I did get the book, but couldn't go on after the introduction. That guy writes as if every single thing with the industry is Conservatives' fault. Trump this, Aynd Rand that, Jest fucking Christ. I couldn't give a rat's ass for either political option, they're all hacks, and that's why I preferred the EconTalk because it shows how it's possible to explain the problem while dissociating yourself from any political leaning.
I hardly read book reviews, try to go by the topic and formulate my own opinions but after the Intro to that book I had to check some to see if it's worth continuing. The one that was rated highest confirmed my worry:
Move Fast and Break Things made me angry. Why? Because I really wanted the book to be great. Alas, it isn't. Let me explain.
I'm very sympathetic to Taplin's general thesis: Yes, the internet broke the traditional media system. Yes, the downward spiral that followed hurt exactly the wrong people, the creators. Yes, the giant internet platforms of our era - particularly Google, Facebook, and Amazon - certainly show monopolistic traits. And yes, the libertarian school-of-thought Taplin depicts in his book should cause suspicion. All those topics are important.
It might surprise you, given my opening remarks, but I'm also with Taplin on many of the solutions he proposes. I'm a proponent of re-decentralizing the web, I regard subsidiarity as an important and very useful organizing principle (especially in complex systems), and I'm a friend of platform co-operativism (though it has limitations). I don't even think that Taplin's most radical claim is beyond reason: he suggests to declare the web's big platforms as public utilities (using a similar model as with AT&T in the 50s). Particularities aside, I indeed think that platform ownership is going to be an important, decisive debate over the next one or two decades.
Why, then, did the book enrage me?
Well, Taplin is a good storyteller and he makes some interesting observations about culture. However, he is not a good analyst, particularly not when it comes to business. The reason I state that? His book lacks nuance and he picks his examples rather selectively.
Most of Taplin's criticism of the internet economy and its influence on the media and entertaining industry reads like a 101 of mainstream media internet aversion: Google took all the ad dollars without paying for content. Internet companies detest copyright laws. Peter Thiel is the archetypical Silicon Valley protagonist. And so forth.
But Taplin's critical observation ability all-to-often seems to stop when it comes to his peers in the media and entertainment industry. Several important aspects go unnoticed. Why isn't there a chapter on old media's severe omission to adapt their business model to the internet (hint: even in a web without an ad platform duopoly, advertising wouldn't earn them the profits physical media granted them; zero marginal costs are inherent to digital goods, with or without Google).
Taplin complains that the internet put creators in a tough spot and, a few pages later, argues (correctly) that Hollywood - all too focused on low volatility - became a superhero franchise assembly line. Wouldn't it be fair, then, to at least mention that Netflix - an internet business - has likely become the biggest buyer of indie movies?
Why does the book contain some very recent data - the manuscript was clearly handed in after the Trump election - but portraits music streaming at the state of circa 2015? Maybe because writing a book takes time and keeping data up-to-date is tough; but maybe because it would have ruined some of the author's arguments had he used current data. Streaming revenue didn't only take over sales as the music labels' biggest revenue source, it even brought growth back to the industry. Something it hadn't seen in over a decade.
Also, Taplin often doesn't distinguish between creators and media companies. But doing that is critical. While the internet renders many old media business models obsolete, creators - particularly those with an entrepreneurial mindset - have gained some very interesting new opportunities. The missing Netflix would have been a case in point. Taplin wonders how the TV industry can avoid the same downward spiral that caught the music industry. If he really is primarily worried about creators, not incumbent businesses, he makes a mistake many media industry veterans make regularly. He assumes that the old way is the only way to finance the creation of "quality content" and proper art. But that's not the case. As the Netflix case would have shown.
These are only a few examples of Taplins rather lopsided analysis. There are several others in the book. And this makes me mad (and sad!).
Partial analysis comes with several problems. It's questionable per se. But we don't have to get into ethics. There are very mundane reasons to oppose it, too. First, analysis that's based on such lopsided representation is flawed by definition. Which, often, leads to wrong conclusions in turn.
Most importantly, though, both the work and the author become vulnerable. Even if only parts of the analysis are one-sided, while other points are perfectly valid (as is the case in this book), readers who aren't convinced of the presented position anyway, will likely disregard all arguments as soon as they perceive the work to be partial.
And that is the essence of my anger. Taplin wrote a book about important topics. He addresses issues that deserve to be heard and thought about. And, critically, not only by Taplin's media peers but also by the tech and founder community. Because even if Taplin portraits the tech community (by and large) as a bunch of little Peter Thiel's, technologically savvy entrepreneurs need to be part of the solution.
Alas, many of them likely won't finish the book. And that's a shame.
Hence, as a guy with a day job and a father of a 2-year-old I didn't consider that book worth my time.