This hyperconformity seems to have developed in two phases: Phase One was a collapse of previously distinct media types (network TV, cable TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, et al) into just “web sites” and now “mobile apps”. This was not their fault. Phase Two was the virtually universal industry-wide adoption of a strident ideological monoculture. This is their fault. I’m a First Amendment absolutist, so I don’t begrudge anyone the freedom to say and write what they think, but we are told that we live in a marketplace of ideas. But if you mainly consume the standard media product, what you are experiencing is closer to a marketplace of idea.
This monoculture challenges two of my most fundamental beliefs. First, in business — and these are businesses — you seek to differentiate, to offer a unique product that your customers can’t get anywhere else. In economic terms, differentiation is the key to pricing power, which is the key to profits, which is the key to staying in business. This is precisely what the existing media industry is not doing; the product is now virtually indistinguishable by publisher, and most media companies are suffering financially in exactly the way you’d expect. Second, civilizational progress happens not by top down unanimity and ideological instruction, but by debate and dispute. That this should happen, but is not happening, in the institutional media today is obvious.
And so I think it’s obvious that the incumbents are handing us, by their own considered and determinedly executed choices, a sparkling opportunity to both build better businesses and an actual marketplace of ideas. I’m intensely proud of both Substack and Clubhouse and have very high hopes that they can deliver.