The main goal isn’t simply to maximize revenue from advertising—the strategy that keeps the lights on and the content free at upstarts like the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and Vox. It’s to transform the Times’ digital subscriptions into the main engine of a billion-dollar business, one that could pay to put reporters on the ground in 174 countries even if (OK, when) the printing presses stop forever. To hit that mark, the Times is embarking on an ambitious plan inspired by the strategies of Netflix, Spotify, and HBO: invest heavily in a core offering (which, for the Times, is journalism) while continuously adding new online services and features (from personalized fitness advice and interactive newsbots to virtual reality films) so that a subscription becomes indispensable to the lives of its existing subscribers and more attractive to future ones. “We think that there are many, many, many, many people—millions of people all around the world—who want what The New York Times offers,” says Dean Baquet, the Times’ executive editor. “And we believe that if we get those people, they will pay, and they will pay greatly.”
There is an argument that human progress has been fuelled primarily by hardship, that necessity is the mother of invention. In these seductively erudite 300 pages, Steven Johnson makes the contrarian case for a more glass-half-full theory of ingenuity. He argues, mostly persuasively, that the major advances in technology and culture have been more often the result of our craving for distraction and for delight rather than for survival. That all work and no play does indeed make Jack a dull boy.
The halls of Valhalla have been crying out for Neil Gaiman to tell their stories to a new audience. Hopefully this collection will be just the beginning.
My father was a pilot. He flew airplanes for nearly his entire life, although ironically, he hated traveling. When he was home with us, he complained that my two brothers and I drove him crazy, that our mother was “too much to handle.” When he was away, he called every night to tell us he missed us. It was only that in between phase, the limbo of flight—the going—where he was at peace.
I still don’t know who exactly was responsible for coming up with the rocket idea. It felt preordained. I tried attributing credit to my middle brother, Chase, who spoke often of his memories building and launching Estes model rockets with our father. But Chase was under the impression the idea had been mine. All I know is at some point during the memorial planning, Chase went online and ordered a rocket. When it arrived he sanded, glued and painted it and made sure the plastic payload compartment was secure enough to carry its crucial cargo: my father’s ashes.