lefsetz’ article on the purchase of new-media tech reporting site ReCode (founded by industry veterans Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg), I was struck by this thought:

We don’t need me-too, we need new and different. And unless you’re gonna do new and different, stay where you are.

Ezra Klein left the “Washington Post.” He said his Vox site was gonna be different, and it is, a bit, but not significantly enough to gain traction.

Nate Silver left the “New York Times” for obscurity. The election prognosticator, our national data interpreter, put a stake in his heart and keeled right over. He started a whole website, 538, for data-driven articles, but the “Times” just doubled down with data and created the Upshot. Even worse, Silver didn’t realize if you’re starting from scratch you’ve got to have stars. And he’s the only star on his site. He’s earned my attention. But the rest of the writers on his site parsing the numbers…who are they?

And then you’ve got David Pogue, Mossberg’s nemesis, who left the “Times” for Yahoo and was promptly buried in the tsunami of bogus information on that site. He went from being one of the two experts to a nobody.

So what have we learned…

Just because you’re a star don’t think you’re bigger than the enterprise.

Now, I’m no Swisher or Mossberg in the tech world so I’m under no illusions that I could strike out in a small team and make a success of it in the current environment. But the difference that a platform name such as Forbes has made to my career has been huge. It’s clear to me that the infrastructure is the current key.

ReCode To Vox

Just Your Friendly Neighbourhood Re-imagining

Rebooting a comic book story is tough enough. What happens when you reboot an entire universe? Abraham Riesman puts together the tale of Marvel’s reboot from the turn of the century, the impact on Marvel, n the Marvel motion pictures, and how it all ell apart and the only man left standing is Miles Morales Spiderman:

Bendis wrote a story in which Ultimate Peter dies a hero’s death. Around the same time, shy teenager Miles Morales gains similar abilities to Peter’s and tentatively starts fighting crime in his stead. The ensuing story lines were classic Bendis: tender, streamlined, and optimistic. Miles wasn’t just an Afro-Latino Peter Parker. He was his own person, kind and quiet, reluctant to stand out and perpetually struggling with self-doubt — in many ways, an even more believable teenager than Ultimate Peter had been.

The Secret History of Ultimate Marvel

A Reflection On Society, Be It Muggle Or Magical, Is Still A Reflection On The Reader

Staying with re-imagining characters, Alanna Bennet’s look at Hermione Granger and the idea of Hermione as being something other than… well… Emma Watson:

“Racebent” characters have long been making appearances on sites like Tumblr, but they’ve been picking up heat recently. One of the most popular and frequent, at least on my dash? Hermione Granger as a woman of color, most often black. For the first time, I was seeing Hermione’s subtext brought out into text.

What’s more, it’s hard to find an explicit mention of Hermione’s skin color in the books. She’s often mainly described by her hair; if not her hair, then her teeth or a non-physical aspect. The only direct mention I could find, from Prisoner of Azkaban:

“They were there, both of them, sitting outside Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor — Ron looking incredibly freckly, Hermione very brown, both waving frantically at him.”

Hmmm.

What A “Racebent” Hermione Granger Really Represents

You’re using force… You’re making that white dance.

In depth profile from The New Yorker on Snooker’s Ronnie O’Sullivan. Given the near lack of Snooker in the US, this is much more about psychology and sports players, and it’s all the better for it, given O’Sullivan’s career. It’s a story not of snooker, but of a man:

He faced a routine backspin stroke to position the white for the final red. “I remember thinking, Well, I know that is the right shot to play,” he said. “Ten times out of ten, it will go in.” Instead, O’Sullivan went for a subtle, almost impossibly difficult topspin shot—entirely needless under the circumstances. The ball loped across the table, touched the cushion, and rolled a few inches too far. It cost O’Sullivan the match, but he was elated. No one else plays like that. “That shot still sticks in my mind, because it was the wrong shot to play but I didn’t care,” he said.

Follow the White Ball

Longer form writing more popular than imagined

Adam Tinworth picks out the key lesson from Pocket’s look at its own data on reading time and article length:

“In the Top 500 most-saved articles from the first half of 2015, we found that the average article length is 3,190 words, which would take over 15 minutes to read.”

An interesting suggestion there that we should be going a bit more in-depth with articles than we do at the moment. (1k to 2k is the “classic” feature length everywhere I’ve worked).

Must try out some of these lessons on ESC Insight over the summer…

How long should long form be?

This Week’s Long Read: “He never tried to be Steve”

This week’s long read comes from Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky, as he profiles Apple CEO Tim Cook (around the time of ‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ hitting the bookshelves). Entertaining, illuminating, and a clear sign in text and deed that it’s no longer Steve Jobs’ Apple Roadshow.

…Leads Different

What Have I Been Up To?

Two smartwatch reviews from me this week on Forbes are worth pointing out – the first is for the Microsoft Band – clunky, seventies styled, needs two more iterations – and the second is the Pebble Time – drab color screen, UI feels childish, bit of a backwards step in styling, still the best smartwatch for Android out there.

And if you want just a bit of Eurovision – I’ve penned a pair of articles about the countries that made the right choices when selecting a song for the Contest, and the countries that were less wise with their choices.

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