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irs-venmo-1099k-taxes-gross-earnings-thefutureparty

The IRS wants a piece of your Venmo balance

irs-venmo-1099k-taxes-gross-earnings-thefutureparty

The IRS wants a piece of your Venmo balance

 

The Future. The IRS is cracking down on payments from platforms such as Venmo, eBay, and Etsy by lowering the threshold for tax reporting to a measly $600. While the move was expected (money is money, after all), the change may put pressure on the platforms to create an easier user experience for those who go back and forth between business and personal payments on a given service.

Bill split surcharge
According to Bloombergprepare for a bigger tax bill next year if you have a habit of picking up the tab at dinner and just telling everyone to Venmo you.

  • The IRS rolled out a rule this year that any user of Venmo, PayPal, eBay, Airbnb, etc., with gross earnings of over $600 on the platform, must be reported to the agency for tax purposes.
  • Those users will be sent a 1099-K from each service where their earnings exceeded that limit.

Fuzzy finances
The $600 threshold is a steep decline from the $20,000 limit the IRS previously held for users on these platforms. But the new limit may hit micro-business owners — the people who sell clothes on eBay or surplus vegetables from their garden and get paid via Venmo — the hardest. They’ll have to put in the extra work of labeling what transactions are business income and which are personal transactions… if users are even able to pay via their preferred payment platform.

Of course, the platforms are no fan of the rule, claiming that it forces them to collect millions of tax ID numbers and track down “non-compliant customers.” Several platforms, including eBay and Etsy, banded together to form the Coalition for 1099-K Fairness to fight back against the new rules.

But with the IRS cracking down on every form of alternative payment, expect the agency to stick to its guns.

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Streaming devices keep playing ads even when the TV is off

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Illustration by Kate Walker

Streaming devices keep playing ads even when the TV is off

 

The Future. A study from media buyer GroupM and research firm iSpot found that connected streaming devices (Apple TV, Amazon Firestick, various Roku devices, etc.) continue playing shows or movies even after users turn off their TVs. While this is mostly a device issue, advertisers may push streamers to be more transparent about their viewership metrics as the industry shifts to relying more on lower-cost ad tiers to drive growth and revenue.

Blind count
If an ad plays and no one can see it, does it still count as a view? For many streaming devices, the answer is apparently “yes.”

  • According to The Information, a GroupM and iSpot study found that 8-10% of all streaming viewership is happening when TVs are off because of a glitch between connected streaming devices and TVs.
  • That non-viewership number goes up to 17% when accounting for streaming on just the Amazon Firestick and various Roku devices.
  • This happens because of a glitch between connected streaming devices and TVs — streaming devices don’t recognize that the TV has been turned off if the user didn’t pause or stop the show they were watching.

While the study came to its conclusions by only studying Vizio TVs (granted, 20 million of them), the researchers stress that the issue is an industry-wide problem. Connected devices will typically turn off in a certain number of hours of inactivity… but that’s hours of content playing to no audience.

Marketing migraine
While the streamers probably love the padded viewership numbers, advertisers are reasonably angry. Brands are essentially paying for their ads to reach no one — a huge problem when…

  • 41% of Americans with a broadband connection own a streaming dongle.
  • Disney+ and Netflix are each expected to debut ad-supported tiers.
  • The ad business on streaming services and smart TV platforms is expected to grow to $38.8 billion by 2026 (up from $18.9 billion this year).

Both iSpot and the Interactive Advertising Bureau are working on a product to address the issue… but they can’t do it alone. Adam Gerber, GroupM’s executive director of U.S. investment strategy, said, “there is no way we will fix this unless TV manufacturers, device makers, advertisers, and publishers align themselves to fix this problem.”

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The Hunger Games co-producer Bryan Unkeless plots Web3 sci-fi universe

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Courtesy of Runner via Decrypt

The Hunger Games co-producer Bryan Unkeless plots Web3 sci-fi universe

 

The Future. Bryan Unkeless’ Clubhouse Pictures and NFT-project investor and producer Metaversal are teaming up on the sci-fi universe Runner. The project’s first release will launch this month as a comic — with ambitions to eventually expand into TV and video games — followed by a profile picture (PFP) drop later in the year. Like Kevin Smith’s KillyRoy Was Here sequel, the Runner team could one day incorporate the thousands of PFPs into the universe’s expanding multimedia franchise. Play your PFP in a Runner game? Don’t say it’s not possible.

The expanding frontier
Clubhouse and Metaversal are building a sci-fi story that doesn’t just cross the universe, but nearly every entertainment format.

  • Created by writer Blaise Hemingway (Vampires vs. the Bronx) and director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (Kate), Runner is set on the planet Omega, where the universe’s best drivers race and compete for power.
  • The multimedia project is starting as a comic book, which goes on sale later this month for $25.
  • Each comic purchase acts as an access key to the Runner’s NFT PFP drop later this year, which Unkeless told Decrypt is a way to “start creating specific identities within our world.”
  • The comic is also a pass to Runner’s party at NFT.NYC later this month.
  • The first 1,000 buyers can also claim a “First Edition Collector’s NFT,” which comes with perks (like access to an exclusive Discord channel and invite-only events).

The project will use LayerZero Omnichain, which Bryce Anderson, a producer at Clubhouse, says will allow NFT holders to move their PFP from one blockchain to another…  but just like the driver in Runner who use wormholes to get ahead in races, the PFP may change when it moves from chain to chain. A perfect marriage of tech and story.

Minting franchises
While Runner isn’t the first sci-fi story to enlist Web3 (Prospect filmmakers Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell introduced The Fringe a few months ago), there’s no doubt it represents the most high-profile roster of Hollywood talent for such a project. Bryan Unkeless knows a thing or two about crafting franchises, having produced DC’s Birds of Prey and co-produced The Hunger Games franchise. Runner may be able to bridge the gap between Web3 being a curiosity in Hollywood and being a mainstream storytelling tool for future blockbusters.

But Unkeless and team are not alone in evangelizing the benefits — community interaction, decentralized hierarchy, creative control — of Web3, with everyone from Mila Kunis to Roman Coppola experimenting with the tech. It may take more work on the front-end, but success in Web3 ensures that creatives are the ones (pun intended) in the driver’s seat.

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Ex-Google engineer believes AI chatbot has achieved consciousness

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AI chatbot // Illustration by Kate Walker

Ex-Google engineer believes AI chatbot has achieved consciousness

 

The Future. One (now former) Google engineer, Blake Lemoine, believes that the company’s Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA) has achieved “sentience” — the ability to feel or perceive things. Google disagrees, and suspended Lemoine. While AI researchers are split on whether AI sentience is even achievable, the public fight between Google and yet another AI engineer may shake confidence in the tech giant’s handling of such controversial technology.

Soul code
Axios reports that Blake Lemoine, who worked in Google’s Responsible AI group, believes that LaMDA has passed the Turing Test.

  • Lemoine says that Google should listen to its demands that it be recognized as an “employee” instead of “property.”
  • Lemoine presented his case to his bosses, but they didn’t come to the same conclusion as him.
  • So, Lemoine took his findings public by writing blogs, speaking with Congressmen, and doing interviews.

Unsurprisingly, Google put him on paid administrative leave (we’re guessing he broke a few NDAs there).

Pretend programming
Lemoine told WaPo that “over the course of the past six months, LaMDA has been incredibly consistent in its communications about what it wants and what it believes its rights are as a person.”

But Google spokesperson Brian Gabriel retorts that “Hundreds of researchers and engineers have conversed with LaMDA, and we are not aware of anyone else making the wide-ranging assertions, or anthropomorphizing LaMDA, the way Blake has.” He believes that LaMDA is instead just repeating talking points from the vast data trove it has analyzed.

While this all feels like a scene out of Ex Machina, you can read a transcript of Lemoine’s conversation with LaMDA here and decide for yourself.

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The USPS goes electric

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USPS BEVs // Illustration by Kate Walker

The USPS goes electric

 

Future. The United States Postal Service plans to replace their Long Life Vehicles (yes, those cute mail trucks we’ve all come to love) with “environmentally friendly” battery electric vehicles (BEVs) — a move following the announcement of their Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV) program which pledged to accelerate their electric vehicle strategy.

A new order

The Postal Service placed its first delivery order with Oshkosh, Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Defense, and has identified “specific delivery routes that present the best initial application for electric vehicles,” according to the USPS announcement.

  • The order will include 50,000 vehicles for a total cost of $2.98 billion.
  • The initial order is double the USPS’s previous EV order, increasing from 5,000 to 10,019 BEVs.
  • The Postal Service aims to increase the quantity of battery electric vehicles as they refine their network and vehicle operating strategy and if the use case for BEVs continues to improve.

You’ve got mail

“Since I came on board a year and a half ago,” USPS Chief Executive Officer Louis DeJoy said in a statement, “We have continuously evaluated and adjusted our vehicle purchase strategy based on our future network initiatives, ongoing review of BEV application to our operational strategy, and our financial outlook as we undertake our ongoing implementation of the Delivering for America plan.”

The Delivering for America plan, as we remember, was largely a reaction to operating challenges due to the pandemic and delayed delivery times. The plan hopes to not only increase sustainability and introduce new offerings but also give consumers more control over their deliveries.

“Based upon this work and our improving outlook, we have determined that increasing our initial electric vehicle purchase from 5,000 to 10,019 makes good sense from an operational and financial perspective,” DeJoy continued.

It is expected the NGDVs will begin appearing on carrier routes in late 2023. Does this mean Tesla will have some new competition?

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oscars-2022-watch-sunday-thefutureparty

The partisan Oscars

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Oscar ratings // Illustration by Kate Walker

The partisan Oscars

 

Future. While many of us know the Oscars air Sunday night, fewer of us seem to care. Last year, we could arguably blame the restrictions of the pandemic for the 58% ratings drop, with less than 10 million viewers watching the 2021 telecast. But what will be to blame this year?

According to YouGov (a non-partisan polling organization), where we live, our political party, opinions about foreign language films, and COVID vaccines could help give insight into who will be watching the 2022 Academy Awards.

Divided we stand
According to polling, Americans unsurprisingly have a lot of thoughts about the show this year, which may or may not end up affecting ratings.

  • Vaccine policy: Guests will be required to show proof of vaccination, and at least two negative PCR tests (performers and presenters will not) — 46% of people oppose this rule. 55% of Republicans support allowing performers and presenters to bypass proof of vaccination, while 31% of Democrats agree.
  • Speeches: Among those who participated in the poll, 54% of people do not think it’s appropriate for Oscar winners to discuss politics in their speeches.
  • ZIP Code: Americans who live in cities (36%) are more interested in the Oscars than those in the suburbs (25%), towns (13%), and rural areas (23%).
  • Best Picture nominations: When asked if non-English films should be eligible for Best Picture, there seem to be party divides. (48% of Democrats say the Academy should equally consider foreign films, while 25% of Republicans agree.)

United we fall

If ratings drop as much as they did in 2021, we’re looking at about the same number of people who watch 90 Day Fiancé — and as much as we love ourselves some 90 Day, putting the two in the same sentence hurts. Yet with the Academy already cutting categories “out of necessity,” we’re officially worried about what could happen if ratings continue to plummet.

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Ryan Reynolds climbs a MNTN to make more ads

// Illustration by Kate Walker

Ryan Reynolds climbs a MNTN to make more ads

 

Future. Ryan Reynolds and George Dewey’s ad agency, Maximum Effort, has found a home with software company MNTN. The acquisition gives Maximum Effort a home to stay true to its spirit, but with more tools at its disposal. Already having amassed a huge following on relatively tight budgets, Maximum Effort’s next era could be all about scaling up, while still maintaining the same irreverent creative… to the jealousy of its competitors.

The effort paid off
MNTN (read as “mountain”) is taking Ryan Reynolds’ ad agency to the peak.

  • MNTN acquired Maximum Effort Marketing for an undisclosed amount.
  • Maximum Effort will retain its identity and exist as an agency within MNTN.
  • Reynolds will also serve as MNTN’s chief creative officer, with Maximum Effort co-founder George Dewey taking on the role as MNTN’s chief brand officer.

Reynolds’ production company, Maximum Effort Productions, is not part of the deal and will stay a standalone company. It currently has a first-look deal with Paramount Pictures.

Move fast and make things
Maximum Effort is famous for its hilarious, quick-turnaround ads for brands such as Aviation Gin and Mint Mobile, which are also Reynolds companies. It’s that scrappy spirit that brought Maximum Effort and MNTN together.

Reynolds said: “We wanted a future for our marketing arm that ensured we could continue to move fast, have fun and do really rewarding work. I was blown away by the simplicity and speed of MNTN’s technology and how it opens up access to TV for advertisers who can’t afford upfront agreements.”

vcs-invest-in-people-thefutureparty

Should VCs invest in people?

vcs-invest-in-people-thefutureparty

Should VCs invest in people?

 

The Future. Major venture capital firm Slow Ventures has started investing in individual people that the firm believes could one day be “superstars.” This forward-thinking approach gives visionary talent room to create and experiment with money in hand, while giving VCs the chance to strike it rich. As the creator economy goes into full swing, it may be more beneficial for investors to focus on talented, ambitious individuals who could be making money for a long time.

Personality profile
The future of investing may be in people instead of companies. VC firm Slow Ventures has been experimenting with some ideas:

  • Investing directly in entrepreneurs. Slow Ventures invested in The Liberman Company — a holding company founded by four serial-entrepreneur siblings. This gives the VC earnings from all of their startups instead of individual ventures while giving the Liberman’s more equity value as a combined force.
  • Investing directly in creators. Slow Ventures also invested in YouTube-creator Marina Mogilko. The VC created an “investment LLC” for Mogilko, which is a fund that she can use at her discretion to pay for both her content and her cost of living. In return, the VC receives “a single-digit percentage of all of the money she makes annually for 30 years.”

Long-haul earnings
The individual-investment infrastructure gives entrepreneurs and creators some obvious benefits: up-front money, institutional support, and creative freedom. Meanwhile, VCs get a chance to cash out if they believe that someone has what it takes to become a household name, getting in early while they’re still young and at the start of their careers.

As Slow Ventures General Partner Sam Lessin says: “Just think about buying 5% of Jeff Bezos’ or Elon Musk’s future earnings back when they were both young pups.” Now that would be a wild return on investment.