P090: Beef in the Time of Medium


Way back in August, the New York Times called out Amazon for being a dystopian place to work. Based on hundreds of interviews but also a litany of anonymous anecdotes, the piece painted an unflattering portrait of Amazon as a relentless and uncaring workplace. Two months later, Amazon’s Jay Carney responded via a post on Medium. The Times’ Executive Editor Dean Basquet fired back immediately, also on Medium.


Way back in early October, Deadspin’s Greg Howard unleashed a scathing indictment of ESPN and Jason Whitlock’s ongoing failure to launch The Undefeated, the so-called “black Grantland.” It was the culmination of a series of articles peeling apart the onion that was Whitlock’s tenure at the site-to-be. Last week, Whitlock responded on his personal Tumblr and then OH MY GOD THERE’S BLOOD EVERYWHERE.


It’s tempting to try and fit these two stories into a tired old-media v. new-media storyline but do the facts support it? Sure, maybe there’s something petty about the Times taking potshots at Amazon because they can’t go after the Washington Post directly but why on a third party site? The only thing old-media about that is the half-hearted faux-distance that posting to Medium gives the Times and Amazon. On the other hand, you have Whitlock going off on his own Tumblr while Howard claps back on his Kinja, the world’s only publishing platform more inscrutable than Medium. It’s a mess!


I halfway expected to end this piece with some pithy bit about how at least Greg Howard is writing on his own platform but the more I think about it, those distinctions are disappearing. It might be relevant today to declare Medium the winner in the Times / Amazon battle but if you have Jay Carney and Dean Basquet writing anywhere it’s going to be compelling. That’s not to say that platform anxiety isn’t a productive way to spend your time, rather that for a creator looking to find the audience, the what you’re saying is probably more important than the where.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron