logo

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Etiam posuere varius magna, ut accumsan quam pretium vel. Duis ornare felis

Hirtenstraße 19, 10178 Berlin, Germany
(+44) 871.075.0336
ouroffice@cortex.com
Robux-Roblox-kids-Virtual-Currency-thefutureparty

Kids fill their piggy banks with Robux, not cash

Robux-Roblox-kids-Virtual-Currency-thefutureparty
Illustration by Kate Walker

Kids fill their piggy banks with Robux, not cash

 

The Future. Instead of earning cash for chores, kids are increasingly asking for Robux — the in-game currency in Roblox. For many kids, Roblox has already replaced the mall as the place where they socialize, so it only makes sense that that’s where they would want to spend their money too. With a whole generation hanging out in a virtual world, kids today may be the real customers for an interconnected metaverse that Big Tech is desperately searching for.

We don’t accept cash, dad
Buying things IRL doesn’t mean much to kids these days, according to WSJ.

  • For kids — roughly half of Roblox’s 60 million daily users are under 13 — buying things in Robux allows them to flex financial independence by picking out items and buying them themselves.
  • With many virtual items costing the equivalent of $10 or less, the items are conveniently what a cash allowance would be anyway.
  • Parents are warming up to the idea of giving allowances this way, especially since online spending can be focused on one platform, Roblox has parental controls, and virtual currency can be bought as a monthly subscription.

Roblox isn’t the only kid-oriented platform with in-game currency that kids can beg their parents to buy. Minecraft has Minecoins, Fortnite has V-Bucks, and even the AR-focused Pokémon GO has PokéCoins.

The new register
With Roblox bringing $1.9 billion in revenue last year, mostly from the sale of Robux, brands are itching to get in on some of the action and attract young customers.

  • Chipotle launched the Roblox game Chipotle Burrito Builder so players could go behind the counter and make meals to earn “Burrito Bucks.” The Bucks could then be exchanged for a real Chipotle meal.
  • Walmart’s Walmart Land allows users to find and earn currency that can be used to purchase “verch,” like headphones and clothes, that avatars can wear.
  • Nike debuted NIKELAND, which lets players earn currency by playing sports in the world, which can then be used to cop virtual sneakers.

With kids 12-17 spending an average of $92 a month online, mostly in video games (per Forrester Research), in-game experiences may work better than traditional advertising.

Stay relevant

Don’t miss out on the daily email about all things business, entertainment, and culture.
Subscribe
Netflix-Preview-Club-TV-Movies-thefutureparty

Netflix expands its global test audience

Netflix-Preview-Club-TV-Movies-thefutureparty
Illustration by Kate Walker

Netflix expands its global test audience

 

The Future. Netflix is beefing up its semi-secret test audience from a couple of thousand to tens of thousands. If the expansion consistently provides relevant feedback that doesn’t just make the content better, but also is watched by more people on the service, Netflix may start to pull back on its typical strategy of giving creators few notes on their projects.

Beta viewing
Netflix wants to crowdsource many more opinions on its films and shows

  • Netflix’s “Netflix Preview Club” is expanding from roughly 2,000 members to “tens of thousands around the world” next year, reports WSJ.
  • Members watch films and shows prior to their public release on the streamers and then share their opinions via an online survey.
  • It’s similar to the classic test screenings that traditional studios do, but has actually only been around for a little under two years.
  • Additionally, all employees can also watch content ahead of time — Netflix tracks and analyzes that viewership to try to get a sense of what will be a hit.

Other streamers have similar test-viewing programs, such as Amazon Prime’s “Amazon Preview” and Hulu’s “Hulu Brain Trust.”

Fine-line feedback
Here’s the big question: does the Preview Club having a strong enough impact to warrant the expansion? The streamer definitely thinks so.

  • Prior to last December’s release of Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up, a US preview audience noted that the film came off as too serious. So, the filmmakers lightened up the tone.
  • The film ultimately became Netflix’s most-viewed film in four viewing weeks and was nominated for four Academy Awards.
  • Prior to this summer’s release of the long-awaited The Sandman series, Netflix noticed that employees weren’t finishing the series. So, the creators made some changes, and the completion rates improved.
  • The show then stayed in Netflix’s US Top 10 for seven consecutive weeks.

While Netflix is happy to provide insights to its creators, it walks a fine line in actually asking for any of them to be implemented due to its famous hands-off approach. The creators themselves can do with the data what they please.

Stay relevant

Don’t miss out on the daily email about all things business, entertainment, and culture.
Subscribe
Facebook-Meta-Messaging-WhatsApp-thefutureparty

Meta looks to WhatsApp to unlock growth

Facebook-Meta-Messaging-WhatsApp-thefutureparty
Illustration by Kate Walker

Meta looks to WhatsApp to unlock growth

 

The Future. Meta is looking for ways to finally start making some real money from WhatsApp, looking at the platform as a necessary growth driver in the wake of its shaky investment in the metaverse and shortfalls with Reels. One of those ideas is eventually turning WhatsApp into a “superapp” similar to WeChat (Musk has the same idea with Twitter). While WhatsApp may have the user base and potential partnerships to make that happen, Meta’s almost-total reliance on advertising may chafe against the quick-use tenants of an app built on daily utility.

Get the message out
Meta sees a lot of potential in scaling WhatsApp, according to Insider.

  • This past May, the company held its first conference centered on its messaging business, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg touting WhatsApp’s API — the tech that allows the app to communicate with other apps.
    • The free version of the API is used by at least 50 million businesses.
  • It also rolled out a big marketing campaign for the platform and called it out on two earnings calls.
  • Zuck said the company is also using WhatsApp to re-track-and-target customers after Apple’s privacy changes… and even boasted that WhatsApp is more secure than iMessage.

And, internally, a “sense of urgency is building” to monetize WhatsApp — something the company hasn’t been able to figure out since it acquired the company in 2014 for $22 billion (still Meta’s biggest acquisition to date).

Meta’s messaging business only made $218 million last quarter — a drop in the bucket compared to the company’s overall revenue of $29 billion (most of it through advertising).

Throw everything at it
So, how can WhatsApp make money?

  • Most of WhatsApp’s revenue comes from brands sending “click to message” ads — which GM used successfully in Brazil, prompting people to message their dealers to purchase a car.
  • But Meta’s VP of business messaging, Matt Idema, says that it can potentially monetize through, well, “business messaging” — a feature that allows brands to serve and advertise to customers through texting.
  • That could also include replacing 1-800 numbers with a WhatsApp number that can better handle incoming inquiries.

The other idea being floated is to turn it into a “superapp” (though Meta refused to call it that) — a single platform to do everything from payments to social networking to ridesharing. It’s already testing these capabilities in India with grocery fulfillment (through a partnership with JioMart) and ridesharing (through a partnership with Uber).

India — along with Brazil, Indonesia, and Mexico — is one of WhatsApp’s largest markets.

Stay relevant

Don’t miss out on the daily email about all things business, entertainment, and culture.
Subscribe
hive-users-twitter-accounts-deleted-thefutureparty

Hive finds fresh buzz in Twitter exodus

hive-users-twitter-accounts-deleted-thefutureparty
Courtesy of Hive

Hive finds fresh buzz in Twitter exodus

 

The Future. As many users leave Twitter for the allegedly greener pastures of new platforms, Hive has been flagged as one of the potential best of the bunch. So, people are flocking to it faster than the app can probably handle. With Hive (as well as platforms like Mastodon and BeReal) eschewing the tech hallmarks of algorithms and brand marketing, the new trend in social networking may favor authenticity over advertising.

All abuzz
Hive is swarming with new users, reports TechCrunch.

  • Recent data from Sensor Tower found that the app has been installed over 214,00 times on iOS and Android devices over the past month.
  • When TechCrunch checked last, that gave Hive 733,000 users (86% outside the US)… but founder Kassandra Pop says that users have already surged to over a million in the past few days.
  • All that activity has shot Hive up the App Store charts — No.17 in the US (up from 338), No. 17 in the UK, and No. 24 in Canada.

Besides Pop, Hive’s team includes only two other developers who are probably working overtime to keep the app running (it crashed over the weekend), while Pop fields calls from VCs eager to invest.

A little old, a little new
So, what is Hive? It feels like a cross between Instagram, Twitter, and even Myspace.

  • It’s a timeline-based platform like Twitter, with the ability to post, like, comment, and share.
  • But it also has a Discover section to find posts on topics like Music, Fashion, Books, Travel, Gaming, Art, and Food.
  • And that nod to Myspace? Users can add music to their profiles.

Unlike the apps mentioned, Hive has no “personalization algorithms” (everything is chronological) and doesn’t monetize from ads. Instead, the platform makes a little money from charging users for extra features — like $0.99 for a second music slot on your profile.

But even if you switch to Hive, you may not escape all the headaches currently affecting Twitter — the app doesn’t allow for unique usernames yet, so impersonation is a big threat.

Stay relevant

Don’t miss out on the daily email about all things business, entertainment, and culture.
Subscribe

Netflix streams everything cable does — including ads

Netflix streams everything cable does — including ads

 

The Future. Netflix’s profits and subscriber base have dwindled recently as intense competition has hurt every major player in the streaming wars. So the streaming titan has opted to include a new, cheaper ad-supported service in hopes of reducing subscriber turnover while making extra income from those who stay. If successful, the move could return Netflix to the front of the pack.

Ads, now only $6.99
This week, Netflix started offering Netflix Basic with Ads for $6.99/month.

  • Like most online video ads, these are 15-30 seconds long. Users can pause them but not skip through them.
  • Netflix says users should expect four to five ads per hour, but not all shows and movies will have them. Some will feature front ads, while others will have one to three midroll ads (plus front ads), which will split the programming up at varying times.
  • With this plan, some of Netflix’s content is searchable but not available to watch. These programs are marked by a red padlock, and clicking on them will present users with a window indicating which upgraded plan would allow them to watch that program. There’s no way for users to tell which content is restricted until they already have the Basic with Ads plan.

The company’s next cheapest offering is its $9.99/month Basic Plan.

Join the club
Netflix isn’t the first streamer to try an ad-supported service; in fact, it’s one of the last. HBO offers an ad-supported plan for $10/month, while Hulu and Disney+ do the same for $8/month, and Paramount has the cheapest ad-supported plan at $5/month.

That said, the price of these new plans isn’t the only consideration. For the moment, Netflix isn’t changing the rates for its other plans, but Disney+ is about to make all of its other plans more expensive.

The Basic with Ads plan should at least bring Netflix back into step with its rivals; as a defensive move, it’s likely to succeed. It remains to be seen whether the initiative will grow Netflix’s numbers as much as the streamer hopes.

Stay relevant

Don’t miss out on the daily email about all things business, entertainment, and culture.
Subscribe

Tech giants protest as Apple enjoys the fruits of their labor

Tech giants protest as Apple enjoys the fruits of their labor

 

The Future. After initially letting Spotify tell iOS users how to purchase audiobooks outside the App Store, Apple has stonewalled the music titan. Now they’re virtually forcing Spotify to use the App Store and pay Apple a 30% cut of every purchase, a move that’s driven Spotify to join forces with Meta and Snap in demanding that Apple relax their grip on other companies’ profits.

The sound of silence

Spotify’s audiobook sales have tanked since Apple stonewalled the music streaming service.

  • Until recently, Apple allowed Spotify to email users with an external link where they could purchase an audiobook without going through Apple at all. (Google has always allowed Spotify to do this with Android users.)
  • In September, Apple took that back. Now, iOS users who try to purchase an audiobook on the Spotify app receive a notification stating that audiobooks are unavailable on the app without any further info about how else to access Spotify’s audiobooks.
  • Facing a steep decline in audiobook sales, Spotify has called Apple’s conduct “arbitrary” and “completely inconsistent,” adding that surrendering to the App Store’s fee would force Spotify to either raise prices or cut into their own margins, making their business model unsustainable.
  • Apple has responded by claiming that they restored Spotify’s privileges once the latter company started obeying Apple’s explicit rules regarding external communications with users.

This isn’t the two companies’ first spat– in 2019, Spotify filed an antitrust complaint against Apple with the European Commission. The investigation is ongoing.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend
Apple has been making lots of enemies recently. Epic Games sued Apple (and is still in appeals) over similar App Store conduct, and Meta has protested Apple’s October 24th announcement that it will take a 30% cut of all boosted posts sold on iOS apps.

This recent announcement is an especially bitter pill for digital advertising companies in light of the “App Tracking Transparency” initiative Apple rolled out last year. The program lets iOS users choose not to share data with the apps they use, and led to a precipitous decline in the data available to digital advertisers like Snap and Meta.

As Apple continues to flourish, more and more of its struggling rivals have joined the chorus demanding that their control over software be diminished.

Stay relevant

Don’t miss out on the daily email about all things business, entertainment, and culture.
Subscribe
paramount-fast-pluto-tv-thefutureparty

Pluto TV is making a name for FAST platforms

paramount-fast-pluto-tv-thefutureparty
Illustration by Kate Walker

Pluto TV is making a name for FAST platforms

 

The Future. While Paramount Global’s focus in streaming has been on Paramount+ (which is growing at a steady clip), its free ad-support streaming television (FAST) platform, Pluto TV, has quietly become a success story. The streamer is growing in users, engagement, and revenue. While FAST platforms still don’t command the buzz of premium options like Netflix and Disney+, a few choice original films or shows could rope in a whole new set of users — something Pluto TV doesn’t plan on doing now, but all of its competitors have begun investing in.

The new channel surfing
Pluto TV is ready for primetime, according to THR.

  • During Paramount Global’s Q3 earnings call, the company shared that Pluto TV hit 72 million monthly active users.
  • It’s on track to have 120 million by the top of 2025.
  • The streamer already brings $1 billion a year in ad revenue.
  • In September, it became the first FAST platform to enter the Nielsen Gauge, notching 1% of all TV viewership in the US that month.

All that growth was buoyed by what FAST is best at — making it easy to find, tune in, and binge long-running hit shows just as if you’d found a rerun playing on cable. These shows have a “high volume of content and self-contained episodes.”

Pluto TV has doubled down on these shows, creating dedicated channels for franchises like NCIS and CSI, and upcoming licensed content like Cheers and Star Trek.

Price points
Overall, FAST platforms like Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, Amazon Freevee, and Fox’s Tubi are growing… well… fast. A TiVo survey found that 22% of all American and Canadian viewing time in the second quarter of this year was now on these platforms, up from 10% in the fourth quarter of 2021.

And since ViacomCBS (now Paramount Global) purchased PlutoTV in 2019, the platform has become an integral part of the entertainment conglomerate’s streaming strategy. It gives audiences the opportunity to either go premium and pay for the ad-free Paramount+ experience, drop down to the lower-cost ad-supported tier, or cut out paying at all… while staying engaged in the ecosystem with PlutoTV. It’s a little something for everyone.

Stay relevant

Don’t miss out on the daily email about all things business, entertainment, and culture.
Subscribe

Deepfake celebrities are populating commercials

Courtesy of reAlpha

Deepfake celebrities are populating commercials

 

The Future. Companies are deepfaking celebrities to have them star in their ads. While some of these startups have permission to do so (giving the actors a nice payday for minimal work), most don’t and are betting they’ll get away with their use. With the deepfakes typically trained on professional footage of celebrities, expect them to start including clauses in their contracts that bar anyone from using the footage for any AI reproductions to protect their image.

Budget A-list

Whether celebrities like it or not, their likeness is now starring in several ads, reports WSJ.

  • Bruce Willis was in an ad last year for the Russian telecom company MegaFon.
  • Tom Cruise and Leonardo DiCaprio were in a promo video last month for machine-learning startup Paperspace Co.
  • Elon Musk starred in a few marketing videos for real-estate investment firm reAlpha last week.

But only Willis allowed for his likeness to be used, which has become the typical case for ads like this — a small tech startup makes a splash by including a digital rendition of a huge actor (someone everyone knows) to show off how powerful the tech is.

But the companies are too small to make it worthwhile for that actor to sue, so they take the risk knowing the buzz will be worthwhile.

Parody loophole 

The companies that create the celebrity deepfakes can do so by adhering to (fuzzy) parody law. Essentially, as long as the companies “took steps to ensure viewers understood that the celebrities depicted didn’t actually endorse the companies’ products or participate in the making of the videos,” then it’s passable. 

reAlpha’s CMO, Christie Currie, notes that “as long as it’s meant to be educational, satirical, and you have disclaimers in place, there shouldn’t be a problem as long as you’re not pushing a transaction.”

But as Ari Lightman, a digital media and marketing professor at Carnegie Mellon University, says, maybe we’re playing with fire here: “We’re having a hard enough time with fake information. Now we have deepfakes, which look ever more convincing.”

Stay relevant

Don’t miss out on the daily email about all things business, entertainment, and culture.
Subscribe
spotify-audiobooks-apple-thefutureparty

Spotify’s audiobooks fight for a spot on Apple’s shelf

spotify-audiobooks-apple-thefutureparty
Illustration by Kate Walker

Spotify’s audiobooks fight for a spot on Apple’s shelf

 

The Future. Spotify has been through the ringer trying to get a new version of its app approved by Apple, clashing over how to direct users to buy an audiobook on the App Store. Spotify’s plans were rejected three times, with the final approval only letting Spotify inform users that they can’t buy audiobooks on the app. Considering that the streamer plans for audiobooks to be a big revenue-booster similar to podcasts, expect Spotify to take Apple to court (again) to save its investment from a terrible user experience.

Communication breakdown
Spotify is having some trouble starting a new chapter in audiobooks because of a battle with Apple.

  • According to NYT, Spotify developed a nine-step process to buy audiobooks, including adding a link on its app to allow users to receive an email to buy them off the platform, and then go back into the app to listen to it.
  • Apple rejected that, saying that Spotify couldn’t sell audiobooks “by circumventing rules against providing web addresses and language that encourages customers to make purchases outside its app.”
  • So Spotify updated the app to include a link on the app that lets users browse audiobooks outside of the app… where they could then decide to purchase something. But Apple said that still violated App Store rules.
  • Now, Spotify’s app just includes a message that says “you can’t buy audiobooks in the app.” Users need to figure out the rest. Apple approved that version

Meanwhile, Spotify’s Android app was approved with the original plan in place.

The large print
The audiobook battle is just another front in Spotify and Apple’s long-running war over App Store rules. The audio streamer says that letting Apple take a 30% cut of audiobook sales (as it does with all in-app purchases) wouldn’t make financial sense, so it tried to create a convoluted workaround to avoid that. Spotify seems to imply that Apple’s own audiobook business may be a reason why the tech giant is being so strict.

While Apple’s App Stores rules are still being investigated by the EU’s antitrust regulators and the US Congress, app developers were successful in a handful of lawsuits in the US and Japan that gave them permission to communicate with users about deals outside of their Apple-based apps. Spotify thought it was staying within the bounds of those rulings, but Apple thought differently.

Stay relevant

Don’t miss out on the daily email about all things business, entertainment, and culture.
Subscribe