Ev Williams is not a fan of the increasingly homogenised media he currently sees, with its emphasis on feeding the great, gaping maw of platforms like Twitter and Facebook too often producing what he describes as tantamount to junk food.
“We’re still stuck in some very naive thinking, with the idea that people consuming media means that’s what they want – it’s like, well, we put junk food in front of them and they ate that, so that must be what they want.”
That view may strike many as slightly ironic, given Williams was a co-founder and former chief executive of Twitter, which has just celebrated its 10th birthday.
“It’s easy to create a website. It’s even easier to send a tweet. But it turns out it wasn’t the case that more information would automatically make us all smarter as individuals or as a society.”
“If you look at feedback loops like likes and retweets, they’ve been very carefully crafted to maximise certain types of behaviours. But if we reward people based on a measurement system where there’s literally no difference between a one-second page view or reading something that brought them value or changed their mind, it’s like – your job is feeding people, but all you’re measuring is maximising calorie delivery. So what you’d learn is that junk food is more efficient than healthy, nourishing food.”
Ev Wlliams is now dedicated to his own project, Medium, which has become a magnet for pretty much anyone looking to put their writing on the web. The company raised another $57m late last year in a round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Hence, we should also note that we get to hear any such wisdoms only when they are backed by venture capital induced media promotion.