Last year around this time, the internet briefly worried/hoped that the New York Times innovation report would lead the paper to become more like Buzzfeed. That didn’t happen—or did it? The Gray Lady has not become obsessed with viral stories or replaced page A1 with its Twitter feed, but it did run a Sunday op-ed titled What You Learn in Your 40s. It’s nice. Its premise is also remarkably similar to this Buzzfeed listicle, or this one, as well as this one and these. The difference is that the Times essay is built around a tone of humorous reflection rather than GIFs from Friends, and it’s about being 40 instead of 20.
The internet likes nothing better than a stunt food, so Arby’s Meat Mountain has gotten a lot of coverage over the last two weeks. Over at Slate, however, LV Anderson wonders whether the ostensibly grassroots demand for this wad of processed protein wasn’t manufactured by corporate. First of all, this story on whether people really want a particular Arby’s menu item appears in Slate’s “Brow Beat” section, ostensibly devoted to high culture. That’s not the kind of high I thought they meant. Second, a technical note: because possessive nouns are difficult to pluralize in American English, this post will use the generally accepted plural of Arby’s, “landfills.”
As our pageload times will attest, Combat! blog is hosted by GoDaddy, the world’s largest domain registration and webhosting corporation. I settled on GoDaddy after an exhaustive process in which I researched literally threes of hosting companies and went with the lowest bidder. If you choose GoDaddy, you’ll know where your $4.95 a month went. Their WordPress servers are notoriously slow, and I am routinely locked out of the administrative side of Combat! for hours at a time. Also, CEO Bob Parsons appears to be maybe not a great guy. I don’t know if you’ve detected this, but a lot of GoDaddy commercials have vaguely sexist overtones.
The increasingly hungry uroboros that is the World(-)Wide Web has been aglow with anger this week over Facebook’s new policy of sharing user information with third-party websites. The social networking site has propagated its “Like” button to a number of partners, including the Washington Post, whose users immediately took exception to their friends seeing a list of articles they’ve shared with their friends. Facebook has also made all the bands, movies, hometowns and whatnot on its users “About Me” pages into active links that point to other pages—a move which, as of this writing, has led to the creation of fanpages for the movie, TV show, book and activity “fuck you.” If you clicked on that link, you probably saw not only the groups but also a list of your friends’ status updates containing that phrase—the top of my list was a picture of my friend Aaron saying, “Fuck you, Broncos,” which was enormously satisfying—followed by, disturbingly, a scrolling list of people you don’t know who’ve used “fuck you” in their various posts.* Herein lies the problem. If I can see everybody who wrote “These Banana Republic chinos totally kick/accentuate my ass!” on Facebook today, then so can Banana Republic. The idea that Facebook has compiled my likes and interests and favorite bands for ready sale to whatever weird marketing ghosts are constantly trying to drag me into their fashion spirit world seems like a betrayal. That’s my life, Facebook! Except, of course, that’s what Facebook has been doing all along. Their entire dang raison d’etre has always been to aggregate marketing data and serve online ads. The new linking and information-sharing policies are objectionable for only two reasons: first, they put it out in the open, and second, it forces us to confront the reason why we all signed up for Facebook in the first place.
We here at Combat! blog have criticized the trend reporting at the New York Times in the past, but all is forgiven with today’s fascinating piece about marketers’ rampant use of the word “love.” Okay, not all is forgiven—we’re still pissed about their expose on the horrors of the Park Slope Food co-op—but at least this one has some verifiable information. It turns out that the Times is at its best when it’s writing about advertising, and advertising is at its best when it’s convincing you that the most profound human emotional experience can be replicated by using a Blackberry. Car manufacturers seem to be the biggest purveyors of sweet nothings, here, with Honda, Subaru and Nissan all launching love-oriented ad campaigns in the last two years. The notion of people loving their cars is nothing new. Your car represents freedom, self-sufficiency, responsibility and socio-economic status, as anyone without a car will tell you. Anyone without a girlfriend will make a similar argument, so the connection between cars and love seems obvious—especially if you are dead inside. Consider the rationale offered by Michael Kuremsky, Vice President and Global Brand Franchise Leader at Olay: “We view Olay as a partner alongside women, so the emotional connection is Olay validating to a woman that we want to help her achieve her best skin, to get to a place where she loves her skin.” Tonight, darling, I will take you on a carriage ride around Central Park and validate that I want to partner alongside you in achieving your best handjob, ever.