This isn’t my usual column, is it? I’ll be honest, I plan to take the July Fourth Weekend off, and I wrote this gem ahead of time. (Just like I did last year.)
Instead of commenting on the week’s news, I made a list of the best articles I read over the last year or so. (My calendar year starts in July. It makes more sense.) This is similar to what I try to do in my bi-weekly newsletter (Sign up here!) by offering a “best of the best” reading list.
Unlike the newsletter, this is a bit more discursive and esoteric. It’s not the stories that matter the most for entertainment, but the stories that stuck with me the most when I reflected on the last year. Some of them may not have even made the newsletter. As a bonus, this year I’ll also provide a quick list of my best articles to provide you with even more thousands of words to enjoy.
Newport will be the only author featured twice in this list. But he’s easily been the most influential writer I’ve read over the last five years. I would confidently say that if any of my readers read his books Deep Work and Digital Minimalism they’ll be better performers at work. Easily. These two New Yorker articles take his voluminous research into productivity and apply them to our current era, both before and after Covid-19.
- “Red Dead Redemption 2: one year after the hype” by Film Crit Hulk at Polygon
It’s hard to describe what this article is really about. It isn’t just a video game review, though that’s part of it. It isn’t just an exploration into video game mechanics, though that’s part of it too. It isn’t just an exploration of storytelling, though it has that too. What I can tell you is it is as well written as it is long. And I plan to reread it, it’s that good.
- “The TV Subscriptions You’ll Need to Watch Your Favorite Shows” by Mike Raab at Medium
This is the best use of data I’ve come across in the last year and I’ve cited it repeatedly in my columns and writing. The best thing is most of the data is publicly available, but Raab was one of the few folks to actually do the analysis. This still sets the baseline, in my opinion, for how Disney+, Peacock and HBO Max can compete with Netflix and Amazon in the streaming wars.
- “How (And Why) I Cut the Cord: A TV Critic’s Journey Over the Top” by Tim Goodman in THR
Scrolling through my list of potential articles, as soon as I reminded myself of this headline, I knew that it this article had to make the cut. Former TV critic Goodman explains the hows and whys of cord cutting through multiple parts. From a business perspective, he’s basically laying out how cutting the cord creates value for many customers. Plus, it’s a very clear guide, probably the best of its ilk.
- “Social Media Strategies for Comedians that Actually Work” by Josh Spector
This is an article that is simply the best “how to” advice I used in the last year or so. (It was published in May of 2019, but I used it all of 2020.) While ostensibly about comedians, any entrepreneur or publisher can use the advice in this piece. In particular, I love the advice to use fewer social media platforms, to think like a “magazine” and to actually pay to advertise your creations. That last point in particular resonates: I haven’t been using paid promotion for this website, and frankly it was a business mistake. This has tons to learn for everyone.
- “Streaming Services and the Theory of Perceived Value” at All Your Screens
Rick Ellis does a great job separating price from value in this “Saturday Speculation” column. He focuses the debate on streaming services to the “perceived value” they create and pulls some implications from that. Along the way he mentions nearly every streamer and how their perceived value, explaining why some are priced super low and some high.
- “It’s the Austerity, Stupid: How We Were Sold an Economy-Killing Lie” by Kevin Drum at Mother-Jones
Since it’s my list, I’ll break the rules. This story isn’t even from last year, but 2013. So why is it still relevant? Because the core lesson of the Great Recession still isn’t being learned! In times of recession, we need government spending more than ever, and we’re still debating whether or not we give it in response to the greatest economic disaster since the Great Depression. This decision by Congress will have the biggest impact on the economy for the next ten years. Let’s hope they make the right one.
- “Whatever Happened To ‘Mr. Robot’?” By Alex Zalben at Decider
I too wondered this question, even as I was–seemingly alone with my wife–watching season 4. Zalben tells a story about Mr. Robot that happens to explain the history of streaming over the last four years as well. It also has lessons about network branding, global streaming services and frankly how the quality of a TV show dipping can permanently alienate its audience.
I enjoyed a few other articles or wanted to shout out my favorite writers. Here’s a quick list:
“How AT&T Took HBO to the Max” by MasaSonCapital
“What Economists Have Gotten Wrong for Decades” by Jared Bernstein
“Meet Bob Chapek, Disney’s New CEO and the Tim Cook to Iger’s Steve Jobs” by Julia Alexander
“20 Charts for 2020” by Evolution Media Capital
“Keyboards of the World: How China Made the Piano its Own” in the Economist (and the entire double issue)
The Best of the Entertainment Strategy Guy
If you still need something to read, here are my four most popular articles (probably) from the last year or so:
Enjoy the long weekend!