Why Slashdot Is Still Going Strong After 25 Years Of 'News For Nerds'
Future News 147
Alongside Fark, Slashdot is one of the great survivors of the late 1990s news media aggregation era. HackerNews would come later in 2007, but the recipe was roughly the same: stay low-tech and appeal to a relatively small yet highly engaged audience of digital natives.
I spoke to Rob Malda, who co-founded and then edited the ‘News For Nerds’ site for almost 14 years, for Tech, Power and Media. We discussed Slashdot’s enduring success and how the rise of Reddit, Facebook and Twitter has impacted news aggregation.
Other topics included:
Why Slashdot was created
How the website was initially funded
How contributors were incentivised to post on Slashdot
How Slashdot has remained popular
Why Rob left Slashdot
Rob’s time at The Washington Post and work on Trove
The limitations of social media algorithms
Is there a perfect size for a news aggregator?
Why AI is the future of news
🧠Words Of Wisdom From Rob
“Small online communities have a lot of advantages. It’s about being connected to the people that you are communing with. When you are dealing with these large [social media] systems, the context is everything.
“A Tweet tweeted to a particular set of followers getting quote-tweeted and re-tweeted elsewhere gains context that was unintended by the creator. Bad actors can then twist that meaning to the story that they want to tell. With a small community with more shared understandings, hopefully that type of thing doesn’t happen.”
“Different sites survive by different things, but ultimately the key is the network effect. You get a community of people and they appreciate each other and they do the thing that they are trying to do and they sustain that thing…There’s a shared common experience.”
“I want tools that allow me to slice-up the people that I’m following and learn the things they have for me that are good for me to have. I don’t think any of the existing social media platforms are close to solving that problem.”
“You’ve kind of got three choices: You can pander to a new demographic, you can go all-in on garbage white papers and produce shilly content or you can stay the same.”
👽 Ground Control To Number 10
As the UK’s lawmakers take a break for a week, the country’s political journalists have been forced to get a bit creative.
Thankfully the US Air Force, which has been shooting down unidentified cylindrical objects, has given the Lobby hacks some much-needed ammunition.
Number 10 was promptly asked yesterday whether Prime Minister Rishi Sunak believed in aliens and if UFOs were visiting Earth. The government didn’t deny it.
The news comes after Future News explained how Labour was successfully wooing British political journalists ahead of next year’s expected general election, while reporters shared their ongoing frustrations with Number 10’s tight-lipped media operation.
I’ve since caught up with six political journalists writing for outlets across the political spectrum about the so-called air war between Labour and The Conservatives.
On a scale of one to 10 (10 being great and one being bad), the reporters, who wished to remain unnamed, gave the government’s media relations efforts an average 4.5 out of 10, while Labour secured a 5.8.
“The Tories have finally kicked up a gear...but Labour’s attack remains strong,” one reporter noted.
“Christian led Guido to its highest day of traffic in history, so clearly I've got some big shoes to fill. We've got great plans in store – stay tuned,” he told me.
Finally, James Bloodworth, who explored the front-line of the gig economy in his book Hired, has turned his hand to documentary making.
James has teamed up with Hardcash Productions and Channel 4 to produce a documentary on Russia’s alleged covert efforts to try and interfere in British politics.
🏈 The SuperBowl Is Big (But Not ‘That’ Big)
Some sizeable stats below from FOX which was the lead broadcaster of Super Bowl LVII in Arizona over the weekend:
29 field-level mics capturing game sound
35 Analysts, hosts and commentators
44 game cameras, 18 pregame cameras, 16 robotic cameras
The network hoped to surpass the 208m views the event attracted last year. In comparison, FIFA has claimed that the World Cup final between Argentina and France was seen by 1.5bn people across the globe.
📺 Media and Tech Questions I’m Thinking About
Did Spotify’s podcast bets really go wrong?
What does the future of freelance writing look like?
With the Peltz-Disney shareholder dispute over, what major activist battle will emerge next?
🎙️ Podcasts I’m Listening To
Recode Media asks whether tech is in trouble
Longform speaks to Jonah Weiner of The New York Times Magazine