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Researchers try to crack TikTok virality


Researchers try to crack TikTok virality


The Future. It can seem nearly impossible to figure out how certain trends and dances go viral on TikTok. That didn’t stop researchers from taking their best shot. A new research paper has developed a machine-learning model that can predict hashtag virality at a 49% accuracy level. We can’t wait to see what happens when creators get their hands on this.

TikTok 101
We’re one step closer to figuring out what makes TikToks go viral.

  • Researchers from institutions including Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell, and more analyzed data from 12 TikTok trends, like #renegadechallenge and #Boredinthehouse.
  • By monitoring the videos and sorting out different patterns and features, the researchers investigated what characteristics make a TikTok catch fire.

According to their findings, challenges that are more likely to reach the virality tipping point should (1) appeal to a broad audience and (2) motivate users that usually wouldn’t post to participate.

Tok for world peace
While gathering data, the researchers noticed that many challenges and trends only go viral within a specific belief group, within silos. Another phenomenon, challenges might even go ‘echo-viral,’ where a group that believes the opposite will stitch or duet TikToks to express their opposing views.

Up next, researcher Roy Ka-Wei Lee wonders if certain viral challenges might break through those belief silos: “Is their mastery of virality helping them to cross invisible political barriers that their parents never could?”

netflix-subscribers-peloton-shares-decline -thefutureparty

Pandemic-fueled business booms might be over

netflix-subscribers-peloton-shares-decline -thefutureparty
Netflix // Illustration by Kate Walker

Pandemic-fueled business booms might be over


The Future. Over the past two years, companies like Netflix and Peloton saw their business skyrocket because of COVID. Bored at home, consumers drove demand for things like streaming services and at-home gym workout equipment. But this past week, these sectors are seeing market value plummet drastically… potentially signaling the end of pandemic-driven economic growth. 

Feeling bearish

Sectors that saw massive growth during the pandemic are slowing down.

  • Netflix is expecting to report the lowest number of new subscribers since 2010 — around 2.5 million. In recent years, it has posted around 4 million new sign-ups in Q1.
  • Peloton shares have been on a decline and recently took a huge 20% nosedive after rumors of production halts were leaked.

Losing steam
Experts believe that these recent stumbles are a sign of what’s ahead. As TechCrunch points out, “Netflix is an example, but what the company is going through could be an indicator of what’s ahead for other consumer services that had a strong period of growth amid the pandemic.”

It has now been over two years since the start of lockdowns, and the initial explosion of economic activity is steadily losing momentum. If you’ve been paying attention to the stock market (anyone else’s portfolio feeling the pain?), sentiments across the economy seem dour. And let’s not even get started on what’s going on over in crypto.


TikTok reigns for sports coverage

TikTok ads

TikTok reigns for sports coverage

The Future. Brands like NBCUniversal and State Farm are choosing TikTok over traditionally coveted TV ad slots for massive sports events, like the Super Bowl and the Olympics. China will even be allowing athletes and foreign media to have uncensored internet access at the Games. With primetime ratings declining fast, TikTok may be a key channel for companies that want to target new audiences.

Tok vs. TV

TikTok is becoming a sports marketer’s paradise.

    • Instead of airing a TV ad for the Super Bowl, State Farm has picked TikTok as its go-to marketing channel.
    • NBCUniversal announced that it will be partnering with TikTok to promote the upcoming  Beijing Olympics, complete with livestreams and a TikTok show hosted by a creator.

NBC’s move comes after urging from human rights groups to cover geopolitical issues. The Beijing Games have been a source of controversy, with multiple countries announcing diplomatic boycotts.

The Tok Games

With over a billion active users in over 150 countries, it’s easy to see why companies are opting to advertise with TikTok. While a Super Bowl ad can run up to $5.6 million for a 30-second spot, brands can go viral by making simple, low-budget videos that organically find the right audience.

And, younger Gen Z audiences watch far less TV than their older counterparts. But that doesn’t mean they’re not watching content. While viewership plummeted 42% for the Olympics compared to the 2016 games, NBCUniversal reported that Olympic-related content amassed over 18 billion views on the platform.


“Old” music is having a moment

Oldies // Illustration by Kate Walker

“Old” music is having a moment


The Future. Old songs are dominating the modern music scene. Across music services, consumers are streaming, buying, and replaying old songs more than ever. Why? Big labels are playing it safe, banking on the success of old tunes. But, the labels relying too much on old artists might just end up overlooking the next new star.

Long live the oldies
Old is gold, according to listeners.

  • According to MRC Data, a music-analytics firm, old songs now make up over 70% of the U.S. music market.
  • The 200 top new tracks now consistently make up less than 5% of total streams, a 50% drop from three years ago.
  • Major record labels like Universal Music and Sony Music are funneling more resources towards buying old catalogs and songs than towards launching newer artists.

Of note, the way MRC Data defines “old music” is a peculiar one. Only songs released in the past 18 months are branded as “new,” which is a very… generous classification.

Tuning it out
Some think that this phenomenon can be attributed to the lack of new good music. Pointing to the rise of autotune, cheap melodies, and software loops, many believe that the mainstream hits of today are just not up to par.

But it would be off the mark to say that new music can’t hold a candle to older hits. Rather, as Ted Gioia of The Atlantic writes, “The problem isn’t a lack of good new music. It’s an institutional failure to discover and nurture it.”


Why Wordle went viral


Why Wordle went viral

The Future. Wordle, the new word puzzle game, has gone viral — you’ve probably seen the green and yellow squares all over your timeline by now. Whether you’re still confused or fully addicted, there are some key characteristics behind the game’s success. In the age of ad tracking and endless social media, Wordle’s success may reflect a growing desire for simple, straightforward fun — no strings attached.

Wordle is taking over the internet.

  • Wordle is a simple daily word game where players try to guess a five-letter word. Players have six attempts, and the game provides subtle color-based hints.
  • The game was created by Josh Wardle, a software engineer at MSCHF, who originally built it to play with his puzzle-loving partner.

Wardle launched the game publicly in October, and in just several weeks, it began to go viral. Today, Wordle’s user base has exploded from 1,000 to 2 million players.

What’s the secret behind Wordle’s success? Psychologists and game theorists have a few guesses. Some point to how shareable and visual Wordle’s charts are. Philosophy professor C Thi Nguyen describes Wordle as a “triumph of social graphic design,” pointing out how “each little posted box is a *neat synopsis of somebody else’s arc of action, failure, choice, and success.”

Another theory gives a nod to the game’s innocent simplicity. There are no ads to be clicked, apps to be downloaded, or levels to beat. You can only play once a day. And, even though VCs have approached Wardle to “take the game to the next level,” he says he has no desire to turn a profit off it. As Wardle himself notes, “People have an appetite for things that transparently don’t want anything from you.”


Big Tech makes moves on crypto

Big tech NFTs // Illustration by Kate Walker

Big Tech makes moves on crypto

The Future. Twitter, Facebook, and Google are all making plays in the web3 space. From creating dedicated teams to building integrative features, a bonafide web3 war seems to be brewing. Although the crypto market has seen a rocky start to 2022, this flurry of activity signals strong belief from tech’s biggest players that the web3 movement is here to stay.

Big Tech knocking
Big Tech is diving headfirst into web3.

  • Twitter most recently implemented profile picture verification for Twitter Blue users, allowing NFT owners to link their crypto wallets to verify ownership.
  • Meta is reportedly working on a feature that will allow NFT owners to display their art on their social media; it’s also working on helping users mint their own NFTs.
  • Google announced the formation of its blockchain unit, dedicated to “blockchain and other next-gen distributed computing and data storage technologies.”

Centralized decentralization
These recent moves affirm that the web3 movement is steadily shifting from a niche movement to the mainstream. Massive corporations are investing time and resources into creating infrastructure, from marketplaces to mechanisms for social signaling.

But at the same time, this should be ringing alarm bells for the web3 community, which is presumably built on the premise of decentralization. The involvement of these third-party platforms is, in many ways, the very thing that web3 is working to remove.


American Airlines sues The Points Guy

AA vs. TPG

American Airlines sues The Points Guy

The Future. American Airlines is suing The Points Guy (TPG), claiming that the company is violating trademark and privacy rules. The airline claims that TPG is benefiting from the airline’s hard-earned consumer relationships and “free-riding on decades of investment.” First Olive Garden, now American Airlines — there seems to be a rising trend of David vs. Goliath legal battles… and the outcome of this one may reveal where the power is shifting.

Airline vs. Guy
American Airlines is not happy with The Points Guy:

  • The Points Guy, started by CEO Brian Kelly, is known for helping travelers maximize credit card points and airline miles.
  • Last year, The New York Times wrote a detailed feature on Kelly’s journey to success.
  • In November, WME signed Kelly to expand his empire through TV, books, and podcasts.

Now, Kelly is using his influential platform and celebrity status to explain his POV on the lawsuit in the hope that consumers will take his side.

Frequent flyer favorite
The TPG app was launched in September to help travelers track all of their loyalty programs in one spot for free. Kelly noted that this helps consumers best understand the value of all of their points and rewards, which empowers people to reach their travel aspirations more easily.

In response to the lawsuit, The Points Guy says that consumers should be able to make their own decisions, advocating that users have the right to choose whether they share their loyalty balances with a third-party app. In response, TPG is suing the airline for trying to block their service.


The streaming wars have reached Africa

Streaming wars in Africa // Illustration by Kate Walker

The streaming wars have reached Africa


The Future. Streamers are battling to capture the market in Africa. From Netflix to Disney+ to Amazon, global studios are keen on grabbing their media share. After seeing Netflix ramp up its South Korean game, it seems as if the streaming wars are starting to tread international waters. Long overdue, this may herald a golden age of diverse, international content with stars who give viewers a wider selection of content options.

Streaming world war
Streamers of all stripes are locking in partnerships with African producers.

  • EbonyLife Media became the first African company to sign a multititle deal with Netflix in 2020 and since then has landed development deals with Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Westbrook studios.
  • Last month, Amazon inked two major licensing deals with Nigerian-based Inkblot Studios and Anthill Studios.
  • Disney+ is plotting its African launch, complete with a 10-part animated anthology series featuring short films by directors from all over the continent.

Frenzied competition
The expansion of streamer activity into Africa reflects a general uptick in streaming competition across the world. With pressure to increase subscriber count and continue posting growth, top streamers are looking outside America to boost numbers.

But notably, the movement isn’t just a numbers race. The rising tide of international voices and talent reflects a shift in what viewers want. From the explosively successful Squid Game to the widespread popularity of Money Heist, series bingers are driving demand for more diverse content.


Olive Garden vs. NFT artists

Olive Garden & Hermés // Illustration by Kate Walker

Olive Garden vs. NFT artists


The Future. The NFT rights wars are heating up. Brands like Olive Garden and Hermés are taking legal action against projects that violate their trademark rights, sending cease-and-desists and filing takedown notices. These actions signal a growing issue within the NFT marketplace — as sales hit the multi-billions, creators will need to figure out how to regulate trademarks on digital goods.

The breadstick wars
Brands are fighting over the rights to NFTs.

  • Olive Garden filed an IP Takedown request with OpenSea to delist a project called “Non-fungible Olive Gardens.”
  • Hermès sued NFT creator Mason Rothschild (designer of the MetaBirkins NFT project), alleging trademark infringement.
  • After Quentin Tarantino announced plans to turn Pulp Fiction scenes into NFTs, Miramax filed a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement and breach of contract.

Bigger brands (like those listed above) have deeper wallets and legal teams to hunt down trademark violators — but that’s not often the case for other brands. For example, it can be nearly impossible for indie artists to hunt down and deal with fraudsters.

“The big issue that’s looming goes beyond NFTs,” says IP researcher Kal Raustiala at UCLA. “It’s about how do trademarks work in the metaverse and what does it mean to have trademarks on digital goods?”

Looking ahead, artists and brands alike must grapple with how to address this problem in decentralized marketplaces as the NFT craze reaches a fever pitch.


Say hello to the first space-based entertainment studio

Courtesy of Space Entertainment Enterprise

Say hello to the first space-based entertainment studio

The Future. Media company Space Entertainment Enterprise (S.E.E.) is working with Axiom Space to build an entertainment studio in the stars. With its low-gravity environment, S.E.E. is (quite literally) widening Hollywood’s orbit, potentially ushering in a new era of sci-fi adventure films.

Shoot for the stars
Get ready for the world’s first space-based entertainment studio.

  • The studio, named SEE-1, will dock with Axiom Station, which is connected to the International Space Station (ISS).
  • Targeting a late 2024 launch, the studio will be available for artists, filmmakers, and more to produce and record live-stream content in outer space.

Elena and Dmitry Lesnevsky, the duo behind the studio, explained their vision: “It will provide a unique, and accessible home for boundless entertainment possibilities in a venue packed with innovative infrastructure, which will unleash a new world of creativity.”

One giant leap for Hollywood
It’s been revealed that S.E.E. will be producing Tom Cruise’s upcoming film in space. Cruise also partnered with SpaceX to shoot his new action-adventure, to be directed by Doug Liman and distributed by Universal.

But for those of you keeping score on the Space Race, the U.S. isn’t the first to do this. Last October, Russia became the first country to shoot a movie in space with The Challenge.