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Bill Simmons, trending.

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Azrael, Jun 23, 2020.

  1. 3_Octave_Fart

    3_Octave_Fart Well-Known Member


    Podcasts are more often than not failed financial enterprises. The artistic end of it is hard enough to pull off.

    I agree, it's a talent. It takes more than confidence to speak well into a microphone and carry a program (and Simmons is not all that good at it, either).

    I saw a statistic recently that most podcasts - far more than half of them - go belly-up before their sixth episode.

    Either the person can't make a nickel doing them or realizes the work being put in isn't equal to the reward.
  2. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    I'm gonna give you a minor pass on your clumsy language with "parasites" because I feel like you've offered a lot of solid contributions over the years here, with insight into television, but man does that offend me deeply. We're having a conversation about opportunities for non-white people, and you quickly pivot to the idea that people who are not immediate drivers of monetary return are "parasites" who ought to be grateful that the host allows them to come along for the ride. Let's put aside how dehumanizing that kind of language is, and the fact that you'd almost certainly never say it with your name attached to it in the context of this conversation. The idea that every contribution must be measured in a bottom line kind of way is probably one of the biggest drivers in the overall decline of people's trust in media over the last 25 years. What is the monetary value of having Wesley Morris on staff? There is a chance it might not be large, but the cultural value is enormous. Perhaps your audience doesn't immediately grasp how rare it is to have a voice like Morris' on staff, and there is a cultural good in continuing to expose him to that audience that — though it might sacrifice some theoretical dollar amount if you put Chuck Klosterman in his place instead — would benefit tremendously from it. I suspect that "Binge Mode" would have initially played better had Chris Ryan been Mallory Rubin's cohost, because Ryan is pretty smart too, but having Jason Concepcion instead exposed a lot of people to his different brand of nerd genius, and NBA Desktop, which won a friggen Emmy, probably would not exist had the success of Binge Mode not preceded it.

    Every single member of society is not a number in an Excel sheet, buddy. And while I don't know that you actually believe that, if you think using language like "parasites" is anything other than extremely offensive in a conversation about diversity in media than, dear god, you should drag your well-coifed ass out of the Lay-z-boy this Sunday afternoon and send a thank you note to every marginally-talented producer you ever worked with, expressing gratitude for all the times they likely helped save you from yourself throughout your career.
  3. exmediahack

    exmediahack Well-Known Member

    Fully agree. The radio hosts I know who also do a separate podcast see it as a different brand. The radio is where they make the money. They may clear a few nickles on the podcast but they’re like new restaurants. They likely lose money.
  4. PCLoadLetter

    PCLoadLetter Well-Known Member

    As the resident TV news producer here this has been delightful to follow.

    I figured I'd ignore ex's comments. I've worked in a big market for 20+ years and so my experience, which is wildly different, may not fully apply.

    But this:

    Jesus Christ, dude. Some of us realized early on we'd rather be the guy who writes the newscast than the guy who sits on camera and reads what someone else wrote. And not everyone has a burning need to have their face on TV.
  5. 3_Octave_Fart

    3_Octave_Fart Well-Known Member


    I've thought about it before. I think I have the voice for it but not the patience - and most importantly not the technical know-how.

    I'm sure you know this but there are actual sound engineers behind ones that are worthy of the name.

    If you don't have the right equipment then even assumed skill isn't going to be enough. You've already lost.

    It also seems like an enormous time suck for what are essentially vanity projects.

    Don't write me off yet, though.
  6. exmediahack

    exmediahack Well-Known Member

    Mad at myself for letting a goddamn Simmons thread turn into this. Although better to do it here than at work, I suppose.

    This shows me that I need a break from SJ. Again.
  7. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    I am just catching up on this thread. I may regret wading into this, and I want to do it gingerly, but a few things in your post really made me want to comment.

    On your main point about his calling people parasites rubbing you wrong, I felt the same way. Maybe in a slightly different way, but I cringed when I read it, too. Unless you are the one paying those “parasites” their salaries, why would you ever think that way? And to the extent any business owner or boss does think that way. … most people aren’t big enough jerks to use a term like that out loud. Dehumanizing was the right word. Think about how you'd feel if someone with no stake in what you are doing for a living, looked through the window and decided that you're a parasite who doesn't pull his or her weight?

    Where you lost me was on the tangent about Wesley Morris. Wesley Morris is an excellent writer, who I believe has a Pulitzer Prize. I suspect he feels he has earned everything he’s accomplished.

    I don’t listen to The Ringer’s podcasts, so I actually have no idea what he even does on them, and I am way out of my element in this conversation. But I find notions like what you said about him having “cultural value” kind of condescending, actually. Putting aside the points that people have made about Simmons giving podcasts to relatives and friends, so it’s not like I don’t realize that nepotism and shitty business practices exist in the actual world. … on a podcast network, objectively you either have something to offer that people want to listen to, or you don’t. It’s that simple. In a true meritocracy that is all that would matter, which is what the tangent this discussion took should ultimately be about.

    Your cultural value idea rubbed me wrong for two reasons. First, whether you meant it this way or not, those kinds of statements — he has cultural value, even if he might not have monetary value—can come off as really patronizing. As in, “Even if the black guy can’t command an audience. ... well, he has value, too.” I am in my 50s, and I have seen variations of that kind of sentiment since I was in high school, usually coming from white people who consider themselves liberal. But I know multiple black men who that drives nuts, and I have had the discussion many times. It's like telling someone they can't merit success on their own, so they need some other standard put in place to define their success.

    Similarly, your saying that “perhaps your audience doesn’t immediately grasp how rare” his voice is and there is a “cultural good in continuing to expose him to that audience” came off as really paternalistic toward the audience, to me at least. Like people can’t decide for themselves what they want to listen to, they need you to feed them what you know is best for them.

    You said that you think an eye on the “bottom line” is one of the biggest drivers in the decline in people’s trust in media over the last few decades, but I think those kinds of paternalistic attitudes have done way more to turn off a lot of people to some kinds of media than what you were talking about.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2020
  8. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    The paternalistic wokeness was off the charts.
  9. Azrael

    Azrael Well-Known Member

    Funny, I didn't think DD was making any reference to race.

    I thought he was comparing the relative value of Klosterman (famous but no longer interesting) to Morris (interesting but not yet famous) at Grantland.

    I'd also introduce the idea here of the 'loss leader,' the classy aspirational literary hire you take on to give your publication cachet. To borrow prestige. Like Simmons bringing Colson Whitehead in for a year or two. Or Vanity Fair keeping writers like Lebowitz or Vollman or Langewiesche or Junger or von Furstenberg on the masthead when they so rarely write. It makes you look good.

    The New Yorker lost money for decades, but Conde Nast was smart enough to keep publishing it because it made everything else in the building glow with literary high-mindedness.

    To the extent it didn't pull its weight on the balance sheet, was it a "parasite" too?
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020
    OscarMadison likes this.
  10. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    What you said about a loss leader, and the New Yorker, can be true. But it's not analagous to what we were discussing. In the case of The Ringer, maybe if you were saying that they might keep around a text-based website that isn't accretive to the bottom line in order to give them more visability to do podcasts that are profitable, it would be close to the same thing. The website would essentially be a marketing expense that would be wholly justifiable. But in this case we were talking about specific people and the contribution they individually make to a single product. I am not privy to the Ringer's financials, but I am certain it is not a giant cash cow that can afford to do charity work, for example, and justify it as a PR expense. I am sure it is (and needs to be) just focused on trying to come up with things that will draw advertisers. I would not be very surprised if podcasts weren't the focus of the original business plan. ... but podcasts are what has worked. That is how a start-up business needs to think when a lot of capital (which belongs to people who invest to try to succeed and earn a return -- i.e. the bottom line) is behind it.

    Of course DD was making reference to race. He prefaced the admonishment about the parasite comment by saying we're having a conversation about opportunities for non-white people. ... and he then pivoted to Wesley Morris and this notion that he might not be very accretive to the bottom line, but he brings enormous cultural value. If we're not talking about Morris' race, and presumably the perspective that gives him being the basis for that cultural value, then why bring him into it? I mean someone else could argue that Chuck Klosterman has "enormous cultural value," too, plus if what DD said is true about Klosterman being more accretive to the "bottom line," he's just a better hire, then, if you can get him for the right price.
  11. Azrael

    Azrael Well-Known Member

    Keeping in mind that Simmons hired both Morris and Klosterman, this is the part I'm unclear on. I'm sure DD will explain it.

    As to which hire you make in any given instance, it depends entirely upon what you're trying to build. And sell. Robin Leach will drive more clicks than Masha Gessen or Junot Diaz, but in one case you're building People magazine, in the other The Paris Review.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020
  12. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    One of the main differences between us, Ragu, is that you see everything as some sort of widget in an economic model. That is who you are, who you've been on this website for the better part of 15 years I've known you, and that's ok. There is no doubt in my mind that you can't see why having Wesley Morris write or talk about, say, Aretha Franklin instead of Chuck Klosterman write or talk about her might have a benefit to the Ringer, and its audience. The entire current cultural conversation we're having at the moment is about who gets opportunities to speak and succeed and, yes, even to fail, and who doesn't. Why not have Dave Portnoy talk about Aretha Franklin's passing under your model? I'm sure it would get the most views/downloads. Why offer something objectively better when the audience has shown us, the largest number of them would love to hear from Dave Portnoy on any subject. Dave Portnoy is a known commodity. To offer the audience Wesley Morris on this subject, or any subject, is obviously just paternalistic pandering because the goal is always to get the most listeners possible, not to say anything interesting or artistic about American culture.
    tonygunk and CD Boogie like this.
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