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  • feedwordpress 18:22:38 on 2019/09/13 Permalink
    Tags: , , Election 2020, , , , , ,   

    Why Politics, Why Now? 


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    Last week an email hit my inbox with a simple powerful sentiment. “I miss your writing,” it said. The person who sent it was a longtime reader of this site.

    I miss writing too. But there’s a reason I’ve been quiet here and on other platforms – I wrote a very short post about that earlier this summer. To summarize, last year I decided to take the leap, for the seventh time, and start a company with my dear friend and frequent co-conspirator John Heilemann. John and I have worked on projects for the better part of three decades, but we’d never started a company together. Now we have: Recount Media is an entirely new approach to video about politics. And the truth is, Recount Media not only requires all of my time, it’s also in fields that seem pretty orthogonal to my previous career trajectory.

    That reader’s email reminded me: I’ve not really explained the connection between what I “used to do” – write about the impact of tech on society, advise startups, work on boards, start or run tech-related media companies – and what it is I’m doing now. Turns out, the two are deeply connected. Explaining why takes a bit of exposition – hence this longish post. But in short, the idea is this: The tech story is now a political story, and the political story is, well, a mess. I’m motivated by creating companies and media around consequential, messy stories. Tech used to be the biggest and most poorly covered of the bunch. But now, I’m convinced politics holds that honor.

    This post is my attempt to tie together my past, rooted mostly in the West Coast technology culture, with my present, now based in New York and focused almost entirely on politics and video. I hope by thinking out loud here, I might help make it make sense for not only you, my readers, but also for myself as I continue on this journey.

    On its face it doesn’t make much sense. A guy who has made his living writing – either coding words into posts, or starting companies that, in essence, were word factories (Wired, The Standard, Federated Media, etc.) – is now co-founder of a company that makes only video. A guy who has specialized in reporting on and sense making around technology is now deep in the utterly foreign world (for me, anyway) of politics. What gives?

    I realized that the tech story had morphed into something else back in 2015, when I was running an events business called NewCo. To support that business, I decided to create a small publication focused on the intersection of technology, policy, and business. We called it Shift. To launch that brand, I wrote “The Tech Story Is Over,” a framework of sorts for why I thought the biggest story in our economy had moved from “tech” to the wholesale reinvention of capitalism. From that piece:

    Tech hasn’t gone mainstream — it is the mainstream. It’s our cultural dowser, our lens for interpreting an increasingly complex society.Our new cultural heroes are Internet billionaires; our newly minted college graduates all want to start tech companies.

    All of which leaves me wondering : What’s the next big story on the horizon, the narrative most people are missing that will shape our future just as technology did for the past 30 years?

    I think the answer lies in the reinvention of capitalism. 

    While tech had been the defining story of the past few decades, I argued that the story of the next few would be how our society rethought the rules governing corporations. And once you start thinking about the way corporations were governed, your attention naturally turns to politics. Politics, after all, is how we collectively determine the rules of the road.

    At the same time we launched Shift, we also started a new conference of the same name, dedicated to convening a fresh conversation about business and politics. I asked Heilemann to bring his deep understanding of Washington to the stage each year. John curated the political piece, I ran the business programming. The event was very well received, and we both noticed how engaged folks were around the political conversation in particular. The first Shift event was one week after Trump’s inauguration, and nearly every business and tech leader was leaning into issues they had previously ignored or, in some cases, actively ducked. It was clear: Politics was on its way to permeating every aspect of our society, and business was a leading indicator of that trend.

    We increased the amount of political programming in the second Shift event, and once again, folks loved it. By now I was certain that the tech and business narrative I’d been chasing for so many years had grown stale – the changes wrought by tech were no longer the story – now the story was how we as a society would respond. And just as with business, that response requires wading directly into the world of politics.

    It was after the second Shift conference that I decided to move to New York. The Bay area is a lovely, inspirational place, but the conversation was dominated by entrepreneurship, and it was beginning to feel like a monoculture. I wanted to live in a place where the conversation had more hybrid vigor. I called my friend John to let him know about the move, and, turns out, he had an idea about starting a political platform devoted to covering US politics in a new way. We spent a week talking about it over the summer, got pretty excited about where it might go, and … well, that’s how we got to now.

    In the past year, I’ve come to realize that while I thought I was pretty well informed about how our political system worked, I was in fact wandering in the dark. I had spent nearly my entire career in media and tech in the Bay area, but I had managed to fundamentally avoid engaging in the national political discourse. I don’t think I’m alone – the past few years have delivered a crash course in political realities for the entire technology industry – and for business overall. When hundreds of leading CEOs sign a letter claiming profit will no longer be the true north of their firms, something pretty fundamental has shifted.

    We announced Recount Media’s public beta this past July, and we’ll have a lot more to announce later this Fall, including dates for two new Shift events, which are now part of our new company. I’m excited about the work we’re doing, and I hope those of you who’ve followed my journey from Wired through to NewCo will come along for the ride with The Recount. You can sign up for our beta newsletter here. Thanks for reading, and thanks for all your comments and encouragement along the way.

     
  • feedwordpress 03:53:38 on 2019/07/30 Permalink
    Tags:   

    Introducing Recount Media 


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    More than a few of you have been wondering why I’ve been so quiet here these past few months, and today I can finally reveal at least part of what’s kept me so busy. Today we’re announcing a public beta product from the company I’ve been building with my longtime friend and collaborator John Heilemann and many other talented folks. We’re starting with an email newsletter featuring a new approach to video journalism covering political news. I’ll have more to say soon, but for now, sign up here for our first product, The Recount. I hope you’ll share with friends—and let me know what you think. More soon, I promise, and thanks for reading. (CNN coverage here).

     
  • feedwordpress 14:46:33 on 2019/07/21 Permalink
    Tags: 2019, ,   

    Halfway Through: How Are My Predictions 2019 Shaping Up? 


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    I like to keep myself honest when it comes to predictions. Now that six months of 2019 are in the books (well, nearly seven given how intermittent my postings have been this year), it’s time to see how things are tracking.

    Regular readers may have noticed I’m not really written much this year. This pains me, but it’s because I’ve been deep in a new project, one focused on a new market and a new media format. There’ll be news on that soon enough, but for now, let’s review my 2019 predictions and see how I’m doing.

    First up: 1/ Global warming gets really, really, really real.  I predicted that 2019 would be the year that climate change would become impossible to ignore. I’m writing this as more than half the country is suffering from a massive heat wave, and in the first six months of the year, we’ve seen so many extreme weather events, it’s hard to keep track. Floods, draught, monsoons, tornados, the Green New Deal, you name it, it’s all over the news. I think we’re on track for this one, sadly.

    #2: Mark Zuckerberg resigns as Chairman of Facebook, and relinquishes his supermajority voting rights. Related, Sheryl Sandberg stays right where she is. Well, so far, not happening. There have been many calls for exactly this, including a shareholder revolt that went nowhere. There’s still time, but this isn’t trending in the right direction.

    #3: Despite a ton of noise and smoke from DC, no significant federal legislation is signed around how data is managed in the United States. This is trending exactly where I thought it would be. Lots and lots of smoke, no fire whatsoever.

    #4: The Trump show gets cancelled.  Wishful thinking, but so far, not happening. But there’s still time, and I expect the Fall to be quite eventful. And who knows what might come of “Mueller Day” this coming week…

    #5: Cannabis for the win. I predicted federal legalization, and while there have been some milestones this year, and many are talking about making it happen, I think I was overconfident here. It’s going to take longer than any of us would like.

    #6: China implodes, the world wobbles. If you read the Wall St. Journal, you’d have thought this has already happened. The signs are all there, and I think it’s still entirely possible this will occur this Fall.

    #7: 2019 will be a terrible year for financial markets. So far I’ve been utterly wrong. It’s been a great year for stocks! But I think we’re at peak market and most indicators point to…bad news ahead. Trump, of course, will pull every lever he can – including bullying the Fed and claiming victory in his various trade wars – but I think we’re overdue for a correction. Again, let’s wait for the Fall to see what comes of this one.

    #8: At least one major tech IPO is pulled, the rest disappoint as a class. Several tech IPOs have been pulled, but none of the bellwethers have been yanked. Uber was a disappointment, but overall, 2019 has been a great year for tech IPOs. The year is not over, and if things go south overall (see #7), I very much doubt tech will be spared.

    #9: New forms of journalistic media flourish. I wrote this one because, well, that’s what I’m working on, and so are many other media entrepreneurs. I’ll wait till the end of the year to count them up, but I’m feeling bullish about post-platform media in 2019.

    #10: A new “social network” emerges by the end of the year. Tik Tok broke out this year (it launched in 2017), but a Chinese owned meme machine certainly wasn’t what I had in mind. I still think there’s an opening for a new challenger to Facebook, and who knows, it might emerge before the year is up.

    So where does that leave me, half a year in? Batting about .500, it seems. I’ll be taking notes as we head toward Dec. 31st. Thanks for reading, and keeping me honest. I hope to be writing a lot more in the coming months.

     
  • feedwordpress 15:59:20 on 2019/04/24 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , terms of service,   

    Mapping Data Flows: Help Us Ask the Right Questions 


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    I’ve been quiet here on Searchblog these past few months, not because I’ve nothing to say, but because two major projects have consumed my time. The first, a media platform in development, is still operating mostly under the radar. I’ll have plenty to say about that, but at a later date. It’s the second where I could use your help now, a project we’re calling Mapping Data Flows. This is the research effort I’m spearheading with graduate students from Columbia’s School for International Public Affairs (SIPA) and Graduate School of Journalism. This is the project examining what I call our “Shadow Internet Constitution” driven by corporate Terms of Service.

    Our project goal is simple: To visualize the Terms of Service and Data/Privacy Policies of the four largest companies in US consumer tech: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. We want this visualization to be interactive and compelling – when you approach it (it’ll be on the web), we hope it will help you really “see” what data, rights, and obligations both you and these companies have reserved. To do that, we’re busy turning unintelligible lines of text (hundreds of thousands of words, in aggregate) into code that can be queried, compared, and visualized. When I first imagined the project, I thought that wouldn’t be too difficult. I was wrong – but we’re making serious progress, and learning a lot along the way.

    One of the most interesting of the early insights is how vague these documents truly are. The conditional (“might,” “could,” “may” etc) seems to be their favorite verb tense. It likely comes as no surprise to dedicated readers, but despite the last two years of public outrage, tech companies can pretty much do anything they want with your data, should they care to. Another interesting takeaway: The sheet amount of information that *can* be collected is staggering. A third insight: Even if you can find the data dashboards that give you control over how your data is used, cranking them to their fullest powers often won’t limit data collection and use, but rather will limit their application in very specific use cases. It’s all about the metadata. Lastly, it’s fascinating to see how similar these documents are across the top four companies, and how Apple, for example, has pretty much exactly the same rights to use your data as, say, Facebook.

    I could go on, but what we really want to know is what *you* wish you understood about these companies’ data practices. That’s why we’ve built a very short, very subjective survey that we’re hoping you’ll take to give us input and feedback as we start to actually build our visualization.

    I’ve buried the lead, but here’s the ask: Will you please take a minute to give us your input? Here’s the link, and thanks!

     
  • feedwordpress 15:21:14 on 2019/03/21 Permalink
    Tags: , business affairs, job, job posting, recruiting,   

    Lead, Business Affairs 


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    Do you know this person? Might it be you?

    Over the years I’ve found some of the best business partners by posting on this site. The overall audience for Searchblog has waxed and waned, but I’m deeply appreciative that there’s a core group of you who still watch this feed to see whatever it is I happen to be thinking about.

    You may have noticed I’ve not been posting as much as I normally do, and there’s a reason for that. Back when I wrote about moving to New York, I promised to keep you updated on what I’m working on now that I’ve settled in. While I continue my work at Columbia and my engagement with NewCo (more on that soon), one my projects has become central, a new company I’m working on with several New York-based journalists and entrepreneurs. We’re keeping the focus of the company under wraps for now, but we’ve started hiring, and I’m looking for a business side partner who can handle any number of key functions as we build the company. I’m posting the role below. As the weeks progress, there’ll be any number of other roles we’ll be looking for, across technology, partnership/sales, and more. So stay tuned for that. But for now, I’m looking for what I’m calling Lead, Business Affairs. If you or someone you know is interested, please reach out. I’m jbat at battellemedia dot com. I look forward to hearing from you.

    ***

    The Business Affairs Lead will be one of the earliest founding team members of a hybrid media/technology company, responsible for crucial business functions throughout early launch. The qualified candidate can competently tackle nearly any business task related to starting a company, and has familiarity with media business models, in particular subscription, advertising, and social media. The Business Affairs lead will manage the company’s accounting, finance, contract, reporting, development and other key functions. As the company grows, any number of opportunities to either specialize, take one or more P&Ls, or grow into any number of senior functions will emerge. The company has already secured seed financing from a well known NY-based venture firm.

    The company is in pre-launch and not promoting itself. The founding partners each have more than three decades of deep experience in media, technology, and venture finance. Qualified candidates will be briefed in detail. This is a full time position starting immediately, in New York, with market compensation and early equity.

    Qualifications

    At least five to ten years experience.

    Ability to manage a budget/accounting.

    Demonstrated comfort and experience handling contracts and interference.

    Strong communication skills and attention to detail. Confidence, humility, passion.

    Industrious, self-motivator with demonstrated ability to take initiative, make firm decisions, manage projects, in a fast-paced environment.

    Excellent people skills and ability to develop and maintain productive business partnerships. Startup/media experience a major plus.

    Curiosity and willingness to tackle matters outside their area of expertise.

    Again, I’m jbat at battellemedia dot com. Thanks for reading!

     
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