Daily Balajisms – User-aligned content
If you shift your information diet, you can get smarter, healthier and wealthier.
Balaji Srinivasan posits “the news you can use” against infotainment and clickbait of today’s downstream media. It’s like a healthy salad versus junk food. Balaji asks how can Men’s Health look like in the age of Fitbit?
If you shift your diet, you can lose weight and gain muscle mass. If you shift your information diet, you can get smarter, healthier and wealthier.
Normally people would see stories about Kim Kardashian and war reporting as two opposites on a spectrum. But Balaji sees “the news you can use” as orthogonal to both of these infotainment examples.
People developed a habit to spend their most precious time in the early morning to read about news from the other side of the planet, but learning new practical skills would serve us better.
This is novelty versus purpose, says Balaji. We are over-indexed on novelty and not enough on purpose. The entropic news gets our attention as we get hyper-normal stimuli from twenty random links, tweets or stories - and feel empty and regret wasting time. But we should eat our vegetables first – in terms of nutritious information that can actually improve our personal lives and our communities.
Balaji’s concept of the user-aligned content imagines a future where media consumers and creators (prosumers) can track their progress based on the information diet and stimuli they get and create. This will be enabled by web3, decentralized social media and improvement in Quantified Self tools like fitness trackers.
Web3 enables triple-entry accounting and thus a real cost-per-action (CPA) advertising. Web3 also enables audits of information supply chain and creation of the ledger of record - recording of a cryptographically verifiable macro history. Balaji sees his concept of the ledger of record as a much better alternative to paper of record (NYT). “The argument from cryptography over the argument from authority”, or “BTC over NYT – paradigmatically”, says Balaji.
Fights drive clicks. If it bleeds, it leads. And there is an incentive to make it bleed. To make billions, media destroyed trillions in cultural fabric, says Balaji. Woke words drove clicks for a long time, but now people are partially desensitized. NYT has optimized for the number of subscriptions but not quality.
The monopoly of truth is upstream of the monopoly of violence, says Balaji. So we must build our own distribution. You don’t want to depend on centralized legacy media or social media for distribution, because they can deplatform you and cancel you.
Social media today are like China before Deng Xiaoping, where peasants didn’t own teeth in their own heads, says Balaji. Similarly, today content creators can be cancelled and their content vanished with a click. We need decentralized social media.
Journalists are becoming founders. Same as Ashton Kutcher who as an actor became a venture capitalist. Balaji sees a new role of an angel influencer/venture journalist – an effective left-right fusion.
The most successful media company of the last decade was a16z, jokes Balaji. Because it attracted lots of founders and created investible content. The VC firm cared about one person seeing their content, who will make them a billion dollars in ten years. They had a long-term orientation and were not chasing clicks, dollars from adds or respect from others. They were writing for the reader, for the best and not for the most.
Social media gave millions of people the experience of being a journalist and a venture capitalist. Sometimes your content goes super viral and the other times you might get cancelled.
Vice sounds like the NYT, and it sounds like Vox and Teen Vogue and Sports Illustrated. But there is still a market for those niches, so people can do a v2 of these brands, says Balaji.
Most centralized media got wokeified, and employ a school of fish strategy. But we can build new user-aligned and community-owned media with web3 and Quantified Self tools.