In a short section on the coke economy, Saviano points out why this illegal market generates so much violence. “If you had invested €1,000 in Apple stock in the beginning of 2012, you would have €1,670 in a year. Not bad. But if you had invested €1,000 in cocaine . . . after a year you would have €182,000.” This, of course, assumes that your investment made it safely from the jungle of Colombia to the streets of London but given that, in Britain, police pick up less than 20 per cent of the coke entering the country, it’s a risk worth taking.
No guns, no threat of violence. The dealer comes to you. Customer service is the No. 1 priority. It’s a diabolical scheme, but looked at from a pure business perspective, a brilliant one.
How did the “Xalisco Boys,” as Quinones calls them, pull it off? They only used people from back home that they could trust. They insisted that nobody involved in selling could use the drug — and in fact, there was a taboo back home against it. All the local dealers were salaried, so there was no incentive to cut the drug. They provided consistent quality, which earned customer loyalty. They would not use guns, and avoided violence to keep the cops from noticing. In fact, they had a rule against selling heroin to black customers, on the belief that blacks are likely to be violent in drug deals. They kept their client base restricted to whites. Maintaining these disciplines helped their business expand tremendously.
Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, seems to have plenty of money, but I’d like to give him some of mine. I want to pay a small fee for the right to keep my information private and to be able to hear from the people I want — not the sponsored-content makers I want to avoid. I want to be a customer, not a product.
A couple years ago, Rachel Law, a grad student at Parsons at the time, had this to say: “The ‘Internet’ does not exist. Instead, it is many overlapping filter bubbles which selectively curate us into data objects to be consumed and purchased by advertisers.” As she also said, a bit less academically, “Browsing is now determined by your consumer profile and what you see, hear and the feeds you receive are tailored from your friends’ lists, emails, online purchases, etc.”
All these computers produce data about what they’re doing and a lot of it is surveillance data. It’s the location of your phone, who you’re talking to and what you’re saying, what you’re searching and writing. It’s your heart rate. Corporations gather, store and analyse this data, often without our knowledge, and typically without our consent. Based on this data, they draw conclusions about us that we might disagree with or object to and that can affect our lives in profound ways. We may not like to admit it, but we are under mass surveillance. (…)
Surveillance is the business model of the internet for two primary reasons: people like free and people like convenient. The truth is, though, that people aren’t given much of a choice. It’s either surveillance or nothing and the surveillance is conveniently invisible so you don’t have to think about it. And it’s all possible because laws have failed to keep up with changes in business practices.
What we encounter in the current business, media and policy euphoria for being social is what might be called “neoliberal socialism”. Sharing is preferable to selling, so long as it does not interfere with the financial interests of dominant corporations. Appealing to people’s moral and altruistic sense becomes the best way of nudging them into line with agendas that they had no say over. Brands and behaviours can be unleashed as social contagions, without money ever changing hands. Empathy and relationships are celebrated, but only as particular habits that happy individuals have learned to practise. Everything that was once external to economic logic, such as friendship, is quietly brought within it.
Newspapers, magazines, and television networks have dealt with this same issue for decades now. They derive large portions of their revenue from advertisers and, in the case of the TV networks, from the cable companies who pay to carry their channels. That results in all sorts of user hostile behavior, from hiding a magazine’s table of contents in 20 pages of ads to shrieking online advertising to commercials that are louder than the shows to clunky product placement to trimming scenes from syndicated shows to cram in more commercials. From ABC to Vogue to the New York Times, you’re not the customer and it shows.
David Simon, creatorul The Wire, scrie despre disprețul industriei pentru ziarul în sine și pentru public, care face paywall-urile atât de greu de adoptat acum:
No, for the long term, print journalism showed contempt for its own product — and for its connection to the cities and regions it claimed to serve. And when the internet then arrived, and newspapers needed to demand a real revenue stream from within the new delivery model, they had already eviscerated themselves. Unsure of their own product, they gave it away, and foolishly so. And now, it is a long, hard fight to maintain and restore that weakened product through the obvious, inevitable and belated advent of the newspaper paywall.
I mean, the guys who are running newspapers, over the last 20 or 30 years, have to be singular in the manner in which they destroyed their own industry. (…) The Internet, while it’s great for commentary and froth doesn’t do very much first generation reporting at all. And it can’t sustain that. The economic model can’t sustain that kind of reporting. And to lose to that, because you didn’t – they had contempt for their own product, these people.
I mean, how do [the publishers, the owner] how do you give it away for free? You know, but for 20 years, they looked upon the copy as being the stuff that went around the ads. The ads were the God. And then all of a sudden the ads were not there, and the copy, they had had contempt for. And they had – they had actually marginalized themselves.
Felix Salmon confirmă ce spuneam acum ceva vreme: șansele de a face carieră în jurnalism vor fi tot mai serios limitate de rentabilitatea jurnalismului ca afacere. Dacă aveți copii, nepoți sau prieteni care se gândesc să dea la jurnalism, și credeți că ranturile mele despre jurnalism miros a struguri acri, luați aminte la ce spune Salmon. E unul dintre cel mai bine conectați oameni din industrie – in the know, cum zic englezii – și sfatul lui pentru tinerii jurnaliști e să-și aleagă altă carieră.
Apropo de jurnaliști: înainte de Jonathan Wilson și Sid Lowe, înaintea acestui val de jurnalism sportiv inteligent, înaintea lor a fost Simon Kuper. El a publicat prima carte de reportaje despre cultura fotbalului, demonstrând că există căutare și pentru acest tip de scris, nu doar pentru autobiografii banale de fotbaliști.
După ce a deschis calea, Kuper s-a îndepărtat de fotbal și a devenit editorialist pentru Financial Times. Aproape că uitasem de el, până l-am auzit zilele trecute într-o emisiune radio. Emisiunea e despre meșteșugul scrierii editorialelor, și gazda îl întreabă pe Kuper dacă se întâmplă să fie nevoit să scrie despre subiecte “incredibil de neinteresante”, asupra cărora n-are nici o tragere de inimă. Kuper răspunde:
In the past in my journalistic career, I spent about ten years writing only about football, and there were moments your heart would sink. You know, Wayne Rooney is in dispute with Manchester United, and that’s obviously a column. So much of the discourse around football is incredibly stupid: manager says bad thing about other manager, other manager retorts and that becomes the news cycle, and you’re expected to wade in with your column. That made my heart sink.
Ce mi-a plăcut de la început la Ioan Chirilă, și am continuat să apreciez la cineva ca Simon Kuper sau Philippe Auclair, e că au suficiente puncte de reper ca să știe locul fotbalului in the grand scheme of things și să-l lege de istorie, artă sau gastronomie. Scrisul solemn despre fotbal ca univers ermetic – cu disertații întregi despre transferuri și sisteme tactice – pentru mine devine plictisitor destul de repede. Cronicarul de cricket CLR James se întreba în prefața autobiografiei sale, parafrazând un vers al lui Kipling, “What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?”
The quote addresses how the world’s smartest and most creative scientists and engineers aren’t working on ambitious technologies like carbon remediation or quantum computing. Rather, they’re being recruited by companies like Facebook and Google to collect and parse user data which is offered at top-dollar to brands — brands who serve up hyper-targeted advertisements, increase sales, and then start the whole cycle over again with ever-increasing concentric circles of cash. (…)
It’s maybe even worse in journalism. Each year, students spend tens of thousands of dollars to go to journalism school, only to graduate and find that, at best, they can become a bargain bin blogger — aggregating other people’s stories for clicks, likes, and other metrics that make advertisers happy — or worse, they can become content marketers and write directly for the brands, without any illusion of ethics or pride.
“Our distractibility indicates that we are agnostic on the question of what is worth paying attention to — that is, what to value,” Crawford writes. Everywhere we go, we are assaulted by commercial forces that make claims on our mental space, so that “silence is now offered as a luxury good.”
That isn’t just inconvenient. It destroys independence of thought and feeling: “Without the ability to direct our attention where we will, we become more receptive to those who would direct our attention where they will.” And they have gotten very good at manipulating our environment so that we are turned in the directions that can be monetized. But it’s really bad for us. “Distractibility,” Crawford tells us, “might be regarded as the mental equivalent of obesity.”
I’ve been cooking in Manhattan for over twenty years, and fifteen years ago, every ambitious restaurant in the city said absolutely no substitutions on the bottom of menu. I don’t remember there ever being dietary restrictions even two years ago. But running the kind of business that we do—a luxurious, elegant restaurant—means that the customer is always right. No matter what. (…)
After some time, trying to make a distinction between allergies, intolerances, and preferences became too irritating for us. Now our attitude is: just tell us what you want and we’ll make it that way.
She’s a total nightmare for advertisers, because she’s not leaving any cookies and she’s not seeing any ads. (…) They are all fans of Snapchat, ad block, and incognito. That again makes the advertising model harder. (…)
All of this makes, I think, basing an entire business model on advertising more precarious. I have nothing against advertising as a source of revenue as part of the mix, but I’m kind of amazed that people are trying to do that.
Acest model precar e cel pe care a mizat mai toată presa romanească. Siteurile ziarelor arată ca siteuri porno încărcate de zeci de reclame pentru că, în disperarea după banii din publicitate, managerii au crezut că traficul e răspunsul. Acum au trafic, dar banii din publicitate s-au mutat la Facebook și la Google. Presa a rămas cu borhotul.