[From Your Fearless Clam Editors Jim and KT]
The first post on this blog was on May 5 2014, over a year ago. Your humble clameditors had been bouncing around the same threads on Facebook, cracking people up to the point where there were numerous cries of “You two should go start a blog!” In retrospect this may have just been friends trying to stop us from filling their feeds with obscene references to the alien races of Star Wars (“Is Wookie-style” a sexual position?”) and photos of the the life-sized David Hasselhoff mannequin we found on the Internet which was endlessly amusing to us for obvious reasons and turned into an elaborate murder-mystery. Well the joke’s on you guys! We did it! Ha!
Since then it’s been an insanely amusing ride. People have stopped each of us on the street to say, “I love your blog!” Fans have contributed real cash money to help pay for hosting and some of our operating expenses (read: scorpion bowls at Midori that one time, and mostly the Clam parties (so). KT wrote a piece on the Market Basket controversy last summer that literally had hundreds of thousands of hits and was picked up by Esquire and other real news outlets staffed by actual journalists and not just two local wags trying to find mildly off-color mashups of 90’s alt hits and local landmarks (I just went down Stacy’s Mom Boulevard).
We knew going in we wanted to be an alternate voice. Slightly punk rock, edgy, shouty and PG-13 (language). We felt at the time, and even more so a year out, that Gloucester needs a little shaking up. It needs to have its assumptions questioned and to laugh at itself more. 99.9% of you agree, even some well known local figures who call or email or text and say, “I love what you guys are doing, dear God never stop, but of course I can’t put my name behind that so don’t quote me.”
There have been haters too, of course. That’s fine. It’s a big Internet, they can go somewhere else and complain about us or whatever. Oh, and of course (this being Gloucester) there are also one million experts in everything who keep telling us what to do. Apparently they know for a fact we would “do better,” for instance, if we stopped swearing so much. Or that young fellow KT should learn to respect women. Or that Jim Dowd never should have been elected to Parliament as the Labor MP from Lewisham (He has also failed to bring the funk). Their “expertise” is betrayed by our hit stats which plainly demonstrate you people like pretty much two things: Swearing and dirty lists, especially on Friday afternoons (our stats suggest most of you are surfing the web completely plowed by 2:00 pm any given Friday).
Here is a short list of our biggest surprises:
- How widespread our readership is: Who the fuck are you people in New York City? We see you on our analytics, hundreds a day. We’re probably coming down there at some point and having a drink with you all, unless it turns out reading The Clam aloud in some basement dungeon on Christoper Street is the daily ritual of a creepy fetish group. Actually, if that’s the case we’re definitely coming down. Looking at the Google we see consistent readers in LA, Chicago, London, Australia, Portland Oregon, Russia and Finland. A bunch in Finland, actually. WHY FINLAND? WHY????
- How mobile our readers are: Most of you guys apparently read us on your phones or tablets. We assume killing time while you are waiting for your arraignment or something. It helps confirm for us most readers consume The Clam as an “infosnack” between things. We try and respect that.
- How easy it’s been to come up with content: We worried hard about doing this daily. Every couple of weeks KT would text Jim and say, “Holy fuck we have nothing for next week!” Jim, playing the role of the sage old hand would say, “Don’t worry, some crazy bullshit will happen in the next 72 hours and we’ll have a topic.” This came true EVERY TIME. We had flat-out zip to write about the day before Beardy McCrimespree robbed the Ipswich Bank downtown and fled by taxi. There were snowstorms, strikes, school craziness, elections and drones. Lord so much drones. And more drone-nerdery is coming. This will be a full-on drone erotica site by July. But the point is, drones aside, Gloucester is a rich well of topics for a satire blog and for that we are eternally grateful.
- The number of people who assumed we were bonking: This came as a disappointment. There was apparently furtive talk in some corners about “what was going on” between us because known science clearly states two people of opposing genders can’t write comedy together or work closely together without a genital interchange of some type. We confronted a few folks when we heard the scuttlebutt, and somehow were given the impression that its up to us to prove to the world we’re NOT bonking. Okay….we’re open to suggestions on how to prove a negative, something every logical system says you can’t do, but sure. We’ll get right on that. Also feminist fail from folks who know better, and who should let two humans who work well together just do that and not have it be all be about what junk they happen to have. Sadface on this one, people.
- The real, serious shit we talked about: Some of our best work came from thorny issues many of which we were initially loath to cover. We talked about the Ferguson violence, Robin Williams’ suicide, telling the truth about the schools (they are pretty damn good!), gun violence, the general crappiness of the Gloucester Daily Times and the massive third rail of a Gloucester future where groundfishing is a minor part of the economic equation. People got mad at us sometimes, but lots and lots more said, “I’m so glad someone is finally talking about this…” Basically we’ve become that obnoxious knowitall punk kid at Thanksgiving who blurts out, “Are we really going to let Grandma live in that big house at the edge of town all alone? Isn’t that sort of stupid?” That kid is a total pain in the ass (also what’s with the hair?) but they are frequently right about stuff, or at least right that the stuff needs to be talked about and not left as is. It’s a role we both know well.
- How many people don’t get humor: Did you know there are people who don’t understand humor? Did you further know a substantial subset of this group regularly contact those who create actual comedy to explain the extent to which they don’t get it? I guess everyone has hobbies, but you don’t find either of us posting on the official website of the International Cricket Council to inform them we don’t get the concept of “rounders.”
- The things we really liked that bombed: KT had this bit called “Sporthorse” we both loved. We were the only ones, apparently (except Paul Morrison: We love you, Paul). Jim wrote these Star Wars narratives he thought were the most amusing combinations of words every committed to electronic media, but KT’s eyes glazed over and she would start banging her head against the walls at ClamMedia Tower (TM). Stats show more people have read the Necronomicon and lived than those posts. It’s a strange thing sometimes, finding that place where what we think is funny and what you all will think is funny overlap. We try and strike a balance, to be honest. Sometimes you just gotta write what you like and to hell with the hits. But then again, there is an audience who is giving you the incredible privilege of their attention and it’s really shitty to take advantage of that.
- We blew it also too: We’re not going to go too in-depth on this just to say we know there were a couple of times we went over the line, said the wrong thing, got the story wrong or were dicks about something we should have been less dickish about. We actually fret about this a lot more than you might imagine. In our defense, and we know some will laugh, but we actually believe The Clam has a not unimportant mission. And we believe that mission of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted is worth the risk of stepping on occasional toes and making ourselves look like assholes in the process. We’re going to try not to, we’ve learned a lot this past year, but somebody’s gotta say some of this stuff out loud or it’s never going to get fixed.
That’s it. Huge thanks to our Clamtributors: Brooke, Jeremy, Josh, Stevens and Adam (and a few others who have given us one-off submissions). I know we’re all over the place, but you guys have been a huge help in riding this thing out of the gate. And major thanks to the people who’ve read, laughed, forgiven and supported us. It’s been a privilege, and we’ve gotten more from this project than we ever thought possible.
More great things to come, folks. We’ve been working on some pretty crazy stuff.
–KT and Jim
Oh for god’s sakes here we go again with another episode of Wicked Tuna. Listen I’m sure most of these guys are interesting in real life, but this show is pretty much the least compelling thing on TV besides whatever’s on C-Span. Anyway this season is the midway point, which means soon enough I can stop watching this show. Hooray! I’m literally a month behind because my internet is spotty out here in no man’s land. I’m sure you’re all just chomping at the bit for me to catch up. So here we go. A collective sigh.
We start off with bagpipes. Why? Why? I’m Irish and I’ve lived within 30 miles or closer of Boston my whole life and NOT MANY PEOPLE HERE LISTEN TO BAGPIPES ON THE REGS. But it’s like, sunrise, so I guess they’re going for something dramatic. I guess.
Oh there’s Dramaboat with that dreamy dudecaptainguy! Woo! Now I’m paying attention. Whoa, whoa, whoa, Tyler on StonahBoat has cut his hair. Whoa. Up is down, down is up, cats and dogs are living together in sin.
Who is this well-coiffed young man telling me about ways of the sea? I actually like shaggy hair, because I am a weird person, so I am a bit sad. But you look good, Tyler, don’t worry. His crewmember, David, is lamenting that he isn’t getting enough time with his two young kids and his wife, who is undoubtedly at her wit’s end. He’s like “this is hard”, and I completely understand. It’s almost like fishing really isn’t the best job when you have little kids, because you’re away for like 8 days at a time. He realizes exactly that, and has to figure out his options. I feel you, man. Seriously, I’m not even being snarky. I own two small children myself. That shit’s harrrd.
Oh, hello, suddenly we are transported over to HotBoat. I know I mentioned this last time, but damn if the producers of Wicked Tuna didn’t say “hey, this show is filled with some real 3/10’s, let’s get a box of hot in here.” Why, thank you, now I’ll watch only 80% ironically. Okay, hotstuff, what’s coming out of your facehole? Oh, words about fishing and shit. They tried to catch a fish and failed at the last minute. They’re mad. They needed that fish, it turns out.
With reggae music comes Stonerboat, who lost a fish due to “faulty tackle” which sounds a lot like a problem our contributor Adam has dealt with.
All of a sudden there’s another boat, the Bounty Hunter, which I swear to god has to be docked where I see it every day because I know I’ve seen that name and people wearing the shirts, but I literally do not pay attention to anything at all unless it’s food so who knows.
I know, tuna is food. Shush.
Anyway this boat now has one of the harpoon guys on it. “Hey, let’s do more reality TV!” said someone for some reason. Hooray. This part of the episode is basically “aging, pudgy white guys yell a lot and swear.” You people get on my case about my profanity, but this is like, TV. National Geographic. A formerly distinguished nature and science channel. Now we watch guys in dad socks scream “bitch” at the ocean. Awesome.
“I don’t think there’s any worse feeling than when you fight this fish and see that rod pop up and know you lost it.” Dude, really? REALLY? I know this is Dramz For the TVz but that would be like me saying “The worst feeling in the world is when WordPress eats one of my blog posts.” Not like, death, or loss, or the creeping spectre of global warming’s catastrophic outcomes, but a rod snapping. Cool.
[At this point, I actually ragequit the episode. I just can’t. Not without strong drugs.]
Dear Stacy Boulevard:
Like us, you had your heyday. Like us, you were once the “it” girl in town. For years, your name evoked the best that Island life had to offer. Specifically: cruising in a Camaro T-Top on balmy summer evenings, the stereo pumping Whitesnake over the clang of the Cut Bridge signal, and—with the stick shift quivering in neutral—Joey D working his fingertips into a fraying rip in our stonewashed jeans. There was a synergy between us, Stacy, and it was an honor to share your name.
But no longer. Despite the worthy efforts of noble volunteers, you have fallen on hard times. No quantity of tulips or fluttering American flags can hide a roadbed that is pockmarked or a sidewalk that crumbles underfoot. Where once there was grass, now storm-tossed gravel mingles with brittle doggie shitcakes. A scabrous light post stands with its glass globe slumped against its shoulder, like an octogenarian nodding off. Lengths of your metal railing are missing, perhaps having been yanked from their moorings and wielded in the heinous crime that one section of flapping yellow caution tape seems to demarcate.
The crowds still come, thanks to force of habit and the stark beauty of the seascape. They shuffle past, saluting the Man at the Wheel, even lingering on a bench to scan the horizon. But, honestly, prudence dictates that your broad seaward esplanade be negotiated only by those with steel-toed boots and up-to-date tetanus shots.
Here’s the deal, Stacy. It’s hard enough being a 44-year-old divorced mother of two. We shouldn’t also be saddled with a name that reminds everyone that, like you, we’re a little worse for wear. Time is fickle. We may have stuck with our feathered bangs and side ponytails long enough to see them come back into style. But we harbor no illusions. We know our waistlines are gone, and our prospects are diminished. We know Joey D will never again hold us in his loving arms or croon our name in menthol-laced exhalations. Stacy. Oh, Stacy.
Our circumstances are direr for the absence of a new generation of Stacys, fresh-faced girls who might charge the name with a bit of glamour. Today it’s all Olivias and Sophias—or else Audrey or Evelyn or some other anachronism, names of great-grandmothers long past saving.
So: we’re asking you not to make a bad situation any worse. Like most Massachusetts byways, you have several alternate designations: Western Ave, Route 127, and the road to Manchester-Go-Fuck-Itself. Aren’t these good enough? If you insist on a name with feminine allure, may we suggest Lisa Boulevard? You know, as a lesson to that bony little home-wrecker? Let us have ‘Stacy’ to ourselves, along with the world’s remaining pints of Ben & Jerry’s Oatmeal Cookie Chunk.
Maybe this will be temporary. We’ve heard that Gloucester has won a grant to give you quite the makeover. There’s talk of cosmetic improvements—new lighting, new sod—but also real structural enhancements, and even public restrooms to replace the city’s two most fetid port-a-johns. In a way, we’re jealous. $5.6 million in state cash could buy us all tits and asses worthy of a Katy or Selena.
Yet we also know that public works projects in Gloucester have a penchant for delay. Phase two of the 128 Bridge repair is slated to wrap up in 2017, almost ten years after the project’s launch—and just in time for the latest round of Nor’easters to prompt phase 3 repairs. So we’re not holding our breaths as the engineers dither and our ankles thicken.
Come Memorial Day, we’ll be cruising down your pavement once again—this time, in a kid-laden fleet of Grand Caravans. And when that drawbridge goes up, we’ll be all-too-happy to idle in the bottom of a pothole, just as long as we can call you by any other name.
Many of us bemoan the quality of our local newspapers. The Gloucester Daily Times is much maligned (and justifiably so) for a number of reasons: the lack of in-depth news, the failure to cover basic city information (come on, really? Running Rockport’s honor roll but not Gloucester’s?), the horrible restrictive paywall-based website (which, by the way, is the same across all the local Eagle-Tribune papers – it’s not just you guys suffering). Reporters tend to come and go, never really learning the community or making local connections. The old breed of newsmen (at least, most of them were men) who used to sit at the local breakfast place where people would tell him all the dirt and who had all the connections? They’re gone, retired to warmer climates where they’re finally learning to use Facebook.
The problem is basically this. The Internet has taught us that the world is available to us for free. News, weather, sports, TV, literature, porn, everything – all for free. Paid for by advertisers, and since electrons have no marginal cost (compared to giant rolls of dead trees with ink stamped on it at high speeds), it should all be free, right?
Wrong. We’ve become spoiled by The Incredible Google Machine. Sure, it costs a lot of money to print newspapers. That cost, though, was amortized over the 30,000 or so copies of your local GDT used to print every day when everybody read the paper. There was ample room for differentiated advertising in the large format. Between the cost of the newspaper and the advertising revenue, there was enough to print and distribute the news, pay all the people who gather it, and have a healthy profit left over.
The web eviscerated that. First of all, web advertising doesn’t sell. It really doesn’t. As many people may view this story as used to read a daily GDT. If the Clam ruling junta is lucky, this post will generate about $10 or so [ed: more like $1!] worth of revenue from the ads that rotate in. Maybe. Even though the cost per impression of a web ad is far lower, the personnel costs for a news company are roughly the same. Reporters, editorial staff, people to sell the advertising (as cheap as it is), all are still needed to run a news publication. Plus the geeks who run the website – and good geeks cost more than the average pressman even though there are fewer of them in an online model.
In a larger operation, most web ads will be simply aggregated through an advertising network. Those ads will have a lower price still (since you can’t target them nearly as precisely as you should be able to do selling local ads, and there’s less relevancy) than what your ad sales team would be able to sell – but the advantage is you’ll have the ad inventory taken care of and fully sold.
So if those economics are so bad, how can you make it work? Well, there are online-only properties that make money. My hometown in CT once had two newspapers, a twice-weekly and a weekly, both of which were pretty much eviscerated by the Westport Now news site. Westport Now sells advertising to local businesses directly, manages ad inventory on their own ad server, and is profitable.
Back in the days when Patch was the “future of hyper-local journalism”, many of their sites were profitable as well. The downfall of Patch was the enormous number of unprofitable sites they ran on top of it in their bid to expand.
Meanwhile, the conventional media like the Eagle-Tribune group have it bad both ways. They really have no choice but to go into the web, and in this case using their corporate standard system – Blox CMS – which produces profoundly ugly content and still needs care and feeding. They have to do it, without really getting significant extra revenue out of it. It doesn’t cost them more for content. It does cost them money to host, manage, and maintain.
So of course, the only solution for a news operation at this scale is a paywall. How tight or leaky should the paywall be? I think most people have concluded that the paywall is way too tight (and it’s easily bypassed as well, thanks to Private Mode in all modern browsers). The other trick in a paywall is pricing digital access. The most successful model gives full digital away with a subscription to the dead tree edition. That works reasonably well for the New York Times and Boston Globe, among others. The Times has added an extra access tier for “enhanced” services on digital, with mixed results thus far.
The key, I think, is for newspapers to maintain digital as a reasonably priced adjunct to their paper edition. Keeping advertising sales merged into overall operations is cost-effective and makes it possible to sell advertising in combination. That helps. But ultimately, the burden is on us, the consumers of news. If the news we want to read is being provided by our local paper, we should be buying it and reading it. We should get the dead trees delivered to our home daily. Recycle them when you’re done. The strength of the web in local news is breaking news, archival searching, and, when you don’t have only whackjobs commenting, a robust comment section that allows educated discussion of the issues and stories.
(yeah, I know, all the commenters on almost every news site are nuts)
But read your local journalism. It’s not always up to the quality of a national publication, but most of the reporters try hard, and they make so little money that burger-flipping could be a upgrade. They show up at obscure local meetings, and they try to stay in touch. Buy the paper, or better still – subscribe. It’s short money, you get reliable fishwrap daily, and it’ll get you access to the paywall without having to go to Weird Technical Things in your browser. The more people subscribe, the better the journalism will be.
And most importantly, if any of you figure out a way for the Clam to make a fortune, please let us know. Because we’re all trying to figure out the best way to pay for the hookers & blow at KT’s new place in West Gloucester.