A few weeks ago, the Tribune Co., that storied and financially strained pillar of American newspaper journalism, announced that it was rebranding itself as “Tronc”—an acronym standing for “Tribune Online Content.” This misbegotten act of corporate self-defacement was much mocked as the desperate decision of a baffled old company that, in its trend-chasing, had come up with a nonsense name that sounded like a combination of Tron and Gronk (which is, weirdly, a movie I might watch). The press release that explained the rechristened corporation's direction was arguably even sadder. “The vision calls for perhaps the most concentrated mess of buzzwords that digital publishing has ever seen,” wrote the Washington Post's Erik Wemple, “and that’s some feat.”
On Monday, the name change became official and the buzzwords were given new life, in the form of an employee introductory video. It is a horror—an unrelenting circular saw of vapid media-consultant clichés.
"This is the future of journalism. This is the future of content! It doesn't get much better than that,” begins Malcolm CasSelle, Tronc's seemingly well-meaning chief technology officer. Chief Digital Officer Anne Vasquez piggybacks: "It's about meeting in the middle, having a tech startup culture meet a legacy corporate culture, and then evolving and changing, and that's really the fun part, that's exciting." It continues:
CasSelle: We produce tons of great content every single day. We're really focused on how we we deliver it to people in a way they want to consume it more and more.
Vasquez: One of the key ways we're going to harness the power of our journalism is to have an optimization group. This Tronc team, will work with all of the local markets, to harness the power of our local journalism, feed it into a funnel, and then optimize it so we reach the biggest global audience possible.
Yes, Tronc shall take the corn feed of journalism and funnel it into the optimization-group goose, to make delicious foie gras that will be consumed by the digital natives.
It arguably gets worse from there. What's genuinely sad is that people who talk like this typically don't understand how the internet works—that's why they lean on buzzwords—or have any notion of how to communicate with journalists, who tend to bristle at this stuff. Vasquez easily could have said: "We're creating a team of people who are going to create snappy web headlines for the stories you work hard on and figure out how to promote them to a really big audience on social media,” but no, she went for the funnel schtick.
Twitter, of course, is having great sport with the clip.
Parody or hostage video? Hard to tell. https://t.co/sOje86Cztx— Evan Sparks (@NewsbytesEvan) June 20, 2016
Clickhole's kind of phoning it in these days imo https://t.co/dSAlMo9EZF— mitch said (@said_mitch) June 20, 2016
Can't believe this video is just two people saying "tronc tronc tronc TRONC tronc" for two and a half minutes. https://t.co/8mkNhxiVqm— Matt Levine (@matt_levine) June 20, 2016
do we think tronc's artificial intelligence-powered engagement-booster system told them to disable comments on this? https://t.co/yYqIBvNP4D— Rob Dubbin (@robdubbin) June 20, 2016
Welcome to the age of Tronc.
*Partial credit to Felix Salmon for the factory farming joke.