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Media

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.

recode

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.

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?

Snapchat Wars

A little over 3 years ago, Snapchat CEO, Evan Spiegel turned down a $3 billion dollar acquisition offer from Facebook in a move that made the world go W, T, F. The audacity, the ego, the stupidity, the balls. Evan’s decision after he met with Zuck, was nothing sort of focused and calculated and was seen as both bold and foolish. Whatever it was, he was prepared, going as far as to buy his whole team The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, imploring its tactics, paired with an addictive product to drive his team into battle.

Fast forward to 2017 and the yellow ghost is at its prime. Now rebranded as parent company Snap Inc, where Snapchat will be one of many products focused on the camera, Snapchat is about to IPO on the NYSE for a projected 8X the amount it turned down just years ago. Last week was riddled with news of the public filing and the company once completely shrouded in secrecy gave us the most intel we’ve ever seen.

There’s a lot of speculation on whether you should buy or not and what all the data means for the company and its investors. The gist is essentially that Snapchat has strong engagement, slowing traction (due to Facebook, Instagram, and international apps like Snow straight up copying its features), but a solid plan for monetization and a stern promise of innovation. With 158 million insanely engaged daily active users, no shareholder control, halting growth but a strong team, the future of Snapchat is pretty uncertain and may be just as ephemeral as a disappearing snap, or a serious contender in the future of communication and visual storytelling.

Whether you like him or not, Spiegal is a visionary, he controls the Snapchat product, and the success of Snapchat comes down to Evan Spiegel and the company’s ability to innovate. So far he’s hit consistently. Disappearing messages were original to Snapchat, no one could have ever predicted Stories, and that too was original to Snapchat. Lenses that fit on your face and interact with daily life, are original to Snapchat. Spectacles…Snap Inc for the win. Everyone else has been the copycat and Snapchat the originator, leading many including Google chairman Eric Schmidt to call its supreme leader the next Zuckerberg or Bill Gates.

In the filing Snap says “The best way to compete is to make great products that people will want to use.” Sounds like they get it. The quick move to IPO suggests they need this money to innovate, but we need more than just TV on Snapchat. We need the next Snapchat. If Snapchat can continue to see future they’ll have an edge, but it’s important for Snapchat to create things that are a little more defensible, so other companies can’t quickly copy.

Snap Inc is a camera company, they are right to focus on this. Will Snapchat be successful? We’ll see. We’ve often heard that Evan doesn’t make product decisions based on data, but on his gut, and so ultimately, that’s our advice to you, go with your gut. Until next time…

AR 4 Life

For the past year, augmented reality and virtual reality have dominated technology headlines. The Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Samsung Gear are some of the most prominently covered virtual reality hardware out there. Virtual reality can be an exciting experience and it inspires new forms of immersive creative content, but it is mainly a singular experience and has limitations. Augmented reality has much more practical usage in the world and can have a profound impact on many industries.

To experience augmented reality, many are turning to smart glasses. Smart glasses can be connected to any smartphone, can be voice controlled, and have the ability to project a 105” screen, giving the consumer the best seat in the house at all times to experience this new medium.

Osterhout Design Group, ODG for short, has been an important leader in the technology headwear space for the past three decades. For context, the founder created the first night vision glasses utilized by the US military. The ODG team is extremely experienced at constructing smart glasses comfortable for everyday usage. ODG’s glasses are specifically designed to both limit eye fatigue and movement on the head which disrupts augmented reality projections, helping pave the way to how smart glasses will be received by the general population.

Several weeks ago at CES, ODG unveiled their first consumer smart glasses, the R-8 and R-9. In demoing the units, the smart glasses fit comfortably and are not significantly heavier than a pair of standard sunglasses. This technology can enhance efficiencies within many different industries. For instance, warehouse workers can wear smart glasses and be guided to the exact item that needs to be removed from shelves. The same can be applied for consumers entering a grocery store or even a traveler attempting to find a flight gate at an airport.

ODG is going to be a force in the smartglasses vertical, however, the space is not without competition. Magic Leap has been in the news for being a very monolithic yet controversial AR company having received over $1 billion in investments without even releasing a product. Pokemon Go recently had it’s heyday, introducing AR to the masses with their app being downloaded over 100 million times, and further still, Snapchat may be the real winner, as they have a very large audience and have already introduced augmented reality to their platform a la their Lenses features, interactive filters and their new Spectacles.

Augmented reality smart glasses are the next big disruptive platform in computing devices and have the potential to displace tablets and smartphones over the next several years. Screens will disappear and humanity will get one step closer to singularity. There will be opportunity for all, with the potential to change how humans interact, blurring the lines of reality.

Spotify Acquiring Genius

Music is an essential driver of culture and trends in both America and abroad. Two of my favorite things are listening to and discussing music. I love finding new artists, analyzing lyrics, as well as learning about the production behind both classic and new albums. Spotify has been an incredible mobile utility to access large libraries and consume music through an easy user interface. With over 40 Million paying subscribers, Spotify is a mobile application many people can’t live without. As great as Spotify is, however, there are some additions the platform could make in order to enhance the experience as well as prepare themselves for a future IPO. This is where Genius comes into play.

For those unfamiliar with Genius, it is the internet’s destination for song lyrics. They have established deals with major publishers for the exclusive lyric rights to vast music libraries. Through a tiered hierarchy system, users can annotate and provide additional context to lines of lyrics. The approval hierarchy helps ensure there is a level of quality amongst annotations. Artists can become verified and annotate as well: Kendrick Lamar, Chance The Rapper, even Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Within the annotations, users can discuss music and provide their own interpretations of the lyrics. It’s fascinating to see how people interpret lyrics through their own unique lenses. The Genius community is extremely in touch with the latest cultural trends and even provides clever parallels between lyrics and modern day themes.

In 2016, Spotify and Genius partnered on “Behind The Lyrics” in which annotations that corresponded to lyrics appeared behind a limited number of songs, with the option for the user to view them. This is one of the best features added to Spotify in recent memory and it turned Spotify into a visual application instead of a passive listening one. With “Behind The Lyrics” there is now a reason to a look at the application beyond song selection.

Aside from “Behind The Lyrics” there is no where to learn about or discuss music on Spotify, yet there is so much opportunity. After listening to Drake’s Views album, fans should be able to watch a video like this on Spotify about the deconstruction of the tracks. Spotify should also add a gamification component to their application, similar to The Rap Test from a few years ago. These features allow users to learn and feel more connected to the music.

There is no doubt music discussion is something the platform needs to address in 2017. To do this, Spotify should really consider acquiring Genius in order to add a social and cultural component to their platform while tapping into the Genius community and creative team to jump start these discussions. A Spotify mobile and web-based music social network (derived off of the Genius framework) will allow Spotify to develop more revenue streams through advertisements and ultimately create a more compelling experience. Music is a rare topic that brings strangers together and there is a tremendous opportunity for Spotify to develop a strong social network from users’ love of music discussion, giving them an edge in the great streaming war.

Written by Matthew Stanton

Star Warz

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

There was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and it was lit. It’s no surprise that already over the weekend, the latest in franchise is smashing records with its $155M domestic box office haul while making it rain $290M worldwide. If you haven’t seen it yet, the world is familiar, yet departs from the traditional series to provide something very fresh, unique, and profoundly more raw and darker than any of its predecessors.

No matter your intricate thoughts on the theology, plot, CGI, score, specific acting and characters, this movie is important, timely, and the perfect follow up to The Force Awakens. It is simply a bold new take on the Star Wars universe.

Behind the success of the film are proven creative forces and powerful businesses. We mean you Gareth EdwardsKathleen KennedyLucasfilm and yea Disney, way to go.

Remember when George Lucas sold Lucasfilm and Star Wars for $4 Billion Dollars to Disney, just a couple years ago? What a steal, between toys and merchandise alone, Disney more than made their money back before The Force Awakens even came out.

Whether you like it or not, as one of the biggest pieces of IP in the world, Star Wars is the epitome of the cinematic adventure, the gold standard of consistent box office success and a platform enabling diversity and innovation in other arts, technologies and businesses.

Disney just proved they can change things up and still bring home the bacon.

And that is really the key, it’s the idea of creating a compelling story, that’s not the same, but lives in the same world. A lot of studios are starting to do this, just even in the trailers leading up to Rogue One, we saw Logan which needed a double take to realize it was another X-Men movie. Will we ever see a Goonies style Marvel movie or other big franchises taking these different approaches? Maybe a different lens is what these studios need to get through the sequel fatigue everyone is feeling.

The idea of other unique Star Wars stories has us intrigued. Upcoming is a potential comedy in a Han Solo origin story helmed by Lord + Miller, starring that one dude and Childish Gambino coming 2018, with even more side stories rumored.

Whatever they have cooking next, we’ll keep watchin’ because The Force is with us and we are one with The Force. Star Wars will likely advance its world dominance and continue to inspire people everywhere in hope of a better future, not just in fantasy, but in the real world too.

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