Plain English with Derek Thompson - Ben Smith on the Future of News, How to Start a Media Company, and Why TikTok Is a Time Bomb

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Yo, this is Rob our Villa from 60 saws that explain the 90s, the world’s greatest loopy and perverse and inaccurately named music.

Nostalgia podcast.

We’re doing 90 solid now because there’s too many songs Pearl.

Jam, Jay-Z Jewel, you to share, who teach these are just some of the names people yell at me on the internet because we’re back more, great saws, more rad, special guests, more loopy perversity join us.


Once more on 60 songs that explain the 90s every Wednesday on If I today’s episode is about the news media, about one week ago, the new news organization semaphore launched its CEO is Justin Smith who was the CEO of Bloomberg News.


And before that the president of the Atlantic my company the co-founder and Editor in Chief is Ben Smith who’s been all over the place and was most recently the media columnist for the New York Times.

Now, one thing that journalists love to do is talk about other journalists and the truth is we don’t really do a whole lot of that on this show but with this episode supposes is maybe we should because media gossip is fun, sometimes stupid, but sometimes incredibly important and semaphore, which has Global aspirations has an interesting Twist on its presentation of the news that I find particularly interesting and particularly deep, in terms of the way that audiences consume news information semaphores, newsletters are meant to be down the middle, just the facts, ma’am reporting, but they of a section set aside for the author’s opinion.


When the first few newsletters came out a couple of my friends who saw this said, huh?

Yeah that’s that’s kind of weird, right?

Like a mini op-ed inside of a news article and I was like, no, I love this.

I love it because it’s something that I try to do on this show.

Sometimes when there’s a really complicated topic, particularly controversial topic, I’ll say let’s break this up into evidence versus interpretation part 1.


Here are the facts that we can all agree on.

Here are the numbers The things that happened in the physical world and then part two the layer of interpretation.

Here’s what I think this means huge who I think is wrong, who I think is moral and immoral, what I think is going to happen.

Next reality versus interpretation So today’s guest, as you’ve guessed is Ben Smith, we talked about evidence and interpretation, we offer a brief history of the news media and the 21st century we talk about why in some ways the news business is more like the 19th century and the 20th.


Today we talk about what to say to investors when you’re trying to get their money, to start a new Media company.

And why Tick-Tock is the biggest under-covered media story in the world.

I’m Derek Thompson.

This is plain English.


Ben Smith, welcome to the podcast.

Thank you ho for having me on dark.

Then you just launched a New Media Company semaphore with Justin Smith and I have to imagine that launching a media company.

In late 2022 is one of the more stressful things a person can do to themselves.


So I think we’re going to do is going to start you off with the easy questions and we’ll ladder up the Questions about the future of media at the end, if that sounds okay, to you?

So for those who don’t know, you who are you, what do you do?

And what did you do before that, my name is Ben Smith.


I have been a reporter basically for most of my career came up covering politics and in New York and in Washington and sort of got just happened to be around as blogs became a thing and got to be a blogger and sort of follow the twists and turns of the internet.


To Politico to started BuzzFeed news and and and was there for eight years and then became the media columnist of the New York Times for a couple of years before leaving in January to, to start semaphore.

And what is semaphore semaphores?


A new Global Media Company.

Rooted in really three ideas, transparent journalism, giving you a range of views and delivering Global perspectives.

So I was thinking about your career and we’ve had a few times.

I feel like you’re trying to hire you once or twice maybe once or twice.


I remember a few lunches and flat iron.

Your careers are really interesting mini history of media in the 21st century, and I was only just thinking about this in a few minutes before we hopped onto this Zoom.

But when newspapers were really starting to understand the power of the internet and blogs, you went to work for Politico, a news organization that really understood the power of the internet and blogs.


And then right after that the social graph started I dominate news and it became very clear to me clearly to you that the new home page for news was Twitter.

And the world’s homepage was Facebook, you went to a company that had very strong theories about social media.

Then just as the New York Times is becoming, this would have like mini Monopoly.


A subscription first journalism, you jump the New York Times and the newsletter crazed takes off.

And you go to semaphore, which among other things has, a lot of newsletters about the World Tech business here and specifically Africa, which we’ll get to in a second.

So it’s to me, it’s you see, Of effectively surfed several waves of media distribution Trends.


And I wonder am I like retroactively applying a logic to your career that you did not mean to have or do you have this?

Do you think of yourself as having a nose for the next Frontier of media?

You know, I mean I think it’s a some degree it was timing.

I mean I had my first journalism job was at the Indianapolis Star which still had those old computers.


Where was this glowing green screen?

And just one computer that everybody had a physical pipe, like a metal pipe Pipe going from their computer to that computer.

And on my first day, the editor got up on a chair in the middle of The Newsroom and announced that they were shutting down the afternoon paper the Indianapolis news.


And I just think, you know, for reporters a generation above me, I’m my mid-40s.

It made sense to think.

You know what?

I’m going to spend my career in print in this relatively stable, if insane industry.

And a lot of those folks had the rug pulled out from them in a way that was awful and had nothing to do with anything.


Mistakes they made or anything, they really could have seen coming but I think for people just exactly of my generation like I got out of college in 99, you know, you felt the you felt print.

Collapsing, you were consuming news in other ways and I do think I’ve always loved news.


Like, I have love telling people things, they didn’t know.

I’ve never been that attached to one medium or the other.

Like, I love reading books, I like writing things on napkins and giving them people, I’m not like a, I’m not a, I don’t really I care more about the message than the medium and Some way.

And so I do think that I’m and I also covered politics, which is fundamentally the Communications business.


Politicians are media companies politicians are obsessed with how to reach people.

They’re not schnapps, they just want to reach people.

And so, you know, if there’s email, they’re going to use email.

If there’s Twitter, they’re going to use Twitter.

If there’s all sorts of random stuff, it doesn’t even work like meerkat.

You’re going to find politicians on there.

And so and so, I think covering that political beat when blood when I was reading a lot of blogs and I thought like wow, I wish I had a Blog here.


New York City Hall to write about all the stuff that even kind of semi boring stuff.

Like the mayor had a press conference at 11:00 a.m. if you want to know like what happened, you gotta wait until midnight when the New York Times puts its Edition online and then maybe they’ll cover it and maybe they won’t.

And so there’s this kind of insane Arbitrage opportunity just to put information on the internet like after lunch and and so saw that how well that worked with blogs and then I think what Politico did with the Verge did with some others including the Atlantic did was essentially professionalize the blogosphere like There was these reverse chronological publishing tools, but to be a blogger meant, you were kind of writing typo, ridden, long screeds about your opinion in fact, when I broke a big story but Rudy Giuliani wants and the immediate response was that’s just some blogger, it actually is very much what’s happening with newsletters?


Now where I as a sub stack means he’s like rambling at length about his views on you know, trans people or or you know goldfish or something.

And that actually, no emails, just another way to deliver journalism and it can be unedited screeds, or it can be really tight thoughtful articles, and, or photos, or whatever.


And so I guess I always, I think in similar with social media, which is in the middle of those two things and I just saw, I was writing a Blog, I kind of feel all the energy of my little political world being sucked away by Twitter and so I kind of went there.

It’s a lovely answer.

It’s I’ve always been very interested in the fact that as we turn from purely ad-supported news, to news that is more subscription forward or sometimes it’s more of a jumbled.


It’s subscription, its advertising its events its marketing on the side for the New York Times.

It’s games is cooking that in a way, we’re sort of returning to the 19th century, origins of the modern news industry, this period, where news, Is almost exclusively funded by advertising is really an artifact of the middle of the twentieth century before that, before the New York Sun.


I think in the 1830s news was mostly sub Stacks, except they were just printed on pieces of paper and handed out to, you know, the Irish of Brooklyn and, you know, some other ethnic group of the Bronx and some other ethnic group of of, you know, of in Hatton.

And that’s that’s what the news was.


It was a bunch of printed sub Stacks thousands and thousands of them that were supported by individual people.

With all the eccentricity and vibrancy and kind of combat of that, right?

And it was also very easy, salzburger said this to me the other day it was in my first column you know the the, you know, the the bundle, the digital bundle that they’re trying to sell.


He’s like, it’s a, it’s a newspaper, right?

It has the crossword, it has some recipes.

It’s, you know, it’s digital.

Media has a different Dynamic and of crossword can be interactive and you can have 10,000 recipes, but fundamentally.

The thing, the New York Times is selling, now is actually closer to what it was selling in.



Then what it was selling in the Year 2005 and it’s a really I thought interesting and said but also you know media is not media is not, I was just say like more broadly like and then something took me a while to figure out but you know, media is not astrophysics, we’re not trading credit, default swaps.


We’re not inventing sort of complex Technologies.

You can understand it’s a pretty straightforward.

Business is business where the pendulum swings between bumbling and unbundling between people feeling like They want everything in one place and then, oh, they’re kind of delighted by the abundance of choice, and then they’re sick of the abundance of choice.


And they actually would like someone to deliver them.

Everything in one place again.

And like I certainly go through those phases myself and I think it’s totally normal and I’m not sure you can kind of overthink it and be like well the like true permanent solution is subscription-based.

Direct first-party digital this and that.


But like and people love that right now.

But moves, you know, habits change and Trends change and and I think there’s just sort of a constant Swing of the pendulum basically and you can’t get to ideological about it or to suck on on the kind of details of it in some early podcast as I did last year.


I said that the history of media is the re bundling of unbundled bundles, and I got a lot of people emailing say saying, please never use the word bundle again, because I just, I just kept saying that.

So I’m not going to repeat that theory over and over again, but I think we are aligned when it comes to, that sort of cyclical Trend within within media.


I’m very interested for you to tell me how How you pitched semaphore to investors and two writers.

I think I have I’m sure everyone in media has, at least for a moment, had a little bitty daydream about.


Who, if I started my own Media Company, how would I pitch it in this market place of absolute abundance for there were just so many people clamoring for investor money for talent for people who did actually build the thing, the tech Talent.

What did you tell people this thing?


Going to be.

Yeah, let’s see.

I mean I think I think I think, you know, I’m new to pitching investors but have spent a lot of my career talking to reporters and so in some ways they’re they’re, you know, the there.

So I think that, you know, did say exactly the same thing before reporters, I think right now to start there.


It’s a moment when you see across again the kind of media industry is written very large Entertainment Sports politics.

You see a migration of you know, really Relationship with the audience from Brands teams Studios over the last like 75 years here to individuals which you know.


And if you say creators influencers Brands fancy journalists like us throw up in our mouths.

But fundamentally it’s the same Trend and and so on but the kinds of reporters who do you know intense sometimes really high conflict journalism where they are picking big Stakes.


High-stakes fights with powerful people.

It’s hard to do that a lot on a sub stack, like you can.

But the legal defense the editing at the sense of sort of camaraderie, the fact that sometimes you kind of need to just need a brand to hide behind or at least to sort of protect you.


And I don’t mean physically, although perhaps that too, but you know, that’s all stuff that the reporters like me really love and care about and want.

But at the same time people reporters feel like, wow, I’d love to have the You know, direct access to the audience.


That is the way a lot of media works now.

And so, I think what we offer, but we tried to offer people is the best of both worlds is to say, we want to know, we don’t think people are going to come solely for our brand.

They’re going to come for individuals and defiling connect with individuals who want to push you forward and your success and your your sort of growth are our success at our growth and we’re really aligned where the big newspaper that you were working for fundamentally as is Jill.


Abramson one set of the times.

The New York Times is the prettiest At the dance and like fundamentally and it makes sense.

You will always, you know, your name is always going to be a lot smaller, and there’s a tension there and that we aren’t going to.

And we don’t feel that tension to, you know, when we talk to investors, I learned an enormous amount from my partner, Justin Smith, no relation who he was that he ran the Atlantic, he was the CEO Bloomberg media.


He you know, he’s one of I think he’s probably the most one of the most successful capable news Executives of I’ve ever.

Met and that there’s and you know, it, he’s just obsessed.

I’ve kind of learned to be obsessed with the customer and with the consumer and and it’s something that journalists is not what we came up thinking about a news institutions.


If you say I don’t like what you’re giving me our impulse to say you’re an idiot and you’re being lied to by bad people like reform yourself whereas in any other normal business, you say, oh wow, how could we do better?

And I think we both into our pitch was not likely.

Here is a set of competitors.


We found a tiny little land among them.

It was people really aren’t happy with a lot of what they’re getting.

They feel really overwhelmed, they don’t know what to trust.

We want to kind of run very directly at those problems, and and we also do see this real Global opportunity that where you know, whether you’re in Singapore or in the Gulf or in Lagos you can read the New York Times and you think wow, this is like incredibly high-quality journalism.


The digital product is really good, and if I want to know about what’s going on with Donald Trump, it’s on Edible, but if I want to know what’s going on in Lakehurst, like it’s an occasional feature about some colorful thing that isn’t news to me and isn’t serving my interest.


Particularly and, and but there isn’t a local media with the sort of technical qualities or the investment journalism that the big Western places have.

And so there’s this space there and there’s this huge growing educate.


People class of people who went to college in English have degrees in English and We’re not talking about business class Travelers.

We’re talking about therapists and lawyers and journaling, no journalists and doctors, and people are interested in the world interested in the news and that’s their big big audiences there.

That when that was I guess the other half of, you know, our passion is the other half are bitch.


Yeah, I’m interested in the pitch to investors and also the pH implicitly to readers.

Obviously, the New York Times exists and has lots of international reporters.

The Wall Street Journal exists and has a bunch of your National reporters.

AP exist The Economist exist Financial Times exist, not to mention all of these local news organizations that I might not be as familiar with in Lagos.


So when you’re talking to investors or making the implicit pitch to readers, how are you differentiated there?

Why I read you rather than someone else?

Oh, well, I mean I think I actually think like if you look at, I mean, there isn’t, there aren’t I mean, unless then I don’t want to sort of trying to think, I don’t think there are New York Times Washington Post, Journalists who write about Africa for Africans?


Particularly, I think they write for an American and Global audience and you know, our team, they’re led by this great Nigeria and British editor, you got to go, okay, you know is is the point is to find an audience there and then other people who are interested in you know, checking in on that conversation, but it’s not, you know, but But we’re not really explaining constantly who the Politico, you know, just the stuff that you get from foreign correspondents.


Who are these people and what are the political parties and what’s history of the country.

I mean, we’re running through people who assume know that and that’s not you and me by the way, right?

In there it is.

It is you and me in the United States and I think, and so, yeah.

And that’s right, that’s question.

Let me just, let me just jump in there.

He’s my last question about coverage is is is your reporting from Nigeria for me, or is it for Nigeria?


And is your report internet area?

What did your aunt?

Oh, so it’s reporting in Nigeria for Nigerians reporting in America for Americans.

First and foremost, obviously there’s going to be some bleeding in different International in the world.

Isn’t that neat?

And the biggest stories in the world?

Almost like, particularly over the last few years, you think about like covid, the rise of the right social media, they’re fundamentally Global stories that people deeply misunderstand when they cover them as sort of city hall stories or White House stories, not that there are huge decisions and and choices and parts of those stories that but, you know, you guys cover this.


So intensively and the globally, these real Global Trends in.

It’s hard to sum can be hard to see those stories clearly, if you think of them as National stories.

So it’s, I mean, it’s not, I don’t think it’s a sort of always one or the other but only journalists have to know who they’re writing for and you know, you were right.

A creepy people who are super interested in and focused on and kind of connected to the subjects.


And so in any known for their big Global beats climate Finance technology which Some of which have their kind of beating hearts in the United States.

Certainly Finance, but whose audience isn’t isn’t, primary isn’t really defined by borders.

When I read your First Column about James Bennett and the New York Times which I definitely want to talk to you about when it comes to formatting and semantics, specifically, I had two observations.


The first was that I did not like the fact that you bolded, the first sentence of every paragraph.

And that was something that you changed within 45 seconds.

I was like Wow tweeting gets results.

I’m not suggesting that it was my favorite of the only one, who you’re not.

The only one who noticed that.


Do I look I like the fact that you guys really did it very, very quickly on day one.

The second in the you’re doing is the more interesting one which is that you seem to be breaking up articles into what I would call news and opinion within the article so you seem to have within the newsletter, someone giving me the facts and then bucketed or bracketed off That factual article should have Ben’s take or Derek’s take within, which I can read what the journalists actually thinks about the story that the reporting on.


I think this is really settling interesting, or maybe not subtle.

Just interesting.

Tell me why you think.

This is an interesting way to move the dial forward on journalism this age.

Yeah, well, I wish I could say, I mean, what would the way we think about it is that we’re sort of stripping, the news article, which is this sort of atomic unit of news, just down to the studs.


And that is what’s in it.

You have a set of assertions, some of them are statements of fact, which better be true.

And for the reporters really pinned down, some of them are Are the reporters view.

Some of them are kind of institutional view in the grand newspaper tradition.

Some of them are just total bullshit that are sort of like staple to every article.


And and I think readers, there’s a kind of uncanny valley quality to news articles where you’re like.

Where is where is this coming from?

Is this a factor?

Is this?

Somebody’s opinion?

If so, whose opinion, and I think our view is that you can do with that one of two ways you can say, you know what, we’re going to strip all we’re going to have is a dry recitation of facts.


Or you can say we’re going to be really transparent.

We’re going to say either and we’re going to have the reporter say in their own voice.

Here are the facts, I found and here’s what I think it means and if you have a reporter who is working at a really high level digging up interesting, new things usually their point of view on.

It is pretty interesting but if there’s an, if the analysis is provocative, if it’s interesting there’s some chance it’s wrong.


And so you want to like be humble, you want to sort of leave open that possibility and sort of think about are there.

Other legitimate views on these same facts that are Taking two hand in this is, by the way, like, literally, when you ask people, what drives them crazy about the news, they say, I can’t tell where the facts begin in the person’s view ends and I think sometimes it’s worth just listening to people’s complaints and trying to address them in a really direct way.


So that’s what we’re doing.

I think it’s a fantastic idea.

It’s something that I try to do on this podcast.

Sometimes when there’s a really controversial topic, I try to say, I’m going to break this into evidence and interpretation to tell you what, I think is true with, as little interpretation as possible, sprinkled into that and then on To draw a line in the sand and say everything that comes after this.


It’s just me, spilling on the facts that we commonly understand because I absolutely agree that sometimes if those two things are braided together, it can so distrust.

But I also wonder whether you are worried, whether this strategy is also going to breed a similar, kind of distrust.


Because let’s say, some of your great reporters, Dave, Weigel reports, and some wonderful story from Wisconsin, Ohio, wherever, and then the little Dave box, It gives his take and people are really offended by his take who otherwise might have appreciated the article without it.


So going forward, they start to think.

Wait, what am I really getting from these Dave articles.

Even the part that isn’t bracketed off into his own take is it seems like a like a, like a challenge to preserve people’s trust in you as a factual reporter.

Even as you are serving them, the little dessert of your closely held opinion.


Yeah, I mean I guess I’d say two things.

First, it is, as you say, a very normal way to tell a story.

It’s how people actually say, hey, I saw this thing and here’s what, like, what’s that about?

Well, here’s what it’s about.

It’s a very normal interaction with a human being to say, here are the facts.

And here’s what I think about it, like it’s, it would be bizarre to do it the other way.


I mean, if you try to read, try reading a newspaper article lab, someone sometime like it’s a pretty weird experience the but I would say also like you know, we throw around the word, I love evidence and interpretation, you know, I think View.

Take opinion these all each of those words, it sort of has like subtly different valances and I, you know, we are trying to finally hire people who are really interested in fact in gathering facts who have informed analysis, but who fundamentally aren’t that committed to the analysis, right?


Who are journalists who are want to learn, who are open to being wrong.

And I think to me that’s I think that if you do, if a great Factor report were followed by some real, kind of bombast demanding that you Agree, that would be incredibly annoying and that’s not.

And that’s really not what we’re trying to do.


Is not the kind of reporter.

We’re trying to hire.

Although there are lots of incredibly committed bombastic writers who I love, but that’s not that sort of not where we’re trying to add value and where we’re trying to sort of enter excited greet you that you could really Elliott it somewhat, if you’re a kind of lecturing them about the facts, you’ve just discovered You first call them was about the New York Times.


And in part about the firing of James Bennett, who was the editorial page director at the New York Times, who was previously, my editor, at the Atlantic What don’t people understand about the New York Times that you were surprised to learn when you work there.


Oh my gosh, where to start up.

And I should say, I was there for less than two years and it was the and I started in March 20 20.

So I was always really kind of an outsider I mean I just literally didn’t go into The Newsroom and very quickly.

I kind of tossed myself out of all the slacks because people thought I was a spy.


I mean right now we’re not totally wrongly that you want some snowboarder wandering around your slack.

So did Taylor Lauren foot You just wrote your first article about denier about the time that regard.


And it’s a point.

Somebody said that they felt unsafe in the /a because I was lurking.


I mean, we fare.

So in any case Taylor the rennes created a quarantine slack for me, where I where people could talk to me, you know, if they don’t like it.

So I’m not really a times like Insider I wouldn’t say I reported on a lot I know lots of people there.

I mean let’s say I mean I think I’d say a couple of things that people don’t totally understand what.


Just, you know, it is a large institution, like other large institutions and, you know, the sort of dynamics of internal competition and and and sort of institution of the difficulty of changing an institution are sort of often really, like just, it’s just, you just a huge place in 1700 journalists like it’s a management challenge.


The other thing I would say that, I think I always knew, but I guess realize more deeply is, it is a, you know, it is a family run business in which, AJ salzburger We’re his cousins, you know, really fundamentally run the place, not that they don’t take enough, they don’t kind of Revere journalism and journalists and have incredibly strong relationships with their executive editors and others.


But I think I hadn’t really realized before I worked there, they sent to which, you know, this is largely been a huge asset to the institution, it is a family run business, I was in the mountains where Dean became a, the former executive editor.

Soon and and engages those workers in the audience, and he stood up and think the salzburger family for choosing to be merely Rich rather than fabulously rich and bust for standing by the times, sort of a lovely thing and interesting thing to say.


But it also, what did that mean?

You know, the that wasn’t the best investment in the world that they could have found higher Roi uses of their care of their capital.

Yeah, that’s interesting.

I why did you think that an expose or a revisiting of James?


Bennett’s firing would make an appropriate first or interesting first newsletter for semaphore.

I mean, I loved it.

I’m a journalist and so I’m interested the degree to which you see it as a as a national or even or even Global story.


Yeah, and I guess I think that the two most important media institutions in the United States just obviously are the New York Times and Fox News.

And so it made sense for me to write about those two in my first two columns.

And I also, I just left an immediate writing about media, still weird thing to do.

It’s all how you know the inevitably it’s your writing about, you know, there’s a timeline that all journalism is that a biography?


But when you’re writing about, when you were a media employee executive writing about the media, you sort of just have to roll with the strangeness of it, and I had written my first times, column about the times.

I thought there was some symmetry about my writing, my first semester semaphore column, but the times in the column was really about, what is the times now.


But it’s The crisis about these pressures from Wall Street for it to become something that is less about news and more more really rich, digital bundle, where you don’t absolutely have to connect to the news, you know.

And then that that but there are other cell, you know, and I think that the end and where the sort of Wall Street thinking about it kind of can run a ground as well.


Like so somebody said to me, it’s a business wrapped around a church and this would have deep identity and, you know, issues inside that church have massive implications for the business.

And that’s Where the family’s heart really lies.

And so yeah not that.

I think that, I think it’s a great story and I think it’s an incredibly important, its Global institution from a talent perspective.


It seems like one of the issues that the New York Times has had in the last few years and certainly one of the issues that animated James been inspiring is that there has been more efforts to unionize more roiling.

Among staffers.

I mean, you’re starting a news organization that theoretically, you want to keep even-keeled.


How did your experience of the times?

Affect your theory of hiring more roiling.

So much more roiling.


And I’ve been a bad been running.

BuzzFeed news immediately before, which was like a for a long time, was kind of a happily roiled place, like there were a lot of internal conversations spilling onto Twitter, but they were kind of earnest and open the, yeah, the times I mean, I would say this is, I would go back to just, like the times, it’s an institution, like any other, and I’m not sure like PepsiCo or Or the Atlantic or the Metropolitan Transportation Administration were less roiled in the summer of twenty twenty than the New York Times.


I just think that these media thinks had to play out in public, but I think, lots and lots of workplaces were wrestling with questions of race.

And I mean, Amazon, right?

And questions about Labor.

So, I think that was one of these things where, medians to become sort of symbolic, but really like they were just broader things happening in society.


And these institutions are ultimately, part of them, but part of that.

My last question for you actually is heard you another podcast.

Talk about what you think, is the biggest under-covered story in all of media.

And you said, it’s Tick-Tock.

I think a lot about Tick-Tock it’s been a while since we had a tick, tock episode, but I wonder frankly, whether a divided government after the midterms might find that one of the few things that Democrats and Republicans agree on is that they really, really don’t like the Chinese Communist party.


And one of the ways you can show your distaste for your dish.

Liking you just tasted for the CCP is not only by punishing them on semiconductors, but also may be moving against Tick-Tock.

Tell me a little bit about why you think Tick-Tock might still be the most important under-covered story in media.


I mean, I just think, you know, it’s just, it’s a huge place where you, it’s where youth culture lives in America right now fundamentally and, you know, that’s a moving Target and it hasn’t, it may not be forever, but right now it’s just, you know, it is where young people, you know, get ideas and shape their Is and talk to each other, and make memes, and from from which memes spread.


And, and I actually think that’s and, and of course, we’re adults freaked out about all the things that young people are doing it.

Describe all sorts of sinister, you know, occasionally accurately.

For sure, young people are insane but like no more, no less than, you know, than anybody else in the never they ever were.


And, you know, and also concoct, you know, fake moral panics but then they’re also really scary things.

How do you know they’ll all the usual stuff but it is incredibly generous.

Native interesting place.

Where all these were lots of American young people are and then overhanging it is what I think is basically a latent a very, very powerful latent concern that the, you know, that the United States main geostrategic rival could use it.


I mean, they’re two different strands.

One is that they might like look inside your Tick.

Tock it like know, which kind of fitness instructor you think is really attractive and like you.

That to manipulate you.

That honestly seems a little far-fetched to me.

Like I bet they could figure that out from your Instagram and like there’s so much information out there already.


I’ve never really full or that they might track.

Yeah, I don’t know.

Maybe occasionally, but it seems to me like there has there actually have been no reported cases of that half of that being useful and there are so many sources of personal data out there.

They could, in fact, just by your credit card records, which would be really, you know, tell them a lot to.


The second thing is that, you know, it’s a major major Major platform for information for politics, and the notion that, you know, that.

I mean, I don’t, I mean, I don’t, I doubt people would be people get upset when like German or Japanese companies by the, by Major media companies.


And I think it’s hard to imagine that the US federal government in the medium term, if it’s functional at all, is going to wind up, letting a Chinese company control meet control, just a huge, huge media like that now, because they’re doing something bad now.

But, because in case of a conflict, they could, And I think that’s like it’s a hard thing to talk about because it’s necessarily like you can’t, it’s not like a reporting question.


There’s isn’t a lot of evidence.

They’re doing it.

They have occasionally messed with stuff around weekers, but right now, if you search weaker and weaker activist, you’ll find them on Tick Tock, but I think it’s a huge latent threat.

That’s really hard to get around.

It is a Chinese company run out of China and if you, if you work at that company, you’re taking a lot of meetings that start at 9 p.m. because that’s when they wake up in Beijing and there’s like, Like there’s nothing, there’s no way around that.


I mean and so I think there was going to be a lot of pressure to for probably for a forced sale to a American company with Chinese government.

May not let them go through with the for sale.

Make it may create a huge standoff but like you I kind of agree that this isn’t probably not a tenable politically terrible situation.


I think it’s frankly bizarre, I think it’s a really bizarre.

There’s no way that the u.s. government would allow a Russian television station to become the most Portent most influential news station in America at the same time and that we were engaged the geopolitical struggle against them.


Honestly, they wouldn’t do it.

They wouldn’t let you know a neutral they like they wouldn’t let a Indonesian company but or hurt by NBC news, right?

Like there’s just it’s very like forget the struggle like even.

Yeah it’s a Vivint.


It’s a very strange situation that if it but on the, you know, but on the other hand, I think you have to sort of draw a line between their real National Security implications.

It’s a crazy situation and like is, is what is happening on Tick-Tock today?

With like, 13 year olds like arguing about, you know, gender identity and like pouring bottles of juice over their own heads or whatever.


Today’s meme is like, is that fundamentally Sinister and different from youth culture in the past?

Like, no, I don’t think so.

It takes off his great at serving people, things that they like to watch.

Is that addiction?

I don’t know.

Look at that eye.

That’s that, that I’m very skeptical of Leslie.

I don’t think it’s addiction.


I think that latent threat is the perfect way to encapsulate it.

Ben Smith, thank you so much for joining us.

Good luck with semaphore.

I’ll keep reading and hope to have you back soon.

Thank you so much Derek.

I hope people will sign up for our newsletters that semaphore, dot-coms newsletters.

Thank you very much for listening.


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