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TikTok gets less viral

tiktok-videos-trending-down-views-thefutureparty
Illustration by Kate Walker

TikTok gets less viral

 

The Future. TikTok’s slightly cherry-picked top ten trending videos of the year list have millions of views, but its top video is trending downward in viewership year to year. The algorithm is probably to blame, keeping people locked into only seeing the videos they’re actually interested in. Don’t be surprised if next year’s list contains top-trending subcultures within TikTok.

Trend trends
According to The Verge, while TikTok is still insanely popular, the most popular videos on the app are… less so.

While TikTok has only gained more and more users in the past few years, the top videos getting less viewership is notable. What does that all mean? Maybe nothing.

Or, maybe it’s the perfect indicator of how virality on TikTok has changed as the platform’s algorithm has put people in more niche silos. You may get exactly what you want to watch, but the shared cultural moments are becoming less shared.

But there is one consistency: the account @chipmunksoftiktok snatched the #2 spot for the second year in a row. What does that mean? Social media needs more chipmunks.

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Crop of Twitter alternatives struggle with sudden user growth

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Illustration by Kate Walker

Crop of Twitter alternatives struggle with sudden user growth

 

The Future. Platforms like Mastodon, Hive, and Post have surged in popularity as many users no longer feel that Twitter is for them under the reign of Elon Musk. That’s typically great news for rivals, but the popularity comes with consequences — security issues, buggy apps, and a need to increase servers quickly. But with a gold rush underway to find a new Twitter, the platform that can get their house in order first may find itself as the most important company of 2023.

We’re gonna need some bigger servers
That’s what Twitter rivals have been telling themselves since users started leaving Twitter in droves.

Fast Company breaks it down:

  • Mastodon has been around since 2016, but in the past month, it has grown from 300,000 users to 2.5 million — an increase that made tech experts look closely at the platform and find major security bugs, such as being able to steal user credentials. Founder Eugen Rochko said the organization is working on fixes.
  • Hive, which is literally run by three people and hasn’t raised any real investment, saw its user base reach over 1 million. The app crashed, and then the team shut down the servers for days to fix security issues that would’ve enabled hackers to access and steal private information.
  • Post is the newest of the bunch at only three weeks old, but it has already scored investment from a16z and Scott Galloway. With the new funds, Post is looking to ramp up hiring and introduce features that users would expect. So far, there are 65,000 users on the platform, with 335,000 on the waitlist.

Maybe one of these will be the next Twitter, but it’s going to take a while for them to mature to a place where they can handle that sort of scale.

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The Psychology of your 20’s breaks through the podcast noise

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Courtesy of The Psychology of your 20’s

The Psychology of your 20’s breaks through the podcast noise

 

The Future. Jemma Sbeg’s The Psychology of your 20’s, a podcast covering psychological concepts to tackle issues people face in their 20s, has been blowing up on Spotify’s charts this year. The podcast’s virality may be a great advertisement for the success of Spotify’s Anchor acquisition, demonstrating that it is possible to break out in a sea of literally millions of podcasts.

Viral loneliness
Australian psychology graduate Jemma Sbeg is at the center of a Spotify rags to (almost) riches story, reports The Verge.

  • Her DIY podcast, The Psychology of your 20’s, was created on Anchor and scored 15,000 downloads in the first 10 months — nothing crazy.
  • But after she released an episode on loneliness in April, the show took off. It now has 1.4 million downloads and is ranked in the top 10 of Spotify’s podcast charts in the US, UK, and Australia.
  • In the US, it’s above megahits like NYT’s The Daily and Call Her Daddy (to help with discovery, Spotify’s podcast charts are mostly trends charts — ranking shows higher when their new-listener growth is skyrocketing).

The Psychology of your 20’s peaked at #4 on the charts a couple of weeks ago.

Anchored up
So, how did Sbeg’s podcast break out? She said Spotify told her that the show had:

  • A straightforward title and episode topics that make it easy for audiences to understand quickly
  • An underserved audience of women in their 20s
  • And plain luck (it happens sometimes)

Although The Psychology of your 20’s is riding high, it’s not enough of a success for Sbeg to quit her day job (she’s a mental health consultant in Sydney). That’s mostly because she doesn’t haven’t access to Anchor’s dynamic advertising tool since it’s a US-only feature. Instead, she charges a $2 per month subscription fee and has a few sponsors.

But with guest-spot opportunities and book deal offers hitting her desk, the podcast may allow her to quit her day job soon enough… but only if she wants.

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NewsGuard serves TV-news “nutrition labels” to Madison Avenue

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Courtesy of CBS

NewsGuard serves TV-news “nutrition labels” to Madison Avenue

 

The Future. Journalism and technology company NewsGuard is opening up its TV news “nutrition labels” to ad buyers and brands, so they can make better-informed decisions about where they are placing their ads. With TV news so fractured in viewership, the labels may shift millions of dollars in advertising to programs that are deemed “safer,” even though they don’t command as large of an audience.

Commentary calories
What if you could see how “good” a TV news program is for you?

  • After an exclusive run with ad-buying firm Interpublic Group Magna, NewsGuard (which rates the “veracity of new content”) is beginning to license its services to all of Madison Avenue.
  • Per Variety, the safety ratings for about 140 cable, streaming, and network shows and full networks will be available starting January 2.
  • The reports are provided as “nutrition labels” that provide an overall rating for the risk of running advertising on the shows or networks.

The ratings take into account everything from fact-based reporting to citing credible experts to providing multiple viewpoints. “Low-risk” programs include CNN’s Inside Politics and Fox’s MediaBuzz (both 9 out of 10), and CBS Evening News (10 out of 10). “High-risk” programs include MSNBC’s Morning Joe (4 out of 10) and Fox’s Tucker Carlson Tonight (0 out of 10).

Let’s see which brands decide to move their advertising based on the ratings…

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Smartphones are still our right-hand man

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Smartphones are still our right-hand man

 

The Future. Despite a decade of innovations, smartphones are still supreme. As tech companies refocus on generating revenue as their stocks take a hit and recession looms, prepare for a double-down on the device that consistently delivers while big future-focused ambitions take a backseat.

One device to rule them all
With everyone from Meta to Amazon to Snap either cutting staff and budgets at moonshot projects like the metaverse, AR/VR headsets, and voice assistants, The Verge’s David Pierce makes the case that smartphones are still the best thing Big Tech has ever made.

  • People already use smartphones to access metaverse-like platforms like Fortnite and Roblox but without the discomfort of VR goggles.
  • Smartphones can already be used for various AR applications, such as navigation and photography.
  • And no one is really clamoring for dedicated voice-assistant products when a smartphone can handle that for users.

Maybe it’s because smartphones are so connected to people these days that everything else just becomes a secondary device.

It’s not that none of these devices or innovations will eventually take off (Pierce has his money on AR), but maybe smartphones are just as good as they will get… for now.

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Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery reveals layers of Netflix’s theatrical rollout

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Illustration by Kate Walker

Glass OnionA Knives Out Mystery reveals layers of Netflix’s theatrical rollout

 

The Future. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery has become a holiday hit at the box office for Netflix… but only for the holiday. Netflix’s week-long “sneak preview” of the mystery movie may mean that Netflix is foregoing outsized, long-term theatrical revenue in favor of its streaming priorities. While co-CEO Ted Sarandos walked back previous comments that Glass Onion would be a test for Netflix’s theatrical ambitions, the success may prove to the company’s investors that, for some movies, theatrical may make the best financial success.

Evidence of a hit
Is Glass Onion growing a theatrical franchise for Netflix?

  • Deadline reports that over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, Glass Onion made $13.3 million… which is projected to hit $15 million by the movie’s last showing on Tuesday.
  • That number is from only about 700 theaters in North America alone.
  • Despite quite a few movies debuting, it was #3 at the box office — behind only Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Disney’s animated Strange World.
  • It’s not only the best-ever rollout for a Netflix movie before it hits the service but is the 10th-best launch of a movie playing in under 900 theaters.

But while most studios would increase the number of screens that Glass Onion is playing on to meet demand, Netflix is adamant that Tuesday will be the last day the movie will play — it’s sticking to the one-week “sneak preview” plan. It hits the service on December 23.

Theaters can re-book the movie after the Netflix premiere, although very unlikely.

Bigger mysteries
So, the question on Hollywood’s mind is: “how much money would Glass Onion have made if it was given a full theatrical release?”

  • The first Knives Out (distributed by Lionsgate) made $41.4 million during the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday weekend and eventually topped out at $313 million globally at the end of its run.
  • Analysts believe that Glass Onion, which is just as critically acclaimed as Knives Out, would do similar business.
  • That would’ve been great news for Netflix, which paid Rian Johnson and producer Ram Bergman $469 million for the rights to make two sequels.

But since Netflix opted for the one-week exclusive run (most likely to appease Johnson) while giving the top theater chains a discount to play it and spending quite a bit on marketing it, the streamer likely left a lot of money on the table.

For Netflix, the hope may be that direct subscriber revenue (because of the movie being on the platform) will be just as financially rewarding.

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Ben Affleck and Matt Damon unveil Artists Equity to spread the wealth

Courtesy of Walt Disney Television

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon unveil Artists Equity to spread the wealth

 

The Future. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have closed up shop on their long-running Pearl Street Films (which had a deal at Warner Bros.) and are launching a new studio called Artists Equity. The goal is to be a United Artists of the modern age — an artist-driven studio giving collaborators creative freedom and a share of financial success. Once the company gets up and running, it could be a key player in realigning creatives’ pay with the gains generated by Hollywood’s push into streaming.

Rich in friendship… and money
Ben and Matt have had a lot of success in Hollywood and now want other creatives to share in that success.

  • According to NYT, Affleck will take on the role of CEO, and Damon will be the Chief Creative Officer of their newly formed company, Artists Equity.
  • Artists Equity will give filmmakers creative freedom and mint “entrepreneurial partnerships” with every creative involved in a project (more on that in a second).
  • In addition to investing some of their own money, Affleck and Damon have raised at least $100 million for the new venture from RedBird Capital Partners (which has also invested in Artists Equity and LeBron James’ SpringHill).
  • Affleck said his work moving forward as a writer, director, actor, and producer will be exclusively through the company, while Damon has committed to star in several films.

The company plans to release three films next year and scale up to five annually. First up is a feature about the creation of the Air Jordan brand for Amazon Prime, written by Affleck and Damon (with Adam Convery) and directed by Affleck. That project debuts next year.

United Artists 2.0
Let’s get back to those “entrepreneurial partnerships.” One of the core tenants that Affleck and Damon said would drive the company is the promise to “provide performance-based incentives to creators and crew that allow all participants in the production value chain to share in profits.”

Practically, that means creatives — everyone from writers to costume designers — would potentially get a lower up-front fee in exchange for big payouts if the project is successful. It’s a similar model to Blumhouse (which is undergoing its own power merger) that has made some writers and directors very rich.

The key differentiating factor is that Affleck and Damon know that streaming has, in Damon’s words, “intrinsically changed” the industry (no box office bonuses, no syndication, little residuals). How to measure success is a bit of a black box — one that the team is keen to break into and extract what everyone’s truly worth.

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TV news tightens its budget

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Illustration by Kate Walker

TV news tightens its budget

 

The Future. Anxiety is roiling newsrooms as every outlet has announced staff reductions, budget cuts, and a pullback on all spending. While the cuts are timed with the midterms winding down, expect every outlet to ramp up again when the presidential election goes into full swing in 2024… and they could be met with some new digital news startups created by recently-released employees.

Breaking budgets
Depressed stock, ad rollbacks, inflation, and just a general downturn in viewership are leading top news stations to get frugal, per THR.

  • ABC News is set for cuts after Disney’s disappointing quarterly results led the CEO Bob Chapek to institute a hiring freeze and budget cuts, especially regarding travel and expenses.
  • CNN, under the leadership of newly-installed president Chris Licht, announced that layoffs are coming next month as Warner Bros. Discovery finishes finding $3.5 billion in savings.
  • CBS News is set for bloodletting as Paramount CFO Naveen Chopra foreshadowed a “meaningful and sizable” restructuring.
  • NBC parent company NBCUniversal is offering early retirement packages to employees with “10 years of service who are age 57 or older.”
  • CNBC president KC Sullivan said the brand is doubling down on its “core strengths of business news and personal finance,” so it would need to “shift some of [its] priorities and resources and make some difficult decisions” in the near future.

Talk about everyone covering the same angle.

Primetime punishment
What do cuts usually look like when it comes to the news?

  • Mark Feldstein, chair of the broadcast journalism department at the University of Maryland, says it usually hits foreign bureaus and units such as documentary production and investigations (they’re not on the air often).
  • Speaking of people, not on the air that often, off-camera producers also take a big hit.

And although Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav killed CNN+ about a month into existence, streaming is the one sector that is reportedly growing for every outlet — so don’t expect cuts to hit there too hard.

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Jason Blum and James Wan merge horror empires

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Illustration by Kate Walker

Jason Blum and James Wan merge horror empires

 

The Future. Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions and James Wan’s Atomic Monster are in talks to join forces, creating what will inarguably be the biggest horror producer in the world. With Blumhouse bringing in $5 billion in ticket sales over the past several years and Atomic Monster’s horror output generating $3.5 billion, the combined entity seems destined to be a hit factory for Universal Pictures… right at a time when the theatrical industry needs them most.

Universal’s horror world
Two of the biggest names in horror are joining forces.

  • According to NYT, Blumhouse and Atomic Monster are in discussions to merge under a deal with Universal Pictures (where Blumhouse already enjoys a long, lucrative deal).
  • The merger would allow Wan’s Atomic Monster (which is behind The Conjuring universe and the Aquaman franchise) to exist as an autonomously creative brand within Blumhouse.
  • And for Blumhouse, it gives the leading horror label a shot in the arm to double their theatrical output from roughly four to at least eight films annually.
  • The team also plans to potentially make a slate of films for Peacock, bolster its TV output, and expand into video games, audio, and live entertainment.

The deal — which an inside source says will give Wan a major ownership stake in Blumhouse — is expected to close in the first quarter of next year. That’ll be on the heels of the duo’s latest film, M3GAN, likely being a hit for Universal (it comes out January 6, and sequel talks are already underway).

Scaring up the box office
The merger couldn’t come at a better time for Hollywood, which is finding that horror is basically the only genre — outside of superheroes —  that is routinely working at the box office post-COVID.

  • Universal scored a huge hit this summer with The Black Phone, which made over $100 million after just three weeks of release.
  • 20th Century’s Barbarian became a word-of-mouth phenomenon in September, adding theaters and making more money as the weeks went on.
  • Paramount’s Smile has surpassed all expectations and made over $200 million — a big win for a movie that was slated to go directly to Paramount+ before great test screening scores bumped it up to theatrical.
  • And on the indie front, Ti West’s surprise horror franchise — XPearl, and the upcoming Maxxxine — has already become a success story for A24.

In the wake of the success, every studio is doubling down on horror, lured by the potential of low-budget projects (most horror movies are made for under $20 million, and at Blumhouse, under $5 million) that can bring outsized returns.

Even Walter Hamada, who just left his post running DC at Warner Bros., inked a producing deal at Paramount to shape its horror slate. Talk about a vibe shift.

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