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Hi, welcome to your Weekend!
“I am very bullish on the future of the news business,” wrote Marc Andreessen in 2014, predicting 10x to 100x growth for the journalism industry over the next 20 years. “But as Tommy Lasorda said: ‘Nobody said this f—king job would be all that f—king easy.’”
Andreessen was half right, anyway: The last decade hasn’t been f—king easy on the news biz. Already ravaged by the loss of advertising revenues to Facebook and Google, newsrooms were further decimated by the pandemic, with over 16,000 journalists losing their jobs in 2020 alone. Even as I write this, news companies continue to hemorrhage talent. Just yesterday, Vox Media announced it was laying off 7% of its workforce. The Washington Post, which Andreessen is rumored to have interest in buying, appears to be next. (Of course, Google and Meta have faced their own pink-slip woes as well.)
The bullishness and optimism Andreessen expressed in his 2014 treatise was welcome then, and it’s welcome now. But even someone as serious about the media as Andreessen hasn’t been able to crack the code to a “new golden age of journalism.” In fact, as Abe explores in this week’s cover story, the investor hasn’t had much luck placing bets on journalists at all. (Maybe this is why he blocks so many of us—me included—on Twitter.)
If the past is prologue, that won’t stop him from searching for his rosebud—a profitable news model for the new millennium. That’s at least one cause Andreessen and the press can agree on.
Marc Andreessen’s drive to mold the media to his liking has produced a few lasting wins and a lengthy series of flops. Still, he finds it irresistible. Abe dives into the famed Silicon Valley investor’s love-hate (or hate-love?) relationship with the media and asks, where did this media fixation come from, and where might it be going?
Whether a founder works from home, the office or a rotating carousel of hotel suites, you can bet they keep something nearby to fidget with. In our new series, Founders’ Keepers, writer Paul Armstrong ask tech leaders what essential item they always keep within arm’s reach
Alice Globus is the chief financial officer of Nanotronics, a nanotech company bringing AI to manufacturing. But the finance role represents a big change for this inventor’s daughter. Globus tells Annie about her unusual career trajectory, which began with an internship under Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Lightspeed’s new gaming investor, Moritz Baier-Lentz, is always wired in—except when he’s doing seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. (Seriously?!) For this week’s edition of Screentime, he runs Margaux through his very active phone use.
Watching: A worthy adaptation of the GOAT video game
I was late to “The Last of Us,” playing the original video game almost six years after its 2013 release on the PlayStation. But my experience was no less profound: It’s one of the greatest stories ever told, regardless of the medium. Since then, I’ve been proselytizing “The Last of Us” to anyone who will listen. Now comes the much-hyped HBO adaptation, and I’m happy to report that it’s fantastic, too. For the uninitiated, “The Last of Us” takes place 20 years after a mutant fungus has turned most of the world’s population into zombies and other monsters. We follow the adventures of a middle-aged man named Joel charged with transporting a young girl across a desolate U.S. in hopes that she holds the key to the world’s future. On its face, the tale appears to fall into familiar post-apocalyptic zombie tropes. But the narrative gradually breaks free from any horror shtick, focusing on the relationship between parent and child. The series—from Neil Druckmann, who created the original game, and Craig Mazin, the showrunner behind HBO’s “Chernobyl” and a gamer himself—may be the most faithful adaptation of a video game to ever grace the screen. While I still find some of the changes unsettling given how wedded I am to the game, I’ll still be watching every week—not just for the new episodes, but for the reactions of others discovering “The Last of Us” for the first time. —Wayne
Reading: A university’s war on TikTok
“When you wake up and try to watch TikTok but your phone connects to Auburn WiFi,” bemoaned user @mmassey22…on TikTok. Alabama’s Auburn University is experimenting with a new kind of campus bylaw—prohibiting TikTok on campus WiFi. Auburn, like other public universities, banned TikTok out of concern that the app “possibly gives the Chinese government an ability to surveil users.” The students, according to Sapna Maheshwari of The New York Times, are irritated but mostly unaffected, disconnecting from WiFi to use the app via cellular networks. The Times illustrates an ongoing push and pull between TikTok-obsessed students and their minders. As one student said, “I really don’t think my generation, in particular, is going to really change the way we use the app. It’s so big at this point.” —Annie
Listening: The past, present, and dreary future of music
Is the end of the streaming era nigh? That’s the thesis that music journalist Charlie Harding posits to host Niley Patel during a wide-ranging—and brilliant—episode of the “Decoder” podcast. The hosts start with the glory days of the music business, when artists could sell $20 CDs and get a decent (if never big) cut of the pie. They argue that the music industry has become a funhouse mirror of the venture capital industry, with record labels giving artists seed funding to create albums, then taking 90% of the artist’s streaming revenue—until the artists get big enough to sell their back catalogs to private equity firms, finally achieving an “exit.” It’s a precarious model on the verge of collapse, argues Harding. And Spotify, which has to pay billions a year to the labels, could be dragged down with it. The hosts may not know the solution to this existential crisis (although they seem pretty convinced it’s not NFTs), but they’re asking fascinating questions. —Margaux
Beware the Flash Mob Index.
Until next Weekend, thanks for reading.
Weekend Editor, The Information