The Aggregate: When Influencers Lose Their Influence, and Why Americans Don’t Read
“Aggregate is a unique word. As a noun, it indicates different elements brought together in the same place. As a verb, it seeks to collect and assemble disparate pieces to create a more cohesive whole. This column seeks to do both of those things; breaking down some of the biggest stories in print journalism each week and presenting them in more bite-sized pieces.”
The ‘Influencer’ Net Becomes Too Wide
The Atlantic – Taylor Lorenz, “Instagram’s Wannabe-Stars Are Driving Luxury Hotels Crazy”
This piece was written by Taylor Lorenz – who covers technology for The Atlantic – and it ran on June 13, 2018. If you, like the vast majority of us, don’t have a couple hundred thousand Instagram followers or use your social media accounts to pay rent, you will probably find this article slightly satisfying. In recent months, it seems like just about anybody with an iPhone has acquired the ability to become an influencer, and feels entitled to all the privileges this entails. Recently, luxury hotels would beg to differ. Taylor Lorenz examines the evolution of the concessions and benefits (if any) that hotels experience when they allow self-proclaimed “influencers” to stay for free in exchange for exposure on social media.
“Jack Bedwani, who runs The Projects, a brand consulting agency that works with several top hospitality brands, said that he’s close with the PR manager for a new hotel and day club in Bali. “They get five to 20 direct inquiries a day from self-titled influencers,” he said. “The net is so wide, and the term ‘influencer’ is so loose.”
The “Instagram is my job” mentality held by many millennials has led to a flood of requests (like the one described above) at hotels all over the world. While some have hired consultants like The Projects, many hotels take a more… organic approach to sorting through their DM’s from these Instagram users.
“Some hotels report being so overwhelmed by influencer requests that they’ve simply opted out. In January, a luxury boutique hotel in Ireland made headlines for banning all YouTubers and Instagram stars after a 22-year-old requested a free five-night stay in exchange for exposure.”
“If I let you stay here in return for a feature in a video, who is going to pay the staff who look after you? Who is going to pay the housekeepers who clean your room? … Who is going to pay for the light and heat you use during your stay? Maybe I should tell my staff they will be featured in your video in lieu of receiving payment for work carried out while you’re in residence?” the owner wrote on Facebook.”
While not everyone feels as strongly as the owner of the aforementioned Irish hotel, some hotels have implemented a kind of application process to legitimize and sort through the barrage of requests. According to Lorenz, the thought process for many of these luxury hotels is that any social media star who doesn’t know well enough to operate through official points of contact, probably hasn’t done this enough to warrant a free stay at their hotel. So yes, there are people who get paid by hotels to go on Instagram and see if there are other people whose accounts (down to the aesthetics) are synonymous with the kind of marketing they wish to do.
“Some hotels, like the Ace and others, have attempted to standardize the process by requiring detailed influencer application forms for discounts or free hotel stays. Others list influencer-specific contact addresses on their website. But the majority of hotels deal with influencer requests the old-fashioned way, through an email to the hotel’s primary address. Many influencers use an email template that they customize for each property when requesting a stay. Hotels evaluate influencers on several criteria, trying to sift through an enormous amount of BS.”
Americans Still Aren’t Reading
The New Yorker – Caleb Crain, “Why We Don’t Read, Revisited”
Back in 2007, Caleb Crain wrote an article outlining the grim future that was on its way in the door with the declining tendency for Americans to spend their time reading. Some of Crain’s most interesting revelations from his earlier piece suggest that an American population that doesn’t spend much time reading would be less likely to spend time with ideas they don’t agree with, and might tend to fall back on hunches rather than finding actual answers– fast forward to 2016. In this recent piece (which ran on June 14, 2018) Crain states, the numbers (pulled from a U.S. Department of Labor Survey on time use) suggest that American’s spend even less time reading now than they did a decade ago. The first step to solving a problem is finding the source of the problem, which is exactly what Crain’s updated article seeks to do.
“[While] American adults seem to get a kick out of worrying about whether American children are reading enough, this is an enormous waste of time in the world in which we happen to live. Children who have any hope of getting into or remaining in the middle class are under great social and economic pressure to excel at academics, and, of all Americans, they are perhaps the least likely to change their reading habits of their own volition.”
With the most recent numbers comes the revelation that all of the trends Crain examined in 2007 have continued to trend in mostly the same direction. This being said, the original cause for concern is ultimately greater as well.
“I’ll cut to the chase: between 2003 and 2016, the amount of time that the average American devoted to reading for personal interest on a daily basis dropped from 0.36 hours to 0.29 hours. It would seem that reading in America has declined even further in the past decade.”
While there are obvious reasons for the decrease in the amount of time people spend reading (thanks, Snapchat), there are also more subtle causes for the continued downward trend in reading time. Crain highlights that there are aspects of data collection that can create the appearance of a positive or negative trend— when the real change is actually occurring the population being surveyed (more women, for example).
“A less explored cause might be the recession. America’s middle class is shrinking, and the proportion of Americans in the labor force is lower than it has been since the nineteen-seventies. Maybe people read less when they have less money? From a breakdown of reading by income quartile, it turns out that the rich read more—but they read less and less every year.”
Finally, the way we consume much of our content (literature or otherwise) has changed drastically in the last decade or so as well. If you are reading this article, you are a prime example of the way that platforms for the consumption of writing (specifically news and essays in Crain’s piece) have been swallowed by the digital realm as well. However, Crain does not believe that these new methods of consumption are not enough to offset the overall decline in our reading habits, and subsequent critical thinking and communication skills.
“It’s possible, too, that the numbers may be reflecting a shift in the way that people read news and essays. […] So there’s a chance that people who used to read the newspaper in print and be counted as “reading” are now doing so online and being counted as Web surfers. I suspect, though, that the fraction of such computer use devoted to essays and news is too small to provide much mitigation. The long march to secondary orality seems well under way. The nation, after all, is now led by a man who doesn’t read.”
Thanks for reading this week, and we’ll see you again next week.