Brand Supreme

Airbnb has begun publishing a lifestyle magazine, Pineapple, for the site’s hosts and guests. That is, for the site’s two types of paying customers: the people who pay the company to be able to rent through its site; and the ones who pay to rent the listed rooms. It joins a long tradition of travel magazines subsidized by major industry powers. Airline magazines were lifestyle publications with a loose connection to cities and countries served by the airline that published them. In 2011, Marriot launched JWM, a lifestyle magazine for its wealthier customers, intended to help customers “master the art of living,” at least in cities that contain flagship Marriott luxury hotels. Pineapple, then, is a luxury lifestyle magazine with a focus on travel, and with a particular focus on travel to cities and countries that have been most receptive to Airbnb’s sensitive legal situation. It’s a hotel-like move for a company that needs to be seen, by regulators at least, as something other than a hotel operator:

Bjorn Hanson, a professor at the Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism at New York University, said most hotel brands offer guests “a publication of some form,” and that Airbnb’s new magazine “continues to position Airbnb as a legitimate hotel brand.”

The new magazine, he said, “can create a membership-like feeling, which can contribute to brand loyalty.”

So Airbnb is becoming more like a hotel chain—the world’s biggest, at this rate, by a lot. But meanwhile, what are the hotel chains doing? Not two months ago:

“We’re saying we’re going to be the largest publishers of life style,” said David Beebe, who is running the new studio, and is now partnering up with producers on the first projects. “We’re going to be the Red Bull of this category. That’s where we want to get to.”

With 18 brands, Marriott is the world’s largest hotel company with over 4,000 hotels in 78 countries. Through its individual properties, in-room TVs, websites, mobile platforms and reward program, Marriott certainly has the network through which it can distribute entertainment.

“Everyone understands that all of us today are really media companies and content publishers,” Beebe said. “It’s more about how do we do it.”

You know that ancient internet maxim, the one that’s actually just four years old? “If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold,” and all its variants? I would suggest it’s insufficiently broad, and its premises too optimistic. It’s the Newtonian model of marketing physics, unequipped to deal with a set of nonsensical but mathematically necessary realities. If you’re not paying, you’re the product; if you are paying, you’re probably still the product.

How to Draw People on the Subway

New York City, November 13, 2014

weather review sky 111314★★★★ Sharply, attentively unpleasant, rebuking every hopeful assumption. A nice, bright, it’s-cold-now-but-pretty morning went gray before the last bit of pre-commute work got done. The clouds were mottled or tessellated at first, and then they were solid, the light dim. It was too cold to stay out on the fire escape to field an interminable customer-service transaction on the mobile phone. This was November, and demanded respect as such. Darkness came thudding down earlier than an early exit from the office, and with it came flecks of cold water. Then the droplets were bigger than flecks, and then a drizzle was falling.

Toward a Grand Unified Theory of Katy Perry

“This was never the way I planned, not my intention” – Katy Perry, “I Kissed a Girl”

A few weeks ago, there was a video of Katy Perry on TMZ called, “Katy Perry is a Pizza Enthusiast.” It was exactly the type of content you would expect based on the title, and it was not very compelling. But, watching the video—and I did watch it, even though I intensely dislike watching videos on the internet—I realized that Katy is. Compelling, I mean. Very. I am perplexed by this, given that I don’t really like pop music; I’m not attracted to her; I don’t think her voice is that great; and I don’t believe that she is a very good dancer.

In the video, the TMZ staffers mention that Katy recently wore a “pizza onesie,” which I had to see for myself, so I googled it. It’s exactly the type of outfit you would envision from the words “pizza onesie,” and yet there was something about it, the way that she seemed to be dressed as… content. It wasn’t a costume, exactly, but an extension of her persona: She has gone from being a “Pizza Enthusiast,” a girl who orders lots of pies at the club while her boyfriend Diplo spins, likely talking about how great Pizza is the whole time, and wearing a Pizza bathing suit in her new video, to wearing a Pizza Onesie.

Katy Perry is a meme brought to life, but she seems intent not just on being a positive, mindless enthusiast of kittens, sushi, cupcakes, and pizza, but to inhabit the same spaces as those things. It’s as if she is a walking Tumblr, image after image piled on successively, ever-present but with no real archive. Diplo is the perfect partner for this reality. I hope they last. You can just imagine them walking along hand-in-hand, Katy in her Pizza hoodie, the Diplo sound as the background soundtrack a hundred percent of the time.

She was spotted recently, dressed as a Flamin’ Hot Cheeto for (I guess?) Halloween.

The John Oliver Video Sweepstakes: Finale

Each week, the Content industry observes a sacred ritual: Together, but not quite in sync, dozens of websites embed and then post the longest segment from John Oliver’s HBO show, Last Week Tonight. That John Oliver’s weekly video(s) will go viral is, at this time, a given. Whether or not the posts that embed those videos will go viral is another matter altogether. Each time around there are winners, losers, and mere participants.

Two weeks ago, we congratulated Upworthy, The Huffington Post and overall winner Time, which harvested 21,598 Facebook interactions from John Oliver’s video about sugar. Last week’s contest was won by Slate, with 16,866 interactions, but Time‘s gamble on a second, less newsy John Oliver segment paid off, netting the publication 10,946 interactions.

This week’s anchor segment is about the lottery. Here are the results.

Need Some Motivation? Get Inspired by Athletes Just Like You--and Get Out There!

On Living Cheaply in Los Angeles, Or Trying To

tyrone-ave1I knew from the beginning that I wasn’t in love with the apartment. The living room space was nice in theory, but difficult to appreciate under its permanent cover of the other girls’ stuff and clutter. My bedroom was at the end of a long, narrow hallway, with one high, small north-facing window that provided dingy light in the mornings, and none at all by noon. There was no built-in storage, and the ancient stove ran cold, with one reliable burner and two that never worked at all. The backyard, which had seemed charmingly ramshackle when I first saw it on a nighttime tour, turned out to be brown and barren, and the front porch was filthy with years’ worth of dust and dog hair.

But the price was dreamy: $625 a month, plus utilities split three ways. And the location was ideal, blocks from my job and down the street from a long strip of Sunset covered in fancy coffee shops and adorable restaurants. Sunset Junction, as the neighborhood is known, is still gentrifying block by block, but rents anywhere else close by were many hundreds of dollars more. I could walk to work and the grocery store and out to drinks, and, more to the point, I could afford to pay rent and for those drinks, even at the pricey local bars.

I was coming off of an unexpectedly long stint of living with my parents, and eager to find a place of my own again. They had been more than generous about letting me stay, but I was done explaining my extended adolescence to everyone, including myself. Never mind that it wasn’t really a choice if I wanted to stay out of debt while I job hunted; the last thing you want while making your way through that particular hell is to then be reminded every day of just how thoroughly you are failing to take care of yourself in a meaningful way. I was done feeling pampered and hopeless. I still wasn’t making very much money at this point– just about $2000 a month between two part-time jobs, plus anything that came in from freelancing– but it was just enough to make leaving seem justified. I started moving my things in the day before I turned 27.

Fugazi, "Badmouth"

Fugazi’s first demo, recorded twenty-six years ago, has been released online in full.

The High School Kids Make Lists

The Dream: I was back in high school. It was the night after a big party and about ten kids were running around with clipboards which held handwritten (remember handwriting?) lists of quips from the previous evening’s event, ranked from top to bottom. Almost all of the lists had something I said at the very bottom but it was explained to me that, duh, the lists were ranked from worst to best. I nodded and pretended like I knew that all along, which was the most realistic part of the dream because even in real life, even though I am a man in his forties, I am still apparently insecure enough that when I am confronted with a situation that I am unsure of I would just as soon pretend that I understand it than ask for additional information and potentially prove to anyone that there might be something they know that I don’t. (It is also worth noting that even in my dream I have to make myself the funniest guy in the room.) Anyway, the goal of the listmaking was for all the listmakers to hand their lists into some central organization where they would then be voted on, with the best list winning, I guess, a prize. Some of the listmakers were handing out a couple of dollars to each person whose quip helped make up their list, but other listmakers, who were clearly the popular kids, did not give out any money, seemingly on the understanding that just being included on their list was all the reward one needed. The dream ended before the vote happened.

Notes: Dream occurred at full clarity. I was never once aware that I was anywhere else but in the scenario presented. Setting was an amalgam of my actual high school and the many pop culture examples of high schools I has seen over the subsequent years. Some of the students involved were actual kids I hung out with back then. I appeared to be 17 or 18, which is pretty much how I exist in my mind all the time anyway. Dream and events within were for the most part believable and explicable. Random celebrity insertions did not challenge my credulity.

Analysis: But what does it mean?

New York City, November 12, 2014

weather review sky 111214★★★★ A misty gray view became, in the middle of breakfast, a view of nothing at all, or nothing but the ropes of the facade-repair platform’s rigging, inches outside the glass against utterly blank gray. The fog lifted for a moment, and sunshine and discolored dimness coexisted. Then the fog darkened again, heavy visual counterpoint to the unseasonable warmth. Droplets were falling or blowing, prickling on bare arms. Finally, the clouds slipped and broke. Blue appeared, and dramatic bright edges. A helicopter hovered by the Freedom Tower.