My media habits: Rob Sherlock of ADK – ‘Nostalgia is dead and overrated’

In an interview with Mumbrella's Dean Carroll, ADK's group chief creative officer Rob Sherlock weighs in on immersing himself in technology, discarding relics of the past like DVDs, record players and even physical books – not to mention gaming the system when it comes to recommendation engines

What are your must-read news sources you can’t live without on a daily basis, and why are those particular media titles so important to you?

“Newser is my go-to. Bite sized chunks of the latest and greatest. But I also like to mix it up with a smorgasbord of BBC, RT, Fox News, CNN & Al Jazeera. Enough to churn and burn any propensity for bias or bullshit.”

In terms of news consumption – do you prefer, print, television, radio, websites, newsletters, social networks, blogs, apps or something else entirely?

“I’ll take it all, spontaneously splattered throughout my day. It all connects anyhow at some stage – but I do prefer a healthy dose of cynicism to bring it alive after the sensationalism evaporates.“Jonathan Pie and Jim Jefferies always make it more palatable. Opinionated outrage never ceases to amuse.”

Do you prefer long-form or short-form content?

“Short-form – fast and furious, especially when it comes to United States politics. Long-form is all so predictable after a while – and the overcooked verbiage that stretches and sanitises even the most tragic human atrocities or the biggest corporate collapses is often completely unnecessary.”

Can you name your favourite journalist and set out what makes them great?

“I can’t stand Richard Quest. He is highly irritating: a channel changer. I liked the old school depth of interrogation.

The superb John Pilger

“John Pilger was superb. Vice reporting is fresh for now. And the headline writers of ‘The Sun’ and ‘Daily Mail’ make my day.”

What piece of journalism has changed the game in recent times, in your view?“Fox News. 100% of the time – the most continuously influential journalistic lunacy in the not-so-free world. Is there any other news source that directly influences the policy of a world leader? A projectile vomit of political propaganda.”

Are there any titles you have paid subscriptions to?

“There were. But now I’ve become smarter. Really, who needs to pay? Oh yeah, sorry. I’m not supposed to say that in this world of pay for play. But I do pay indirectly I suppose.”

In terms of films and shows, is your preference for terrestrial television or streaming platforms like Netflix?

“Streaming is the new terrestrial. And everything comes from anywhere. I’m not fussy. I’ll pick content off the bones of any platform that smells good. Digital landfill even has some tasty scraps of the unexpected and often leads to better pastures to graze in.”

Are recommendation engines a good thing or do they cancel out the joy of serendipity in terms of discovering fresh content not aligned with your previous preferences?

“Yes – but when you bugger around with the algorithm, it repays the favour. Search for contrary crap or segue off the beaten path. That said, my friends who send random shit at equally random times, end up being the best recommendation engine.”

What was the best film you saw of late – and can you describe why it made an impression on you?“‘Sour Grapes’ a documentary about a massive American fine wine scam featuring some local flavour from South East Asia. You can fool all the people some of the time. I like a glass or two, so this played perfectly into my wankerish world of malolactic fermentation.”

And what shows do you consider to be event TV, those programmes you just have to watch and can’t contemplate missing?

“All Blacks Versus.”

In terms of devices, how do you access content most often – on mobile, desktop, tablet, laptop or television?

Mobile. More and more. And I’m absolutely guiltfree about my continuous, conscious connectivity. Sure, I look at bigger screens whenever they’re within visual reach, but there’s a singular intimacy with mobile. And it’s small enough not to share.”

How damaging is piracy and illegal downloads when it comes to the media and entertainment space?

“You might have heard of Kim Dotcom, the rather large German Internet entrepreneur who created a platform called Megaupload – worth a read if you don’t know about it. Anyhow, about six years ago there was a dawn raid at his mansion in New Zealand, instigated by the FBI.

“Long story short, he said it was a sharing platform not unlike YouTube. The FBI said he was akin to a cloud-based Charles Manson, preying on innocent IP. He’s still in New Zealand, a free man. My point is, it’s complicated.”

And moving on, what’s been your favourite book in recent times?“‘Eat Bacon, Don’t Jog: Get Strong. Get Lean. No Bullshit’. (Yes, that is genuinely the title – and yes, it works … no bullshit). I’m really into self-help. We all should be.”

So Kindle or hard copy?

“Kindle. Nostalgia is dead. Long live Marie Kondo. My digital device sparks joy in my life. And who needs shelves of dust magnets that most of us will never pick up ever again.”

And now to music. How do you buy and consume music?

“Spotify. The one and only. Again, nostalgia is overrated. I grew up with vinyl, cassettes, eight-track tapes, DVDs, Walkmans … all now obsolete and overrated.”

Which musical artists appeal to your tastes right now?

“Release Radar makes the artist semi-redundant – I take what I’m given and it always surprises and delights. And if it doesn’t, I simply move on.”

Spotify’s Release Radar

Social networks: Hero or villain when it comes to giving you access to content?


And are social networks like Facebook and Twitter actually media companies these days in your view, even though that is something they deny – perhaps to avoid further regulation?

“Yes and no. But with all due respect, who cares – there will always be alternatives. We are not slaves to the media machine.”

In the digital world, algorithms rather than humans are the media gatekeepers. Do you miss the old days when the likes of journalists, critics and broadcasters played that qualitative role, or have we simply evolved to a better quantitative system?

“It’s the same but different – algorithms have digital gatekeepers that are positively evolving. Intuition is still the sole domain of the individual. We have a choice. As Victor Frankl states in his seminal book Man’s Search for Meaning, you always have the choice to resist your environment’s influence.”

Finally, what does the future hold for the media space in your view – will artificial intelligence and virtual personal assistants take over to the point where we just trust the machines to tell us what we want to consume, in terms of news and entertainment?

“Undoubtedly we will trust machines – until we don’t trust them anymore. Then we’ll trust something else. Belief is transferable. Faith lasts as long as the rhetoric is believable. We should always stumble and fumble in the rough – you never know what you might find.”


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