In 2018, YouTube’s product chief Neal Mohan revealed that more than 70% of the total time spent watching videos on the site is determined by artificial intelligence. “And if you’re watching on mobile, the average watching session lasts more than 60 minutes, because of what our recommendations engines are putting in front of you,” the product chief said at the time, according to CNET.

YouTube’s recommendations have fueled discussions about the ‘radicalization traps’ that are formed as a result of pushing viewers into increasingly extreme content streams in the name of “engagement.” …

“Ours is the first age in which many thousands of the best-trained individual minds have made it a full-time business to get inside the collective public mind.”
Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (1951)

Social media without advertising is an idea that sounds too good to be true, in part because we’ve been conditioned to accept the designs and external motives of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other top-down communication platforms. Nowadays, unless stated otherwise, one expects to see sponsored content around, in-between, before, during, and after what is being presented online. …

Credit: Pexels

As a progressive who works in digital marketing, I often wonder how those who spend time on social media in the name of progressive principles (universal healthcare, getting big money out of politics, stopping endless wars, paying a fair wage, affordable housing, etc.) reach average social media users — and what that means for those who don’t have the time and luxury to spend their days on those platforms.

While I understand what social media can do for companies that can afford to invest in reaching a wider audience, it’s also clear that platforms designed to addict users and serve…

Credit: Pexels

What is cancel culture? A number of politicians, journalists, authors, and pundits have passionate opinions about it, but I’ve yet to see a precise description of the phenomenon. As far as I can tell, those concerned with “cancel culture” generally describe it as mob mentality through which groups of people (social media users, bureaucrats, students, professors, etc.) exclude and shame individuals who hold opinions that are contrary to certain standards or beliefs.

Cancel culture critics naturally get to define the thing they so adamantly oppose (usually through their own established platforms). An opinion columnist for The New York Times describes…

I know what you are thinking: “Yet another article on social media where someone is going to yap about polarization and algorithms, and what it all means for the state of our democracy.” I don’t think the problem is that complicated.

The way I see it, many of us are addicted to communication “platforms” that are designed to addict us into using them as much as possible. And like any addiction, this one is difficult to admit for a variety of reasons, though it’s no secret by now that social media companies intentionally manipulate our brain chemistry.

“If we open…

I remember when Facebook descended into my life. All of my friends were ditching MySpace, the largest social networking site back then, and flocking to the book of faces, drunken affairs, relationship statuses, psychological experiments, and your friends from elementary school. I didn’t think much of Mr. Zuckerberg’s project, beyond it being the new popular website in a long line of websites that would hopefully expand the potential of “social media” and serve us, the public, rather than special interests.

These days, however, I try to avoid social media as much as possible (for someone who works in digital marketing)…

“Never Trumpers” and centrists unite against Bernie Sanders.

They want the best for you.

Last year, I wrote about the efforts of the liberal class in the U.S. to smear Bernie Sanders and the grassroots movement behind him. Now that Pete, Amy, Mike, and other political cosplayers have exited the presidential elections — and solidified their support behind Joe Biden — it’s worth analyzing the marketing funnels that were deployed to influence the public into supporting “Uncle Joe.”

How do you tell millions of people to support your candidacy and then suddenly drop out to endorse a politician in decline (not to mention a self-described “gaffe machine”), who has antagonized young people, supported wars…

Two ways to influence public opinion. Will they work in 2020?

Super Tuesday is only a few days away and Michael Bloomberg’s 2020 presidential campaign, bankrolled by Mr. Bloomberg himself, has already spent over $500 million on media ad buys. “At a time when candidates are shifting their ad spend to digital, Bloomberg has spent $409 million — 77% of his total outlay — on broadcast and cable TV ads,” Scott Nover recently wrote in Ad Week.

For comparison, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each spent $769M and $409M respectively over the course of the 2016 U.S. presidential race, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

By all indications Mr. Bloomberg…

Could thinkspot be the next big thing, or is it just grifting with extra steps?

Hold on to your thumbs, feed scrollers! Since current social media monopolizers are unable to provide a platform that doesn’t leak or sell our private photos and messages to teenage hackers and data vendors, there are new, edgy, next level digital communication platforms coming our way!

But before I analyze the Jordan Peterson-backed “thinkspot” (currently in beta testing), I have to acknowledge how podcasts and digital networks have transformed modern communication — enabling popular commentators to reach millions of people and to even create their own platforms, but also proliferating structural problems that erode media literacy and spread disinformation. (Full…

Zhivko Illeieff

Writer & media maker. Founder of Essays on tech, media, politics, and propaganda. Bulgarian American. Follow my work at

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