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Culture

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You’re The Star, It’s Your Digital Identity

As we dive into the week after celebrating our nation’s independence, I can’t help but think about the conversation we had with our community just a couple weeks ago about our digital identity. If you scrolled across Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook, you’re sure to have seen a myriad of photos about the 4th of July, from your time with family on the lake to the exclusive day party you attended with your friends. Maybe even that cool new outfit you wore that totally sported the “Red, White, And Blue”. How fitting, after all, we’re all glued to our phones, and it’s our second self, our primary form of expression. Everyone in that room that evening felt the need to really understand this impact.

We had some world class speakers speak on digital identity. Our friends Brett Hyman, Tiffany Zhong & Billy Hawkins boiled down some truths on where our need to express ourselves is going. These guys are powerhouses to say the least. Brett runs an experiential agency called NVE Experience Agency. They are the definition of the experience generation as they’re pinnacle in ushering a future where experiential marketing is the most important kind of marketing. Through Brett’s leadership, they’ve nailed down the marriage of physical experiences and online expression. Billy runs Arsenic TV. They are a new women-first, upstart multi-media company that have exploded in the last couple years. Tiffany, at only 21 years of age has her own research agency called Zebra Intelligence focused on Gen Z, and before that was a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley!

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Combined these guys lead us on a winding journey. We talked about how everything online will become HQ via interactive live streaming as well as the future of digital characters like Lil Miquela. BTW, not everything is positive and even though it’s all “new”, we came to the conclusion that we’re all just the same people given new tools to tell different stories. We also covered our need to detach and step away from digital expression and the companies like Yonder and Brick who pioneer this school of thought.

My favorite learning came from a conversation a couple days later when discussing our event with a friend. It’s obvious, but what these tools and platforms have done is made us the star of our own movie. We now have our own platform to share and express ourselves in ways that people could only have dreamt just 10 years earlier. It used to be that only celebrities or accomplished people had the platform to take photos and images of themselves and distribute them to the masses, now anyone has the platform to unlock their own celebrity. Only time will tell if that’s a good thing or not. What we do know though, as far as business and creative art go, we’re in a watershed moment with lots of opportunity.

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This event was hosted at Kid In A Korner. It’s a 1 acre estate owned by mega-producer Alex Da Kid. It’s a creative wonderland of studios and awesome artists and the house is full of spectacle, so naturally it made for a great location. We’re thankful for our partnership with them. Shout out to our amazing sponsors especially Jacob Perler at Cryo Cafe. Ya’ll are up to something and we’re completely down. Stay tuned for the next one!

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Is This America? Social Justice Pop Art

Last week “This Is America” took control of our screens. After Donald Glover’s initial SNL performance of his new single “This Is America,” he dropped the visual and the internet went wild. The video has reached over 130M views since it’s release on May 5th. Not too shabby for a week and half’s work. The views have been boosted by video embeds in almost every major news outlet one can conceivably think of as everyone and their grandmother rushes to breakdown the details of the symbolism and “hidden meaning” behind the visuals.

The real reason this video is setting the world on fire is most certainly not the nuanced details laid out across all major media outlets in the typical ‘listicle’ articles or explainer videos.  Everyone is watching because the message is both clear and socially relevant: America mistreats its black citizens. Donald Glover is making waves for creating an overtly black artistic masterpiece as a conversation starter with his size-able crossover white audience. He has access to powerful visual channels like SNL from his work on 30 Rock and Atlanta where he also tackles the modern American black experience. Yet, this time he chose to push the message through his Childish Gambino outlet because music can be a more resonant platform for speaking to the people.

Music has long been one of the vehicles through which our society has addressed and demanded solutions for our pain points. It has traditionally been more accessible as TV’s were cost prohibitive in their early years. Sam Cooke was instrumental in the 60’s as “A Change Is Gonna Come” became an anthem of the civil rights movement, Marvin Gaye spoke for the people of the 70s with  “What’s Going On?” and acts like NWA and Public Enemy carried this torch into the 90s. At a certain point these artists transcended their musical output and became a social force. With this release, Donald Glover has also crossed that line, very intentionally leveraging the power of his voice for social justice.

He’s made such a fuss that even his director and choreographer are getting famous.  Sherrie Silver, the video’s West African choreographer, has been covered in Vice, Fader, Glamour, Hypebeast and more. She also recently released a dance tutorial so you can dance just like the music video. The director Hiro Murai, one of Glover’s frequent collaborators, has been seen in the The New York Times, HighSnobiety and Vanity Fair amongst others. Perhaps some of the attention falling on the supporting cast this time around stems from Glover’s refusal to explain his art. Left with no answer or single clickbait headline from the man himself, the media has been grasping at straws in its attempt to make sense of the video.  

Well, if this is what the media wants they should be celebrating as 2018 is not poised to disappoint. From Black Panther in February to This Is America now, it’s looking like a year for activist art. Spike Lee’s latest piece, BlacKkKlansman is already making ripples at Cannes and is sure to make waves when it hits theatres. There are an ever increasing number of social injustices and art that tackles these issues thoughtfully will always have a welcome place. Art that tries and fails will be laughed off the stage. That’s why no one is toasting Donald Glover’s success with a Pepsi.

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Roy Choi Cares About Community

Wednesday night was a compelling evening. Hundreds of Future Party veterans came through to enjoy a night of music, food and conversation. For a while we’ve toyed around with the idea of Future Sounds. We really like trying new things and we figured why not merge great speakers across various topics with compelling musical acts. When we got connected with Airbnb Concerts, it was a lot easier of a reality to kick things off and we’re glad we did. It was awesome to see everyone come together. There were people from all walks of life including artists, agency executives, musicians and investors.

The special guest of the night was Roy Choi. For those who don’t know, Roy is one of the Godfathers of modern LA food. His big break came with the Kogi Truck at the rise of the food truck movement and from there he went on to found several different restaurants and food projects from A-Frame to Chego! and Alibi Room. He actually flew in from Vegas where he’s working on a major restaurant.

MIKNNA, the musical act of the evening and Roy have been friends for some time now. Before their performance, Roy spoke about LocoL in Watts, CA and the process behind the building of that restaurant. Behind all the restaurants is a sense of love and inclusion in everything he does and cooks. One person from the audience asked, “If you were to have a billboard that would be seen by 1 million people, what would you put on it?” MIKNNA answered “a mirror.” Roy was in the moment and said “Future.” It’s a fun exercise to try on your own.

The theme of the evening was community. Community brought us together that night, community has propelled MIKNNA’s music and community has been the secret ingredient behind the launch of Roy’s career and new restaurants like LocoL. “Trust your passion project.” Roy says. So many of us have passions and it’s easy to have imposter syndrome, but you’re heart needs to be in the equation.

We hosted the event at at The Great Company. For those who have never been, The Great Company is a great location downtown in the warehouse district, it’s incredibly spacious and beautiful with wood floors, brick walls and an artistic vibe. They host great experiences like the one we did that night. Cheers to community and cheers to pursuing your passions. Whether you’re a chef, musician or creating the next Facebook. Lean into community. More to come.

Thank you to our sponsors!

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The Philosophy Of Kanye West

Whatever you think about his music, no one can argue the cultural power of Kanye West. The Atlanta born producer, songwriter and rapper turned fashion mogul is an anomaly; he manifests his own success and has been all of his professional career. Kanye’s supposed net worth is around $145M and his music and fashion resound around the world. He is at the top of the A-list.

Kanye is of a rare breed similar to Elon Musk or dare we say, Donald Trump who create their own hype and media, leveraging publishers and social media daily with the words of their own mouths. People want to hear what he has to say, that’s why when Kanye recently came back to life onto twitter after a two year hiatus, all eyes are on him.

The last we heard of Kanye, he had prematurely cancelled the St. Pablo Tour and had a mental breakdown leading him to jump off of social media all together. Now, he’s back with a vengeance and in just the last week, to the tune of about 10 tweets a day, Kanye has announced two new albums, teased a collaboration with artist Murakami, released new designs on his Yeezys and debuted the beginning of his new philosophy book, to be distributed live on twitter.

Whatever you think about his music, no one can argue the cultural power of Kanye West. Kanye’s dive into “philosophy” is fitting. According to author Julius Bailey, “West’s philosophy draws off the backs of a long line of existentialists, such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose ideology focuses on creating meaning for oneself and identifying their purpose as an individual, a staple of Kanye’s music.”

His tweets sound like a self proclaimed guru, and while we may never see his quotes of wisdom come to life on the level of a Confucius or Aristotle, don’t be surprised if his sayings become memes, t-shirts and cultural revolutions. The self proclaimed “Genius” has already shared lots of wisdom.

Kanye’s behavior is quite polarizing and often inspiring. Kanye, at his core, has tapped into his work and art so much that he knows what he gives people is absolute talent. It resonates beyond his music as everything he does is a work of art. His albums and tours are cultural movements full of unique marketing activations and other forms of creativity that celebrate the music. Standard for Kanye, get ready for a marathon of art and innovation as over the next 6 months we’ll see interesting news on live shows, performances, music videos and new unique activations.

Kanye hates conformity, he respects authenticity, and when he sees something he likes he goes after it. He’s incredibly emotional and has a reality distortion field that would make even Steve Jobs jealous. Many are inspired by Kanye even Elon Musk himself. Virgil Abloh is a collaborator, Kid Cudi is like his little brother, and thousands of creatives look to Kanye as an example.

We all have an inner Kanye, the creative entrepreneurial self that feels that what they are doing is truly important and isn’t afraid to say it. Any entrepreneur, artist or executive who’s driven and wants to do “something great” could take a page out of this book, and now, literally you can. All you have to do is follow Kanye on Twitter. Here are some simple steps to becoming more like Kanye.

INSTRUCTIONS TO BE MORE LIKE KANYE:

  1. Login to your personal Twitter account.
  2. Go to Kanye’s account (@kanyewest) and make sure you are following.
  3. On the right side of the Following button on Kanye’s page, there is a vertical circle button (More user actions). Press that button and hit the submenu item titled “Turn on mobile notifications”.
  4. Soak it all in and be inspired by Kanye, every day.
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Fakes On IG Are Changing “Identity”

The concept of social “identity” has been the center of many discussions over the last few years. Half of the world has an online extension of themselves via the internet. This is shifting the paradigm of how people behave and see themselves. It’s also changing how we relate to our favorite things like brands and characters. Engaging with fake people has been made real by things like twitter parody accounts several years ago. Lately, people have been seeing and interacting with fake characters made to feel real visually. One example is Instagram sensation Lil Mayo’s meteoric rise to fame. His account currently boasts 1.6 million fans who follow his every move as he lives it up in LA. Lil Mayo parties with Rihanna, Dillon Francis and Rich the Kid, but he isn’t the next big rapper. He’s actually a vintage alien doll manned by a guy named Alex Martyn.

Getting his start as an instagram account making memes of existing alien pictures, Martyn quickly ran out of subject matter. Then, as he told VICE, “one day I thought, If I just had my own alien, I could take my own photos and make more dank memes.”  Then things really changed. People gobbled up the documentation of Mayo’s lifestyle and a robust community quickly sprung around him. His public presence has grown since those early days of 2015 until now; where Mayo commands a brand that has powered the mostly sold out launch of its own clothing line, SUCC.

While fans from all walks of life are descending upon Zumiez for merchandise or inviting him to lavish hollywood parties to show their adulation for Mayo’s more tangible presence, another influencer is building her empire behind the scenes. Lil Miquela is pushing the boundaries of identity at the intersection of tech, fashion and entertainment. The creator behind the wildly popular Instagram account is still a mystery woman. However, the CGI face and body she’s generated stays adorned by an increasingly wide spectrum of brands. The very interaction from the brands is a nod to the growing social clout of the world’s first computer generated influencer.

On the surface Miquela is a new breed. When investigated deeper, with more context Mayo and Miquela are just updated iterations of classic concepts such as the monster and the doll. This time however they interact with fans in DM’s and comments creating a loyal base of followers. There is sticker shock at just how real Miquela looks but beyond that she is no different than anyone. Even if the only filter we use on instagram is what we choose to show people, all of us are still curating our digital presence. In the end how are Miquela and Mayo any different? It’s just a person on the internet showing us what they want us to see.

There are inherent risks. Perhaps some little girl will see Miquela and think she is real.  Perhaps that same girl will have some issues from attempting to match an unnatural standard of beauty. Or perhaps we’re overreacting. Are these “fake” people co-opting cool and selling it to brands? Maybe, but that’s no different than brands hiring celebrities. This is just the beginning of this concept of “virtual celebrities”, where we see influencers commanding large audiences when they aren’t even real. It’s definitely not the last time we’ll ask ourselves who we want to tell people we are on the internet.

Romance And Technology

Do you believe in Love? We make fun of love, we cherish love, and we are entertained by it on shows like The Bachelor. According to The Beatles, it’s all we need. Yet in 2018, love seems so hard to find. Technology in the modern age has promised to help us live wholly and find those who we really connect with, possibly even “the one”. Love is one of the things that makes us human, but in today’s age, we’re in an existential dilemma where romance and technology are actually in conflict.

One of the first times modern technology and relationships intertwined was at Harvard in the 1960s with questionnaires compared by IBM computers that helped users find dates for a $3 fee. There really wasn’t a whole lot of change to this format until the internet and Match.com came along. However, the internet wasn’t widely accessible in the mid 1990s when Match first came to be, so it took a few years for the the love algorithm to overcome it’s negative stigma and for the tech to catch on. By the early 2000s the perception had shifted and it was becoming socially acceptable to search for love online.

Yet, an online rendezvous being socially acceptable is not indicative of romance or courtship being preserved. In fact, since the early 2000s when social norms began to adapt to technology, the rates for marriage in the US have declined. Maybe having the entire world at your fingertips isn’t exactly optimal for romance. The overwhelming choice, has brought down our willingness to compromise in relationships. Now this is exaggerated tenfold by apps like Tinder and Bumble, which have created the swipe culture. We are growing accustomed to seeing people on such a surface level, but humans are more than a set of pictures and a left or right swipe.

The objectification of people on varying degrees is proliferated by many progressive technologies. We’re all reduced to a set of split second impulse decisions and a never ending spectrum of options. We’ve all become disposable. In fact, since 2000 the marriage rate has declined almost 20%. One could argue that technology intertwining with romance has, in fact, been counterproductive. Not that marriage is the definitive metric of romance, but it’s certainly an indicator.

Maybe in the future, technology will enhance romance…anyone seen the Black Mirror episode “Hang the DJ.”?  In the future, VR tech could run countless simulations of human interactions to determine a degree of compatibility. Tech like this could move us towards a relationship and remove some of the guesswork. Hell, even Tinder and Bumble have their upsides. Future Party Co-founder Francis Pollara met his now wife, Chloe, on Tinder, and yes there have been many other wins in this new technology:romance matrix.   

You can look all over the world and love is the thing that everyone desires. As technologies innovate, you better believe we’re in for a storm affecting how we approach love and relationships. There will be a never ending source of solutions that hope to connect us, improve our communication and bring us closer to that serendipity and ecstasy of being with another person. It’s important though to always think of the balance we must maintain as technology advances. We don’t want to lose out on what we’re seeking in the first place.

Podcasts, Everywhere

Over the past several years, podcasts have been on the rise. They dominate our earbuds and our conversation. The reason is fascinating because really, it’s just a more democratic & commercialized radio, it’s nothing new. Back in the 50’s, families used to huddle around the radio to listen to in-depth adventures and episodic stories. Now, over fifty years later, everyone has a podcast you can listen to anytime, anywhere, anyplace.

Made popular by the likes of Serial, which had over 100 million listens in its heyday and Gimlet Media who created the very meta Startup podcast, podcasts have been elevated into public light. They are a serious contender in creativity, education, entertainment, your attention, and ultimately making money.

There are a lot of juicy stats as to why podcasting is the next big thing. Like the fact that Google searches have seen a 32% increase in annual growth in recent years or that podcast adoption is predominantly driven by mobile usage.

Last week, LA investor Jason Calacanis sent out a note talking about the “The HBO of Podcasting”. He knows his stuff as he’s now making over $1M a year in revenue off of his “This Week In Start Ups” podcast. He claims 2017 is the year of the podcast. Is it?

He says, “If you could grab 20% of the top 500 podcasts over the next two years for the “HBO of Podcasting” at a $4m payment each, you would be looking at a whopping $400 million content budget — or as Sirius XM would refer to it, “two Howard Sterns” and Netflix would call it four “House of Cards” or “three weeks” (of content).” So clearly it will take some serious cash, but the theory is people would pay for it.

Spotify is bringinging podcasts to the mix. Soundcloud and French based streaming service Deezer are getting into the game as well. Technology is making it increasingly easier to create podcasts and there are some huge businesses surrounding the ecosystem like Midroll which is an award winning podcast ad-network. Clammr which helps you source podcast audio clips, Pinecast which gives you data to make better podcasts & Fable which is aiming to be one of the first podcast only distributors.

It’s not stopping either. This American Life, one of most prolific players in the space, and the company that inspired Serial just premiered S-town, Limetownjust had a huge moment and even we, The Future Party are experimenting, check it out, we’d love some feedback.

The Future of Podcasting is almost here. Pop in your Air Pods & grab some popcorn to see which podcasters grab a chunk of the $65 billion audio market, or you know, just create one yourself. Peace.

Voice Is The Next Operating System

Human communication has evolved over time through different technologies, forms and mediums. Using your voice and simply speaking to someone is a foundation of that interaction. History shows us when leveraging computers for more productivity, voice took the back seat, and text became the conduit for which we could communicate with computers.

Movies like Star Trek, the movie Her and TV shows like The Jetsons all seemed like science fiction at the time, but those seemingly prophetic pieces of entertainment predicted we would command computers using our voices. Now, 2017 is the year where it’s in full effect and we can speak to devices, commanding them to make our lives 10x easier, ushering in the next computing revolution.

It’s no secret, billions of dollars have been poured into artificial intelligence (AI). Computers having their own brains will be the onus of some of the next big technologies like autonomous driving cars and robotics, but AI’s driving growth has been voice and natural language processing in which every major player is involved from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg creating Jarvis himself, to Google Now. Apple’s Siri was arguably the first to get into this game several years ago, but no other company has been paving the way for voice more than Amazon.

Amazon smart speaker the “Echo” has been around since 2014, but its popularity was only made known last year with over 6 million units sold. The Echo didn’t set any expectations and has blown everyone away. The product brings Amazon’s “Alexa” which is their AI voice processing platform directly to your home where you can interact with it. Developers can even create an infinite amount of “Skills”, which are the equivalent of apps and right now there are more than 5,000 of them in the “Skills store.” You can do anything from have Alexa sing you happy birthday and play Simon Says to paying bills, checking your schedule and ordering products off of you guested it, Amazon. You can also incorporate Alexa into any device, no typing or text necessary.

Many are already familiar with voice as a new medium, but using speakers was a genius move making the internet of things one step closer to reality. By 2018, 30% of our interactions with technology will be through “conversations” with smart machines.

Complex science & conjecture aside, voice humanizes technologies. We’re moving towards humanized behavior for computers. It’s a behavior that is extremely addictive, the presentation and purpose simple, yet the opportunities diverse.

There’s still some kinks to work out, but as an individual in the entertainment, art and business workforces, learn now what the implications of voice as an operating system will have on your craft moving forward so that you can be ahead of the curve. There are uses everywhere for everyone and every type of economy. Mastering it will keep you on top of the game.

Facebook AGAIN!

There’s a strong reason for Facebook to get into the audio game. They’re one of the biggest entities in the world, music is something we all love, and other forms of audio content are on the rise. It’s a logical thing. As audio quickly becomes the next operating system, Facebook has the potential to free our eyeballs, add a new revenue channel, and become the market leader in digital audio content.

We get it Facebook, you want our attention and you want it all the time, but you’re losing people’s attention on mobile by only focusing on video.

The biggest problem is almost comical, individuals are still unable to seamlessly transition from watching video content to listening to video content on mobile. Ever get supremely annoyed when your phone goes into screen saving mode and the audio from the video you were playing stops working?! This problem occurs not only with Facebook video, but also on YouTube (at least for YouTube there’s a workaround). According to Apple customer support, this is an issue with “the apps themselves”, not the iOS platform.

Mobile video should be as seamless as TV where you can do anything productive in your home hands free while “watching TV”. Really you’re just listening, and that’s the beauty of TV. Some videos online were not built for watching, but instead simply for listening. How many times have you started watching a video only to realize you’re more concerned with what’s being said rather than what’s on the screen? If you close the app to continue listening, the video should play on. This way, you can free up your hands and eyes for other activities (even if humans aren’t the best at multi-tasking, we still love doing it!

In December 2016 Facebook Launched a beta version of Facebook Live Audio.

The program was launched with a select group of publishers and authors (including BBC, Harper Collins, and Adam Grant) who intend to create audio content specifically for this platform. This is a step in the right direction. Audio content and with it audio-based advertising has experienced double digit growth over the last five years. According to a recent report by Bridge Ratings, ad spend for the 330,000 podcasts in the iTunes directory is expected to increase 27% in 2017 and an additional 30% in 2018 to $250 million. Some rumor Mark Zuckerg’s AI assistant Jarvis as a major audio play as well.

It makes perfect sense for Facebook to try to capture a larger piece of the pie. In addition, Facebook’s entry into the audio market will no doubt accelerate this growth by solving one of the major challenges facing the podcast industry: the difficulty most users face in discovering relevant new podcasts. Another plus, Facebook can get in the game before Snapchat does.

In spite of its recent announcement to enter the digital audio market, Facebook continues to focus most of its attention on video. The company is rumored to be soliciting producers to create original content for the platform in order to compete with Verizon’s Go90 and YouTube Red.

As such, if Facebook really wants to connect the world, make it a better place and make more money in the process, it would be wise of Facebook to allow users to seamlessly transition from watching video to listening to audio in order to keep us engaged on its platform.

Facebook Is A Media Company

You’d think, as the world’s largest distraction device, Facebook would’ve made an original content play ages ago. But no. Somehow they let the world’s largest hardware store beat them to the punch.

For awhile, Zuckerberg remained firm in his conviction that Facebook was not going to be a media company. That is, until he didn’t. Soon you might be binging shows and streaming music on Facebook, right next to your hundred-comment argument with Aunt Charlene.

On the hardware end, Facebook has developed free casting apps for Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Samsung to match its already-existing Chromecast functionality. At first, the cast-able stuff will be limited to personal videos saved on your profile and those of your friends. This makes total sense: why not make it easier to display content outside the smartphone screen?

But then, in December, the announcement came. Facebook would become what Zuckerberg always said it wasn’t, funding “some seed video content, including original and licensed scripted, unscripted and sports content,” according to recent hire and CollegeHumor co-founder Ricky Van Veen. Then just last week, Facebook also brought on former MTV EVP Mina Lefevre as head of development.

Why Facebook suddenly wants OC is both obvious and mysterious. On the one hand, it’s a way to cut in on brands’ advertising budgets currently set aside for YouTube, a battle which may be heating up as YouTube just announced that they’re discontinuing their annoying 30 second pre-rolls. It’s also a way to beat Snapchat to the punch before Sir Spiegel has billions of IPO dollars to screw around with, some of which will almost certainly go to OC. However, at the same time, Facebook is coming off its best quarter ever (in revenue, profit, and profit margin). It looks like they’ve finally figured out, once and for all, how to stay profitable. Is now really the time to start taking risks on making art?

It doesn’t stop at TV either. Facebook is making similar moves in the music space—it brought in YouTube’s Tamara Hvirnak to lead global music strategy just last month. This move has been reported as another attempt to grab ad budgets currently going to YouTube. Meaning Facebook probably won’t develop an Apple Music-style paid music service, but a free one, a potentiality which already has copyright lawyers shivering in their boots.

It’s an interesting time for OC. Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft all began as products, but have metastasized into ecosystems. Each ecosystem wants us to spend more of our attention (and thus time and money) in its closed little world. Facebook, without the more practical underpinnings of a hardware product, operating system, or search engine, is often considered the weakest ecosystem of the bunch, the most likely to fail, which may explain their prior reluctance to take risks on OC.

However, Facebook dominates our consciousnesses more than any other ecosystem by far. It’s less of a tool than the others, more of a gaming system. A digital world which we plug into at will (and sometimes not so at will). Adding original content to its hypnotic repertoire thus makes even more sense for Facebook than it does for Amazon or Apple.

However, if he wants us to binge content right next to our newsfeeds, Zuckerberg could force us to answer an annoying question we’ve avoided for half a decade: How much Facebook is too much?

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