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Ten Years On

Musings on a decade and the road ahead


I’m gazing at faces staring blankly at me / Oh, I suppose it’s just a sign of the times

The Chameleons, Up the Down Escalator (All Or Nothing: Manchester City – Amazon Prime)

With mild nostalgia do we recall the days we’d crowd into windowless Midtown pubs, early weekend mornings, to graze on grainy satellite feeds of English Premier League piped in via hulking TV sets—shelling out twenty bucks, each time, for the privilege. If soccer on American screens had a Lucy-and-Desi linear heyday, with a whiff of racketeering, surely this was it.

Literal daylight appeared, in the 2000s, with the advent of Premiership on ESPN and FOX. But it was NBC’s acquisition, in 2013, that felt epochal.

And it was such a moment—for both global football and the media business writ large. For at the time, the industry hype machine was surging into overdrive about so-called digital natives, their wunderkind founders, and the platform counterparts who were putting out to pasture an outmoded and ossified status quo. The future of the ecosystem and fates of the incumbents were all but etched in stone by these scale-chasing, Millennial-fetishizing, take-no-prisoners mavericks, the narrative went.

Barely a decade later, sharply contrasting parallel storylines have emerged.

One, the explosion of soccer in the American consciousness. The gawky middle child in the stateside sporting hierarchy is now a swaggering alpha. While countless factors have made it so, its greatest manifestation, arguably, is the wall-to-wall ubiquity of content served up—on demand, at one’s fingertips—by the world’s largest media and tech companies. The motley stampede of Davos archetypes into the commercial frontier—sovereign wealth funds, Hollywood A-listers, private-equity barons—is practically a sidebar to this phenomenon.

The other, the inglorious flameouts of media’s would-be new guard. Valuations have cratered, IPOs have flatlined, founders are on the defensive, unions are scrambling, messy mergers have been stitched together out of desperation. In a particular stroke of irony, The Athletic, whose co-founder once charmingly vowed to bleed local newspapers dry, was rescued for a song by none other than the standard-bearer for legacy journalism.

One might write off this latter saga, as its protagonists conveniently have, as the zeitgeist-y fluke of a frothy 2010s. Doing so, however, ignores something deeper, more pathological.

Our media environment is a read on the American condition. And while we—as an industry, marketplace, citizenry and republic—fell for the ruse time and again, we casually presided over the evaporation of newsrooms (and thousands of journalism jobs) across the country; the enabling of a screen-addled, disaffected populace; the normalization of a surveillance economy; cartoonish wealth creation (in the face of soaring inequality); the triumph of ego and charged opinion over clearheaded, critical reasoning; the primacy of consumerism over civic obligation; and the general dumbing-down of the discourse.

The net effect, as Megan Garber writes in The Atlantic, is a society that would rather be entertained than informed—one that has lost the plot.

No surprise, this is being played back to us in voter apathy and ignorance. That retail stunts and relentless executive bombast fire the national imagination more than effective, understated bureaucracy and the bipartisan blueprint for an industrial renaissance is on us, not the current administration or its figurehead.

Leaning into nihilism and self-sabotage needn’t be fait accompli, yet it’s the default playbook for the stewards of an ecosystem woefully overdue a hard reset. Neutering social media and recalibrating the scales in favor of news sustainability would be starts, in this respect. Absent industry leadership, it takes the hand of regulators, green shoots of which we’re seeing with AI and local jurisdictions finally putting the screws to “environmental toxins” Meta, Snap, TikTok and the like.

More than anything, it takes a complete structural and philosophical rewiring of an establishment—marketers, advertisers, publishers alike—that remains cynically, defiantly out of sync with the broader, progressive business conversation. Anything less is self-preservation, and kicks the can down the road.

We piloted Kit Magazine in 2014—streaming a blip, BuzzFeed worth billions on paper, Twitter and Facebook benign playthings in a blossoming online utopia, future Chelsea FC owner Todd Boehly honcho-ing an entertainment-trade glossy—on overlapping convictions: that football, as a strategic and creative imperative for media firms, was at a tipping point; and that the global game—an expression, like no other, of soft power and economic dynamism—is a worthy proxy for a fast-evolving marketplace and business-society compact.

At the same time, the business model itself was a rebuttal to industry groupthink: taking the long view, shunning shortcuts and cheap tactics, endeavoring to elevate and challenge, not pander. A tack back to sobriety, as it were.

Ten years on, the world confronts a litany of political unknowns and morphing international order, media and journalism navigate a new wilderness, and the wider business community, in the west especially, feels out its identity and footing in a post-“ESG” landscape. In light, we, as both media company and consultancy, seek to reaffirm Kit’s unconventional thesis, bringing to light, in new ways, the issues and newsmakers giving it form and color.

To our readers, listeners and partners: Thank you for sticking with us. We hope you stay tuned and engaged for the next chapter.

Santiago, a consultancy, media company and creative/design studio, publishes Kit Magazine