What the 🦆 is going on with viral content producers? Also – TikTok grows up

OK, campers, don’t forget your booties, cuz it will be coooold out there this weekend – and Do Not Read Until Monday.


OK what the 🦆 is actually going on with these ‘viral’ content producers?

Part 1

If the Apple/Facebook/Google privacy debacle has you thirsting for some more tea, you’re in luck. This week, examination of the players behind Fyre Festival continued, with the Internet’s great eye’s gaze fixing on a viral-content-‘curator’-turned-marketing-service whose name contains a word I usually wouldn’t use in this newsletter so I will have to work around it.

For bit of background, once memes started flooding Instagram, a few early adopters, such as DuckJerry or The Fat Jewish would screen capture them and republish, effectively stealing creators’ work and often ignoring efforts by those creators to get them taken down or be compensated for their content. Through some savvy promotion, deft theft decisions, and just a daaaaash of good ol’ dumb luck, these accounts amassed millions of followers, which led to lucrative brand partnerships and piles of cold, hard cash. For what amounts to posting things on social media (which, by coincidence, is probably what each of our parents think we do for a living).

Now, seemingly built off the sheer willpower of one comedy editor/hero, some momentum has built behind the #FunkFunkJerry movement. Patton Oswalt and Tim Heidecker have been big gets so far, and … sure, Steak-Umm seems to have acknowledged the movement.

So far, FockJerry has responded by … making its Twitter private, deleting posts and beginning to shed followers


Part 2

Last week we learned that Buzzfeed would be making significant layoffs to its staff in a bid for consistent profitability. This being, of course, before we learned some of its most popular content was made for free by a teenage Michigander, begging the question: what the duck?

Friday, the Hollywood Reporter revealed Vice Media would shed about 10 percent of its employees, or 250 people.

Attn has reportedly needed to rethink its distribution strategy significantly, and Mic got snapped up after nearly going belly up by Bustle Digital, which as yet has not publicly reported any financial struggles at least.

And, speaking of not struggling, traditional media outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post are actually seeing significant growth, especially in digital subscriptions.


Part 3

bUt CoUlD tHeSe Be ReLaTed? Yes, yes they could. While the latter issue has been impacted significantly by algorithm changes by Facebook, both may reflect a certain cynicism in social content in general, possibly a result of fake news, privacy, election meddling, the proliferation of fake followers, etc.

For years, viral content producers (or, sigh, curators) got a free pass – they offered fun, fairly lightweight content perfect for a momentary distraction. And they sourced it at a bargain basement price, whether it be through paying pennies or outright theft. However, while trying to build empires out of their enterprises, not enough was done to distance themselves from old ways of working – hence Buzzfeed relied on free content to drive traffic, and FuckJerry (oops) continued to steal content.

For the former, Buzzfeed did a bit better, trying to play grown-up journalism with the big boys, and enjoyed a few scoops – even if it got its hand slapped by Robert Mueller. As for the latter, it spawned JerryMedia, most famous now for Fyre Festival, though it did also this week embarrass itself with a half-cocked idea to monetize the Instagram Egg™.


Remember when we all said “hahaha YEAH RIGHT Facebook with ADS?!” Well, here’s TikTok.

TikTok, some how both powerfully annoying and addictive, made some strides toward maturation as a social platform this week.

Early in the week, Digiday reported TikTok was testing ads, namely a unit that loaded upon opening the app, before any actual content. Of course, testing the ad waters can be a first step toward an unrelenting deluge of branded content a sustainable business model.

Later, Digiday also laid its hands on a pitch deck from the company, which claimed over 17 million monthly active users for the app. TikTok previously claimed 800 million global MAUs, but a bulk of this may be located in its home market of China. It also gained around 60 million US users with its merger with Musical.ly.

However, the platform also has some similar problems as later-stage social networks such as Twitter and Facebook – its algorithm may keep users in a filter bubble.


Apple, Facebook, Google square off over who’s worse at privacy

It’s getting to be where these privacy kerfuffles can pass without a batting eye, but here’s a quick rundown*: Facebook was apparently harvesting data from teens via a separate app, paying them $20 a pop. Apple revoked Facebook’s developer certificate, then Facebook issued some attempt at saving face.

Then it turned out Google had a similar racket going, so Apple cut its credentials as well, despite the “Screenwise Meter” being immediately disabled.

These items are concerning, certainly, but given its between three of tech’s largest businesses, there’s a bit of politics there too.

That being said, Apple’s not exactly without fault this week as a massive privacy flaw was found in FaceTime group calls … by a teen Fortnite player.


*For a more thorough walk-through, check The Next Web’s coverage.


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