matt_rutledge_1If you read one profile of Matt Rutledge, founder of pioneer e-commerce site, make it this one from D Magazine — especially for the opening anecdote about why Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos felt compelled to buy the site.

“Perhaps the problem with the farm-to-table movement is implicit in its name. Imagining the food chain as a field on one end and a plate of food at the other is not only reductive, it also puts us in the position of end users. It’s a passive system — a grocery-aisle mentality — when really, as cooks and eaters, we need to engage in the nuts and bolts of true agricultural sustainability. Flavor can be our guide to reshaping our diets, and our landscapes, from the ground up.” — Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of the Blue Hill farm, a pioneer of the farm-to-table movement.

Ira Glass, along with his radio program ‘This American Life’, is forgoing public radio and choosing to distribute his show on his own.

But the big impact is financial. Gone are a distributor’s financial guarantees, which in the case of “This American Life,” reached seven figures. Instead, Mr. Glass will now be responsible for the show’s marketing and distribution, as well as for finding corporate sponsors. It’s the equivalent of Radiohead’s releasing its own album “In Rainbows,” or Louis C. K.’s selling his own stand-up special — except all the time, for every show. It’s the kind of move that can signal radical changes in the public radio firmament, with National Public Radio and other distributors wondering who, if anyone, may follow suit, and whether Mr. Glass will return if he fails.

For listeners, there will be no difference. If anyone on radio has the audience to pull this off it would be Glass. And, hey, if he fails, public radio will happily agree to distribute again.

Great news! Now that we’re getting six seasons, hopefully, Dan Harmon will treat us to a movie.

Jerome Thelia:

As soon as I saw a photograph of an African soccer ball, stitched together from old rags in the geometric patterns so familiar to us, I wanted to tell its story.

And so last July my filmmaking crew traveled to a village outside of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where we shot this Op-Doc. Although the country did not qualify for the World Cup, people there – as in most of Africa – are mad about soccer. They play it everywhere. And because soccer balls like the ones common on American fields are a rarity in much of Africa, the sport is often played with homemade balls, like the one in this video.

The country has lost more than five million people to an intractable conflict that has terrorized the region for nearly two decades. Despite living through one of the world’s most brutal wars, children there still play with passion and joy – regardless of what kind of ball they are using.

We are now preparing to head to the World Cup in Brazil, where we’ll film a very different ball in a very different setting. Yet the joy of playing the game is universal.

Full disclosure: This clip comes from a new documentary, ‘Bounce: How the Ball Taught the World to Play’ that my co-worker, John Fox, is putting together. It’s based on his book, ‘The Ball: Discovering the Object of the Game‘.

Jonah Hill;Channing TatumMatt Zoller Seitz on ’22 Jump Street’:

With its paint-by-numbers plotting and open acknowledgment that nothing onscreen makes sense (everyone thinks the cops are too old to pass for college dudes, and Schmidt’s girlfriend’s roommate, a witheringly sarcastic young woman played by Jillian Bell, demands that Schmidt “tell us about the war, any of them”), “22 Jump Street” is the sort of film that the Lego guy might watch alone in his nondescript little Lego apartment while eating Lego snacks from a Lego bowl and smiling desperately. But instead of being bored with itself, the film is lively, at times ecstatically silly. It has some of the greatest split-screen gags I’ve seen—the best of which, an extended drug trip, is “Duck Amuck” sublime—and even when it’s not highlighting its movie-ness, your mind is racing to predict what clichés it’ll skewer/indulge next. The final credits sequence listing all the sequels that the “Jump Street” team will make in the future feels like Lord and Miller’s way of telling wisecracking viewers, “Don’t try to out-funny us, because there’s no joke you can make that we aren’t making already, and besides, none of them were that clever to start with.” The movie is post-entertainment entertainment. The joke’s on everyone.

Two recent stories regarding the business practices of Google and Amazon have nothing to do with one another, yet absolutely seem 100% related on a macro level.

The first is Amazon and how they are scrubbing Hatchette Books from existence to extract more favorable terms:

Amazon, under fire in much of the literary community for energetically discouraging customers from buying books from the publisher Hachette, has abruptly escalated the battle.

The retailer began refusing orders late Thursday for coming Hachette books, including J.K. Rowling’s new novel. The paperback edition of Brad Stone’s “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” — a book Amazon disliked so much it denounced it — is suddenly listed as “unavailable.”

In some cases, even the pages promoting the books have disappeared.

Which, Farhad Manjoo puts into proper perspective as the worst possible outcome for Amazon customers:

f it doesn’t already, Amazon may soon control a monopolistic stake of the e-book market and its tactics are sure to invite not only scorn from the book industry but also increased regulatory oversight.

But the more basic problem here is that Amazon is violating its own code. To win a corporate battle, Amazon is ruining its customer experience. Mr. Bezos has long pointed to customer satisfaction as his North Star; making sure customers are treated well is the guiding principle for how he runs Amazon.

Now Amazon is raising prices, removing ordering buttons, lengthening shipping times and monkeying with recommendation algorithms. Do these sound like the moves of a man who cares about customers above all else?

And then there’s the saga of Matt Haughey attempting to save his influential and popular community aggregating site, MetaFilter (think of it as Reddit for people with taste), from going under.

As Winter 2012 became Spring 2013, traffic remained flat and we all took big pay cuts to make ends meet. Google sunsetted their beta program MetaFilter was in and we went back to the standard Google Adsense ads which did pretty well and revenue improved a bit. Over the course of 2013, a series of messages from the Adsense team hit me with varying degrees of severity. We were temporarily banned from the system due to some text questions talking about sexual health (questions from users that include terms for body parts etc., but Google interprets that as the site being “adult”) and had to greatly beef up our ad display blocking by subject matter. Late last year, I was told that despite the past decade of Google’s Adsense pages suggesting ads should match your site, different background colors were now required to better discern ads from content, resulting in another large decrease.

For the last year and a half, MetaFilter’s revenues have continued to decrease and traffic has slipped a bit as well. Additionally, mobile web traffic has grown substantially (especially at certain times: nights and weekends we see 60-70% of all traffic on mobile/tablet) and ad performance on mobile is much less effective, where mobile pages only make about 1/3 to 1/10th as much as a desktop page. On average, every 3-6 months for the past year and a half we’ve seen additional ~20% drop-offs in traffic and revenue, and that’s been a challenge to deal with.

MetaFilter basically depends on Google search for traffic and Google ad revenues to fund its business and both have mysteriously gone away, which Google won’t share. Or, as Marco Ament points out:

Google owns the ad-driven web: their search brings all of your pageviews, and their ads bring all of your income. You’re just along for the ride, hoping to stay in Google’s good graces — an arbitrary, unreliable, undocumented metric that changes constantly. (Google’s only “open” with the trivial, unprofitable parts of their business. Search and ads are closed, proprietary, and opaque in every possible way.)

Those that produce content on the web have largely been reduced to do so for free to drive the business agendas of large technology companies. It’s increasingly the same way with Facebook brand pages and will probably be that way on Twitter.

Pay to play is one of the oldest business schemes in the world. It worked for the mafia, drug cartels and it also works for technology companies.

I have lost all concept of the relative popularity of bands. It used to be easy. All you’d have to do is see which bands had chart-topping hits and which albums were selling hundreds of thousands of albums a week. Now? Now, I have no idea and I’m constantly surprised.

Any given week I typically have the following reaction: wait, the Black Keys have reached arena status? When the fuck did that happen? Some bands you think are huge play small clubs and vice versa. It is nearly impossible to figure out the music industry hierarchy anymore.

Priceonomics recently published a very long, leaked list of the fees some of the world’s favorite bands and pop stars charge for a concert appearance. The list comes from a third-party booking agency, Degy Entertainment, which specializes in booking college shows and so while the list might not be entirely accurate it does, finally, paint a relative picture of which bands are more popular than others.

Why does this sort of thing matter? Ultimately, it doesn’t. But it is interesting for music nerds.

It’s something I think about constantly while watching ‘Nashville’, for instance. How does Juliette Barnes’ popularity compare to Taylor Swift? Is Rayna James on the same level as Faith Hill or is she more like a slightly more popular Neko Case? The show never really addresses these comparisons and why it’s so important for Juliette Barnes to need the good graces of the Nashville industry when she could just move to LA or Austin or Portland especially if she were Taylor Swift popular and not Carrie Underwood popular.

Fuck. “Marvel and Edgar Wright jointly announced today that the studio and director have parted ways on ANT-MAN due to differences in their vision of the film. The decision to move on is amicable and does not impact the release date on July 17, 2015. A new director will be announced shortly.”

Wright was a large part of the reason this project was so exciting. It’s too bad Marvel seems to be walking back on its efforts to hire interesting filmmakers with distinctive voices to direct their movies. That was one of the things the studio seemed to do right.

As Devin Faraci says, “Good luck to whoever they hire to Brett Ratner this one.”

Look, you might not be excited for this one, but I sure as shit can’t wait for August to roll around. It’s also worth thinking about this movie in relation to this list about Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD TV show, which just wrapped its first season with a string of strong narrative episodes born out of the big reveal for Captain America 2. The article hints that the show’s season two direction will have strong ties to GotG. [via latimes]