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Facebook’s Local News Problem

Facebook has been in the hot seat this year. The Cambridge Analytica scandal was such a debacle that it won Mark Zuckerberg a two day trip to testify before congress. Facebook’s admitted lack of oversight compromised millions of Americans’ data and spread fake news from big cities to the smallest of towns, and Uncle Sam still wants to know what happened. In the wake of this scandal, as Facebook tries to Humpty Dumpty their consumers’ trust, they’ve made a big to-do about their preemptive foray into local news and their new set of tools to support local publishers.

In February, Facebook created a Local News Accelerator. The program allots $3 million dollars for marketing to help newspapers get digital subscriptions. Publications from Boston, Dallas, San Francisco and other major news hubs will divide up Facebook’s ad dollars. The jury is still out on its success, as no reports from the companies in the accelerator have confirmed increased digital subscriptions. But there has been one study done that confirms a recent decrease in the reach of local news publishers on the Facebook platform.

The Takeaway:
  • Facebook is a groundbreaking tech company with a global vision, but local journalism requires microscopic detail, not just global vision.
  • Facebook is still not sure how to tackle the news space and with Pew Research deducting that 44% of U.S. adults get their news from Facebook, that’s not the best conundrum to be in.
  • The jury is still out on the success of Facebook’s News Accelerator, as no reports from the companies in the accelerator have confirmed increased digital subscriptions.

Which local publishers? Ironically, the very ones participating in the Local News Accelerator. In fact, only 2 of the 13 have seen a single digit percentage increase in reach on Facebook since their enrollment, while reach has actually decreased by double digits for 9 of those 13 participants. The Denver Post claims the unwanted crown with a staggering 56% decrease in reach since it entered the program. If Facebook is going to hurt more than it helps, then it needs to re-think its strategy. Communities need the localized information and journalistic accountability to connect them to their local ecosystem, and that connection is important.

Studies show that local newspaper closures are followed by rate hikes on the cities’ borrowing costs, sometimes as much as 11%. A pattern emerges where a few years after a local paper closure, people begin to take advantage of the lack of oversight, especially in revenue bonds. Revenue bonds are the instrument used to finance schools and hospitals, projects that generate ongoing revenue. This debt is then repaid to the city from the revenues generated by the project. Without hard-nosed, local journalists there to make sure no one dips their hand in the cookie jar and money starts to go missing.

Apart from an investment in local news, Facebook has also taken away their global trending feature and are testing ‘Breaking News’ features in the newsfeed and on the Watch platform. Nothing’s figured out and with Pew Research deducting that 44% of U.S. adults get their news from Facebook, that’s not the best conundrum to be in.

Facebook is right. They do have a responsibility to help local news. All the big tech companies do. Google’s ad revenue grew $86.3B from 2004 – 2016. Companies in that same time frame spent $31.5B less on print ads. Organizations like Facebook are great and most people use them everyday. They’re a groundbreaking tech company with a global vision, but local journalism requires microscopic detail, not just global vision. We’ll wait and see if that’s a problem Facebook is equipped to solve.

The Olympic Dichotomy

The Olympics have long been a beacon for cultural and technological advancement.  From their debut in Athens in 1896 to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics where the first color television broadcast happened, the Olympics have an impact on the legacy of their host cities. While initially the International Olympic Committee (IOC) courted cities, later the cities began to court the commission in order to host the games in a complex bidding process. Cities essentially vye for the right to show off their nation’s prowess on a global stage, it’s a once in a lifetime shot at writing a powerful chapter in their history books. Making history however, doesn’t always pay the bills.

The 1964 Tokyo games were the first held in Asia and in that same vein the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics are poised to debut a slew of new technology from 5G to Smartsuits. Infrastructurally speaking the close to 200 mph light rail is the highlight for the Korean games. Since the games themselves aren’t in the capital, the country has invested heavily in a system to swiftly move around the deluge of visitors between multiple venue sites and also in and out of the country for foreigners. The 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France had a similar infrastructure boost that had no long term benefit for the area and left the country millions in debt.

Again, broadcast history will be made at the Olympics as Intel will be broadcasting more than 50 hours of VR content from the Pyeongchang games. The VR broadcasts themselves will be made possible by a 5G network, also custom built just for the games. But folks, the fun doesn’t stop there, in the ice skating arena “bullet-time” video tech will be introduced. This essentially means you can pause, zoom, rewind and interact with live television like never before.

Great, but will these snazzy tech tools smooth relations between North and South Korea?  Will 5G internet stop a war? Does bullet-time video help restore water to the people of Cape Town? Obviously, the Olympics are not meant to solve the world’s problems but they aren’t supposed to leave cities worse off than before they hosted the games. Lake Placid, for instance had to be bailed out by the taxpayers of New York state as a reward for meeting all of the extraneous demands of the IOC. In others, like Sochi, the city is burdened with an $8.5B light rail system that is underutilized and a financial burden on the country and city to maintain.

The IOC are not urban planners, they’re event planners. Yet, they’ve been changing the course of urbanization around the globe for over a century. The simple truth of the matter is that the party always ends. When an event planner is hired for a wedding they’re responsible for every last detail from the first person arriving until the last chairs and silverware are packed and the venue is returned to its original state as if no one were ever there. They leave no trace. Yet the IOC runs around planning “parties” and creates disorganization that they leave for their host countries to clean up for decades, like the people of Montreal who ended up losing $3B to meet the demands of the IOC placed on them in 1976.

All that being said, a city like LA stands to benefit from the 2028 games like they did during the 1932 and 1984 Olympic games where Los Angeles expanded the Coliseum. The city is actually busy enough to maintain and utilize the surplus infrastructure. With tons of existing infrastructure for the competitions, the real investment is in the public transportation which LA is sorely in need of.  LA has actually had a surplus in cash from the last time it hosted the games, a stark contrast with many other host cities. The demands for the contest are simply accelerating existing plans.

This Friday, the Winter Olympics begin and the world will be watching and waiting. History will be made, medals will be won and no doubt there will be a lot of energy and excitement around the city of Pyeongchang. The jury is still out on whether it is the IOC itself or the host nations who are dropping the ball when it comes to the aftermath but one things is for certain: more often than not, the host nation’s bank account is not taking home the gold.

The Truth Will Set You Free

Everyone searches for the truth. The idea of truth and honesty can oftentimes be sabotaged in business and entertainment, yet truth is something a brand, business, and artist should always care about within their organization or craft. If customers don’t feel like they’ve gotten the truth, their reviews can tank businesses both big and small.

Last week, Silicon Valley startup Juicero made headlines after offering all their customers who bought their more than expensive $400 wi-fi juicer a refund. The reason? You don’t actually need the juicer to squeeze the pre-made bags they come in. Customers realized they could juice their drinks just by squeezing the pack by hand, making the actual juicer completely unnecessary. Juicero raised $120 million dollars for this endeavor and now, no one is happy.

The lack of honesty and full disclosure of business has plagued and even destroyed companies like Theranos, Zenefits, Lilly, Magic Leap and Clinkle. Some of these companies secured multi-millions of dollars with little more than a product video, and while some have created actual prototypes, these technologies feel so infant and so far from the intended final product we might ask if these founders may have been lying to themselves.

We’re in an environment where investment in startups are a lot more harderthan they used to be and there are so many variables that could equal a successful company. One thing for sure, is that customers have all the power, especially with today’s internet landscape. The idea of “fake it, till you make it” ends with your customers who really expose the truth. Juicero biffed, but the real learning should be reflective of everyone else’s projects and endeavors. You have to be honest with your customers and the things you’re creating. No one said it was easy, but just ask yourself at every path you take, if you’re being honest.

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 ?

News Of The Day

Warner Bros./DC’s Wonder Woman is breaking barriers and smashing records. It beat its Sunday projections with $103.1 million at the domestic box office, $223 million globally, and a certified 93% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. This has given way to a whole new outlook on superhero movies and women in entertainment. Directed by Patty Jenkins, it’s the number one debut of any female director in history and is so far performing better than most prior DC Movies.

Wonder Woman follows Diana Prince, an Amazonian princess played by Gal Gadot, who happened to be five months pregnant during the filming! (take that Beyonce). The fictional superhero by DC Comics came out in October 1941, and has now grown to become a superhero staple and part of the Justice League. After this weekend, Wonder Woman will be thrown into the cultural echelon for another generation.

Female directors, producers and collaborators in the film world take note, this is a huge win for diversity in front of and behind the screen. Fifty-two percent of first weekend audiences were women, whereas previous DC and Marvel properties have counted on audiences with a male majority of 60% or more.

There is still a very long battle to fight for women in Hollywood, but recently we’ve seen a well deserved yet slow rise of women making an impact in Hollywood. We’ve seen many dominate the executive branches and Wonder Woman is a sign of the times for the creative artists as well. Sofia Coppola just won best director at the Cannes Film Festival, Annapurna’s coming out this year with Detroit directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Ava Duvernay who directed Selma, is releasing a film with Rhianna, and so many more inspirational stories exist.

Over the next week expect executives to speculate, talk and wonder why Wonder Woman did so well, but simply put it was just a good, entertaining and honest film. With the success of DC, Marvel now has to be on their toes, hopefully DC has cracked the code. Expect more superhero movies, more bets on diversity, and more women calling the creative shots. There’s still more work to do, but this weekend, progress was made.

Once Upon A Time…

Once upon a time…                                              Jan 13, 2018 

Steve Jobs desired to be the greatest storyteller ever saying, “The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation.” CEOs are often pegged as chief storytellers, people in sales are storytellers, engineers, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, and teachers are all storytellers. Everyone’s a storyteller. Stories, literally make the world go round. With the advent of technology, communication with one another is empowered by different platforms to tell better stories. Stories compel people to take action, to understand, to live, and this communication engages people. That’s why when Snapchat launched “Stories” several years ago, it was a game changer.

All things considered, it’s no surprise why a company like Facebook largely embraced a company like Snapchat’s biggest feature. Furthermore, it’s no surprise other platforms like Tinder and Skype are adopting the same format as well.

We’re nearing almost a year since Instagram stories first launched, and in that year, Instagram Stories’ 200M+ daily users dwarfs Snapchat’s 166M. At first, many were irked at the unoriginality of the move to literally just “copy” Snap. But then, the user experience worked, and no one cares anymore. Downloads for Snapchat have gone down, and they recently had a less than lackluster earnings call. A report on TechCrunch found that Snapchat Stories’ view counts dipped by 15-30 percent after Instagram Stories launched, and posting volume declined as well.

Brands are more interested in Instagram because of reach and a less expensive ad model, meaning they are getting way more bang for way less buck. Influencers are moving over as well. TheAmplify has found that influencers see a 28% higher open rate on Instagram Stories than on Snapchat.

There’s no denying the massive reach that Facebook & Instagram have, but Snapchat was built on innovation and continues to innovate. They are focusing on a second generation of Spectacles, which are rumored to include augmented reality and are going all in on linear content, striking deals with major content distributors. Facebook and Apple have announced an AR strategy as well, but Snapchat’s still in the game. Employees are heads down, seemingly in their own reality distortion field where they continue to work on maintaining high engagement among their demographic. Sixty percent of Snap’s users are under 25, and according to Nielsen research commissioned by the company, it reaches 41 percent of all 18- to 34-year-olds in the U.S.

Because of ‘Stories’, Snapchat and Instagram are quickly becoming the same platform. Business and economics don’t always reward creators of great ideas, but those who execute well, will always have the competitive advantage. We’re in for a ride over the next couple years. Innovation is happening before our eyes. He who tells the best story, will ultimately win.

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.

Bring The World Closer Together

Bring the world closer together…

A couple weeks ago,  Mark Zuckerberg announced a new mission and focus for Facebook on fostering communities. We’ve grown up in the age of Facebook and it’s come a long way from the racy Harvard upstart. Now, they’ve accomplished a feat very few companies can claim as they currently have over 2 billion monthly active users, almost 30% of the world paying attention to them on a given month. That thought is both terrifying and eye opening. What’s more interesting is their recent move to no longer focus on making the world more open and connected, but to “bring the world closer together”.

Zuck feels membership in communities in general has been declining, and while that may or may not be true, they now want to help 1 billion people join meaningful communities all around the world. That’s a big mission that will support a lot of various communities from communities of faith, to communities for cryptocurrencies, puppies, cats, and even communities like our own.

With the announcement came some snazzy new features, from monitoring and acquiring new members, to group insights, membership filtering and scheduled posts. All these new features are gratifying and will help enable better groups, but what’s most important is the new focus. Their push to grow Facebook by focusing on our relationships with each other.

At The Future Party, our community aims to help professional millennials be more informed, successful and happier through unique experiences and compelling content. We’ve been excited to grow ours over the past couple years with some of the coolest and most enthusiastic people from all over the world looking to do life better professionally and creatively.

Connection comes from intentional relationships and common viewpoints. As you grow as an individual, it’s important to understand how to empower communities for your own business whether virtual or physical. In the future, advertising will move from quantity to quality as brands and businesses will look for close knit communities to champion their offerings.

We believe the best businesses operate with some sort of community. It’s half the reason Marvel does so well. They tapped into a community of comic book enthusiasts and now they own Comic-Con and dominate the box-office. When you can tap into social circles you create meaning beyond the actual content or product, you tap into the enthusiasm of customers’ friends and family, leading you to drive strong economics.

Whether you’re Netflix, the latest start up, Coca-Cola, or the government, tapping into communities both virtual and otherwise will be the new normal. It’ll be where businesses and marketers get their biggest ROI and where they supercharge viral trends. Just some food for thought. Happy Monday.

Laurene Powell Jobs Goes Shopping

Laurene Powell Jobs Goes Shopping…

Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of the late Steve Jobs, has been taking the entertainment world by storm. Armed with a net-worth of $20 billion, she’s deploying capital into some of the industry’s newest and most innovative upstarts, building from her philanthropic past work in education and public policy. Now that she’s disrupting the media space, heads are turning and we’re betting it’s the birth of a new media powerhouse.

Last week major news outlets announced that Laurene purchased a majority stake in The Atlantic. The Atlantic is a whopping 160 year old publication and has been a staple in authentic and influential reporting illuminating the highs and lows of our democracy. This move highlights her recent spending spree as she’s also put in a significant investment in Anonymous Content and a whopping $40M in Chris Milk’s VR/AR start up Within. She helped champion the way for Charles King’s diversity driven MACRO and was one of the investors responsible in kickstarting new media company Axios. All of these radical companies are changing the game and ushering in the new world order of media.

Laurene has been strong in philanthropy for the last couple decades spending much of her time supporting lower income students in high school and college while challenging the educational industry. She runs most of her operation through The Emerson Collective, her social impact organization focused on education, the environment, immigration, and social justice issues. Along with all their media investments, they’ve made big votes of confidence in The Marshall ProjectProPublica and XQ. Now Laurene is making a name for herself, buying companies that affect creative storytelling. In ways it’s fitting as most of her wealth comes from her holdings in The Walt Disney company and not Apple.

The move into Hollywood and journalism comes at a time where both are being disrupted. We’ll admit, not everyone has the extra cash to strategically invest, but ladies take note, and fellas, take an even bigger one. We suspect she’ll be furthering her philanthropic goals, but don’t be surprised if she makes more smart and interesting bets on innovative companies like these. She joins the ranks of wealthy billionaires who own influential and subversive news orgs like Jeff Bezos and Carlos Slim who own The Washington Post and NY Times respectively.

Laurene’s got taste, the companies she’s investing in are disruptive and worth affiliating with. We see a little media empire being created that’s diversity driven, auteur driven, people driven, and chop full of the sort of authenticity people are striving to consume. In her interview with Senator Kamala Harris and Kara Swisher from Recode, you see her say that she wants to be part of the creation of the cultural narrative. She wants to inspire the kind of stories all of her organizations want to see told. It’s all a vehicle to fuel her desire to make a mark on the world in a positive way. We think it’s refreshing.

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