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You need to learn to consistently and repeatedly start with new assumptions.

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Hello and welcome. I'm Shane Parrish and this is the Knowledge Project, a podcast exploring the ideas, methods and mental models that help you learn from the best of what other people have already figured out. To learn more about the show or our previous guests, go to F-stop blog slash podcast. My guest today is Ben Thompson, author of The Technology Site's Trajectory. I reached out to Ben because Trajectory, which provides analysis on the strategy business side of technology on society, is one of the few sites that I read Just Like US, that our fast trajectory also offers both free content and paid content as a means to sustain a living.

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As you'll soon find out, Ben has an interesting take on most things. Enjoy the conversation. Before we get started, here's a quick word from our sponsor. Farnam Street is sponsored by Medlab for a decade, Medlab has helped some of the world's top companies and entrepreneurs build products that millions of people use every day. You probably didn't realize that at the time, but odds are you've used an app that they've helped design or build apps like Slack, Coinbase, Facebook Messenger, Oculus, Lonely Planet and so many more.

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Medlab wants to bring the unique design philosophy to your project. Let them take your brainstorm and turn it into the next billion dollar app from ideas sketched on the back of a napkin to a final ship product. Check them out at Medlab Dutko. That's Medlab Dutko. And when you get in touch, tell them chainsawing you. Ben, I'm so happy to have you on the knowledge project, I'm happy to be here and you actually you tweeted a few months ago that, oh, Ben's going to be out this week.

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And I thought I was in the middle of moving house like, oh, crap, I should probably reschedule that.

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So I appreciate your patience.

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And in finally getting this off the ground, I'm just glad we got you on the show and looking forward to this conversation for a while. Lecrae, is that even how you say it is its trajectory? It is.

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It is strategy and tech. I like to say that naming things is clearly not my forte. It's weird, though. I mean, you can I it's kind of a running joke with me.

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My subscriber's about the name, but there is there is a good reason that I chose it. And it's very sort of prosaic, which is it was I was poor in debt and I started a website and it was available. It returned zero Google search results. There was a Twitter handle available and it was broadly in line with what I was going in. And I think somewhat I was inspired by was Horst Aju with ASIMCO in ASIMCO is such a great name.

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I think the mistake clearly that I made is a name that is unclear to pronounce and unclear how to spell is is a bad idea. And so if I could do it over, would I do something different? Probably. But, you know, I think it just the challenge of building the brand is just a more pressing one, given that it's sort of like hurdle's. I managed to put my own way. But yes, it is. There's a long way to say, yes, it is trajectory.

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It's kind of interesting. I mean, it's just like a super unique take on business in the sense that you're hitting on the intersection kind of between technology, media, business strategy, but also like you're hitting on undercurrents of psychology and behavior to a degree. I mean, your your insights are pretty consistently incredible. What is it about to you? What is trajectory?

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I mean, that's a good question. I mean, I think the way I describe it, as you kind of noted, is the the sort of strategy and business of technology. And I've kind of appended and it's sort of impact on society. I think one of the great things about writing about technology is it kind of gives you a license to write about almost everything because technology is impacting everything, whether that be I mean, clearly seen in the context of politics.

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I wrote about Zuckerberg being in in Washington, DC this week, but I've written other articles about how the structural changes that Facebook has imposed on the media, which is inextricably linked to the power of political parties, is what enabled the rise of Trump, for example. Right.

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And that was that was very much a in my wheelhouse of what I write about. But it was also a deeply sort of like political piece, not a partisan piece, but just kind of like a political science, more sort of piece. And so that's definitely kind of a cool thing about being where I'm at. And I think just kind of backing up broadly. I used trajectory as sort of my personal intellectual journal in many respects of trying to understand the world and how it works.

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And I start from technology. I start with technology lens. But again, just the nature of the industry fortunately aligns well with my sort of personal interest and desire to to understand a whole bunch of things, not just not just Google or Apple or Facebook.

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How did you get interesting in tech? I mean, you were to Microsoft, you worked at Apple, you worked at automatic. Like, where did this sort of tech interest come from?

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Well, I've always been in technology. So, I mean, going back to you know, I remember being in the stereotypical sort of being in middle school and getting a computer and was very into it and very interested in discovering the Web when it came out. And, you know, all those sorts of things. The the but also kind of like a stereotype sort of thing. I lived my family was, you know, I would say probably blue class, a little lower, lower white class.

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Depends on how you define it. You know, we grew up in small town Wisconsin and no one around me had any interest or understanding about this stuff is really just me. But interestingly, I didn't gravitate to the sort of traditional like computer science or programming. Life would be a better way of put it. You know, I did pick up some sort of programming skills along the way, but it never sort of like gripped me the way that, you know, you often hear from other folks are in my situation.

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I was always much more interested in sort of the just the broader picture, the broad broader implications, what you know. And so that started from junior high school. But I think going back to my background, my family was I didn't really have any sort of background. Both my parents grew up extremely poor. They they kind of like broken, broken households. And no one was there pushing me to go into business or go in to things like that.

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And so for me, the most obvious outcome was I would go work in academia like that, that that was something that was visible to me and accessible. But but even then, you know, my world was very small. I mean, for me, it was a. Sort of like jump to go to the big public school, that university, Wisconsin, I didn't even apply to like your Ivy schools or something like that, do like that.

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World wasn't even a world that I was even aware of. That was that was even a possibility for me. And so this weird sort of juxtaposition of growing up in a very sort of like small world environment while having this sort of innate curiosity and the access that the Internet enabled to me to do, being a bigger world out there was kind of where where it all started. And you could probably see reflections of that even in what I do today.

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And kind of from them, I just always follow technology and all this is my hobby. But again, it never occurred to me to make it a career. I was just going to I was going to take a lot of classes. It was an honor student, probably go to graduate school and maybe be a professor like that. Was that was that seemed like the thing to do. And I ended up going to Taiwan after I graduated and thought that I would just take a year travel, see the world.

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And I ended up loving it here. I really enjoyed it, enjoyed being here, enjoy the country to the people. I met a girl all of a sudden, all the sort of things. And in all Wong, my hobby was technology is obsessed with technology, always reading about it, always what I know is going on. I read it all the way through college and reading all the sites, you know, understanding how these how everything worked.

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And really a background that has benefited me greatly is I wasn't a a programmer per say, although even in college I took multiple classes and stuff like that, like I, I could do it but more just having a broad sort of understanding of how stuff works, like how does a computer actually work, how does the Internet actually work, how like what is possible. What isn't possible. And and what happened was I was in Taiwan and at some point my wife's like all you do in your free time, is read about and obsess about technology.

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Why don't you go work in technology? And that's what I like. Twenty seven or eight years old. I'm like, that's probably a good idea. I should probably do that. And so that's why I went back to the States and attended business school and with business school I kind of had the technology always had a sort of bias against the MBA. So I certainly picked up on that. But the reason I did it was it was the sort of shortest, fastest route to legitimacy in the US job market.

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And it ended up being along the way. I got a tremendous benefit from it. And perhaps because I went there with the, you know, not thinking it was going to be an end all be all that, I ended up getting more out of it than most. But it worked. I mean, because of being a business school, I was introduced to recruiters. I got this opportunity at Apple to work at Apple University, which was a fantastic experience.

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Once you had Apple on your resume, is easier to get more interviews ended up going to work at Microsoft. And and then that that got me sort of the foot in. But the that's just where tech first showed up on a resume like where tech first showed up in my head, as it were, goes back to middle school.

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Was it wasn't an escape in Wisconsin or was it a mechanism for you to kind of like Zoner to the reality that you were living, or was it something else that was just not engaging?

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Yeah, I had a happy childhood. I wasn't I was in one of those, like, I just I just got to sort of get out of here sort of thing, you know, I generally had to had a happy childhood. No no big complaints. It was I just was genuinely interested in it. Like, I just found this stuff fascinating. And, you know, like when I was in high school was sort of the when the when the World Wide Web came out.

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And then my first year of college was was sort of the dotcom bubble really starting to take off like crazy and all the like we would. I actually had a little business in the dorms putting computers together and talking about me because you could get like all the pieces. I'm like Valleywag, Dotcom or something like that or something value Martyrs', I think you could, where you could buy Intel processors for like a quarter of the price because of stupid dotcom bubble stuff.

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And so all this stuff and put it together and sell it to get spending money. But so it was just there's an aspect of my age was just you know, there's a really interesting article I've linked to a few times just on Twitter about the it's called the Oregon Trail Generation. And the idea is there's this sort of really distinct group of people around kind of five or six year range where we grew up such that we had basically no Internet stuff in our lives and then switched to having Internet lives completely, completely.

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It was interesting is everyone before us, the Internet sort of came along when they were already into their life and they learned it and a lot of them created it. But it was a different experience, whereas the ones after us grew up immersed in the Internet, whereas our sort of generation, we had a very clear delineation between before and after and could remember what it was like to go to a payphone, remember what it's like to not be able to find a friend at a party, but was also young enough to become fully immersed in sort of a digital native, as it were, while retaining the memory of what came before.

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It's quite a unique place to be. You're also operating in this this you I mean, like every. He's writing about technology and media today. But you're different. You stand out when I talk to people consistently, it's like, oh, I read great Ben Thompson, like, he's my guy. What makes you so different? What's your what is your take so different on this than all of these other smart, educated people who are operating in the same space trying to provide people insight into technology?

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So when I started trajectory, it was interesting because at the time I actually felt pretty confident about the prospects for the site. I have sort of like a five year plan. I wanted it to be my job from the beginning. I thought it would take longer than it did, but I did feel there was an opportunity. And specifically, you're right, there were tons of sites writing about technology, but the vast majority, all of them basically were writing about technology from a from a product perspective or product lens.

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And I thought there was a real opportunity to write about things from the other side, from the business side, from the strategic side. Like to the extent I would write about products, it would be how does a company's business model influence the type of products it creates or the way it thinks about them or way it does decision making. And I thought there was a significant void in that area that I felt pretty confident that I could fill it. I think that's that's turned out to be the case where so I think to the extent my viewpoint is unique, it's it's the starting point is different.

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I start from business models. I start from trying to gain an understanding of a company's culture, which I think goes back to a company's founding and the lessons it learns early on. And from that, look at what they do, look at what they might do, look at the products that come out, whereas most sites start with the products, then kind of go backwards.

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Where did you develop the ability to pull apart the business model?

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Yeah, it's one of those things where I show up at business school and certainly business will give me a lot of the language to do this. But it was it was almost like a while. I've actually really good at the stuff like this comes very easy and naturally to me. In business school, I was a lot more can me the language and specifics to to to understand this stuff. Just in general. I'm a very, very extremely to the extreme, very systematic thinker where I see things in systems in the way they interconnect and how, you know, one thing over here will connect the other thing over there all the way down the chain.

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And whereas I'm not a great detail person, when it gets into, like zooming all the way down and getting to specific specifics, like, I'm not great at that, which is why, you know, I think working in corporate America was challenging because on one hand I could see where to go, what we needed to do, but I didn't know how to communicate that well because I was a young whippersnapper that I knew everything. And on the flip side, you know, when you're young and just implementing stuff, you have to take care of all the little stuff.

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And that's that's a pain. I'm a strong believer that any one their strengths are their weaknesses and their one is the same. If you're super strong, when they're inevitably going to be weak and it's sort of corresponding area. And and so I think my my talent such that it is is this ability to view things systematically and to see very clearly and quickly how a business model flows through to product decisions. And I say that I hope with sufficient humility, knowing that just because I can see that it means that there's other stuff I'm not very good at.

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I just I'm just fortunate, I think, enough to have found a career in a job where that is rewarded. And I can sort of minimize the other stuff, my exposure to the other stuff, as it were.

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See a model where you release, like, know, one article a week that I think is free to the world, the four articles a week to to kind of paying content. How did you arrive at that?

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Was that business model driven?

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Like how did you come up with that model of making a living?

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So I mentioned when I started that trajectory, I started with a goal of making money and well, in the first couple of months is sort of figuring kind of figuring out what the pope's going to be but quickly arrived at. I'm going to only do one or two articles a week. And the goal of it was the reason I didn't want to write every day at the beginning, even though I was trying to build an audience, is that in the long run I knew I wanted to have a subscription offering and I that subscription offering to be get more as opposed to.

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And it's a very subtle distinction, but I think, you know, paywall so that they like the only really person who had done the one the one person blog sort of paywall thing was Andrew Sullivan. And he went from this he was publishing like crazy with an advertising based model, which which the incentives are that you should publish more, not less. And they just kind of threw a paywall up and it worked because he had such fervent fans and such a large audience.

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But he never sort of adjust his editorial strategy, just kept dumping stuff out of his part of the reason why he burned out.

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Whereas whereas I had the sort of luxury of starting with the knowledge of the biz, but I wanted to have in the future and I always wanted to be a I'm going to deliver this product consistently for free. It's. Always be there for free, and then if you want more, you can pay to get more. So I wanted the the feeling of pain to be a positive feeling where you're getting this is such great stuff. I want more than I pay to get more as opposed to.

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Oh, you mean it's for free. I'm going to drop a wall on you and stuff like it's gone now. And I think, you know, obviously that that sort of psychological impact only really applied to the early subscribers. But I think there's still I still hope I have that spirit sort of on the site as a whole. I don't push the paywall hard at all. A lot of people say, well, I didn't even know you had a product for four months or years.

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And that's OK, because I want the I want the sense of being people who are exploring the site will find the paywall. They will find the content. But those are the people that I want to attract anyway, the people who are eager for more, that want want to read more things. And so that's sort of the that's the model as a whole. And, you know, I think a way to illustrate this is the metric that I used when figure out when I wanted to actually watch it was I was looking at the number of visitors to the homepage on days that I didn't post because those were people that were searching out new content.

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They were going to check everything, Deben post something today. And those were the people that were sort of my initial customers, the people that already demonstrated. They were hoping that I would publish more stuff. And so and so that that is the model sort of today. So today, as it is, I do one free article. I do three three additional articles a week or so, and then I do a podcast. So basically I do one piece of content a day and it actually started helping much more aggressive.

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This sort of when you start a company, you're hustling, you want you want to make it work. So what I actually started that update I was doing. I was doing two free articles a week, plus five daily updates plus a podcast that week. Yeah, that was pretty insane. So I pretty soon cut it down to one free article and five daily updates. Then I went to one in four and then I said on the one in three plus a podcast a couple of years ago, it stayed at this level four for a while now.

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And I think it's a much more sustainable sort of level that I like. I just do one piece every day and it would be nice to have an extra day to do administrative stuff and things like that. But but I think it's a good level for now, so I'm sticking with it.

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So you mentioned one of the metrics you looked at is number of visitors to say it when you didn't post. What sort of metrics do you look at today to see in sort of like your relevance to people you're offering and how it's resonating?

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I honestly don't look at metrics at all, to be totally honest. I mean, I every day when I send the email, I see how many people are receiving the update.

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And as long as that number is larger than it was the day before then, I figure everything's everything's going fine.

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And and certainly it's a sort of luxury. The brilliant thing about sort of this distribution model is you're all you have to do is keep your existing subscribers happy and everything else is going take care of itself.

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I don't need to worry about the I mean, I stress a lot about the weekly articles like the free ones that are usually, you know, I want them to be I want them to be great. And they're a little harder to write because they're spread much more widely, which means your readers have less of a sort of like shared background. Whereas the daily update I write much more. I think it's a much more familiarly and I presume much more knowledge on the on the side of my readers, or at least to some extent, I haven't read Shishakly before.

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And so it's a different sort of writing, a little more challenging in that regard. But but at the end of the day, what really matters is that my subscribers are happy because if they're happy, they will not cancel. And I'll just keep making money from them and they will tell their they will tell people to sign up. And I've never done any marketing. And this is, I think, a thing where the Internet is. Is a huge benefit for publishers if you have this sort of model, because the friction for my subscribers to tell other people to try it out is zero.

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They can they can post to social media, they can email, they can tell folks to go, go sign up. And there's no sort of like it's a self serve. You walk up and a credit card and and there you go. And the other thing that I do that I think is maybe folks don't expect is I don't have trials. And the reason I don't have a trial is one I'm already giving away. Twenty five percent of my content.

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If that's not enough to convince you that you should try it out, then like a couple of articles really make a difference. But to the I'm writing around two thousand words every day. It's a it would be I think I did a trial tomorrow. I'd get all kinds of people to sign up, but then they start getting this huge email every day and people are busy. They don't want to read that. And then the trial's over and they're like, oh, well, because that wasn't worth it.

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Whereas there's a human sort of like the sunk cost fallacy. Once someone has given you ten dollars, like they're going to carve out the time because they feel like they already paid for it, they better they better do it. And what's great about that is it it's a forcing function for for habit building where people get in the habit of reading it every day using the same place on the subway or over coffee or whatever it might be. And and once they're in the habit, then they can't imagine not reading it.

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And then you have that sort of subscriber for for a long time. And it's absolutely the case that the my business model and my editorial content and all the different pieces of my business all interact and all interact with each other. And I think that's what publishers of all of all types, whatever their business model, have to be thinking about. Your editorial strategy has to be what is your business strategy has to be aligned with your customer acquisition strategy, has to be allowed to go to market strategy.

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Like all, they have to all be working in concert. Given that the Internet just makes the competition so much greater because you're you're quite literally competing with everyone in the world.

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Do people take your paid for stuff and then make it free, but in their own words? Oh, absolutely.

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All the time. I mean, that's something you just have to get over and accept that that's that's going to happen. I mean, there's you'll see it show up in other columns or opinion pieces a day or two later and not not always, but sometimes more surprises than others. And, you know, I think at some point it's a little frustrating at first. But what I quickly realized was what's kind of my goal here, my goal here, and it sounds cliche, but my goal is not to make money or get rich or what I wanted.

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Obviously, I want to to make a living and to be have to have a good provision for for my family. But at the end of day, like, this is stuff that I care about and I'm passionate about. And the the opportunity to literally spend every day thinking and writing about stuff that I'm really fascinated about is a tremendous privilege. And so to the extent that I am influencing other people to also write similar things that that I've written in similar lines, that's actually a tremendous that's a tremendous outcome because it shows that, you know, you can never have the breadth of the business model is the way it scales on the back end.

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Right. The amount of work I do for one subscribers, the amount of work I do for hundreds of Schreiber's. But the way to truly scale, to truly have impact is not is not to just influence the people read you directly. It's to influence the influencers, as it were. And to and so to the extent that people do echo themes that I've written about, that's actually if my goal is, is to have a positive change and not to sort of feed my ego and not to be credited, then it's actually a tremendous thing.

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We have very similar sort of business models.

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When you mentioned that, you kind of didn't promote and, you know, that resonates with us because we also have like a membership side. We don't really promote it. People are surprised when they find it and it's extra. It's not like we cut you off and then we sell you something. One of the differences when I was doing some research between you and I, as you offer a monthly, whereas we only offer a yearly, what you what do you offer a monthly?

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Well, I mean, I already don't offer a trial. I think month monthly gives you a a way in that is pretty accessible. It's ten dollars like it's kind of on the edge of fine, I'll give it a try sort of territory. And and actually what happens is the people will try for a month and a lot of people will sign up and immediately cancel their auto renew because I'm just trying it out. I don't want to charge again and that's fine.

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So but it means I look at certain numbers I need to like, exclude the one month folks because they kind of messed it up. But what happens is a lot of times as people start out with a month and then they switch to a year because they're like, oh, this is great, of course I'm going to keep getting this in. The year happens to be dollars cheaper because a year or so. So so I think it's just an easier and more accessible entry point.

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And I feel, you know, over time I see people moving. More people go from monthly to annual than I think churn out. By and large, and, you know, at this point for a long time, they're actually 50/50 by this point, my my annual membership is actually a fair bit larger than my monthly membership. And I think that's great. Yeah, it's awesome.

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What's your day like now? Like, walk me through.

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Like you wake up. I want to know kind of like what it looks like in a broad strokes, but also what are your habits, your routines. And then I want to like deep dive on some of like how you read content, how you consume information.

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I wake up and I deal with this with a super annoying puppy that make make make breakfast for my daughter, walk her to school, come back.

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My son my son grabs grabs a bus. And then and then I sit down and I have a meeting. So I now have, like, someone that assist me with some of the a lot of the administrative stuff. And so that's the first thing because he's based in the US. And so given the time zone sort of alignment, the that's the first like hour or two my days is just dealing with initiative stuff, which isn't great. It's kind of sometimes a pain to dive right into it.

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It's kind of just a matter of of time zone that it has to be first. But that's usually what happens. And then and then then after that, once we're done, theoretically, I dive into research and planning from daily update and work diligently. Usually it's a much more sort of winding road where I'm reading stuff and I'm on Twitter and I'm floating around. I think, you know, I'm usually thinking about what they do very early, right when I wake up, as I do look at all the headlines that happen the day before.

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And so kind of on going through my head is is an outline of what I'm probably going to write about that day. And this is where also the other distinction is weekly updates. I, I usually write about for weekly update quite a while in advance. Like I knew this week. I read about Zuckerberg in Congress a while ago. So I wrote Microsoft last week in the reorganization, like the revolution happened on a Thursday. And so I knew I would write about the following week.

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And so usually I'm thinking about those or for several days ahead of time. I usually already know which day I'm going to write them. And so those those days are different. The daily update is usually more responsive to what happened the day before and not always. I always have a sort of like a list of stuff that's going on such that it's what if nothing can happen, I go back to it or to have a bunch happen one day. And there's multiple things I want to cover.

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I'll take a few days to get over everything. So so again, the days vary a little bit, but usually I want to have an idea of what I'm writing about and then it's kind of percolating.

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So it's kind of in the back of my mind, I'm thinking about it. What were the points I'm going to make? And that middle part of the day is spent sort of fleshing it out, making sure I have the angle, the what I'm going to write about generally. And then sometime in the early to mid afternoon, I receive the necessary sort of dose of sheer panic, terror that I have a deadline coming up in three or four hours and I better buckle down and start writing.

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And so then I spend the the afternoon and early evening writing. And my goal is to publish by seven o'clock or six o'clock, usually ends up being close to seven o'clock and then go have dinner, hang out with the kids, play the dog and then go to bed and do it again the next day. It's a fascinating approach.

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So you never have writer's block because you always have this list. Is that list ever empty? Well, I think the I think the most common misconception people have about what I do is actually given the amount of things I write about is it's not like every day you're starting from nothing and kind of scratching together an opinion on stuff that goes on. Like, I have a view of the world. I have, you know, the way I think that things work, sort of like mental model in my head of and so things happen that kind of pass them through that model.

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And most the time they fit the model. And that's it's easy to read about it. Like I it's pretty easy to see what's going on here. So they don't. And usually that means there's something else going on. There's like, oh, maybe something's going to happen soon or or as long as I'm wrong and when I'm wrong is arguably the most interesting and the spur of of a lot of weekly articles where it's really sort of modifying the model like expanding and better articulating my sort of view of the world.

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And so I think from my perspective, it's it's Leste coming up with opinions that is difficult and more the trying to keep a very strong sort of guard up against is a confirmation bias where things happen. And that that fits my view of the world. That must be true. Whereas making sure you always take the time to go back and say, wait, let me double check, make sure this is right, because it would be awfully easy to follow this or see something.

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Oh, that must be wrong. Well, maybe no, maybe it's right. Maybe I'm wrong. And so I think it's more about the discipline of avoiding confirmation bias is, I think the bigger challenge as opposed to. Coming up with with things to write about, how much pressure do you have to agree with things you've already written about versus going the world's changed or something is different? And I was wrong. Like, when's the last time you came out here?

[00:30:41]

Like, I was completely wrong and blew this.

[00:30:44]

And how is that all the time? I did I did it in a couple weeks ago and actually it turned out I think I was probably right, but but the I do it all the time. And I think a strong commitment to that is is is critical and key to to what I do. So it's key in a few areas. So so one, it's very free. A friend of mine once said, I love to be right, which is why I always say when I'm wrong, because that's the fastest sort of way to be right on it.

[00:31:13]

So it's a one if you want to be right, like admit you're wrong. Number two, I write with a fairly sort of authoritative tone and voice just because that's better writing in general. And also I'm saying what I think, but the cliche strong opinions we held is exactly what I abide by. Like I'm going to pursue what I believe to be true and I'm going to always be testing the assumptions and underlying it. And again, this is where the sort of having a systematic sort of view of the world is very beneficial, because it's sort of my innate nature to always be challenging the assumptions that are underlying something as opposed to just looking at the the sort of outcomes and then the other.

[00:31:47]

And it applies to my business model. Like, people are paying me money because they think what I read is what I write is worth reading. And from that perspective, for me to come out and say I got this wrong, and not only that, every time I get something wrong, I always try to recount what I was thinking when I got it wrong, what led me to make a mistake. And probably 60 percent of the time it's confirmation bias.

[00:32:09]

I'll come out and say, I got this wrong because of confirmation bias. I was looking, I presumed would be this, and I didn't consider this. And this is why I was wrong. And you ask my readers like you do a search for confirmation bias, you'll get several examples of me saying we are wrong. Other times, yes, circumstances change or or other circumstances change it because I wasn't wrong, but my opinion changed a lot of times.

[00:32:31]

Things I get wrong are issues of timing, like where I can see structurally why a company is facing a particular issue. But I maybe don't appreciate the extent to which their current route has lots of legs in it. Right. So what I say is correct. It's just not going to be correct until like twenty twenty. But that's no excuse because to be wrong and timing is is is to be wrong. But but no, I am wrong all the time and I relish the opportunity to say when I'm wrong.

[00:32:59]

It is a painful sometimes it's painful. It certainly is. I think there was probably one of my more painful ones was like the Snapchat spectacles thing. It was painful one, because there was a few people that just always kind of rubbed in my face constantly. And so it's always irritating is I guess you were right. I was wrong, but it was also painful because it was one of those things where I knew better, like I should have known better.

[00:33:21]

And those are the most irritating ones where it wasn't even a confirmation bias thing. It was it was a I kind of fell in love with my own sort of theory. And the theory wasn't wrong. It was just misapplied, I think, in that particular case. And those are the irritating ones. But at the same time, if I don't come out and say that, say this is why I got it wrong, I did this, I made this mistake, then why should people trust me or pay me money to to read what I have to say?

[00:33:47]

Completely agree with that line of reasoning. How do you filter what you read, like the information that goes in? You said you wake up, you kind of read the headlines like what is it?

[00:33:57]

What are your trusted sources if you're other people's trusted sources?

[00:34:01]

Yeah. So I very much I started sort of first principles by which I in the case of content, by which I mean like just news. So I read it like so I wake up, I open up Techmeme like just like where that are the headlines of the day. And when I'm reading something I try to get into original sources as much as possible. Sometimes if something comes up, I will try to find like more opinion and now will have written about it more just because I find a useful way.

[00:34:28]

It's like a knife sharpener where it prompted me to think through my own sort of you. But but usually by and large, I for my opinions directly from the sort of the core content. And so people are like, oh, who are the writers you read or whatever. Usually if I read other writers, it's more as a happenstance of researching a particular topic. What I actually read on a day to day basis is just like like what is actually happening.

[00:34:53]

And in, you know, and then in the context of writing a daily updates, I will do extensive amounts of research like I mean, you my typical day, I end with like one hundred and fifty browser tabs and I have an iMac with 40 days of RAM because I am so sorry for handling browser stuff.

[00:35:09]

That was going to be my question for you to see how many browser tabs you had opened.

[00:35:13]

Hundreds every day. Like when I write about stuff I want to, it's really important to get everything right down to the details because I see you see things like like, for example, like Mark Zuckerberg in Congress this week and he was let off the hook on at least three occasions at the Senate. And I've been calling times of the House because people talked about Facebook's long data. Well, Facebook doesn't sell data like that. Is Facebook's handling of data OK?

[00:35:35]

Of course not. But if you're not precise and understand exactly how the business works, then your analysis may be right in spirit. But it's it's not right because the details are wrong. And more importantly, the people that matter are not going to hear what you have to say, because when you get caught up on the details. And so for me, getting the details right is critical, not just to make sure my analysis is right, but to make sure that people will hear the analysis because people won't hear what you have to say.

[00:36:04]

If you get details wrong, even those details don't matter. So to me, getting stuff right is really important just from a sort of rhetorical standpoint. But then also, like, I want to know I don't want to say stuff that I don't think I understand. And and sometimes it's things like like I wrote an article about about a year ago. I remember this when I was really proud of in part because I knew how they worked and a sort of high level.

[00:36:27]

But to me, that was a great example where I really got down into the weeds, understand very granular level how they work. And my mind that was a that was an example of a daily article where it read like any other daily update. But there were hours of research that wanted that to make it feel like just another daily update. And, you know, I think my absolute favorite compliments that I get from people is when people in other fields are like, this is the first time someone's actually written, the mothers feel that understands how it works like and in those are gratifying because it shows that the time I put in to make sure I got the details right were worth it.

[00:37:05]

And and I think and I think that's the that's the flip part to the saying when you're wrong, like if you say when you're wrong and you put in the time the details right. The rest of the time, that's the best way to sort of build sort of trust and reputation in the long run. There's always a challenge about a broad based sort of publication where it's like, oh yeah, this publication is really great. They always have. They always know what they're talking about.

[00:37:28]

And then they write about the field that you're in. And if they get the details wrong, it's like, wait, I know about this one. They're getting it wrong and you start to question everything else. And so to me, it's so important to take the time to get the details right.

[00:37:41]

There's so many things I want to go into there. Let's rewind a little bit to Facebook. To what extent do you think these people are asking questions based on what they believe or based on what they believe their constituents believe in?

[00:37:53]

It's posturing or signaling?

[00:37:55]

I mean, Facebook's entire morass there? I think I think the part of the challenge with Facebook currently is I think there's an aspect where Facebook is a bit of a scapegoat for the last election. But and I think Facebook is very attuned to that and feels resentful about that. But it doesn't change the fact that Facebook did a lot of bad things. And I actually think Facebook is responsible. The last election, not because of Russian ads or fake news, but because of the kind of reference earlier, the way they fundamentally changed the structure of politics and media in America.

[00:38:26]

But that's that's a very different sort of cause. And so it's hard to I think it's a challenging to to pull apart what are the causes here. And I think it's such a challenge just in general that Facebook is probably the most prominent example, particularly currently, but by and large, to sort of break out of. Your bubble, and it feels like the bubble has gotten so much stronger and more pervasive, particularly since the last election, and I think to this point I'm grateful for one having grown up in this sort of environment that I did, because I feel at least more aware of the just I mean, imagine growing up and not even knowing that you should apply to to like a Harvard or something like that was me like.

[00:39:13]

And I think that's a mindset and a view of the world that most people that I deal with on a daily basis can't even fathom why I like to to grow up in that sort of. But that's the experience of a lot of people. That's one. But then two on a day to day basis to not be in San Francisco, to not be immersed in tech in a sort of environmental basis, but to be living abroad in a different country, talking to people who mostly aren't really interested or don't really care that much, I think is tremendously.

[00:39:43]

There are certainly downsides, many of which are familiar by the Internet to things like Twitter and messaging that let you stay in touch with people. But there are tremendous upsides, which is being on the sort of outside looking in brings, I think, a lot of clarity and skepticism.

[00:40:00]

I think probably more than anything, you probably see the system better than anybody because you're outside of it, right? You're not a part of it. And you don't have these nudges to see only what's right in front of you. Yeah, I mean, it looks that everything is a strength and a weakness.

[00:40:13]

So I'm less in touch with the details and the day to day. But by just by definition, I'm not immersed in it. But but the payoff is yet being on the outside, looking in. And that happens to align with, again, my sort of natural way to view the world.

[00:40:28]

So, again, I think it's another it's another area where my life and sort of business model is in alignment, I think, to to sort of my benefit to questions I want to follow up on before we get back to kind of like your habits, which one is like, OK, so tell me about Facebook and how they had an effect on the election, because I don't think anybody listening or not everybody listening will be familiar with your work.

[00:40:54]

And the second is talk to me about this information bubble that we're in.

[00:40:58]

Well, I mean, my theory with Facebook is there's that famous book, The Party, The Sides, and that was sort of the theories in that kind of drove like Nate Silver, for example, to to ignore his own polling data and to say that Trump wasn't going anywhere. The sort of thesis of that book, the party decides, is that after the sort of like democratic reforms of the of the party of the presidential nomination process in the 60s and 70s, it used to be like a smoky room, like a smoking room.

[00:41:25]

They would go choose the presidential nominee. But then there was this push to be more Democratic. I think on the Democratic side after was a Herbert Hoover was sort of just like picked out of nowhere. And and the thesis of the book is that, yes, it became more Democratic with the primary and caucuses and all sorts of things, but it actually was still the parties deciding who is who is the president's nominee. And their point was the party is not like politicians.

[00:41:51]

The party is all the broad sort of interest groups and donors and activists who are care about outcomes and their collective sort of preferences drive. This is me, because they're the ones that actually do stuff. They actually do the work, they actually pay the money. They actually do all the sort of stuff. And they they will they will make the selection by virtue of their only being a possible selection, which means only some candidates would get money. Only some candidates would get the sort of necessary support, always some sort of media coverage that's driven by all sorts of other things that is necessary to even make a presidential run.

[00:42:28]

And I think what was implicit in that and what was missed and underappreciated is all that sort of implicit power. No longer explicit, but implicit power was inextricably tied up to the gate holders gatekeepers in media in that to in order to get your name out, you need money for advertising or you needed earned media. What's called where newspapers are right about you in television stations would cover you in all sorts of things. And that only happened if you were in a position that was enabled by sort of the party in the party speaking broadly, not just the politicians.

[00:43:02]

And so people would vote in primaries, but they were always voting for broadly acceptable candidates to the sort of party as a whole. And and so that's kind of part one. Part two is what has happened to the media over the last 20 years. The media has completely lost its sort of gatekeeper status. The media was predicated on controlling the media is not predicated on on writing content that people want to read. They're only printing presses and only delivery trucks like that.

[00:43:27]

And they own the mechanism for delivery. Exactly. And so what the Internet did is completely made all that obsolete. And the Internet made distribution costs zero major and zero made it made it possible for anyone to go anywhere to read anything and basically destroyed the power on which those gatekeeper functions rested. And so what happened was the the media completely switched to being from being a gatekeeper to being a a subservient supplier to platforms like Google and Facebook, where they they had to go on the platforms according to the platforms dictates, and could compete for readers in the way they were allowed, which is by quicksort getting attention or whatever it might be, as opposed to being.

[00:44:12]

We are sort of like we own the printing presses. You will read what we have to say. And so the implication of that is once the media lost its power and its gatekeeper status, the parties at the same time, because they were inextricably tied to the media, lost their power and status. And no one sort of realized this happened until really Obama came along and came out of nowhere and totally overwhelmed the party's choice, which was Clinton. And he did it through grassroots, through being something that broke through and people were attracted to.

[00:44:42]

And then Trump took it up to 11. No one in the party establishment wanted him or supported him, but he had celebrity and attraction. And why did the news cover Trump? The news didn't make Trump the news cover Trump because people wanted to see more Trump. They wanted the news in media organizations were responding to the incentives that they had in a world where they were no longer gatekeepers. They were sort of serfs in Google and Facebook kingdoms. And what else would they do if they didn't cover Trump?

[00:45:11]

Someone else would, and that's where the audience would go. And so and so this is the this is the effect that Facebook had in Trump. Being elected is by virtue of being the mechanism by which media and media entities lost a sort of gatekeeper status of what was acceptable was not acceptable. They were, by extension, the mechanism by which political parties lost their sort of controlling function such that no one could control it. And once no one could control it, it weighed the groundwork for for Trump to come along and be nominated and be elected, which is what the actual voters wanted.

[00:45:46]

Whether you agree with it or not, even though the party didn't want that. And so it just flipped it around on its head.

[00:45:52]

Do you think we're going to see more sort of implications along these lines as technology continues to expand its role and ubiquity in our lives?

[00:46:02]

Unquestionably. I mean, we are switching from a world where it used to be a world where market power and economic power and social power was gained by controlling supply to a new world where where power is gained by controlling demand. The fundamental difference between, let's say, a newspaper previously that controlled the printing presses and Facebook is that Facebook has the users such that suppliers in this being content organisations, organisations have no choice but to go to users on Facebook's terms.

[00:46:36]

A great example is Google is Google. Google is kind of the king of what I call these sort of aggregators. Like what do what does any website do? What do I do? What do you do? What does The New York Times do? Does anyone do they put up a a map of their websites that according to Google's terms, that that makes their site easier for for Google to understand and to put its search index right. Like we are all doing work on Google's behalf to make Google service better.

[00:47:02]

That is because Google controls demand. They control the customer in where they enter the Internet. And that's a perfect example of how controlling demand is the true locus of power going forward, not controlling supply.

[00:47:18]

Do you think that sticky or do you think that they'll there'll be these like Google kind of came out of nowhere to are there today?

[00:47:25]

And do you think because there's multiple virtuous cycle going on. So in the case of Google, you have they have a data network advantage, which is the more people search, the more data and results they get on what searches work, what searches don't, people's preferences. It makes your search for real results better. So there's one network effect there where the more people that use Google, the better Google gets. And if you had two search engines and they had they start out with identical technology and wanted fifty one percent share, one four percent share over time, the 51 percent share would grow and would improve just because they have a data advantage.

[00:47:59]

So that's number one. Number two is you get a two sided network effect where the more users, the users come to a platform initially because as a great user experience or fits their specific need and those users give that that aggregator power over suppliers is a suppliers will come onto their platform on the aggravators terms. You can see this with with Google or Facebook, Netflix, for example, where they go there to get access to the customers. And that makes the offering more attractive to end users.

[00:48:26]

They get more users and you get more users. Now you have more power over suppliers, get more attractive buyers. Exactly. And so you get a virtuous cycle. And so that's sort of the in you're seeing this play out where the sort of the end game of controlling demand. And because, again, the two key things are there being zero distribution costs, which means you. You can pull all suppliers of all types onto your platform and reach all customers at effectively zero marginal costs, whereas it used to be, you know, to to print a newspaper and deliver it to doorstep, that that cost money to send a newspaper couldn't scale infinitely.

[00:49:00]

Google could scale infinitely. And there's no transaction cost like Google can legitimately serve every person in the world. Facebook can legitimately serve two billion people. There's no way any business with any sort of marginal cost could ever serve two billion people. And so it's the fact that there are no marginal cost is a console's the Internet. And, you know, the thing with Internet thing with business was I was very critical of our going to business school and strategy class, and there was no classes about like the Internet that involved Internet companies.

[00:49:27]

And I went to the professor. I'm like, how can you have a strategy class with without anything about the Internet? Well, the thing about strategy and in doing case studies is you learn these broad principles that can be applied and it's bullshit because it's true. But what the Internet has effectively done is if you think there's like a this big complex math equation, if you put a zero into that equation, the whole thing kind of blows up. Right.

[00:49:51]

Like, you can still use the equation and with zeroes in it. But it's most people don't think that way. They can't think through all the implications. And so, again, by sort of systematic view of the world, sort of let me sort of figure out what happens if you put a zero in this equation. What are the implications of that? But a lot of what I write about with aggregation theory is, is this a let's let's lose the equation.

[00:50:15]

Let's go through to the simplified equation, which is completely different than the equation before, because after the zeros are there, like it looks totally different. And now how does this actually apply to the real world? How can this actually apply to your business in your industry and things along those lines?

[00:50:29]

Would you teach an MBA strategy class for Internet strategy if you came into to give a lecture on Internet strategy? What would be the core ideas of that sort of lecture?

[00:50:40]

I think the the the most important takeaway would be I'm sure I could do case studies about the different industries and companies. But I think the more important thing is, is the examining the implications of changing assumptions, like what happens when you start with start with zero marginal costs. And and I would probably want to go through different industries and show how when you change the assumptions, the implication for that business and what is attractive completely changes. Like I take like CPG companies like Consumer Packaged Goods, which is a huge focus at Kellogg where I went to went to school.

[00:51:17]

The these sort of companies, they were predicated. The single most important thing understand about the CPG company is that their most important sort of strategic tool was shelf space. Like if you control shelf space, then what you do, then you do R&D to get like sort of invest a lot, R&D to get marginally better products, that it would run a bunch of TV advertising, which the lowest common denominator, and they go to the store and it would be a brand extension where they'd be next to the Tide detergent because, oh, if a grocery store or if you wanted detergent, you better carry this brand extension next to it and then it would be there and you buy it and that's how they would drive growth.

[00:51:51]

And if you think about it, if you have a strategy and it's obviously dramatically simplified, but if you have a strategy that is quite literally predicated on physical space, that probably is not going to be a very if you do a thing with the Internet, what happens if there are no shelves? And if you start with no shelves, everything changes. It turns out that brand actually brand already mattered. But Brand matters more in a different way on the Internet, where it used to be a brand matter from a reputation, perspective, recognition perspective, like you're in the grocery store or I need some deodorant and you're looking at a shelf with like 20 kinds of deodorant.

[00:52:27]

Why do you pick the one that you pick? Most people don't know, but but a lot of it has to do with advertising and sort of implied preference and things that they've picked up over time. Whereas on if you go to Amazon for deodorant, you search for different, you search for Old Spice, so you search for reichard, which means the recollection of a specific brand name is much more important than the sort of recognition of a brand that makes sense, which means your advertising strategy needs to be different.

[00:52:50]

All those things need everything you do about your business needs to be different. You probably want fewer brand extension and more investment in a sort of like stand out sort of thing. And you have to deal with competitors that are super niche focus because the Internet enables niche in an unbelievable sort of way. I mean, like our businesses are examples of that. And so and so my point would not. So if I were to do guest lecturer in an MBA program, I would not maybe I would use CPG as a case study.

[00:53:19]

But my goal would be you need to learn to consistently and repeatedly start with new assumptions, like what is the controlling assumption in this industry? What happens is that controlling something goes to completely changes. Here's another example. Hotels like if you're trying to figure out what is the most important thing for a hotel, traditionally it's it's the name on the sign why you are going to go in. Close your eyes in a strange place and you need to feel safe, and so if you don't feel safe, if you don't feel like it's a place that is trustworthy, it doesn't matter.

[00:53:56]

Location as a matter of don't matter. All the quality of the sheets don't matter. Nothing matters unless that that one priority is taken care of. And so it would be like Airbnb, for example, did was it took that trust, which is very hard to build and develop in companies that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in lots of time and building brands. They they basically digitized trust to being the sort of reputation system and ratings and things like that.

[00:54:23]

Again, crippling eBay, for example. eBay is a huge pioneer in and lots of this stuff. But but they digitized trust. And what that did was it didn't make trust. Not matter what it did was it lowered trust from being the only thing that matters to being one of many things that matter, along with maybe I want a kitchen, maybe I want to live in a particular neighborhood, maybe I want to do all these sorts of things.

[00:54:43]

And and that's just you could see this in industry after industry where where the assumptions fundamentally change. And so, again, the lesson I would want to impart is, is how can you train yourself to question and look at assumptions? Because most people don't they they stay on the surface. You mentioned the shelf space.

[00:55:03]

I think that is super interesting. You go to Amazon, you search for children, but you also have this weird thing where if you're not in a physical store, I mean, when you reach for a product in a physical store, even if you're searching for it, it's there. But on the Internet, you could reach for deodorant on Amazon and it can show you like six deodorants before you get to the one you want, even if you're searching by the brand name.

[00:55:25]

Yeah, I think that's a mistake by the brands. Like, it should like they have too many versions, too many variations.

[00:55:30]

And that's what I think of the world that came before.

[00:55:33]

And I think the all these brands in so much of the sort of modern economy was built on this like mass market, lowest common denominator sort of model where you're going to watch the big sports game that everybody watches and you're going to see the commercial for the big beer or the big deodorant or the big whatever it might be that everyone sees. And you're going to drive your your big car to a big box retailer and you're going to bump into it on the shelf.

[00:55:59]

You're going to grab it. You're going to go home. And and every single piece of that story that I just told is being fundamentally disrupted by the Internet, you know, sports like the shared experience of of watching a football game, certainly still strong. And there's a reason why it's still valuable and still drives a lot of, you know, particularly the bundling things on those lines. But there's so many more things to watch. There's EA Sports, there's there is Reddit, there's listening to podcasts like there's so many more outlets for free time that that is inevitably going to weaken over time.

[00:56:30]

The the you see the driving a car. Well, or maybe you're going to take an Uber or maybe you're going to ride a bus or maybe you're going to. The fundamental nature of our cities is going to slowly transform as new forms of transportation become viable. Big box retailers. Well, what about just going to Amazon? What about searching for it? You know, lowest common Interbrand that sort of applies. What about the micro brand that can target me on Facebook or Instagram because it understands who I am and what is about it?

[00:56:59]

I'm like, oh, that's actually really interesting. And they can reach me spending a fraction of the price that these companies spend to to to do this mass market advertising. But the implication of being very niche is they can be much more specialized, like like if you don't have to bear huge fixed costs of being on shelf space and running TV ads, you can you can spend that money on building a better product that appeals to a narrower segment and charge more.

[00:57:23]

And now I'm buying my custom by custom deodorant that's meant for men in the Oregon Trail generation. And and I'm lost as a customer for kind of completely and there's no real way to get me back.

[00:57:38]

So I'm like the board of Heine's. We bring you in. What do you tell us? What do you tell us about what we're doing wrong and what we should be doing differently than other than say I say you're on your own by Warren Buffett, so you should probably do it, he says.

[00:57:53]

But that's the prototypical example of a company like how would you tangibly, other than reduce brand extensions and invest in brand like how is the Internet changing that business in your eyes?

[00:58:07]

I think I think you just but I think just that I think the Internet has a barbell effect where there are returns to the biggest and returns to the smallest. And if you're stuck in the middle, it's just a very dangerous sort of sort of place to be. And so if I our Heinz, I would double down on on Heinz and the Heinz brand and I would seek to dominate even further all the traditional distribution channels that that I do, whether it be restaurants, whether that be schools or, you know, all the sort of like the bee to be sort of selling space, because that's going to be a space where being big and bring to bear your assets is going to be much more impactful than the sort of consumer space where it's getting more challenging.

[00:58:45]

So. So if I saw that, that would be another aspect of what I would do and and, you know, and and and I think that that's probably relatively consistent advice. But but, you know, certainly it's going to be I think is probably a better safe than a lot of folks, to be honest, because this area, that New Yorker article about trying to invent new kinds of catch up.

[00:59:05]

No, it's a classic Gladwell piece is from a few years ago. But it turns out it's really hard to improve on Heine's, which is which is a good place to be. But but yeah, but no, but yeah, I think thinking about your go to market, your target customers, what your brand is, is worth doubling down on. Can you do extension's what makes sense. Yeah, all those are going to be key questions.

[00:59:28]

You mentioned control and demand is kind of the future. Who do you think and why has a better control in demand position in a relative basis between not only now but going for between Google, Facebook and maybe Amazon?

[00:59:44]

Well, I think they're in pretty distinct categories. I, I think going forward in that, you know, Amazon is clearly, clearly focused on from a consumer perspective anyway. And they want to be where you buy everything. And the one stop shop and your if you want something to buy, you should just go to Amazon. Don't even bother going going anywhere else. And they've been very effective in that regard. Google, if you want to know something, you go to Google and and Facebook is Facebook is where you waste time.

[01:00:15]

And that is surprisingly valuable thing to be where you waste time, because in part because one people a lot of time to waste more than they think and at Mobile has really unlocked huge amounts of new places for people to waste time, you know, whether be waiting for the bus, going to the bathroom or whatever it might be. There's lots of lots of places time to waste time. And the other thing and the good thing about wasting time is that is one of the most attractive and compelling places to advertise.

[01:00:45]

Because when you are focused, like Google is about focus, like I want this thing and Go is going to help me find it. And to extent, Google search ads are very compelling because they are helping you find the thing that you want. And it's really a win win sort of thing. Whereas what about the things that you don't know that you want, that you don't know about? They're not aware of that even exists. And if you're in a focused state where your attention is, is you're thinking about one thing you're not open to, to new things, to new ideas, to new things coming in.

[01:01:15]

You're much more open when your mind is kind of shut off when you're just absolutely scrolling through your Facebook feed or through Instagram. And so Facebook is actually an incredibly powerful advertising platform for precisely that reason, because the mental state that people are in when they are on Facebook is different than the one they're in there on Google, for example, or even on Amazon. The other thing to think about in this case and why those are the kind of big companies is you have to think about from an advertiser reflective as well.

[01:01:40]

Advertisers think about it from an ROIC and what is what the are what's the return like? How many like how many purchases do I get from this app? But the eye matters as well. How much work do I have to do to get this ad out there? Like do I have to learn the platform? Do I have to invest it to make special creative for it? And this is where Instagram is such a is such a powerful tool for for Facebook in that if you want to reach, say, teenagers, maybe Snapchat is a better way to reach teenagers and Instagram is only 80 percent.

[01:02:10]

That's good. But if you're already buying Facebook ads, you're already on the background. Those are so much better. Yeah. That the eye overwhelms whatever our advantage Snapchat might have. And so the real sort of problematic angle to Google and Facebook is less the consumer front end and more the advertiser back in such that it's not really viable to build a a mass market advertising business in the current day because Facebook and Google are so dominant.

[01:02:36]

Which company would you rather be?

[01:02:39]

I don't know. I mean, I think I mean, probably I mean, Google has one of the most perfect models of all time, in part because they're such a perfect aggregator where Google Google's goal is to know everything. And the nature of their model is that everyone voluntarily gives them everything, like users go and literally tell Google like they want to advertise me shoes.

[01:03:02]

Right now, they're not saying users saying they're searching for shoes, but like it couldn't be clearer what they're going for. Right. Like Google certainly has a ton of data on you and they do do targeting all sorts of things. But at the end of the day, the most powerful piece of targeting Google has is what you tell them in their search box. And if all targeting a data collection went away tomorrow, Google would still be in fantastic shape.

[01:03:23]

And on the back side, like all the suppliers, the websites, all those things, they give Google all their data. Google is like, oh, we have a new format for recipes, put your recipes in our format. And was like, OK, we'll do your format. Like, because why? Because it's a win win win sort of situation in the long run. Google we move to voice. Is our business model going to make sense?

[01:03:43]

They have challenges certainly going forward. Google's again, less attractive. For the sort of brand advertising, although YouTube is obviously a massive a massive advantage in this case, you know, Amazon, there's a pretty straightforward like you, you buy from Amazon and they'll take a skim off it. And there are shifting more and more to being a platform model where third parties on Amazon and the third parties pay Amazon to put their stuff in Amazon's warehouses and then think of ourselves as a sale that is just facilitating it at all because they own the storefront, they own the customer relationship.

[01:04:13]

You know, Facebook is probably the least attractive just because, you know, the all those things that I talked about, the ability to reach people when they're bored and the downtime to understand what those people want implies the sort of data collection and and stuff that Facebook is is getting grief about currently. And also, people are more likely, I think, to be critical of just a leisure activity in general, like the like. It's less clear what societal value Facebook attributes that gives them a defense against their actions.

[01:04:46]

Whereas Google is like we don't use Google. Everyone uses Google. It buys a very valuable. I think that's a little unfair to Facebook. I think like it's like when you're raising kids, like, it's very easy to say, like, oh, my kids should be studying more and taking more classes and doing stuff, but kids need to play it right. They need downtime. You know, I think there's an aspect of it's OK to be a wieser focus company.

[01:05:06]

It's OK that to BS in that people do when they're bored. And but it's also a much easier way to attack. And does Facebook have addictive qualities? Are there issues about it? I don't know. I'm glad they're open up to more research. I think that there is a personal responsibility aspect that goes into this, but it's a much bigger sort of danger zone for Facebook, where they get branded as being like the new smoking or something like that.

[01:05:31]

And and given that these companies gain their power through owning the customer relationship, the greatest danger is always a turn in customer sentiment. I mean, it is becoming harder.

[01:05:44]

Is it insurmountable now that the person in their garage could compete with Google?

[01:05:49]

Like is that data advantage cumulative for Google and Facebook and Amazon in the sense that, like, the longer it goes on, the harder it will be to effectively compete with them?

[01:06:01]

Well, it was impossible for someone to compete with Microsoft. And I think that's what people don't appreciate about these sort of dominant players in these sort of epochs, is they are tied to the paradigm of of the moment. And they're they're sort of upheaval and downfall will come not from someone being in a garage alone. It will come from someone being in a garage who latches onto the next paradigm shift. That makes it impossible for the powers that be to compete.

[01:06:33]

I mean, the issue with with Microsoft was, you know, mobile or two issues. One, the Internet sort of it changed the layer of lock in, if that makes sense, where it didn't matter if you were on the Windows API or not, because everything was within a browser window, it actually matter. What was the first time people went to the browser windows was Google and sort of the layer of the chokehold kind of moved up. In the case of mobile, the Mexican and the right business model, the business model is either you own the device and sell the device like Apple did, or you you give you give the the software for free, building this massive sort of network effect.

[01:07:08]

And and then you have another reason amortizing it, which Google and Android did. And Microsoft was stuck with a licensing business model that just didn't make sense, that didn't work. And they also had the wrong mindset. They could all of Microsoft's mobile phones before the Apple came on all presume the presence of a PC. They all assume the PC would be central to people's lives. And the phone was an adjunct to that. And it turned out actually, no, the phone is your central life and the PC is an adjunct to that.

[01:07:32]

And Microsoft could never get over that culturally and from a mindset perspective. And so and that's what took Microsoft down, was not someone in a garage. It was that the world changed.

[01:07:41]

And and I think this is what one would have recognized it.

[01:07:46]

I think that Microsoft gets a lot of unfair grief for a fate that would have befallen any manager and any company in the same position, because as a matter of culture and it was a matter of broad changes in the competitive space, it had nothing to do with Microsoft itself. Microsoft didn't miss mobile. Microsoft started building mobile phones in the late 90s like they didn't miss it. They just were fundamentally unequipped to compete in it. And that's what happens. That's how disruption happens.

[01:08:13]

And the stories of companies moving seamlessly from one paradigm to another are basically non-existent because all the things that make you strong and competitive in one paradigm make you fundamentally ill equipped to be the next one.

[01:08:26]

It's what I saw at the beginning. Strengths, our weaknesses, what makes a strong and what.

[01:08:30]

Yeah, I mean, so I if I could be right now with systematic analysis of technology and society, if it turned out tomorrow that the only newsletter's a matter, once I got into the nitty gritty details and whatever, I'd be screwed. I'm not going to fundamentally change who I am. And and. That's a very obviously isolated, narrow example, but it absolutely applies broadly to to companies as big as Microsoft. Switching gears just a little bit.

[01:08:55]

I mean, there's there's a massive kind of consolidation going on in old media. So the cable networks, cable providers, broadcasters, telecoms, even cell phone providers, to that extent, I mean, I feel like a new merger is basically being announced, if not daily, kind of weekly. Why do you think this is happening now? What's the driving force and how does this find an equilibrium?

[01:09:20]

Well, it's for the reason that story that I told before about watching the big sports game and then going to the store and buying deodorant, the there was a way of organizing the world that held true for 60 some years after the post-World War War to order. And that order is ending and win win orders and eras come to an end. The inevitable outcome is sort of consolidation and coming together. And there's an aspect to where technology enables this, where there's always like two areas of technology, like the first era of technology made existing companies and processes better and more efficient.

[01:09:57]

So it was the big companies that would buy big accounting systems and back end mainframes. There's a sort of stuff and it made what they did better. The Internet fundamentally changed the assumptions undergirding their business, and to some extent it made it more possible to run large companies efficiently. So doing a merger became a more viable process. But the broader trend is that the the world in which these companies grew up, in which they're they're built to operate in that world, is shrinking.

[01:10:29]

And the the obvious way to deal with that is to merge and to see if we can figure it out together because because we don't have time to compete with each other, because we have to deal with sort of fundamental secular impacts on our on our companies and businesses. Talk to me, you mentioned earlier about bundling and unbundling. Talk to me a little bit about what's going on there, what you see and what you feel is happening and where we're going to land.

[01:10:55]

Well, what happens with these paradigm shifts is that the point of integration changes or changes in the value chain where where it used to be. You integrate at a particular point, and that's where and everyone around the point of integration sort of modulators in fits into that framework. So the the there used to be a point of integration around sort of putting all the TV channels together. And then on one side, you would have customers that would that would sign up and this idea would have show creators that would make a show and sell to the highest bidder and then they sell it elsewhere, international rights and rerun rights, those sort of things.

[01:11:30]

And you had sort of very modular pieces in this integration, the middle.

[01:11:33]

And then what happened was like Netflix came along and they what was the key thing that they digitize if Airbnb sort of digitized trust, Netflix digitized time, like the linear sort of TV schedule, that was the sort of like the key constraint on TV was now completely gone. And there's a there's a great example here, which is Netflix is it's well known their initial foray to streaming was made possible by a deal with Starz for eleven thousand movies. And the day that Netflix launched streaming, what was the effective catalog size for Starz?

[01:12:09]

It was one. It was whatever movie they were showing on their channel at that time. Right. Whereas for Netflix, the moment they launched the effective catalog size was eleven thousand because you could choose any one of the movies to watch. And what this did was and then Netflix combine that with that created this fantastic user experience that let them gain customers, they gain customers. They gained more economic power over suppliers. They can start signing up new suppliers.

[01:12:35]

Eventually they get to the point where they can start creating their own shows. And what happened is you the entire value chain has been broken up and reformed around this new integration that Netflix has between their service and owning the customer relationship. And now it's broken on an individual shows selling to Netflix. It's no longer like the studio system and all sorts of things.

[01:12:54]

All that's happened is breaking up into pieces. And so there's a there's a famous quote, the quote from Jim Barksdale, the co-founder of Netscape, which is There are two ways to make money business. One is to bundle. The other is to unbundle. And what is gets is if you find a point of differentiation in a way to integrate in a value chain, you can build a new value chain such as the rest. You build a new bundle and everyone around you unbundled and aligns themselves to you.

[01:13:22]

It's like when a bunch of magnet's and you move, you build a connection where they all kind of scurry around and line up. Right. That's what happens in business is and it happens on paradigm shift that happens on the Internet where where new areas become possible, new points of integration and then everything else in the value chain reorganizes itself around that.

[01:13:42]

And where do you think that that land is it just this seesaw between bundling and unbundling indefinitely or is it.

[01:13:49]

No, no, no. I think we're in the middle of a huge transition and probably will have more stability going forward. I think the long run forward for TV, for example, the long run is likely that there is the traditional bundle becomes basically all about sports because sports is better. Live sports is is advertising driven into the business model on that side is going to be different. And to be very expensive, you to pay like a lot of money to get not that many channels that are mostly all sports.

[01:14:14]

And it's going to become an accidental sports battle over people that only want sports. And it's going to back into that. You have Netflix in your pocket, like Disney, Fox, for example, and maybe one or two other services like that are like Amazon Prime. But the goal there is Amazon. It's not to be entertained, but on itself. And what's going to happen is people are going to end up paying about the same amount of money every month they do for content.

[01:14:35]

Today, there's will be paying different people. And I think that that's going to be the case. This idea that there's going to be this this year to suddenly be paying fifteen dollars a month for all the entertainment you want is a fantasy. That's not going to happen. What's going to happen is you'll be paying different people than you paid before. In lots of industries, like there will be new giants that emerge that in the new area that that that are created with what I saw Chickory, I started it with the business model in place, which gave me lots of advantages relative to to other folks.

[01:15:08]

Right. You're going to see the same thing at a much larger scale. Companies that are started with Internet assumptions that are started with a view of how the world works today. It started with the assumption of zero distribution costs for information and the ability to sort of scale are going to be the new giants. And we're just kind of I think in the middle of this, it's going to be a multi year, probably multi decade sort of shift.

[01:15:31]

Talk to me about how VXI is shaping kind of the space. I mean, we have things that have never really happened before. We have private companies that are allegedly valued at like 60 billion dollars. We have companies staying private longer, we have companies willing to sustain losses longer in order to try and compete with these companies. How is that all playing in? Well, I would say there's there's two points. One, I think v.C is inextricably tied to technology, and the reason is that the nature of technology is massive upfront investment, followed by basically zero marginal costs and huge amounts of scale.

[01:16:11]

If you write a piece of software, it takes a lot of time, a lot of money. But once that software is written, it can be reproduced infinitely. And the same thing with like chips is where we really started was it was in production. Like chips are made of sand for the purposes that the marginal cost is nothing, astronomical amounts of fixed costs up front. And so v.C is is VXI is the financial equivalent of software. It is is the mechanism by which to put a lot of money in up front such that you can earn uncapped returns on the back end.

[01:16:43]

So it's always been a key component because you can't pull them apart. That said, VXI has been fundamentally shifted. I think like like eight of us has been a huge factor here where it used to be you needed funding to build something to get something off the ground. So you would have to get funding with a PowerPoint, just even do anything. Whereas now because you had to buy servers, like even if you want to do it in your spare time, you still have to get a server.

[01:17:09]

Right now you can walk up to Amazon and basically you have as many servers as you could possibly want on a pay as you go basis such that you can build something, get out the ground, prove a concept, and now you walk into a pitch meeting and you're actually demonstrating a working or working app as opposed to a PowerPoint. And so that you've seen the entire ecosystem of of funding shift where what used to be a series today is a precede.

[01:17:33]

And then there's a seed and then there's a series which is basically the old series. So part of that is sort of the structural shift in VC is sort of shifted up the chain as far as the huge amounts of of private capital being available at the highest ends.

[01:17:45]

I think that's sort of that's almost a separate category than VC in many respects. It's it's more a matter of if it's a new investment class, I would say completely like it's called venture capital funding, like once you're funding an Uber like billions of dollars. But to me, it's a completely different it is called a growth investing, basically. And and in this case, you're not because VC, you're hoping for the 10x return. Right. You're doing a bunch of bets and you want a couple to maybe hit in one like one grand slam and that will make the return for your to fund growth.

[01:18:19]

Investing is not like that. No one is investing at Uber at a seventy five billion dollar valuation, hoping to get a 10x return. It is much more akin to, I think, traditional sort of equity investing, but obviously with a higher risk profile, a chance which implies a chance for a higher return. But the fundamental mechanics in thinking and modeling that goes into those investments is completely different than than regular venture capital investing.

[01:18:44]

You said it's changed a lot over the years, and that's because Amazon has equal and Shopify, to some extent, I would imagine, have given people the tools that were commonly unavailable. What do you see as kind of like the next stage of this transition?

[01:19:00]

Well, I would say I mean, since you mentioned Shopify, I don't think Shopify generally has much to do with a VC startup, for example. What I think is startups in sort of my world are generally like VC funded. Right. And they are the goal is to build a at least one hundred million dollar company, ideally like a billion dollar company, and get a huge, huge amount of return. I actually think, though, there is a massive opportunity and for a completely new type of businesses, you know, derogatorily referred to as lifestyle businesses, but businesses that are uniquely enabled by the Internet in the ability to access the entire world as your market.

[01:19:41]

And you and I are examples of this. I can sit in Taiwan and I have customers in in literally hundreds of countries around the world because because of the Internet. But the fact I can build that business is reliant on, for example, like Stripe making it trivial for me to accept payments or WordPress, like the fact that I have this platform and all these sorts of pieces. And and Shopify is is a classic example of that sort of company.

[01:20:07]

And these are the companies I'm the most excited about, the most passionate about, because I think we need to dramatically reduce the barriers for people to to build new kinds of businesses uniquely they over the Internet. And I think those are where the jobs of the future are going to come from. They're not going to come from a Facebook or I mean, I guess a lot of coming from Amazon, frankly.

[01:20:27]

But but they're in built out. Oh, there's the long run trend in lower business formation going in the US. And I'm not surprised by that, in part because a lot of consolidation and and the reduction in friction that the Internet allowed bigger companies to be bigger and reach out to small towns more and more. I suspect that rate of decline would be even faster if it weren't for these new types of businesses and my hope and belief in the long run.

[01:20:55]

Is that kind of like music, like the music industry, their their revenue decline for many years, like, oh, the music industry is screwed, it terms out. The music industry is actually in fantastic shape and their revenue has been increasing a lot. And they're actually going to have their on pace to have like their best year ever in the next couple of years, like even more than like the CD era. Why? Because streaming came along and just fundamentally changed your cohesive model.

[01:21:19]

Yeah. And it took time and you had to weather the decline of the old model, but the new model came through and and I believe and and a lot of the sort of policy prescriptions that I have to set that I do are all about enabling this new model for the world where people are. There are platforms, people are uniquely enabled to build new kinds of businesses that were not possible before the Internet.

[01:21:44]

It kind of it's kind of by definition, right. If the Internet is screwing up all these other businesses, then the businesses that take the place, almost by definition, have to be predicated on the Internet because the strength has to be the weakness in that regard. And so I don't write about partisan politics much, but things like I do endorse are things like universal health care, for example. But I'm well aware of all the arguments against it and the challenges in the US particular.

[01:22:09]

But people need to not worry about their family getting sick and to invent these sort of new jobs of the future, for example. And so that's one of the things that I'm extremely passionate about and is a core belief and and for me about how we deal with this sort of ongoing disruption.

[01:22:28]

How do you see, like, tech influencing payments, so like Strib came along, but I mean, Visa and MasterCard and where that's going, I mean, I think the people the thing that people forget about Visa, MasterCard, is they're incredibly convenient.

[01:22:43]

I mean, the reason why the credit cards are everywhere is because they solved a real pain problem. And they and anything that that wants to replace them has to not just be a little bit better. It has to be massively better and massively better in multiplayer. And again, the you know, I am well aware of of how expensive credit cards are. It's my largest expense by a lot. But at the same time, it's not going to ever not support credit cards because they cost a lot like the rent.

[01:23:14]

The payoff inconvenience for customers to sign up from wherever the world is is well worth it. And and so I think we're probably have the credit card with us for a lot longer than some of the proponents of alternative payment methods might think.

[01:23:29]

Well, it seems like everything that's new, even like Apple Pay, I mean, it's run on the back end of existing kind of credit card companies or platforms. Yeah.

[01:23:38]

And you can sketch out a scenario where in the long run, if enough people use Apple Pay, that Apple Pay could Apple could do something to switch out the back end. But frankly, why would Apple want to do that? I mean, what Apple does, Apple wants to control the user experience and then get get other people to do the very expensive sort of like infrastructure build out. Like think about the iPhone. Right. They leverage the iPhone to sort of control customers and made it so that customers would switch carriers to get the iPhone, which gave them power over the carriers.

[01:24:05]

And the carriers had to spend billions and billions of dollars to build out new infrastructure to support all the data these people were using and Apple to pay a dime.

[01:24:12]

And so that's what Apple wants to do in industry. The messy, high investment, relatively low capital stuff. They would rather gain leverage over other people and force them to do it to get access to Apple's customers. I know where we're kind of putting up on time here, so I got a couple of questions left, but do you think that ultimately, like social media, the ecosphere is healthy for people? I mean, there seems to be a recognition now that while Facebook and Instagram and all of these services give us leisure time, do you think they're good for society?

[01:24:44]

I would say probably not, but it doesn't really matter and and what I mean is there is something I read a long time. I can't remember where, but this idea where it used to be, I think the issue goes beyond social media. And what I mean is it used to be that the world that matter to us day to day was our local world. And occasionally the outside world would intrude in like whereas we have a world where we're all obsessed with the outside world and occasionally the inside world, the world breaks in.

[01:25:12]

And I think that's that's challenging, I think for humans probably generally. I mean, it's not healthy, I think, to be obsessed with the tossers in terms of what happens in Washington, D.C. and what that effect, the sort of emotional mood on an ongoing basis. And I think social media exacerbates that and exaggerates that greatly. And it, I think, perpetrates the sort of filter bubbles and the bubbles in general where you think lots of people agree with you, whereas if you're in your small town to find people that agree with you, you're geographically constrained with people that don't agree with you or view the world differently, whereas you can surround yourself through, I think, the same thing as you are online.

[01:25:49]

And I think all those are probably problematic. And the reason why I think it doesn't matter, though, is the genie is not going back in the bottle. And I think this applies to lots of things. Social media applies. The economy applies to advertising and privacy. The temptation is going to be strong to fight battles that have already been decided when we would be much better off pushing forward and figuring out what we're going to do going forward. How are we going to build the sort of like structures going forward that that are healthy?

[01:26:17]

That makes sense. How are we going to train people to be able to handle 24/7 news, to handle social media? How are we going to create the conditions for the companies of the future going forward to bemoan that the world, the post-World War Two order is falling apart is is completely counterproductive and and is a opportunity cost to actually figure out what's next to an extension of the to some part.

[01:26:40]

Do you think government plays a role in making Facebook or Google provide data to everybody so that everyone thinks this is.

[01:26:50]

Yeah, this is this is the this is the real sort of paradox of what's going on right now is Facebook's response. And they are being cheered on as they do it for all its purposes is to. Yeah. Which basically entrenches them and and was lost because of regulation and how the GDP, the GDP is is is it going to be very costly for Google and Facebook? Absolutely. But it's going to be.

[01:27:15]

But what's a barrier for people who don't know the European general data, privacy regulation and IPOs? All these things are on data and data retention, have to get permission from customers and all these sorts of things like, oh, Facebook, who are big trouble? Well, they are. But if you realize that there is still going to be digital advertising, the alternatives to Google and Facebook are going to be hurt. Way more is is every site with advertising on it going to get permission from users for each of the individual ad networks that runs on that site?

[01:27:46]

What if you think about the barriers as opposed to a Google or Facebook, which has so much internal data, like Facebook has lots of data? You already told Facebook if they were cut off from all third party data, they would still be fine. If Google is cut off from all third party data out there, they're still fine. If if a publication is cut off from all third party data, are they going to be fine? No, they're going to be they're going to be in much more trouble.

[01:28:09]

And and I think this is going be a challenge. Such a challenge with government action going forward is the most obvious. Solutions are are going to lock in. The biggest players are going to lock in the incumbents. And and something that is important to me is continuing to raise a voice. And remember, remember the future little guy that whose business was started yet let's make sure we maintain the conditions for for him or her to get off the ground because we need new jobs.

[01:28:39]

We need jobs that don't exist. We need new industries that are uniquely Nelva. The Internet is going to be awfully easy to shut that off before it even gets started.

[01:28:48]

That begs the question like what regulations would you look at enacting if you were in government to give the little guy kind of a chance, but more so to not further embed these or entrench these larger tech companies?

[01:29:02]

Well, I mean, it's it's very there's there's two ways to argue this. So so one is that these companies need to be broken up or they need to be like maybe Google or Facebook is separate. There's more competition than market would be one win argument. Another argument, though, on the flip side is maybe they actually should be heavily regulated and such that we we have sort of stable platforms and foundations on which the future can be built. And you think about something like like AT&T, right?

[01:29:37]

Like the phone service was costly and it evolved very much. But the it was a stable sort of. That that that other stuff could could be built on, and I'm not I'm not totally sure because it's something I've been wrestling up about a lot about what should the sort of regulatory response be to these platforms? Because there's an aspect of the the implication of aggregation theory is that to be large and to be dominant is the is the natural state of affairs because of these feedback loops like the end state for an innovator is to be to win it all, to take it all.

[01:30:13]

And if I think that the future is using on the excellent podcast The Jungle Analogy, where you're going to have the huge trees that tower over everything and then a huge amount of undergrowth and just massive amounts of life and all kinds of vegetation on the floor and kind of nothing in the middle, if that's sort of the future where you have these massive platforms and you have that stuff in the middle, then maybe, maybe, maybe like seeking out stability and a fair playing field on top of the platforms is more important than ensuring platform competition.

[01:30:49]

If that makes sense and and is something I I'm not sure I've fully articulated that specifically yet, but it's certainly something that I'm trying to come to terms with in my own head. And I like there's just going to be different, this barbell effect. There's going to be big. There's going to be small. And and how do we deal with the one? Well, maintaining room for the other, I think is going to be sort of the critical policy question going forward.

[01:31:15]

It's a great Segway into kind of my last question, which is you've been running straight, I think, five years now.

[01:31:21]

I started SHUKRY five years ago and then it became a business four years ago. Right.

[01:31:26]

To tell me what's changed in those years about what you thought about going into earnings trajectory because you had this business model in mind and kind of what you've learned and honed or changed your mind on over the past five years. Like, what have you learned from learning about technology or about our objective?

[01:31:42]

No, but the trajectory of the business.

[01:31:45]

I mean, first and foremost, I would say one is the speed with which you can grow and and what about can spread? It was kind of like I said, like it's five years down. My goal when I started CheckFree was that in five years it could become my job. It actually became my job in the year. And I am now five years in and far more successful than I would have ever imagined or possible. And frankly, in a lot of that success was really seeded in the first few months, going from having a few readers to having thousands of readers in a remarkably short amount of time.

[01:32:21]

And I think the social media is viewed as such a bad thing for publications, but that's because they don't the right business model. For me, social media is absolutely incredible. And it's the it's the most amazing channel that that could ever be invented. I could use it for free. So I think that's probably the biggest surprise. The second one is probably just it's a big market out there. There's there's so many people and I constantly on Twitter, you will encounter people who they don't follow me.

[01:32:49]

And I think this person would actually really enjoy not saying that. And I'll be all this person really doesn't know who I am because I see their tweets with the writing about and they would almost certainly be interested in stuff that I read about or they follow people that that would make sense. They would want to follow me.

[01:33:04]

And and that's that's actually kind of a great feeling. I don't not resentful. They don't know who I am. It reminds me that there's still sort of upside. There's like there's still room to grow here. And I think this is a mistake that people make like, oh, yeah, how many subscription sites can there be? Not everyone can have like 50 subscriptions. And no, that's not the outcome. The outcome is, Brett, there's going to be so many niches and there's so many people out there that that there won't be enough for everyone.

[01:33:30]

There's enough to go around.

[01:33:31]

We can't talk about this off of one before we start recording that. Yeah, yeah. We both have subscription models, but are we competitors? I know. Like, we're not it's not like there's a thousand people who will pay for content in the world and we have to fight over those thousand people. There are hundreds of thousands, probably almost certainly millions, tens of millions and millions that will and it's more a matter of it's a great problem to have that to know that I have customers out there.

[01:33:55]

And the issue is not that I need to convince them to pay if that they just don't know who I am yet. And that's that's that's a pretty sort of. Yeah. Great place to be. Yeah.

[01:34:04]

Like that a lot. And one of the other things that we touched on earlier before we started recording was we didn't explicitly call it this, but there's the value create the value capture and there needs to be a means for people to capture a percentage of the value you create. And if you over capture, you kind of go to business interview under capture. You go to business and there has to be a mechanism sort of in the middle where you can earn a living and still provide high quality, meaningful content to people.

[01:34:32]

Yeah, no, absolutely. And I mean, the the Internet, like, I don't know, I I'm cognizant of the fact that I am inherently biased because my personal life and business have benefited so greatly from the Internet. But I am also pushed back strongly against the just kind of a running joke like that's fine for Ben or that's great for Ben, which I think is stuff like Merlin Mamak. That's fine for Merlin. And and this idea that oh, that my success rests on on things that are unique to me.

[01:35:05]

Now, do I bring things to the table that are valuable? I mean, obviously, I'm not saying anyone can write it in a publication or anyone can start a business. You have to deliver something of value that is differentiated. But I strongly reject that. I am the only person in the world that could deliver diversity content. I think lots of people can about lots of areas that I know nothing about. And and there are lots of examples of that more and more and more than people know and appreciate.

[01:35:30]

And and, you know, it's like the example of like saying Microsoft failed because of the actions of Steve Ballmer. It's such a presumptuous and and it's human nature to ascribe things to people. But it's wrong. Like what matters far more is the context and environment around Microsoft. And I think the same thing with me. Am I successful because of my hard work? I am. And and that's true. But it's I reject the idea that I am solely responsible.

[01:36:02]

Could I have I could write the exact same things, the actions of a person I was. And I've come a long ten years earlier, five years earlier and and with a different outcome than you have.

[01:36:12]

Yeah. I'd be writing for like. Some, like Bacas or whatever, stretching out the living, I was the right place, right time, and frankly, if I came back 10 years later, I probably wouldn't be successful either because someone would be in my space and to be in my knees. And and I am very cognizant. I just was in the right place at the right time. And there's nothing. It can be both. It can be both.

[01:36:34]

And I think to the extent I succeed in writing about companies and writing about strategy, it's acknowledging and describing all those contextual factors beyond the sort of like great man theory of history that, you know, Steve Jobs is such a great person. That's what Apple succeeded. Well, where are the other things that that sort of go into that it's easy to write the one. It's more it's more difficult to write the other. But but but it's very important.

[01:37:00]

Yeah, I totally agree. One more question. Sorry I lied a bit. Last question, because I could talk to you for hours, but I get a ton of emails afterwards. If I didn't ask you how you organize and retain the knowledge that you're consuming, like what is your back end sort of organization system for what you're reading and how you're thinking about things and how that evolves. Like how do you create your own personal Google or what's your backend system for that?

[01:37:26]

Or is it all literally in your head? Which case the rest of us have no hope.

[01:37:31]

So all that said, all that said, I, I have three sort of like unique skills that definitely benefit what I do. One is I read extremely fast too, is I write extremely fast and three is I have a very good memory, like I just like so I will remember stuff and like Google's my best friend or I use like one of the reason why an upgraded search engine shukry like I just want you to visit the site with a new search experience because I like, I like, I know I read about this, I need to fight it.

[01:38:00]

So that said, I've definitely, I've definitely old man like I could feel I just don't, I could just I could retain stuff like nobody's business when I was younger and it's getting harder. So so I try to be better at that. What I do do is I keep a an outline, I use workflow and where I'm constantly filling it with links of stories of interest and notes like that. And and it does have a search function. And I don't always rely not exclusively, but I'm I'm always trying to capture stuff as I go along that I think is that I think is of interest.

[01:38:35]

And I'll put it in. I'll just put a few notes about what what the articles about and then a wink and arrow and search like I remember as I myself, the the email team did a study about the different kinds of people. People use email like the filer versus the searchers like that or the or whatever. I am definitely in the like. If there was no search, I would be screwed. So I might be like I vaguely I vaguely recall that I saw something about this one time and let me let me exercise my Google Fu or my my my my email inbox search capabilities to find what I what I was searching for.

[01:39:09]

I agree with you. I'm very search oriented as well. Ben, this has been phenomenal. I want to thank you so much for such an amazing conversation. We have to do this again. Sounds good.

[01:39:20]

I'm happy to be here. And thanks again for the multiple delays in getting it out. But but we've done it, so. There you go. It's awesome.

[01:39:31]

Hey, guys, this is Shane again, just a few more things before we wrap up. You can find show notes at Farnam Street blog, dotcom slash podcast. That's fair. And I am s t r e t blog. Dotcom slash podcast. You can also find information there on how to get a transcript.

[01:39:51]

And if you'd like to receive a weekly email from me filled with all sorts of brain food, go to Furnham Street blog, dotcom slash newsletter. This is all the good stuff I found on the Web that week that I've read and shared with close friends, books I'm reading and so much more. Thank you for listening.