How tech ate the media and our minds - Axios
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How tech ate the media and our minds

Illustration by Rebecca Zisser

Let's face it: most of us are more distracted and more frazzled than ever. We are prisoners to our phones: tweeting our every thought, or snapping our every emotion, or Facebooking our every fantasy, feeling or family moment. We scroll, click and swipe our days away, better connected than at any point in humanity — but not necessarily better informed.

We've been hit with more technological innovations than we are capable of responsibly handling.

Ten short years ago: The iPhone was born, Facebook was a small social network used mostly by college students, and there was no Snapchat, Instagram or Pinterest. Most people still relied on three network evening newscasts and a local newspaper, hand delivered, to be informed about current events. If you wanted to share a photo, you probably mailed it; if you wanted to share your opinion, you screamed it at the TV in your basement or wrote a letter to the editor, maybe by hand.

But then technology blew up — and blew (and took over) our minds. Now, every day there are:

  • 1.2 billion web pageviews, per Chartbeat
  • Billions of Google searches, per Google
  • 13.8 billion hours + of video shared on YouTube, per Google
  • 13M audio/video calls made on Facebook Messenger, per Facebook
  • 50 billion messages sent on WhatsApp, per Facebook
  • 500 million Tweets sent, per Twitter

Our brains have been literally swamped and reprogrammed. On average, we check our phones 50 times each day — with some studies suggesting it could three times that amount. We spend around 6 hours per day consuming digital media. As a result, the human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds to eight seconds since 2000, while the goldfish attention span is nine seconds. And we just mindlessly pass along information without reading or checking it. Columbia University found that nearly 60 percent of all social media posts are shared without being clicked on.

For better or worse, Google and Facebook are mostly to blame. Nearly 60% of our media-consumption time happens in mobile apps, and a majority that traffic is owned by those two companies. (See below). This paradigm has destroyed the business model for news publishers, creating perverse incentives for publishers to generate as many clicks as possible, creating a "crap trap" — the deal media companies made with the devil to dumb things down (and lose credibility) by seeking the broadest reach. But, the house always wins: Facebook and Google now eat up almost two thirds of all ads and gobbled up 90 percent of all growth in media spend — while publishers perish.

Data: 2016 Mobile App Report, comScore Mobile Metrix, U.S., Age 18+, June 2016; Chart: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

And, at least for now, the more we know, or can see, the less we trust. Roughly 62% of U.S. adults get news on social media and 68% of people don't trust the news they see or read. Think about that: most people don't trust REAL news. The proliferation of fake news is almost certain to get worse, as we see left-leaning groups racing to adapt manipulative techniques that helped conservatives in 2016. Case in point: A 2016 BuzzFeed News analysis found that top fake election news stories generated more total engagement on Facebook than top election stories from 19 major news outlets combined.

This has created a conundrum: There is more good information than at any point in humanity, but it's harder than ever to find and trust. Almost every trend cited here is getting worse, not better. And so much of the power to change it rests in the hands of the few, mainly Facebook but also Google, Twitter and Snapchat. Some publishers are putting the emphasis on quality content, which can help. And others are moving fast to adapt serious news and information to better fit in these exploding off-platform ecosystems. But ultimately, the burden will fall on individual consumers to exploit what should be the golden age of information by adjusting their own habits.

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Uber gets competitive in the food-delivery service

McDonald's ordered through the Postmates service. Photo: Chandice Choi/AP

Along with the development of ride-sharing services came food-delivery services: ordering food through an app and having it delivered to your door. The New York Times cited a study by McKinsey that found food delivery "is a $100 billion-plus market, or about 1 percent of the total food market." And Uber wants a piece of that market.

Key numbers: UberEats is available in more than 120 markets around the world. The number of trips for UberEats drivers grew more than 24 times in one year, and by last July it was "profitable in 27 of the 108 cities where it operated," per NYT.

UberEats "sometimes eclipses Uber's main ride-hailing business in markets like Tokyo; Taipei, Taiwan; and Seoul, South Korea," the company told NYT.

But as UberEats continues to thrive, competition looms large:

  • Postmates has raised over $250 million since it started and the company makes 2.5 million deliveries each month. Like UberEats, Postmates is a full delivery service system.
  • Grubhub has "an active base of 8.17 million customers," and Matt Maloney, the company's founder, told the Times their sole focus on take-out ordering sets them apart.
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Price will stop using taxpayer-funded private jets

Trump and HHS Secretary Tom Price arrive on Capitol Hill to rally support on health-care reform. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has racked up more than $400,000 after using a private jet to embark on his taxpayer-funded travels, Politico found. Now, Politico reports that Price will stop using a private jet for these travels because "We've heard the concerns. We take that very seriously and have taken it to heart," Price told Fox & Friends earlier today.

What's next: His department's inspector general will review his travel and the associated costs, and a decision will be made after that review is complete. A federal contract noted that Price cost taxpayers at least $65,000 in the last week alone, Politico notes.

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Golden State Warriors will not visit the White House

A rally to celebrate the Golden State Warriors' NBA basketball championship. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

After Trump called out Stephen Curry in a tweet this morning (rescinding his invitation to the White House), his team stood with him and announced they will not be attending the White House visit at all.

"While we intended to meet as a team at the first opportunity we had this morning to collaboratively discuss a potential visit to the White House," the statement read, "we accept President Trump has made it clear that we are not invited."

"We believe there is nothing more American than our citizens having the right to express themselves freely on matters important to them," the statement continued. "We're disappointed that we did not have an opportunity during this process to share our views or have an open dialogue on issues impacting our communities that we felt would be important to raise.

Big picture, from Axios' Mike Allen: Trump is wading into culturally sensitive territory that could freshen opposition elsewhere, and ignite a debate wholly unrelated to anything he's trying to accomplish.

Go deeper: Trump vs. Curry, LeBron and pro athletes.

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N. Korea: strike on U.S. is "inevitable"

In this unverified image from the North Korean government, Kim Jong-un is said to inspect loading of a hydrogen bomb into an ICBM, at unknown location (Korean Central News Agency / Korea News Service, via AP)

North Korea's foreign minister said today a strike on the U.S. is "inevitable," just after it was revealed that there were American fighter jets flying over the seas of North Korea.

"None other than Trump himself is on a suicide mission" and said that Trump's insults against North Korea and its leader make "our rocket's visit to the entire U.S. mainland inevitable all the more."

Context: Trump called Kim Jong-un "Rocket Man" in a recent tweet, which he restated during his UN speech, saying "Rocket Man" is "on a suicide mission."

North Korea's foreign minister shot back at Trump, saying POTUS has "turned the White House into a noisy marketing place full of crackling sounds of abacus beads and now he has tried to turn the U.N. arena into a gangsters' nest where money is respected and bloodshed is the order of the day."

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Mexico hit with massive aftershock from earthquake

A woman attends an outdoor Catholic Mass near the school that collapsed during the earthquake in Mexico City. Photo: Rebecca Blackwell/AP

An aftershock of the 8.1-magnitude earthquake earlier this month went through the southern state Oaxaca this morning, measured at a magnitude of 6.1, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: Mexico is still recovering from the 7.1 quake on Tuesday that killed over 300 people. This is the third one this month. A resident of one of the cities hit by the earthquake on Sept. 7, Nataniel Hernandez, told the AP that Saturday's tremor is "one of the strongest movements he has felt" since then, but that "it has not stopped shaking."


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American fighter jet flies over North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and Choe Ryong Hae, vice-chairman of the central committee of the Workers' Party, Photo: Wong Maye-E/AP

The Pentagon reported B-1B bombers from Guam and F-15 fighter escorts from Okinawa, Japan, have flown over the waters of east North Korea, the "farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone...any American fighter or bomber has flown this century," the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: Dana White, Defense Department spokeswoman, said it was a "demonstration of U.S. resolve and a clear message" that Trump "has many military options to defeat any threat."

Go deeper: The psychological profile of Kim Jong-un, and how he and his "massive ego...reacts harshly and sometimes lethally to insults and perceived slights."

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Trump: NFL players shouldn't "disrespect" our flag

Photo: AP

After numerous professional athletes tweeted about Trump (who made offensive remarks about the NFL and its players who kneel during the national anthem), he kept the conversation going:

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Iran tested a ballistic missile

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sits before addressing the United Nations General Assembly. Photo: Jason DeCrow / AP

Iran unveiled its latest ballistic missile Friday and said it tested it today, Reuters reports. State television carried footage of the test. Iran said it is capable of carrying multiple warheads, of flying 2,000 km is capable of hitting parts of the Middle East, including Israel, a key American ally, per the AP.

The Trump effect: This is a challenge to Trump, since Trump signed a bill imposing penalties on those involved in Tehran's ballistic missile program last month. (The U.S. has said Tehran's tests violate a UN resolution endorsing the Iran nuclear deal.)

Iran's defense minister said "we will certainly not be the least affected by any threats and we won't ask anyone's permission" about its missile program.

Context:

  • Trump said this week he has "decided" whether to exit the Iran nuclear deal, but wouldn't reveal the decision.
  • Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said earlier this week if Trump follows through on his threats to nix the nuclear deal, America would pay "such a high cost."

The Trump administration re-approved sanctions waivers for Iran as part of the nuclear deal last week. The deadline to re-certify the deal as a whole is coming mid-October.

Go deeper: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Iran may be honoring technical aspects of the deal

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Scott Pruitt met regularly with industry lobbyists

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to the media during the daily briefing. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has made decisions that benefit certain lobbying groups — soon after meeting with the corporate executives that represent them, according to his schedule obtained by the Washington Post.

Why it matters: While WaPo reports that Pruitt met with three public-health and environmental advocates, the meetings with industry advocates far outweighed them.

Mining, automobile, and fossil fuel executives are some of the big groups Pruitt has met with. Before relaxing Obama-era automobile fuel-efficiency standards, he met with General Motors, Ford Motor Co., and the "industry's lobbying arm" Auto Alliance. He met with the biggest commercial truck "glider" manufacturer in the U.S. before announcing he would "revisit an October 2016 decision to apply greenhouse gas emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks to gliders."


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Steve Bannon to headline Roy Moore rally in Alabama

Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP

Steve Bannon is heading to Alabama Sunday night to rally for Judge Roy Moore on Monday night with Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty.

Why it matters: This rally is three days after President Trump, Bannon's former boss, was in Alabama rallying for Moore's opponent — Mitch McConnell's favored candidate Luther Strange. For Bannon to make a rare public appearance in such close proximity to Trump shows how invested he is in this race specifically, and attacking McConnell more generally. Another former White House adviser, Sebastian Gorka, rallied with Sarah Palin for Moore on Thursday.

From a source close to Bannon: "Steve is coming to Alabama to support President Trump against the Washington establishment and Mitch McConnell. Steve views Judge Moore as a fierce advocate of Trump and the values he campaigned on."
Allies of Strange and Republicans close to the White House dispute that premise, and Trump points out Strange offered his support for Obamacare repeal with no strings attached, whereas Roy Moore has said he won't support anything less than full repeal.
Trump last night seemed conflicted about his Strange endorsement, suggesting he'd made a mistake and would support Moore if he wins. Moore leads Strange by 9 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics polling average.
"I'll be honest, I might have made a mistake... If his opponent wins, I'm going to be here campaigning like hell for him." — President Trump on Friday night
Breitbart has gone all in for Moore and is doing its national radio show on Sirius XM from Alabama today through Wednesday.

Multiple senior Breitbart editors are in Alabama, including Washington editor Matthew Boyle, London editor Raheem Kassam, the editor-in-chief of Breitbart London, and Jeff Poor, an Alabama native and the head of Breitbart TV.

"As of now, everyone is working on the Alabama race," Boyle wrote in a Breitbart Slack channel, per CNN's Oliver Darcy. "If anyone has any questions please let me know."