I’m not going to go into detail on the why and how the wheels came off, I think this line by my colleague is a pretty good summary,

Strong dollar + weak yen + difficult macro environment + US tech salaries = Japanese start-up slashing 40% global headcount.

David Chu on LinkedIn
Without massive scale, you must diversify revenues beyond advertising.

So yeah, the SmartNews chapter of my life is over. Here are the facts:

  • I worked at SmartNews for 7 years, 11 months
  • I never got to say goodbye to my colleagues and friends. My Slack access was cut off just minutes after getting my severance notice.
  • I never had time to hand over any of my ongoing tasks to those left behind. I could also not inform any of the hundreds of partners that I’ve worked with over the years. I lost access to my email as well.

I think it could have been done more gracefully but what’s done is done. I’ve posted on the socials (Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook) and will now turn my focus to the next thing. I’m open and interested in many things but here are three things I’m currently thinking of:

The online publisher subscription problem. Scroll had an innovative approach but they got bought up by Twitter and Elon shut things down. Apple News is doing this but it seems too much like a restrictive bundle (see below). There has got to be a way to build a more inclusive model for subscriptions that satisfies both users and publishers, It’s time for publishers to realize they can’t charge $25/month for their content and users need to realize they need to pay something to avoid aggressive surveillance capitalism.

Cable TV’s choke hold on local sports. I will not install basic cable & the extra YES network add-on just to watch local sports. It’s just not worth it just for one game every few days. I cut the cable years ago and would pay for a streaming service for local games alone without basic cable. Just as Kazaa and Limewire were used to allow music fans to pick and choose the songs they wanted from an album, sports fans are jumping through hoops to pick and choose what they want from the cable TV bundles. Why won’t the leagues embrace their role as media companies and sell direct to their fans?

ChatGPT and services like it are going to be transformational. Sure, it’s early days and there are obvious limitations. Ask it to tell you about Pelé and it will tell you everything except the fact that he’s dead. The algo is not connected to the news and I think that’s a conscious decision. I’m sure they are still supervising the training so the news needs to be filtered for quality, accuracy, and context, by knowledgeable humans. The intersection of generative AI services such as ChatGPT and the news is fascinating.

I have much to learn and I look forward to meeting as many people as possible to educate myself on the puzzles above and opportunities within.

Hit me up if you want to talk – I’m available!