Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Total Bozo Magazine Manifesto

A young Ted Kaczynski, who would later write the last big pre-internet manifesto

Still nobody has figured out the internet. Still.

Sure, some people have figured out their own specific version of the internet pretty good. The guy from Amazon seems to have a fairly firm grip on his idea of the internet. Mark Zuckerberg has his whole thing sussed. And so, presumably, does Johnny Google, or whoever the Google guys are. These people have two important things in common: 1. They’ve used the internet to enlist large numbers of people in the task of more effectively selling themselves to themselves on the internet, and 2. They’re billionaires. That’s how we know they’ve figured things out. If you have a billion dollars, people tend to think you’ve done a few things right.

I also mentioned something these internet people have in common is they’ve all figured out ways to get people to sell themselves to themselves on the internet. Amazon has recommendation algorithms. Facebook has preference algorithms. Google knows everything you’ve ever done. All of these mega-successful web-based businesses are designed to show you to yourself when you go on the internet, and they make gobs of money from this.

You know who else is filthy rich from the internet using roughly the same idea of selling people to themselves? Certain content providers. And more power to them. They worked hard for it. They deserve it. It's not the only way, but the easiest way to measure the value of a thing is by the amount of money that somebody is willing to pay for it. $300 million (see links) is a LOT of damn money. $300 million is, like, rent for a whole year times infinity.

And so the question arises: who’s getting that money? The interns? The freelance contributors? The staff members? Probably not a HUGE portion of it. Probably most of that money is going into the pockets of the people who own the business. Which is fine. They started it. They own it. What they do with the money it generates is their prerogative.

We here at Total Bozo see all this happening, and it bothers us. Mostly because we don't own anything but a name and an idea, and we don't suck. 

(Let’s not beat around the bush, "we" means Ben Johnson and Kelly McClure

At least we like to think that we don’t suck. We realize we’re wrong about that, we’re just saying what we like to think. Everybody, especially including us, sucks. It’s just nice to think that we don’t suck. If it meant having to suck at being a website a little more than we’d like to imagine we currently do, we would probably not scoff at having a hundred million dollars or two. We figure we could suck just as well as some of the other $300-million-plus-valuation content providers do. And we actually have somewhat of a plan to get there that involves some fairly easy concepts.

1. Be transparent. We want money. We want to grow and become a thing that seems like it should be worth a shitload of money to some idiot in a board room somewhere who routinely says things out loud like “Look at these NUMBERS!” That is what we eventually want to do with Total Bozo Magazine, and it’s been done before and it can and will be done again, and we want a piece of that action, and we see no reason to be coy about it.

2. Streamline. Let’s say instead of a fancy office somewhere full of unpaid interns, instead it’s just a website where if you write or do something good your thing gets put up on that website. We take pieces instead of pitches. People write or do something, we put it up if we like it. End of process.

3. Do things that are as good tomorrow as they are now. The internet is full of disposable, attention-grabbing things. Lists. Celebrities. Sports. Politics. “Hot takes” and “fresh narratives” on whatever current non-issue has been drummed up in order to sustain the hot takes and fresh narratives industry. Like for instance the whole “Indian American Miss America Controversy,” which if you’re reading this in 2015 is a thing that happened once upon a time that otherwise intelligent people actually decided to talk about. Let’s avoid all that. Let’s try to be human and think human thoughts and say human things, and only mention Miley Cyrus if she’s doing or causing something in our lives. Or at least let's try and have a sense of humor about ourselves if and when we fail, instead of always having to be THE authority on What Color Shoes We Think Andy Samberg Should Be Wearing (purple, duh, to match the oft-strangled head of his likely circumcised penis). Let’s be a place you could go for that.

4. Encourage each other. You know how people are fucking crazy in the comments section of anything ever? They say “the person who wrote this article doesn’t know what the fuck they are talking about.” You read these comments and the knock on them is always, “Why would you bother saying that in a comments section instead of just not reading things like this from now on?” This is a valid question. But also valid is the larger frustration of the person in the comments section. “This does not represent my point of view on a subject I care about!” the person is saying. “I feel as though I have been duped into reading this by a misleading headline and now I have given this article a few minutes of my life that I can never get back, and this happens to me often, and I have some weird sense that it’s all only so I can be told about the new Grand Theft Auto game yet again, and because I’m not as strong of a communicator as the person who wrote this article, I am frustratingly unable to articulate this! It’s like I’m frustrated about being frustrated!!” This point of view is completely, maybe even centrally, valid, even if it comes out as “kill urself bro.” Well, what if everybody ever, even “kill urself bro” Guy, had a chance to express their point of view to a larger audience than whoever happens to come across a comments section? That would be great. We should encourage that.

5. Invest in each other. Let’s say every time you write something that goes up on a website, you own a little bit more of a chunk of that website. Say one basis point. 0.01%. Which is not much for a website that is not worth anything, but for a website that somebody eventually pays $300 million for, it’d be worth $30,000. I bet even Bill Murray would write a dumb thing in 20 minutes for 30 grand. Either way, it beats the hell out of the regular $50 freelance money you'd get from Brooklyn Vegan for your thinkpiece about the Eagles Reunion Tour that got rejected by GQ. Let’s say instead of killing yourself writing about shit you don’t care about, like the Eagles Reunion Tour, on the off chance it earns you some chump change you can pay for food with, you really delved into something personal and true, and got it up on Total Bozo, and you’re now a partial owner of Total Bozo. Wouldn’t you want to share Total Bozo with other people from then on? Wouldn’t you just retweet the shit out of everything we do? Wouldn’t you love to be a part of the Total Bozo family? We bet you would. We think that kind of a thing would just take off like a supersonic airplane full of hot cakes.

If you read that and you thought “that’s a hell of a lot of ambition and pretense from a place that publishes 1,000 word diatribes about ALF,” then you’re right. You should write something to that effect and then send it to us at all-one-word Total Bozo Magazine at gmail dot com. If we like it, we will put it up, and if we prove you wrong someday, the fact that you wrote that about us might be worth a year of college tuition. And if not, all this will just be a loud, visible failure that eventually gets us staff positions at www.DumbledoreFarts.com or whatever other "hot" thing exists in two years. So it’s pretty win-win.

Let’s do it, you guys. Let’s figure out the internet. Let's sell ourselves to ourselves, but let's own ourselves too.

And by all means follow us at @TotalBozo