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⚡️ Vice cancels itself

After a series of major blows, Vice is currently on life support provided by George Soros. The supposed savior of Millennial media was once valued at $5.7 billion. How, and why, did Vice fall so far?

The long way down
The hits just keep coming.

Monday, HBO axed Vice News Tonight. It was the second Vice project HBO has cancelled. The first, the weekly show Vice, lasted 7 years.

A more recent Vice project, “Vice Live,” made it less than 2 months.

Last year, Vice laid off 15% and froze hiring. In February, it let another 10% go.

In May, Disney “wrote off” its $353 million investment in Vice. The previous fall, it “wrote down” $157 million of the same.

What write off means
“Writing down” an investment means devaluing it. “Writing off” an investment means cutting ties. Disney thinks Vice will never be worth anything.

In other words, the coup de grâce.

Bailed out by Soros
But the company is not dead yet. In a desperate move, it took on $250 million of debt from a group of investors led by George Soros.

Vice says the investment will help execute a new vision to accelerate growth. The way things are going, that would be a miracle.

So what happened?
notoriously toxic work environment and a business pitch “built on a bluff” certainly didn’t help.

But the smart money is that a flawed assumption sunk Vice. The same flawed assumption that may have led to the decline of Buzzfeed.

Vice and Buzzfeed grew because of social media. Their models were built on knowing how to use Facebook effectively. Investors assumed they would figure out how to convert their popular social media presences into ad dollars.

But that never happened. Instead, Facebook drank their milkshakes. Vice thought it was using a distribution platform. As it turned out, it was giving free content to a competitor. Vice failed because the vast majority of Vice’s engagement never happened on Vice. It happened on Facebook.

The Future. Betting on hot media companies without real revenue, or at least innovative plans for generating it, is officially a thing of past. Social media popularity means little without a path to conversion. Investors will be more cautious. And media companies will chase revenue, not engagement.


🐝 Beeeeeeees

Bees are embracing plastic, and they aren’t alone.

For the first time ever, wild bees in Argentina have constructed a nest entirely out of plastic, Science Alert reports. Previously, North American bee nests were found with individual cells created from plastic, but never an entire nest.

The plastic in question is blue-ish in color and was found stuck on a nearby fence. Plastic may provide adaptive advantages, similar to birds using cigarette butts to repel parasites.

It’s also a rare positive development for beleaguered bee-human relations; pesticides are inducing bee die-offs in unprecedented numbers.

Everyone’s doing it.
Other animals are also finding creative ways to use destructive plastic waste.

Even humans are getting on board.

  • Adidas Parleys made of ocean plastic
  • G Star RAW’s similar line with Pharrell
  • Banners in Virgil Abloh’s new Chicago Nike store

None of this is to say that plastic isn’t still a massive threat to the environment, but it’s something.

The Future. Life finds a way.

Screen Shot 2019 10 27 at 8.46.04 AM

This is what made Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish is the first musician born in the 2000s to have a number one hit. Her dreamy SoundCloud sound sounds just like how Xanax feels. But it’s not the music alone that makes the woman. That’s just how it starts.

Found on SoundCloud
In March, 2016, an unknown Billie Eilish posted “Ocean Eyes” on SoundCloud. It was her tenth post on the platform, and only her third original song.

It exploded. The first comment ever on “Ocean Eyes” says only “gorgeous.” The third comment, however, is from a random musician named Michael Enwright.

    • Even from here I can hear the sound of A&R’s everywhere freaking out.

Enwright then presumably created this Hillydilly post, which is how she was discovered by the industry (but not by her fans). Later, in a Facebook post made after she was globally famous, Eilish thanked Enwright.

    • “Hillydilly.com started it all. Thank you for everything Michael Enwright, Chad Hillard, I love you.”

The Attention Economy
When Eilish’s obsessive Gen Z SoundCloud following devoured her Khalid collab on Spotify, she rocketed to mainstream global stardom.

    • “This is what true reactivity looks like in an attention economy,” is how Mike Biggane, head of global genre groups at Spotify, described it to Billboard. “She’s always focused on her core fan base. Credit’s due to her team for maximizing opportunity as her audience developed.”

Her natural aesthetic is almost-too-perfectly relatable for a disaffected teen in the Xanax age.

    • Her Instagram handle was “wherearetheavocados.”
    • She has a penchant for baggy streetwear outfits.
    • Her song titles are in text-speak: “ilmomilo”, “8”, “xanny.” Her album intro track is about Invisalign.

These choices feed an intense Gen Z fandom for whom music is secondary to followability.

    • Even Justin Lubliner, part of her all-star, 16-person management team, acknowledges that image is equal to the music, “not through one song, but with a body of work and a well-defined image.”

The Future. A&Rs are scouring places like SoundCloud and Hillydilly for the next Eilish at all times. But they aren’t just looking for a great songs, they’re looking great packaging. Someone who Gen Z is going to click and follow in droves. It helps to be gorgeous.

future party elon musk

Fighting The News – Media Credibility

It’s no secret that Elon Musk is well loved. He’s been in the press since Peter Thiel’s Confinity bought Elon’s X.com and rebranded it as Paypal before taking it public in 2000. While most people vied for their fifteen minutes of fame, Elon had a solid 18 year press run. This spring, however, has been full of critical press coverage not only about Tesla but also Musk’s leadership of it. A contentious Elon took to Twitter to vent his newfound frustrations with the media. In typical Elon fashion, he made quite a stir in the process.

There’s been reported rumors of union-busting to Bloomberg’s lamentable Tesla progress charts. Some detractors call his visions tall tales and say his companies are teetering on the brink of collapse. ‘Haters gonna hate” though. It’s easy to say that when we see a company consistently operating at a loss, but look at Jeff Bezos who posted loss after loss for years. Now, Amazon is so ubiquitous with e-commerce that there is a self-penned Onion article about Bezos’ pending world domination and he is also the richest man in the world.

Angry, rich and retaliatory or not, Elon is on to something. There’s a problem with the media. Not one to be content with problems, Elon has a solution ready. He calls it Pravda, the Russian word for “truth.” His concept is a site where people can rate the “core truth” of any given article. Over time this would “track the credibility score of each journalist, editor & publication” then display it online for all to see. Crowd-sourced accountability is a viable option for oversight of publicly published information. Still, “core truth” isn’t a very strong attribute to base a credibility score on as truth is, by definition, subjective.  

Mark Twain famously said, “there are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics.”  An early champion of informational distrust, Twain decries the manipulation of the context in which we are presented data. A political poll or a study done on a hot public health topic can easily be manipulated to control the perception of the issue in the public eye. The thing to remember about truth being subjective is that it’s always been this way. Throughout history facts have been what is societally accepted as true at the time.

The problem now is sifting through all of this information. Whereas our parents read the newspaper every day, we are bombarded with too much information every day via the internet. This is what Elon is talking about. There is simply so much content being released so quickly that it’s basically impossible to give it all a quality edit. We need some kind of system to discourage bad actors and reward quality content providers. While, I don’t think creating China’s social credit system for journalists is the answer, something needs to be done and soon.

Speaking of context, we have to consider the context of the media companies themselves. They’re businesses operating in a capitalist economy. Their job is not only to police the facts but to generate revenue for their company and its shareholders. If we want better information the challenge lies on us.


Subscriptions – The Future Of Online Publishing

In 2018, online media publishers are competing for a dwindling share of advertiser revenue. Alphabet and Facebook continue to leverage their magnitude to take the lion’s share of digital ad revenue forcing both smaller and bigger publishers to get creative for their piece of the pie. Currently, most publishers rely on advertisers but many have either built or are starting to build direct relationships to their consumers through paid subscriptions. Already this year, there has been a growing swath of publishers falling into this trend.

The ad driven model is broken, that’s why Buzzfeed is selling spatulas in Walmart. It’s masked as innovation, however it’s preceded by necessity, especially considering their struggle to hit their numbers by almost 20% last year. Consumer behavior is adapting and quality is being demanded. Ironically, the idea of subscriptions for publishing businesses isn’t foreign. Newspapers have been around for centuries and subscriptions have been popular since the 1830’s. This is why companies like The New York Times are ahead of the digital media pack with a cool 2.6 million subscribers. At $120/year per subscription, they aren’t hurting for income. Their annual subscription revenue in 2017 was roughly a billion dollars and that’s more than half of their overall revenue. They transitioned successfully from their established print subscription business where others could not. This model represents the future of media, one where advertiser revenue is supplementary and not the fulcrum a publisher leverages for profitability.

The last few years, subscriptions have been revolutionizing everything. Equal parts convenience and the sanguine satisfaction of unboxing and this physical trend has made its way into the digital realm. We already know that music, TV & Film have been revolutionized by the likes of Apple, Spotify, Netflix and Amazon. These companies have been great examples as to what a content business can offer to their consumer through the power of subscriptions. We’ve even started to notice gaming move in this direction via programs like Twitch subscriptions, where fans support their favorite streamers art with a small monthly fee.

At the dawn of the world wide web, the concept of “the free internet” gained steam. When websites began competing for eyeballs robust ad systems were born and became very profitable, very fast. As the value of that content became more about turning heads, and less about creating substance, online subscriptions created opportunity.

It’s in this space that the consumers win as our dollars, no longer those of advertisers, dictate what content the platform will publish. This is a renewed opportunity for publishers to strengthen their trust with their consumers. The Washington Post, owned by Jeff Bezos, has even discussed giving its subscribers direct access to communicate with writers and staff. While they’re only tallying about 40% of the Times’ digital subs, they have the ability to bundle their perks with Amazon and its other subsidiaries.  

Recently, Bloomberg announced its new subscription model. Financial Times makes most of its revenue through this method. Conde Nast owned Vanity Fair is giving a $20/year offering to its readers. The Information, a new publisher for the tech elite, publishes high quality content that holds its own against more popular ad driven tech publications. They recently held a media summit and there, New York Times COO, Meredith Kopit Levien stated to the audience, that “a rising tide lifts all boats” speaking to their passion to help media businesses everywhere move into subscriptions, knowing if most or all publishers can show that subscriptions are the most valuable for their customer, everyone wins. As glorious as it sounds, it also makes it more difficult to compete and show value. Subscription content has to be premium and it has to create an experience for the customer. Google and Facebook see this as well, both giants are creating tools for publishers to create and support subscription platforms and Apple is actually creating its own platform for news. These companies recognize the new upward trend and how it could change large aspects of their businesses.

Publishers across various fields big and small will thrive in this coming time. Strong brands creating content for passionate niche’s are finding each other, and the customers are paying for exactly what they want and value. We’re seeing this in sports with The Athletic, hype fashion culture through Maekan, and even newsletter darling, The Skimm. There’s a host more of new and established companies moving in this direction.

At its core the subscription is recurring revenue, a business model that’s been around since 1440 with the advent of the printing press. And here we are in 2018 as our modern media tycoons return to their 15th century roots while simultaneously guiding their businesses into the future. If you’re the customer, get excited and ready to pay for what you love and need. If you’re the publisher, be prepared, maybe even a little scared.

Travel In The New Year

With a crazy year behind us and the unknown in front, we are at an interesting intersection where the proliferation of technology, the current state of the world, and “fake news” are leading people to want to get the hell out and go on perpetual vacation.

The good news is, we’re living in the age of “The Experience Economy” where experiencing something new and authentic from nostalgia to wanderlust is an addictive drug easily accessible to all.

The office is now where your laptop is. Your friends and family are always with you on your phone. We thrive on experiences and have never been more empowered to enjoy them.

A compelling study done by popular event ticketing platform eventbrite mentions that millennials, America’s largest generation, are entering their prime in the workforce. Guess what, this demo spends $1.3 trillion in annual consumer spending and more than 3 out of 4 “millennials” would rather experience something than buy something. This combination of interest in events, and the increasing ability to spend, is driving the growth of the experience economy.

It should come as no surprise the apparent shift in the way individuals are now approaching travel and vacation, in fact, the travel and tourism industry brings in an annual $7.3 trillion dollars and is growing every single year.

Now this is about more than just taking a trip to Coachella. People can actually make a living while living a life of entertaining experiences. They can even make it their business.

Facebook allows for remote working and encourages their staff to work in their different offices internationally.

WordPress runs a billion dollar establishment and they don’t even have an office, by the way, they power 25% of all websites on the internet.

Airbnb is tapping into experience culture and moving from a platform just for booking interesting places to one of discovery and adventure. Their new full service travel experience empowers  hosts to provide guests with dining options, tour guides and transportation. In fact, CEO Brian Chesky wants “a world more like the villages of old: highly trusting and filled with micro-entrepreneurs who share their assets to make a living.”

He thinks they can contribute heavily to a world of 100M micro entrepreneursmaking a living through sharing their property or skills for business.

Everyone’s looking for their sense of self and no longer is success defined by your status or what you own, but instead by what you’ve experienced, who you were with, and where those memories live.

This should give insight to how brands and businesses can create unique experiences with customers that are out of the box, in the element and connective with a generation bent on this way of living.

As we enter 2017, no matter what happens, good, bad, crazy or astounding, go see the world, work to unbridle yourself from your own location, and don’t be caught in the dangerous cycle of the mundane.

Create opportunities of learning and make smart investments with your time. Build who you are as an individual, tap into your sense of adventure, take a risk, think of what you define as success, and go after it. You’ll continue to see more opportunity wherever you go and be inspired by it. With so many empowering technologies, there is such a huge opportunity to learn and discover yourself and it won’t be found building a life from a cubicle.

2016 Was Horrible

It ain’t over till it’s over…

Love it or hate it, 2016’s been a wild ride. From a monumental election to noticeable paradigm shifts in our economy as well as iconic phenomenons like Pokemon Go, big things popped and people dropped. As we turn a page in the history books, 2017 in all its anticipation, feels a lot more promising.

The Future Party this year was gangbusters. We threw numerous events including a SXSW activation with some of the world’s leading pioneers, intimate dinners with open discussions about the state of the world, and the most epic halloween party with top hustling millennials.

Throughout the year, we hosted monthly gatherings bringing together world class speakers to explore the future of fashion and merchandise, share what we’ve come to understand about virtual reality, and challenge the existing music landscape.

Hundreds of you are in constant communication online within the community and in just three months, thousands of you are reading the growing weekly email list.

Thanks for sharing the newsletter and feel free to continue. We’ll give people access if they say the magic words.

We’ve got a bunch more things planned from bigger and better events to cool new pieces of content. Email us if you have any ideas or want to contribute.

Stay woke this next week. Hang in there, 2016’s almost done, but you know what they say, it ain’t over till it’s over.

Happy New Year ?

Next Wave Of Content

Everyone’s creating content…

Vidcon just happened this last weekend, and the annual conference has evolved overtime as a marquee event for pre-teen fandom to a full blown platform for major video and editorial platforms, brands and companies to talk business and economics. By now, it’s been no secret that the content landscape is changing. There’s no brand allegiance, no one place to watch everything, and people’s attention is scattered. Some organizations are capitalizing on this, feeling they have the distribution, means, and talent to do it better than their counterparts.

The success of Amazon and Netflix makes everyone feel like the film and TV industry must be too good to pass up. Facebook has been paying for original scripted content, and Apple just hired some TV veterans to man their new TV operation. Musical.ly is now creating original content and Snapchat might become the next MTV as Snapchat’s deal with Time Warner show their ever expanding move into content. Vice keeps getting money. Complex, now owned by a majority of Verizon is branching out in the same way Vice did. Verizon is also pushing the envelope with go90. Super Deluxe looks like it will be the next Adult Swim. Youtube is still managing to stay strong with 1.5 billion viewers every month. Spotify’s in the game with new shows like Traffic Jams, and so much more.

It’s not news for some, but there’s an opportunity to act and get ahead while it’s hot. It seems like we’re going through a revolution. Studios are stuck doing blockbusters and taking chances on old models, while many millennials and pre-teens are “mobile first” consuming content on anything other than traditional cable. Content creators, writers, producers, and celebs alike all have the opportunity to leverage what is happening and create a strong brand while telling compelling stories.

New upstarts are clamoring for people’s attention, but what are people going to talk about in the next 3, 6, 10 months and even the next two years? How can we understand what comes beyond “Silicon Valley taking over Hollywood?”

The next studios are any attention grabbing platforms. It can be editorial blogs, a board game or it could even be subscription box services with massive audiences like Loot Crate or Dollar Shave Club. The old guard doesn’t have too much to worry about though. Vice isn’t likely going to make a blockbuster movie any time soon and even if older studios are overthrown, their massive libraries of stories, licenses, and options that can be spun into games, theme parks, toys and even more stories on new platforms are priceless.

Nevertheless, pay attention to which platforms people are paying attention to that may not even have a video service yet, from hardware, to tech services and beyond. These platforms have the potential to be the next Netflix’s of the world. Remember, it was just yesterday Amazon only sold books.

Fake News And The Death Of Investigative Journalism

Follow the money…

Fake news is a term that’s been thrown around a lot lately. Misinformation and click-bait headlines bombard us from all angles. Sensational claims that were once reserved for satirical publications like the National Enquirer have become the standard. News outlets used to take so much pride in their in-depth investigations and accurate reporting. But the times have changed, and so have the demands the consumers and the marketplace have placed on publishers. It begs the question, how exactly did things come to be the way they are now?

If we want to know the answer we must follow the money. Newspapers and magazines used to have robust revenue streams from subscriptions and recurring ad spends. In fact, they were the only place a company could place an ad to have a regional or national reach for a brand. Then came the great equalizer: the internet.

The internet changed both publishing and advertising forever. The more sophisticated the data collection efforts of tech companies became, the more powerful online ads and publication platforms became. Then consumer habits began to shift. Searches for products that once occurred in the back of magazines moved onto a burgeoning selection of search engines. Google’s pioneering efforts set it apart from all competitors and empowered both consumers, advertisers and publishers alike.

But as more and more people came online the competition for their attention became fierce. As Google and Facebook’s ever changing ranking algorithms ruled publishers’ worlds one constant remained: content is king. The more often publishers released new content the better they would rank. This frequency of release as value was in stark contrast to the old model of quality over quantity. And so click-bait headlines were born.

Social media didn’t help the situation. Now people can share an article to their thousands of friends without even reading it. “Everyone will think I’m so avant-garde, look at this headline, no one is talking about this!” Well, true. But maybe no one is talking about it because the headline isn’t true. We have a social responsibility to realize the power of the media at our fingertips. The same way our words have power, so do our online presences.

Many newspapers and magazines don’t have the money to hire quality editors anymore. Now this is a crowd-sourced responsibility we all share. It’s more important than ever to perform due diligence before spreading information. We crave true stories above all. Though sadly, they’re in short supply and the ones that are out there are often times lost in the muddy waters of the internet. That hunger for truth is played on by click-bait kingpins who manipulate our humanity and our emotional urges.

Yet, there are still those news outlets who truly care about people, the New York Times and The Washington Post among them. There are publications like the Atlantic who employ relentless investigators like the famed Ta-Nehisi Coates. But for every Ta-Nehisi there are 100 click-baiters. That’s why in the end the responsibility falls upon us and it’s one we simply cannot shirk as the stakes are high. American citizens played right into Russia’s hands during the election and inadvertently shared a powerful misinformation campaign that many feel affected the outcome of the election. Now, in the 21st century, we must all do our part to make sure that the truth doesn’t drown in a deluge of lists and Buzzfeed articles.

Written by Nathan Raffel

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