My media habits: Aaron Gomes of Gojek – ‘People are the best source of news and information’

Gojek's vice-president of digital strategy Aaron Gomes relies on people as his primary source of news and information in a world where the media is full of political agendas, he reveals in an interview with Mumbrella's Dean Carroll

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?

“If I had to choose, it will be Google News. I feel publishers of late have had their own left or right political agendas. Integrity in journalistic reporting is just not what it used to be.

“I enjoyed reading The Guardian, Huff Post at one time, but have since moved to Vox and BBC. These days, I let the public decide for me the more interesting news that’s making headlines.

“This is why Google News is great. I mix it up with work sources and personal interests. Usually however you would catch me getting into Wired,  CBR (Comic Book Resource) and BBC Earth.”

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

“I’d actually prefer to talk to someone, I find people the best source of news and information. Storytelling for me comes rare and fast, and when you do meet that someone that teaches you a thing or two about what’s going on around you, in their own special way, you tend to remember it better.

“Also, there is a cause for arguments (debates) to happen, which helps pass the time and the pints.”

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

“It all depends on who’s asking. But, that’s really the case for argument isn’t it? Everything is relative these days, and to me, it doesn’t really matter.”

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

“I don’t have a favourite journalist, because I can’t say I know one personally. But I do admire the works of Professor Jordan Peterson.

“I feel a lot of what he’s written and practised is very much how the world is seen today, in an unbiased view. If he was a journalist? He’d probably be my favourite.”

What piece of journalism has changed the game in recent times, in your view?

“To me investigative journalism has taken a whole new leap into the 21st century. With social media, the proliferation of CCTV cameras, and privacy being as cheap as $5 paraphernalia at a Japanese discount store, anyone can get famous with a little bit of deception, misdirection, and life-lies.”

Are there any titles you have paid subscriptions to?

“I used to subscribe to Wired, but now I just subscribe to courseware on ‘StackSkills’ and ‘Playstation +’.”

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

“I have both cable and streaming platforms at home. I usually like to surf between both. It’s also based on my mood whether I wanted to channel surf or get into a series and veg out.”

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?

“This is a tricky question. To me, ‘recommendation’ means giving people an idea of similar content they are able to watch, based on previous interests. I think this is great. And you can still get a bit of serendipity there, I feel.

“What you’re referring to, is the ‘I’m feeling Lucky’ button. I’d love to see something like this happen but for now, I have to be satisfied with my TV remote control.”

What was the best film you saw of late – and can you describe why it made an impression on you?

“It has to be Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’. The impact was not that the movie had some stellar Hollywood appeal in its production, but how the plot gaps, when left in your hands, can be a very entertaining ‘movie after the movie’ in your mind.

“Peele’s eye to paint an abstract understanding of the perfect suburban family in America today, is refreshing and painfully true.”

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

“I’ve not faithfully followed all Game of Thrones episodes, but that’s one hell of an event. The ones I couldn’t help missing, and took up most of my time, are Mindhunter, Dark, Animal Kingdom, Peaky Blinders, The Umbrella Academy and Penny Dreadful.

“I’d highly recommend Penny Dreadful and Mindhunter. It’s like watching a cinematic movie each week. Simply fantastic cast and screenplay.”

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

“I primarily use my PS4 with my TV to access streaming platforms and terrestrial TV. When I travel, I use my Chromecast. I just feel the PS4 has one of the best UX experiences for Netflix.”

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

“Well, I can’t say I haven’t put my hands in the cookie jar, so it would be hypocritical for me to say that it’s wrong to begin with. I just feel that piracy happens, and then when someone can afford it, it stops.

“Is it damaging? Yes, it is. Is it ever going to stop? I doubt it. As long as there are developing countries, and people who are not able to afford online streaming services, or $15 dollar movie tickets, this will be an uphill battle for the media and entertainment space.”

And moving on, what’s been your favourite book in recent times?

“Homo Deus by Noah Harari. We can’t move forward if we don’t know where we came from.”

So Kindle or hard copy?

“Hard copy. I still love the smell of paper, and it’s a great excuse to hold something in my hands when people watching at a cafe. I have a Kindle Paper White but I rarely use it.

“I used it mostly when I was in school. I still have a bunch of books on there, that I’ve yet to finish. Funnily enough, using my Kindle makes me want to go back to books.”

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

“I have not bought music in a very long time. I subscribe these days. Truth be told, I envy some of my friends who spend money on vinyls and CDs.

“I guess having the world of music in your pocket is still not good enough, if you can’t find what connects with you most. “

Which musical artists appeal to your tastes right now?

“Most of my music preferences are influenced by the movies I’ve watched, or the mood I’m in.

“I do love to listen to piano or rock music mostly. I was into modern piano, jumped to thrash metal recently, and just started listening to Bruce Springsteen’s latest album. I think he’s a fantastic song writer.”

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

“Hero in making me feel like s#it cause I couldn’t afford something I saw in a post; villain when it comes to something I’ve shared, only to realise its fake.”

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?

“If media means taking control of what you see, when you see it, and if someone is paying for you to see it, yes.

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?

“The digital world and a utopian world. I can’t really see the difference these days.

“Do I miss what we used to call real journalism? Yes. Playing a qualitative role? No. Biases somehow always seeps into journalism. It’s the neutrality that’s often hardest to maintain, and so few walk that thin line, to enforce it.

“In my personal opinion, the qualitative role really belongs to the reader today.”

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?

“It is a scary thought, when you put it that way.  Seeing how I use my smart device, I can’t deny the fact that there are some parallels which leads me to believe our world is headed into that space. “Computers will not only know what we want, they could also replicate news and stories to keep us in harmony. This is not restricted to content, but virtual beings/individuals, or AI personalities.

“If this were to happen, the quantitative system would have won, and humanity might have just given up its rights to think or decide.”


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