If you haven't read Taylor Lorenz's work in the New York Times, it's likely you've encountered it somewhere—her recent articles have been referenced in Vox, Vulture and Vanity Fair among other outlets. If you're not the reading type, you've perhaps seen her recently on CNN or CNBC or heard her on NPR, explaining memes to broadcasters.
Lorenz covers internet culture and trends for the Gray Lady—memes, yes, but also influencers, YouTubers and, of course, the app darling du jour, TikTok.
"TikTok is so thirsty to get brands to work with them," Lorenz says on the "Ad Lib" podcast where she is this week's guest. "Brands are still struggling to see their place on the app ... The place for brands within TikTok is ads and partnerships, as opposed to trying to make your own thing to blow up, which is very hard as a brand without a paid spend behind it. "
Her recent headlines include a profile on the photographer of choice for influencers, the Bloomberg campaign's penchant for dropping memes, a visit to the so-called Hype House group home for Los Angeles-based TikTok creators and more. She may be the reason you've heard of the expression "OK Boomer," quite possibly leveled directly at you.
But if it's tempting to look at the world she covers as silly or not worth the Times' newsprint, that's where she'll tell you you're wrong.
"I just try to take it for what it is and be respectful and not go for the snark, which by the way there is huge temptation to do because you get so many more pageviews that way, and you get so much more attention and people aggregate your stories," she says. "But ultimately you're doing a disservice to your beat and these people, which are very powerful and influential people. That in itself deserves respect."
Lorenz traces the trajectory of her improbable career, which began with an infatuation with Tumblr and then took a tour through Mcgarrybowen before heading into journalism. Having been on both sides of the brand space—running social for them and covering them—Lorenz has a bead on what's no longer working.
"A lot of brands spend time trying to be relatable online. To me that's passé," she says. "When teenagers talk to me, what they like is not [that] Burger King dunked on Dunkin'. It's more that they did some really interesting thing or supported a cool creative artist. Red Bull supports all these interesting people or will sponsor event that they're at."
We also talk about her recent stories and dig deeper into TikTok as an election approaches and look at why the "Instagram aesthetic," as she calls it, is over. "The perfect, over-edited content just doesn't resonate with teenagers," they says. What works is "the more raw-looking iPhone photos stuff and more quote-unquote authentic stuff."