A modified version of this post originally appeared in the April 2, 2020 issue with the email subject line "Please don't start here."

Mostly, I am listening. I wish I had more to say about content technology. This newsletter is not supposed to be a diary, but writing about my personal experience continues to feel more genuine right now.

I originally had planned a “delivering bad news” newsletter for all of you that have to produce monthly reports for clients, but couldn’t write it. If you are looking at web traffic and content behavior, you may think that the surge in online activity in the past month means you will get more traffic. However, you should know that

  • Most business’ web traffic and content activity is severely down
  • Unless you are a news organization
  • And then your revenue is likely down because advertising is at a standstill.
  • Or unless you are streaming visual entertainment content. (Although the link above says porn traffic is down, which, if that’s true… that’s a massive shift in human behavior!)

Anyway, if you’re looking at client data: Be honest. Be transparent. That’s my advice for reporting, always. Don’t shift your target.

I mean, if you’re a junior analyst, telling a client, “You’re probably going to have to change your business model” isn’t really a possibility or a recommendation. But saying, “We don’t know how people will behave online for the next six months and we will seek to stabilize as much as possible” is fair.

What are you up to this week?

I am grieving for New York City, and I cry every time I look at those terrible numbers. We use words like staggering and sobering to describe numbers like those. I’m leaning toward appalling and horrific. I nearly retch every time I think about all the empty luxury apartment buildings that could be used to house patients. New York is my college town, my ex-boyfriend. It’s a deeply flawed, perfect place. If you are in New York, please: stay safe. No matter where you are, stay safe.

I’m mourning for Adam Schlesinger, who taught me that pop could be cool at a time when pop wasn’t supposed to be cool. I bought the first Fountains of Wayne record with my allowance in junior high and I can’t shake those earworms, or “Stacy’s Mom,” or “That Thing You Do.”

I’m mourning for human closeness and trust. I remind myself that we are staying in place for the good of others, so that others do not get sick, but stay-in-place behavior also brings out the worst. I hate that I am suspicious of other people on the sidewalk because more than anything I generally want to understand the other people on the sidewalk.

On the socials, people are frustrated with others for not respecting their social distance. Eyeing with suspicion the groups of children gathering. Blaming neighbors for spreading disease. In normal circumstances, I find fear and suspicion of our neighbors and public spaces reprehensible, a sign of everyone-for-themselves culture, but here we are: steeped in fear and suspicion because we’re trying to keep the whole healthy.

We’re trying to keep the culture healthy. I certainly wish we could all be on the same wavelength for what that means.

My current conclusions include:

  • We’re all doing the best we can. Let’s keep slowing down. Let’s think about what we can change while we’re slow.
  • Believe experts. Epidemiologists, doctors, public health professionals. Not marketers or tech bros. Certainly not politicians. And not media companies downplaying experts in favor of “balanced” coverage. (I mean I’m always rethinking my relationship with media, but now I’m really rethinking it.)
  • High-speed internet access really needs to be classified as a public utility.
  • Nothing gets me to subscribe to an ad-blocker like programmatic display for medical gloves.
  • It is ok not to “stay positive” right now. And I say that as a Sagittarius, an eternal optimist. It is ok to be realistic and to take time to grieve.

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