A Letterman prediction

I have no idea who will replace David Letterman when he retires in 2015. Could it be Stephen Colbert? Sure. Craig Ferguson? Unlikely but possible I guess. Ellen DeGeneres? Tina Fey? Jerry Seinfeld? Conan O’Brien? Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe. (But can we take Chelsea Handler and Howard Stern out of the discussion, please? Handler is too out of the box for CBS and the network isn’t going to get Stern, who is in his 60s, too expensive, and could badmouth the network or want to bolt at any second).

The one prediction I will make is this: Jay Leno will appear on the show before Letterman ends his run. If that doesn’t happen it would be astonishing. With both Dave and Jay gone, it would make for a nice bookend to the history of the late night wars.

Prestige

Prestige can be a wonderful thing, but you can’t buy groceries with it.

Entertainment Weekly has announced that they’re launching a new section of their site and they’re not going to pay their writers, in money anyway. Fantastic! Instead, they’re going to pay them with “prestige.” Ah, yes, prestige. Don’t you know that simply letting you write for us is payment enough? You can brag to all your friends!

EW has decided to do what places like The Huffington Post and Forbes are doing, opening up their doors to “content providers” of all types so they can blog for free and “build a community” (because what we need more of online is people giving their opinions about pop culture – there isn’t enough of that). There’s only one problem with this plan. If you open your doors to every single person who wants to write, then any “prestige” you would have gotten from writing for Entertainment Weekly (though I would argue that ended a while ago) is gone because now anyone can write for it. Where’s the prestige in that?

The unfortunate thing about all of this? EW will actually be swamped with people who want to contribute. Everyone loves giving their opinions and everyone loves seeing their byline in print. Just think of all of the TV episode reviews and listicles that are going to be unleashed upon the public! This is the sad fact about writers: we can be our own worst enemy (though I would assume a large percentage of the people who will contribute to the free side of EW could hardly be called writers).

What made EW – or any magazine, newspaper, or web site – a good, special publication was that you could trust it, because the people writing for it were hired for a specific reason and had writing talent and experience and knowledge. There was a finite number of people contributing to the magazine. Now EW wants to have over 1000 bloggers writing for the new community, which dilutes everything.

There was a time in my life when I wrote for free: my college paper, writing samples to show newspapers and magazines that I could write, that sort of thing. My “payment” would be a nice credit on my resume or several copies of the publication (though you can’t give someone copies of a web page). And I’m sure non-paid internships still happen in publishing (though many are starting to change that practice). But to have a major magazine, which pays their regular staff and brings in a lot of ad revenue and sells subscriptions and charges for some online access, decide to not pay their writers is not only absurd, it’s rancid. They’re doing this for one reason only: to get a lot of “content” for free so they can get more traffic, and then sell more ads, and then get more writers, and get more traffic, and get more ads, and still not pay their “community” writers.

Now, a lot of editors/publishers will say that they simply can’t pay writers (or can’t pay them that much). This is absolutely true. Solution? Don’t hire them. Have your staff do all of the writing. You think your writing for free at the EW “community” is going to lead to big paying gigs? Good luck with that when it’s strategies like this that make those positions harder and harder to get. (Also run away from anyone who uses the word “passion” when describing writing.)

The thing that people keep saying is so great about the web – that there’s so much content and so many content providers, it’s a golden age! – also happens to be what’s terrible about it. My advice? Don’t write for anyone else for free. Start your own site or blog or publication.

Spring cleaning

The change of seasons – and I say that with full knowledge that a major snowstorm might hit us in a couple of days – means we organize and clean and change things around in our lives. We straighten out those closets and we cut our hair and redesign our web sites and we start/end things in our lives we think we should start/end. I even flirted with getting rid of PBJ but then finally realized (with the help of a few regular readers) that I not only like updating that blog and it serves as an extension of this site, my decision to end it had more to do with a general malaise and frustration that came about because I was looking at the site stats too much. I quickly tossed that aside because you’ll notice that PBJ is still in the menu above. So please bookmark it and make it a regular stop on your web travels!

My big project this week was going through all of the various Rubbermaid containers filled with books and DVDs that clutter decorate the margins of my living room. And it’s a good thing I did too. Buried at the bottom of some of those containers were three different books I was thinking of buying. Yes, I completely forgot that I had already bought these books a few years ago. I’ve placed those books on my coffee table to remind myself of two things: “hey, you own these books so you don’t have to buy them again” and “hey, you should read these books.”

After moving things around and giving some books away and tossing some others, I still have the same number of containers but now there’s more room inside of them to, well, place more books and DVDs. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.

My next spring cleaning project is to organize my “bedroom” (in quotes because there isn’t even room for a bed in there). But before that next spring cleaning project I have to go to the store. To buy some rock salt.

NEW BABY BUGGY

Everyone is talking about this today:

Watching it last night I actually said “Holy shit!” out loud. No one else was around but I said it out loud anyway.

Back in the 1990s, I solved a Wheel of Fortune puzzle at the start of the game, when no letters had even been revealed. I don’t remember what the puzzle was, but it was actually somewhat easy to solve because of the combination of the clue they gave and the fact I was a regular watcher of the show. But the above is even more impressive. Not only could the letters “NE” possibly point you in a wrong direction, when was the last time the phrase “New Baby Buggy” was even used? Is that even something you would know, even if you could figure out the “NEW?” How would that even be one of your guesses, let alone your first guess? This is one gifted guy. Even the judges didn’t display the whole puzzle at first (notice the slight delay) because they probably couldn’t believe it either.

Five things about media and technology right now

1. The Gawker vs. BuzzFeed battle is like those movies where Godzilla fights another monster. Sure, you can root for one of them, but in the end a city is still destroyed.

2. You can’t convince me we’re in a “golden age of television” when Monday’s episode of The Bachelor was three hours long.

3. I remember the days before the web when I would be eating dinner and wishing I could take a picture of it and share it with 900 people I kind of know.

4. If you’re wondering when clicks/traffic became the most important thing, it was around the time “writing” became “content.”

5. Nobody cares if you leave social media.