Original Content podcast: Just don’t watch Netflix’s ‘Holidate’ with your parents

You might think that a new Netflix film called “Holidate” offers holiday-themed romance that’s perfect for a family watch party. You’d be wrong.

The film stars Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey as a pair of strangers who agree (in classic romantic comedy style) to keep each other company on holidays.

And while the movie can’t be completely pigeonholed as a raunchy comedy — it also includes a dash of metatextual commentary, with a healthy dose of undiluted romantic schmaltz — “Holidate” is certainly filled with sexually frank dialogue, and a couple of its biggest set pieces go all-in on gross-out humor. So, and as one of the hosts of the Original Content podcast discovered, watching it with your family can be extremely uncomfortable.

But, assuming you avoid that awkwardness, is it actually funny? Sometimes! A word that comes up repeatedly in our review is “adequate” — Darrell embraced the film’s surprisingly dirty humor, while Anthony and Jordan were at least mildly entertained.

In addition to reviewing “Holidate,” we also discussed the implications of Netflix’s decision to remove “Chappelle’s Show” at Dave Chappelle’s request.

You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

If you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
1:11 Dave Chappelle discussion
13:50 “Holidate” review
37:39 “Holidate” spoiler discussion

#entertainment, #holidate, #media, #netflix, #original-content-podcast, #podcasts

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Penguin Random House to Buy Simon & Schuster

ViacomCBS agreed to sell the 96-year-old company in a deal that potentially creates a megapublisher.

#antitrust-laws-and-competition-issues, #bertelsmann-ag, #book-trade-and-publishing, #books-and-literature, #media, #penguin-random-house, #simonschuster-inc, #united-states, #viacomcbs-inc

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‘Thumb-Stopping.’ ‘Humaning.’ ‘B4H.’ The Strange Language of Modern Marketing.

The ad business is overrun with buzzwords and acronyms, and some people are saying it’s enough already.

#advertising-and-marketing, #english-language, #grammar, #language-and-languages, #media, #online-advertising

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New venture firm The-Wolfpack takes a fresh approach to D2C startups

The-Wolfpack’s co-founders, Toh Jin Wei, Tan Kok Chin and Simon Nichols

The-Wolfpack’s co-founders, Toh Jin Wei, Tan Kok Chin and Simon Nichols (Image Credit: The-Wolfpack)

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the consumer, leisure and media companies hard, but a new venture firm called The-Wolfpack is still very upbeat on those sectors. Based in Singapore, the firm was founded by former managing directors at GroupM, one of the world’s largest advertising and media companies, and plans to work very closely with each of its portfolio companies. Its name was chosen because they believe “entrepreneurs thrive best in a wolfpack.”

The-Wolfpack’s debut fund, called the Wolfpack Pioneer VCC, is already fully subscribed at $5 million USD, and will focus on direct-to-consumer companies, with plans to invest in eight to 10 startups. The firm is already looking to raise a second fund, with a target of $20 million SGD (about $14.9 million USD) and above, and will set up another office in Thailand, with plans to expand into Indonesia as well.

The-Wolfpack was founded by Toh Jin Wei and Simon Nichols, who met while working at GroupM, and Tan Kok Chin, a former director at Sunray Woodcraft Construction who has worked on projects with Marina Bay Sands, Raffles Hotel and the Singapore Tourism’s offices.

In addition to providing financial capital, The-Wolfpack wants to build ecosystems around its portfolio companies by connecting them with IP owners, digital marketing experts, content producers and designers who can help create offline experiences. It also plans to invest in startups based on opportunities for them to collaborate or cross-sell with one another.

Toh told TechCrunch that formal planning on The-Wolfpack began at the end of 2019, but he and Nichols started thinking of launching their own business five years ago while working together at GroupM.

“Our perspective on what the industry needed was similar — strategic investors who truly knew how to get behind D2C founders,” Toh said.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact has hurt spending in The-Wolfpack’s three key sectors (consumer, leisure and media). But it also presents opportunities for innovation as consumer habits shift, Nichols said.

For example, even though consumer spending has dropped, people are still “drawn towards brands that build towards higher-quality engagements,” he said. “There is a real business advantage for D2C brands who’ve recognized this shift and know how to act on it.”

The-Wolfpack hasn’t disclosed its investments yet since deals are still being finalized, but some of the brands its debut fund are interested in include one launched by an Australian makeup artist who wants to scale to Southeast Asia, and an online gaming company whose ecosystem includes original content, gaming teams and studios. The-Wolfpack plans to help them set up a physical studio to create an offline experience, too.

“Typically brands have talked at customers, but it’s become a two-way conversation, and startups who get D2C right have a real potential for exponential growth that’s worth investing in,” said Toh.

#asia, #d2c, #direct-to-consumer, #fundings-exits, #leisure, #media, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #the-wolfpack, #venture-capital, #venture-firm

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Netflix removes ‘Chappelle’s Show’ at Dave Chappelle’s request

Netflix started streaming “Chappelle’s Show” at the beginning of November — but barely more than three weeks later, it has taken the Comedy Central sketch show off its service.

Co-creator Dave Chappelle offered some context for the decision in an Instagram clip of what appears to be a recent standup set, in which described any company streaming the show as “fencing stolen goods.”

Not that he’s accusing Comedy Central of violating its deal with him. Instead, it’s the contract that he’s criticizing, and he said he signed it “the way that a 28-year-old expecting father that was broke signs a contract.”

He continued:

People think I made a lot of money from ‘Chappelle’s Show.’ When I left that show, I never got paid. They didn’t have to pay me because I signed the contract. But is that right? I found out that these people were streaming my work and they never had to ask me or they never have to tell me. Perfectly legal because I signed the contract. But is that right? I didn’t think so either.

Chappelle went on to describe himself as “furious” when he heard that Netflix was streaming the show:

So you know what I did? I called them and I told them that this makes me feel bad. And you want to know what they did? They agreed that they would take it off their platform just so I could feel better. That’s why I fuck with Netflix. Because they paid me my money, they do what they say they’re going to do, and they went above and beyond what you could expect from a businessman. They did something just because they thought that I might think that they were wrong.

Speaking of deals, Netflix signed a reported $60 million deal with Chappelle in 2016 for the rights to three stand-up specials.

“Chappelle’s Show,” meanwhile, is still available on HBO Max (he has some choice words for HBO executives as well) and on Comedy Central and CBS All Access — which, like Comedy Central, is owned by ViacomCBS.

 

#dave-chappelle, #entertainment, #media, #netflix

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Ignore the social media echo chambers

After Election Day, NPR, The Washington Post and various blogs described America as bitterly divided or on the brink of civil war. These were by the same journalists, pundits and intellectuals who only know how to sell fear.

“They want to take away your guns!” and “They want to take your children away!” were their cries, while praising BLM’s protesters on one screen and promoting videos of the infinitesimal number of rioters on another.

The Atlantic speculated about widespread violence depending on the outcome, but I never believed these seemingly well-researched reports that have become commonplace in our clickbait-driven world. And as we saw, nothing of real concern happened; instead of violence, there were relatively small protests and dancing in the streets.
The gap that supposedly divides our nation is narrower than the doomsaying pundits, intellectuals, politicians and cause leaders want you to believe. Why do they want you to believe this? Because promoting division and conflict sells and grants a perverse glue that unites people within their tribal communities. Behind these labels of conflict are seeds of fear that can grow into irrational fears. Fears without reason, fears beyond facts. Sometimes these fears become things we hate  —  and our society and nation should have no place for hate, because it is an unproductive emotion without any possible positive outcome.

I’ve learned to ignore much of the headline-driven news and social media echo chambers where ridiculous ideas fester across our political spectrum. There are obviously ridiculous ideas, such as QAnon, but the subtly ridiculous ideas can be more dangerous and potentially even more destructive. These ideas can be diminished by simple questions to the average reasonable person.
One idea spawned in some progressive echo chambers was the notion that Trump would stage a coup d’état if Joe Biden won the election (i.e., “Did you see those unmarked federal police!?” which signaled to some that a coup was coming).

A basic element of a coup d’état is military support or control, which obviously Trump did not have. I would ask basic questions around this idea, but always ask the rhetorical question, “Do you know how difficult it is to conduct a coup d’état?” Meanwhile, in some conservative echo chambers, a similar concern made rounds that “defund the police” was an effort to install a “federal police force” that Biden would control once in the Oval Office. So there really isn’t much original thought inside the echo chambers of America.

Maybe both sides with such fantasies recently watched that Patrick Swayze classic, “Red Dawn,” where a tiny militia of high school students held off the combined forces of the old Soviet Union and Cuba. Or maybe they saw “300,” in which Sparta’s army held off more than 300,000 invaders. After watching either of these inspirational movies, I might possibly believe such a militia or “federal force” could overpower the whole might of the U.S. military. Ahem.

For those warmongers and soothsayers warning of civil war, where do they want the country to go? Static echo chambers of America, or a vision of suburban folks with pitchforks and handguns versus urban dwellers carrying machine guns and Blue Bottle coffee mugs?

Since the level of violence after the election did not in fact match the crystal balls of these oracles, the definitions and terms have of course changed. As Bertrand Russell stated, “fear is the main source of superstition”  —  to which I would add that fear is also the source of really stupid predictions and ideas.
And let’s be clear that while I do criticize the echo chambers of social media, they are only tools of promotion, because echo chambers are not limited to the online social media. Echo chambers can be homes, bars, lodge meetings, yoga studios and Sunday bridge clubs. The enablers are the pundits, intellectuals, politicians and cause leaders that seed these ideas.

Conspiracy theories, misinformation and outlandish statements were quite capable of spreading before the recommendation engines of Facebook and others were fully developed. For example, in 2006, over 50% of Democrats believed the U.S. government was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attack. More than half of registered Democrats believed in this conspiracy theory! And let’s not forget the Obama “birther” conspiracy, where at least 57% of Republicans continued to believe that President Obama was born in Kenya even after he released his birth certificate in 2008.

But today, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social media sites have become extremely powerful accelerants for such provocative ideas and strange fictions. Tristan Harris, co-founder and president of the Center for Humane Technology, was recently featured in the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” where he discussed how social media tends to feed content to retain people’s attention and can spiral downward.

This can become an abyss of outright misinformation, or — even more importantly in my estimation — for subtle, ignorant ideas, such as coups d’état and civil wars. And those destructive ideas and irrational conspiracy theories from the 2000s that probably took months to spread, are now supercharged by today’s social media giants to infect our society in a matter of days or weeks.

The fabric of our nation was delicately woven, but after countless turns of the loom between conflicts and enlightenment, our country has proven itself extremely resilient. Indestructible beyond today’s calls for racism and ignorance, for anarchy and destruction, and for civil wars.

Biden is our President-elect with a mandate to lead our nation beyond this divide  —  a divide that I believe has been overstated. Many citizens met in the middle to provide Biden with a mandate to bridge the gap. The “blue wave” didn’t occur and House Republicans gained 10 seats, which means many Republicans and independents voted “red” down-ballot but also voted for Biden.

Trump had the largest number of minority votes for a Republican presidential candidate in history, including from 18% of Black male voters  —  and that number would have been much higher pre-pandemic. I see all of this as a positive, because our citizens are not voting party line or becoming beholden to one party.

In reality, many of the major issues that supposedly separate us are much closer than we know. For example, I’ve sat down behind closed doors with a senior adviser on healthcare for a major Republican leader, who stated that Obamacare isn’t far off from what they were planning. The difference was that their plan was more small business friendly and their cost savings would be among the younger demographic. I also sat down with a senior adviser for Obamacare, who explained that they believed it wasn’t sustainable unless the cost savings were for those 65 and above. So the differences on such critical policies are not miles apart but only steps away from each other. Although at times politics are about credit and conflict, hopefully such differences can be resolved in the near future.

I hope this election will change the temperament of our nation and its citizens. I hope it will lead more people to ignore the tactics of both political parties and organizations seeking their attention and support. Their shortsighted methods should be cast away like the relics of the past and conflict should not be the tool of this new America. Instead, let’s focus on productive dialogue to find common ground, and thoughtful, practical policies to move our nation forward.

#column, #donald-trump, #facebook, #government, #joe-biden, #media, #opinion, #qanon, #social, #social-media, #the-social-dilemma

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Following its acquisition by BuzzFeed, HuffPost shuts down its Brazil and India editions

HuffPost is becoming part of BuzzFeed, but HuffPost India and HuffPost Brasil will not be making the transition — both sites are shutting down today.

“Today is @huffpostIndia’s last day,” tweeted the team’s editor in chief Aman Sethi. “Pound for pound, story for story, reporter for reporter, this is the greatest newsroom I have worked for; (and I still can’t quite believe I had the privilege to lead)[.] Thank you everyone for reading our stories and supporting our journalism.”

Last week, BuzzFeed announced that it was acquiring HuffPost as part of a broader deal with Verizon Media (which also owns TechCrunch). As part of the deal, the companies will be collaborating on content syndication and advertising.

“We confirm that HuffPost has closed its editions in India and Brazil with immediate effect,” Verizon Media said in a statement. “We would like to thank the HuffPost India and HuffPost Brazil teams for their hard work and contribution to the organization.”

The Daily Beast’s Maxwell Tani tweeted what appeared to be an internal comment from BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti, who said that the company wasn’t “legally allowed to take on the Brazil and India editions” — he claimed that “foreign companies aren’t allowed to own news organizations” in India, while BuzzFeed cannot operate in Brazil as one of the conditions of selling BuzzFeed Brasil.

#buzzfeed, #huffpost, #media, #verizon-media

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The downfall of ad tech means the trust economy is here

2020 has brought about much-needed social movements. In June, activists launched the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, a call to hold social media companies like Facebook accountable for the hate happening on their platforms.

The idea was to pull advertising spending to wake these social platforms up. More than 1,200 businesses and nonprofits joined the movement, including brands such as The North Face, Patagonia and Verizon. I led my company, Cheetah Digital, to join alongside some of our clients like Starbucks and VF Corp.

Stop Hate for Profit highlighted social media hitting its tipping point. Twitter and Snapchat chose to stand up against hate speech, banning political ads and taking action to flag misinformation. Facebook, unfortunately, has not yet been as proactive, or at best it’s been sporadic in its response.

While many thought the movement would come and go, the reality is it has only just begun. With America conducting arguably its most divisive election in history, these problems won’t just go away. For marketers, Stop Hate for Profit is more than a social movement — it is pointing to an issue with ad tech as a whole.

I believe we are seeing the downfall of ad tech as we know it with social media boycotts and data privacy leading the charge.

The social media quagmire

In May, Forrester released a report titled “It’s OK to Break Up with Social Media” that contained statistics indicating that consumers are fed up with social media: 70% of respondents said they don’t trust social media platforms with their data. Only 14% of consumers believe the information they read on social media is trustworthy. 37% of online adults in the U.S. believe social media does more harm than good.

Here is the reality we need to get back to: Social media isn’t built for marketers to reach consumers. In the beginning of the social media craze, brands rushed to get on board and join the conversations. What many brands discovered is these channels became a platform for customer complaints not for building positive brand perception. Furthermore, the social platforms marketers flocked to as an avenue to reach customers began charging marketers just to get to the customers.

The algorithms that define what content you see unfortunately make it harder for people to see opposing views, and this more than anything else polarizes society further. If you start looking at QAnon content, very soon that’s all the algorithms feed you. You might spend more time on social platforms fueling their ad dollars, but you have also lost a grip on reality. Marketers must admit things have gone too far on social media and it is okay to move on.

Privacy matters

Imagine you are in need of a minor surgery. Perhaps you take an Uber ride to the specialist for a consultation. Next, you go get the surgery and it is successful. Soon you find yourself at home recovering and all is well. That is, until you start scrolling Facebook. Suddenly advertisements pop up for medical malpractice lawyers, but you haven’t told anyone about the surgery and you certainly didn’t post about it on social media.

Here you are, just wanting to rest and recover at home, but instead you are being bombarded by advertisements. So how did those ads get there? You left a digital footprint, your data was sold and now you’re being hit with intrusive ads. To me, this story crystallizes the abuse ad tech has been fostering in the world around us. There’s an utter invasion of privacy and consumers aren’t blind to it.

Data privacy has been a focus of conversation for marketers for several years now. Just this year, America saw the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) go into effect and become enforceable. This legislation gives back control of data to the consumer. In June, Apple announced updates to make it harder for apps and publishers to track location data and use it for ad targeting. At the beginning of August, Meredith and Kroger announced a partnership to provide first-party sales data for advertising efforts in an attempt to move off of cookies. It is clear data privacy is not a fad going away anytime soon.

Where do marketers go from here?

I believe the future of marketing is the trust economy. The Stop Hate for Profit campaign, the invasion of privacy and shifting attitudes and behaviors of consumers point to the end of an era where marketers relied upon third-party data. Trust is now the most impactful economic power, not data. We conducted research earlier this year with eConsultancy, and our findings revealed that 39% of U.S. consumers don’t like personal ads driven from cookie data. People don’t want to be tracked and targeted as they click around the web. Ad tech’s roof is caving in and marketers must adjust.

The old methods of marketing won’t carry you through into the era of the trust economy. It is time to look to new channels and revisit old channels. We have to shift back to the channels where we own what is being said. Advertising on social platforms should be focused on driving consumers to owned channels where you can capture their permissions and data to connect with them directly. Consider email as a channel to focus on.

Don’t worry — it works. That same eConsultancy report found nearly three out of four consumers made a purchase in the last 12 months from an email sent by a brand or retailer and massively outperformed social ads when it came to driving sales. Similarly nine times as many U.S. consumers want to increase their participation in loyalty programs in 2020 than those that want to reduce their involvement. You have to ensure you are owning your data and loyalty programs are a treasure trove of consumer data you own. Emily Collins from Forrester does a good job of explaining why you can achieve this with a true loyalty strategy, not just a rewards program.

Your goal should be to build direct connections to consumers. Building trust means offering a value exchange for data and engagement, not going and buying it from a third-party. Fatemah Khatibloo, a principal analyst for Forrester wrote, “Zero-party data is that which a customer intentionally and proactively shares with a brand. It can include purchase intentions, personal context, and how the individual wants the brand to recognize her.” This zero-party data is foundational for the trust economy and you should check out her advice on how it helps you navigate privacy and personalization.

Take responsibility

The trust economy is really about asking yourself, as a marketer, what you stand for. How do you view your relationship with consumers? Do you care? What kind of relationship do you want? Privacy has to be part of this. Accountability is crucial. We must be accountable to where we are putting our money. It’s time to stop supporting hate, propping up the worst of society and fueling division. Start taking responsibility, caring about social issues and building meaningful relationships with consumers built on trust.

#advertising-tech, #column, #digital-marketing, #facebook, #marketing, #media, #online-advertising, #opinion, #social

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Netflix says ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ is setting viewership records

“The Queen’s Gambit” is setting viewership records at Netflix, the streaming service said today.

Like all the viewership data that Netflix has released this year, these new numbers reflect how many people “chose to watch” — in other words, how many people watched at least two minutes of a given show or movie. In the case of “The Queen’s Gambit,” the number is 62 million households for the first 28 days of release, making it Netflix’s most popular scripted limited series ever.

You may have noticed some qualifiers there. “The Queen’s Gambit” beat out other limited series, like co-creator Scott Frank’s previous show “Godless,” but not Netflix’s biggest ongoing hits, such as “The Witcher” (76 million households watching season one). It also fell just a bit short of the limited-but-unscripted documentary series “Tiger King,” which reached 64 million households during its first four weeks.

The numbers are still pretty impressive for a series with what seems like a decidedly un-commercial promise — following a troubled young woman as she rises through the ranks of competitive chess, eventually challenging the Soviet Union’s world champion. But the series has benefited from excellent reviews (100% on Rotten Tomatoes) and the fact that it’s very, very good.

Indeed, its impact can be seen outside Netflix’s viewing numbers. The 37-year-old Walter Tevis novel on which its based is currently a New York Times bestseller, while sales of chess sets have increased dramatically.

“Three years ago when Scott Frank … first approached us about adapting “The Queen’s Gambit” — Walter Tevis’ 1983 book about a young chess prodigy — we felt it was a compelling tale,” Netflix’s vice president for original series Peter Friedlander wrote in a blog post. “Beth is an underdog who faces addiction, loss and abandonment. Her success – against the odds – speaks to the importance of perseverance, family, and finding, and staying true to, yourself.”

 

#entertainment, #media, #netflix, #the-queens-gambit

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6 reasons why reporters aren’t interested in your content marketing

Digital PR is an excellent strategy to pair with content marketing, especially if your goals include increasing your brand awareness and improving your backlink portfolio.

When you create excellent content and pitch it to writers, you not only get great media coverage, but you get the link back to your project and the authority that comes with being mentioned in a trusted publication.

This earned media tactic is very effective — but it isn’t easy.

If you get any part of it wrong, your chances of success decrease dramatically. If you’ve run into roadblocks, make sure you’re not making any of these mistakes with your content or your pitching.

1. It’s not newsworthy

Sure, it’s easy to say the news only wants to cover material that is, well, news worthy.

But what does that actually mean?

For content marketers, it usually refers to three criteria: timeliness, relevance and significance.

But there’s a catch: Most content marketing programs don’t have journalists devoted to breaking news like actual media outlets do. So how can you create content that is truly newsworthy without the resources of a newsroom?

By creating and analyzing your own data.

If your brand provides a fresh data set or a new analysis of existing data, then you’re the sole owner of information, and you can offer it exclusively to publications. This makes your pitch much more interesting.

This tactic is a combination of original content marketing and digital PR.

But the content can’t just be timely. It also has to be relevant to the writer you’re pitching and that writer’s audience. I’ll explain more on that in #4.

Finally, significance, which refers to the impact it has on the audience. When you think of local news, this is why they report on things like traffic jams and school closures: It directly affects the daily lives of the people watching and listening.

Alternatively, your data can be significant to writers covering specific beats. For example, for our client ZenBusiness, we surveyed Americans and asked what they thought about the government’s relief packages for COVID-19.

While ZenBusiness operates in the office/work niches, this new insight into American perspective was appealing to the political publication The Hill.

Significance is tough criteria from a brand perspective, but if you’re able to offer brand-new insights, it’s certainly not impossible.

2. The significance isn’t clear

Imagine a stranger handing you a book with a blank cover and saying, “Here, you’ll find this interesting.” Would you read the whole book?

#column, #content-marketing, #entrepreneurship, #growth-marketing, #media, #pr, #startups, #verified-experts

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Save 25% on annual Extra Crunch membership with the Green Days sale

The holiday season is upon us, and that means big savings on Extra Crunch membership with the Green Days sale. From now until November 30, TechCrunch readers can save 25% on an annual plan for Extra Crunch. 

You can claim the deal here.

Extra Crunch helps you spot technology trends and opportunities, build better startups, get ahead at your job, and stay connected to a growing community of founders, investors, and startup teams. It features thousands of articles, including weekly investor surveys, daily market analysis, and expert interviews on fundraising, growth, monetization, and other work topics. 

You can also find answers to your burning questions about startups and investing through Extra Crunch Live, and stay informed with our members-only Extra Crunch newsletters. Other benefits include an improved TechCrunch.com experience, 20% off future TechCrunch events, and savings on software services from AWS, Crunchbase, and more.

Join our growing community of founders, investors, and startup teams at a discounted rate here.

The Green Days sale is our biggest discount of the year, so don’t snooze on the savings. The sale ends on November 30. If you have questions about the sale or Extra Crunch membership, please contact our customer support team at extracrunch@techcrunch.com.

#extra-crunch, #media, #subscriptions, #tc

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Original Content podcast: ‘The Crown’ introduces its Princess Diana

“The Crown,” Netflix’s lavish historical drama about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, has returned for a fourth season that focuses on Elizabeth’s relationship with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and on Prince Charles’ troubled marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales.

We’ve had conflicting opinions about the show’s past seasons, and the new season hasn’t exactly settled those disagreements, as we explain on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast.

Anthony and (especially) Jordan remain fans of the show, and they found season four to be particularly compelling. Yes, the monarchy is a little ridiculous and “The Crown” does have a tendency to simplify real-world events, but its retelling of the Charles-Diana relationship is heartbreaking, and it also takes the time to show some of the damage wrought by Thatcher’s policies.

Darrell, on the other hand, remains a skeptic, with little patience for all the attention paid to the royal family. He was particularly exasperated by the show’s deviation from historical reality, and by performances (particularly Gillian Anderson as Thatcher) that felt more like cheesy, “Saturday Night Live”-style imitations.

In addition to reviewing the show, we also discuss this week’s announcement that “Wonder Woman 1984” will be premiering in both theaters and on HBO Max on December 25.

You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

If you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:30 “Wonder Woman 1984” discussion
10:45 “The Crown” Season 4 review (mild spoilers)

#entertainment, #media, #netflix, #original-content-podcast, #podcasts, #the-crown

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Hulu UX teardown: 5 user experience fails and how to fix them

Hulu is the first major streaming platform to offer a social watching experience. And with most major league sports now being allowed to resume behind closed doors, Hulu’s combined proposition with ESPN will likely help entertain the service’s 30+ million users over the winter months.

But users have a surplus in choice of streaming services right now, so how will Hulu stay competitive?

With the help of UX expert Peter Ramsey from Built for Mars, we’re going to give Hulu an Extra Crunch UX teardown, demonstrating five ways it could improve its overall user experience. These include easy product comparisons, consistent widths, proportionate progress bars and other suggestions.

Comparing features inside packages

If your product/service has different tiers/versions, ensure that the differences between these options are obvious and easy to compare.

The fail: Hulu has four different packages, but the listed features are inconsistent between options, making it incredibly difficult to compare. Instead of using bullet points, they’ve buried the benefits within paragraphs.

The fix: Break the paragraphs down into bullet points. Then, make sure that the bullet points are worded consistently between options.

 

Steve O’Hear: I’m really surprised this one got past the marketing department. Not a lot to say except that I would argue that when UX, including layout and copywriting decisions, become decoupled from business goals and customer wants, a company is in trouble. Would you agree that’s what has happened here?

Peter Ramsey: Honestly, this happens all the time. I think it’s just a symptom of the designers building things that look nice, not things that work nicely. I probably raise this issue on about one-third of the private audits I do — it’s that common.

Keep a consistent width

Try to maintain a consistent page width throughout a single journey — unless there’s a major benefit to changing the width.

The fail: During the Hulu sign-up process, the page width doubles at a totally unnecessary point. This is disorienting for the user, with no obvious rationale.

The fix: Hulu has a pretty consistent first-half of their journey and then it drops the ball. I’d redesign these “extra-wide” pages to be the default width.

#developer, #entertainment, #hulu, #media, #peter-ramsey, #streaming-services, #tc, #usability, #user-experience, #ux, #video

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Daily Crunch: Verizon sells HuffPost to BuzzFeed

HuffPost has a new owner, Facebook says its misinformation-fighting AI is getting smarter and Affirm files to go public. This is your Daily Crunch for November 19, 2020.

The big story: Verizon sells HuffPost to BuzzFeed

TechCrunch’s parent company Verizon Media has sold HuffPost. This is part of a larger deal that also includes an investment in BuzzFeed, a content syndication agreement, potential advertising collaboration and more.

BuzzFeed co-founder and CEO Jonah Peretti was actually one of The Huffington Post founders back in 2005. And it’s been nearly a decade since what was then AOL acquired HuffPost for $315 million.

“I have vivid memories of growing HuffPost into a major news outlet in its early years, but BuzzFeed is making this acquisition because we believe in the future of HuffPost and the potential it has to continue to define the media landscape for years to come,” Peretti said in a statement.

The tech giants

Facebook details AI advances in catching misinformation and hate speech — Facebook’s battle against misinformation will never be over at this rate, but that doesn’t mean the company has given up.

Instagram revamps its mobile messaging app Threads — The redesigned version of the Threads app includes updated navigation and a Status tab, as well as support for posting photos and videos to your Instagram Story.

Google plans to test end-to-end encryption in Android messages — Google says it will start with one-on-one conversations, leaving open the possibility of end-to-end encrypted group chats.

Startups, funding and venture capital

SellerX raises $118M to buy up and grow Amazon marketplace businesses — Somehow, this is a $118 million seed round.

Lime plans for ‘modes’ beyond bikes and scooters in 2021 — Lime CEO Wayne Ting hinted that a “third mode” is in the works for the first quarter of next year.

Near acquires Teemo to expand its data business into Europe — Teemo’s founder and CEO Benoit Grouchko will become Near’s chief privacy officer.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Inside Affirm’s IPO filing: A look at its economics, profits and revenue concentration — Is Affirm another pandemic-fueled company going public on the back of a COVID-19 bump, or are its business prospects more durable?

Is the internet advertising economy about to implode? — An interview with Tim Hwang on his new book, “Subprime Attention Crisis.”

Is a new game and $100M investment enough for South Korea’s PUBG to return to India? — South Korea-based PUBG Corporation announced last week that it plans to return to India, its largest market by users.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Tech in the Biden era — President-elect Joe Biden may have spent eight years in an administration that doted on the tech industry, but that long honeymoon (punctuated by four years of Trump) looks to be over.

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ is coming to HBO Max (and some US theaters) on Dec. 25 — The film will debut in theaters internationally on December 16, then launch in U.S. theaters and on HBO Max on December 25.

Fintech unicorn Affirm has a lot of eggs in one basket — The new episode of Equity includes additional thoughts on Affirm’s finances.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

#buzzfeed, #daily-crunch, #media, #verizon-media

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BuzzFeed acquires HuffPost

HuffPost has a new owner, with its current parent company Verizon Media reaching an agreement to sell the site to BuzzFeed.

The Wall Street Journal broke the news and described this as a stock deal. Verizon Media is also making an investment in BuzzFeed and becoming a minority shareholder in the digital media company.

The deal also includes an agreement to syndicate content between the two companies while collaborating on advertising and creating a joint innovation group to explore other monetization opportunities.

As BuzzFeed’s press release notes, this deal brings HuffPost full circle, since BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti was also one of the founders of what was originally known as The Huffington Post.

“I have vivid memories of growing HuffPost into a major news outlet in its early years, but BuzzFeed is making this acquisition because we believe in the future of HuffPost and the potential it has to continue to define the media landscape for years to come,” Peretti said in a statement. “With the addition of HuffPost, our media network will have more users, spending significantly more time with our content than any of our peers.”

AOL acquired The Huffington Post for $315 million nearly a decade ago, just a few months after it acquired TechCrunch.

The acquisition was seen a major move into the world of journalism and digital media, but there have been a series of corporate changes since then, with AOL subsequently acquired by VerizonVerizon also acquiring Yahoo then rebranding the combined organization first as Oath and then as Verizon Media (which still owns TechCrunch). Tim Armstrong, the executive behind the acquisition, left the company in 2018.

There have been on-and-of rumors of a HuffPost sale over the years. Last year, Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan said that the company was “not selling HuffPost” because it was “so core to our content.”

BuzzFeed is also searching for a new editor-in-chief at HuffPost. The position has been empty since Lydia Polgreen departed in March.

#buzzfeed, #huffpost, #media, #verizon-media

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‘Wonder Woman 1984’ is coming to HBO Max (and some U.S. theaters) on Dec. 25

Although COVID-19 is surging in the United States and around the world, Warner Bros. still plans to release “Wonder Woman 1984” on Christmas Day — but its plans are are no longer limited to a theatrical release.

Director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot both posted tweets last night announcing that in in the United States, the film will be released simultaneously in theaters and on WarnerMedia’s streaming service HBO Max.

“THE TIME HAS COME,” Jenkins wrote. “At some point you have to choose to share any love you have to give over everything else. We love our movie as we love our fans, so we truly hope that our film brings a little bit of joy and reprieve to all of you this holiday season.”

A press release from HBO Max offers a few more details: The film will debut in theaters internationally on December 16, then launch in U.S. theaters and on HBO Max on December 25. It will be available to the streaming service’s U.S. subscribers for one month at no additional cost.

While the pandemic caused some films to shift from a theatrical release to streaming, the studios have mostly chosen to delay their big blockbusters. The Wonder Woman sequel (which had already moved around the calendar several times as part of normal Hollywood scheduling) was scheduled for a June release when the pandemic started, with Warner Bros. pushing the date back to August, then from August to Christmas.

Last month, the disappointing box office performance of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” (which Warner Bros. only released in theaters) prompted studios to delay other tentpoles like “Dune,” “No Time To Die” and “The Batman.” But they may not want be able to delay indefinitely — and in the case of WarnerMedia, this also seems like a smart way to drive subscriptions for HBO Max after a rocky launch.

Disney, meanwhile, decided to release its live action “Mulan” remake on Disney+ for an additional $29.99 (while also supporting a theatrical launch in some markets). It will be releasing Pixar’s “Soul” via streaming on Christmas Day at no additional charge.

#entertainment, #hbo-max, #media, #warner-bros, #warnermedia

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The crowd goes wild for Yiming

There’s no shortage of TikTok coverage in the news today as the app’s fate in the U.S. hangs in the air.

What the press doesn’t always address is how TikTok gets here — how did a Chinese startup seize the lucrative short-video market in the West before Google and Facebook? What did it do differently from its Chinese predecessors who tried global expansion to little avail? Matthew Brennan’s new book “Attention Factory” set out to answer these questions by tracing ByteDance’s trajectory from an underdog despised by Chinese tech workers and investors to the envy of Silicon Valley and the target of the White House.

Matthew has spent years working closely with China’s tech firms, not only analyzing them but also using their products as a curious local, experiences that informed his meticulously researched and entertaining book. Interwoven with captivating anecdotes of TikTok, rare photos of ByteDance’s original team, incisive analysis and telling infographics, “Attention Factory” is an essential read for those looking to understand how ideas in the American and Chinese internet worlds collided, coincided and converged throughout the 2010s.

TikTok is a rare example of a Chinese internet service that has gained worldwide success. Before expanding overseas, ByteDance had already proven the short-video model in China through Douyin, the homegrown version of TikTok.

The excerpt below follows a high-growth period of Douyin, detailing how it gained around 200 million daily active users within a year: a loyal creator community, viral memes, algorithmic recommendation and aggressive ad spending.

Before long, the Chinese startup would replicate that growth playbook in the rest of the world, tweaking it here and there to make it work.


Hundreds of fashionably dressed young people were arriving at 751 D.PARK, an expanse of industrial plants redeveloped into a hip culture venue in northeast Beijing. They were clad in baseball caps, brightly colored dresses, loose-fitting hip-hop style streetwear and limited-edition sneakers. The site had been transformed into something akin to the stage of the talent competition “American Idol,” spanning two floors filled with strobe lighting, high-volume music and trendy backdrops. This was an exclusive party — three hundred top Douyin creators coming together to celebrate the app’s one-year anniversary.

The online stars, billed as the “new generation of internet celebrities,” weren’t there to just socialize and enjoy themselves. Every influencer was aware of the unspoken competition to derive the best content from that night. They were all fighting to achieve a higher level of superstardom and the medium of battle was short video.

The influencers who knew each other gathered in small groups as their assistants tirelessly captured fifteen-second videos of their carefully crafted skits. Loners roamed around the dance floor, absorbed in finding the ideal lighting for their lip-syncing selfie videos. Lesser-known influencers nervously approached more famous ones, proposing to record a dance together to potentially tap into their peers’ following. Loud hip-hop music kept playing in the background as creators hurried to touch up the videos they had just shot. Once the editing was done, they uploaded their works and anxiously waited for the app’s algorithms to judge who would grab more eyeballs.

Dance teams took to the stage to display their skills. The crowd bopped their heads back and forth as rappers attempted to impress with clever lyrics. Later as the hosts were midway through giving out awards, a wave of noise erupted from the back of the crowd interrupting the proceedings.

It was Yiming. Dressed in a black baseball cap and gray T-shirt and accompanied by Lidong. The audience went wild — the CEO had decided to drop in unannounced! Immediately he was bombarded with requests to take pictures and videos. As those around him whooped and cried out wildly, the entrepreneur simply smiled and kept his hands calmly by his side, an awkward 34-year-old engineer type among the hyper fashionable, mostly teenage hip-hop crowd.

Yiming and Lidong appear at a Douyin promotional event marking the app’s first anniversary in Sept 2017

Yiming and Lidong appear at a Douyin promotional event marking the app’s first anniversary in Sept 2017.

He already knew from looking at the data, but this was confirmation in the flesh — Douyin had built a robust community, with powerful momentum and was on the verge of doing something special.

The breakout

October 1st marks the beginning of “Golden Week,” a seven-day-long official Chinese national holiday. Periods like these are big opportunities for China’s internet industry. People’s behaviors change for a week; many find more time for entertainment and to try new things.

Over October, Douyin’s daily users doubled from seven to 14 million; two months later, they reached 30 million. Over those three months, the 30-day retention rates jumped from eight to over 20%, the average time spent in the app soared from 20 to 40 minutes. It was as if some magic rocket fuel had suddenly been added, boosting every key metric. What had changed?

The answer was Zhu Wenjia. Zhu Wenjia, hired from Baidu in 2015, was widely considered to be one of the top-three best people in the entire company when it came to algorithm technology. He ran one of ByteDance’s most capable engineering teams and had recently been assigned to work on Douyin. The team’s work harnessing the full power of ByteDance’s content recommendation back end led directly to the astounding October results.

The better the metrics, the more resources ByteDance placed behind the app as it now had good retention and was fast-tracked into becoming a strategically important product. Suddenly support was coming in from all over the company — people, money, user traffic, celebrity endorsements, brand collaborations, and most importantly, full integration and optimization of ByteDance’s powerful recommendation engine. Chinese stars with massive fan bases such as Yang Mi, Lu Han, Kris Wu, and Angelababy opened accounts, joining in publicity campaigns, and a nationwide “Douyin Party” event roadshow was planned. Douyin had become the hottest upcoming app in China.

ByteDance ramped up the investment in all three short-video products, including Douyin. People, resources and advertising budget were all raised, leading an industry insider to comment later: “The sudden rise of Douyin wasn’t without good cause. Yiming threw more money at this than anyone and dared to hunt down and grab the best people.”

Commercialization began with the first three brand ad campaigns paid for by Airbnb, Harbin Beer and Chevrolet. Douyin’s advertising business would soon make rapid progress. ByteDance already had hundreds of sales and marketing staff who would shortly be able to add Douyin’s advertisement inventory to their sales targets.

Yiming revealed in a later interview that the company had made it compulsory for everyone on the management team to make their own Douyin videos with goals to gain a certain number of likes or suffer forfeits such as doing push-ups. It wasn’t good enough to just look at charts and data; management needed to understand short videos from a creator’s perspective also. Yiming had watched Douyin videos for a long time but creating his own was “a big step for me,” he admitted.

Yiming’s personal Douyin account (3277469). Seventeen videos at the time of writing, including clips from his global travels

Yiming’s personal Douyin account (3277469). Seventeen videos at the time of writing, including clips from his global travels.

‘Oh well … karma’s a bitch’

The video opened to a young woman yawning, dressed in pajamas with messy morning hair. Wearing glasses and with no signs of makeup, she casually lip-syncs the line, “Oh well … karma’s a bitch” and throws a silk scarf into the air. Suddenly loud background music explosively begins. In an instant, she transforms into a glamorous fashion model, almost unrecognizable from a second before. A new meme had taken hold of Douyin.

“Karma’s a bitch” was a new version of the original “Don’t judge me” challenge that had propelled Musical.ly to top the U.S. app store three years earlier. The meme was another breakthrough for Douyin; People loved watching the shocking transformations. Compilations of the meme’s videos started popping up online. In particular, the makeup skills of some women left many men in disbelief. “Karma’s a bitch” left an impact on mainstream culture and gained widespread recognition and publicity, even making waves out into English language global media.

Douyin was also increasingly hypercharging the popularity of catchy pop songs with strong hooks. In late 2017, a track known as the “Ci-li-ci-li song” exploded on Douyin. The song’s catchy energy was undeniably infectious. Yet, it was the novel set of dance moves that had become associated with the track’s hook that turned the music into a meme and dramatically amplified its success.

The track had actually been released back in 2013 by Romanian reggae and dancehall artist Matteo, under the name “Panama.” Four years after its debut, the song’s unexpected and explosive spike in popularity led the singer to hastily organize an Asia tour to capitalize on his track’s sudden fame. A YouTube video shows him meeting Chinese fans at the Hangzhou airport who demonstrate their moves to him in the arrivals hall. With the dance having been created entirely in China, the bewildered artist finds himself in the awkward situation of not knowing how to follow the moves to the song for which he is famous.

Perhaps the most reliable indicator of the platform’s increasing influence on society was how the name, Douyin, had started to enter everyday colloquial vernacular, becoming synonymous with short video. The meaning of “Let’s shoot a Douyin!” needed no explanation.

Make it rain

ByteDance knew they now had a winning formula. Retention was good, word of mouth was excellent, a large, vibrant community of video creators had been fostered. The recommendation engine was doing its job of surfacing the best content. Douyin’s fire was already burning bright; now, it was time to pour gasoline on things and spend, spend, spend.

The holiday week of Chinese New Year is another unique annual opportunity for app promotions. Hundreds of millions travel home to be reunited with their families and find themselves with free time to relax. An entertainment app like Douyin was the perfect way to pass the time; word of mouth spread naturally between family members.

To step up its efforts further, Douyin directly gave out money to users by running a Chinese New Year “lucky money” campaign. Users could collect small cash amounts in special videos by tapping on the “red packet” icons — a digital manifestation of cash-filled envelopes people give to each other during the holiday. ByteDance also went all out, spending wildly, buying adverts and promotions across major online channels to acquire users, spending about 4 million yuan a day (over half a million dollars). The combination of all these effects sent Douyin to the top of the Chinese app store charts. Various reports stated Douyin’s daily users jumped from around 40 to 70 million over the February to March period covering Chinese New Year, with some of the top accounts seeing their follower numbers quadruple.

A chart mapping the progress of Douyin, from zero to 200 million daily active users, during the first two years of operation.

A chart mapping the progress of Douyin, from zero to 200 million daily active users, during the first two years of operation.

 


This article is an excerpt from “Attention Factory: The Story of TikTok and China’s ByteDance,” which was written by Matthew Brennan and edited by TechCrunch reporter Rita Liao, who wrote the introduction to this post.

#apps, #asia, #bytedance, #douyin, #entertainment, #internet-service, #media, #mobile, #mobile-applications, #social, #tiktok, #video, #video-hosting

0

Conan O’Brien will launch a weekly variety show on HBO Max

Conan O’Brien is making the move to streaming. In June of next year, his nightly talk show “Conan” will be ending its 10-year run on TBS, while he launches a new, weekly variety series on streaming service HBO Max.

“In 1993 Johnny Carson gave me the best advice of my career: ‘As soon as possible, get to a streaming platform,’” O’Brien said in a statement. “I’m thrilled that I get to continue doing whatever the hell it is I do on HBO Max, and I look forward to a free subscription.”

The announcement doesn’t mention a launch date or any other details of the new show, but it does position this as an extension of O’Brien’s relationship with WarnerMedia, which owns both HBO Max and TBS. It also says that he will continue to make his “Conan Without Borders” travel specials for the cable network.

O’Brien is no stranger to reinvention. The one-time comedy writer (never forget that he wrote the beloved “Marge vs. the Monorail” episode of “The Simpsons”) made the transition to late-night host in the early ’90s, then moved to TBS after a notoriously truncated run as host of “The Tonight Show.”

More recently, he launched the podcast “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” (which is an absolute delight). In fact, O’Brien joined us at this year’s Disrupt conference to discuss the podcast’s success.

When asked whether he planned to continue hosting late night TV, O’Brien’s reply may have hinted at today’s news: “All of this is converging. I think the message that I would have for everybody watching TechCrunch Disrupt right now is that people need to open up their minds a little bit. If I’m making podcasts, it doesn’t prohibit me from also maybe do maybe doing something, it doesn’t have to necessarily be for Turner, it could be for anybody.”

#conan-obrien, #entertainment, #hbo-max, #media, #warnermedia

0

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Bids for Simon & Schuster

A sale of the venerable publisher of Stephen King and Hillary Clinton could fetch $1.7 billion and rev up consolidation in book publishing.

#bertelsmann-ag, #book-trade-and-publishing, #books-and-literature, #hachette-book-group, #harpercollins-publishers, #media, #mergers-acquisitions-and-divestitures, #murdoch-rupert, #news-corporation, #penguin-random-house, #simonschuster-inc, #trump-donald-j, #viacomcbs-inc

0

Spotify adds a built-in podcast playlist creation tool, ‘Your Episodes’

Spotify today launched a new feature designed to give podcast listeners a new way to organize and save content they want to listen to at a later time or keep their favorite episodes bookmarked for easy access. The feature, called “Your Episodes,” lets you bookmark individual episodes from any podcast, which are then added a new “Your Episodes” playlist.

This playlist is found pinned to the top of Your Library in the Music Playlist and Podcast Episodes tabs, says Spotify.

The new option could be useful for those times when a podcast you don’t normally subscribe to has a show you want to listen to — like an interview with a favorite celebrity, for example, or a discussion about a topic you’re passionate about. It could also be used to sample a podcast you’re unsure of by adding a couple episodes to a playlist to see how well you enjoy its content.

For example, if Spotify recommended a particular podcast based on your current listening habits, you could visit the show’s page and create a custom playlist of the episodes that looked most interesting.

In addition, users could take advantage of this new bookmarking feature to save favorite episodes they may want to listen to again at some point.

To save an episode, you’ll just click the “+” plus icon on an episode card or an episode page to add the show to the playlist. The playlist can include up to 10,000 episodes, Spotify says, and they’ll remain there until they’re manually removed.

Spotify has dabbled with podcast playlists before today. Last year, it began allowing users to add podcasts to their playlists and launched a combo music-and-podcast playlist for commuters called “Your Daily Drive.” Earlier this year, Spotify also rolled out a set of editorially curated podcast playlists to encourage discovery.

The new save feature simplifies the process of making a podcast playlist, however, as it allows users to quickly add content to a built-in playlist with a tap, instead of having to go through the more involved process of custom playlist creation.

The company says the new feature is rolling out starting today on iOS and Android to both Free users and Premium subscribers in all markets where podcasts are available.

#media, #podcasts, #spotify, #streaming

0

Original Content podcast: ‘The Vow’ offers a muddled look at the NXIVM cult

“The Vow” is a fascinating documentary, but we can’t quite recommend it whole-heartedly.

As we discuss on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, HBO’s new docuseries tells the story of NXIVM (pronounced nex-ee-um), a self-improvement company that was subsequently revealed as a sex cult, with its leader Keith Raniere sentenced to 120 years in prison.

The core story is both compelling and horrifying. And “The Vow” features an astonishing amount of footage showing Raniere and other high-level NXIVM members at work — for that reason alone, the series is worth watching for anyone interested in the NXIVM story.

However, it’s also hampered by some unfortunate storytelling choices. For one thing, by parceling the story out over nine hour-long episode, the series often feels unnecessarily drawn out and repetitive.

And by focusing on a handful of high-ranking NXIVM members who subsequently became important whistleblowers and critics (including Mark Vicente, the filmmaker responsible for a great deal of that behind-the-scenes footage), “The Vow” has also opened itself up to criticism that it downplays the stories of Raniere’s true victims and obscures the extent of his crimes (unlike the Starz documentary “Seduced”) .

In addition to reviewing the series, we also discuss the latest Disney+ growth numbers and the new season of “The Bachelorette.”

You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

If you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Introduction
0:45 Disney+ discussion
7:40 “The Bachelorette” discussion
30:48 “The Vow” review

#entertainment, #hbo, #media, #original-content-podcast, #podcasts, #the-vow

0

Netflix’s latest experiment is a TikTok-like feed of funny videos

Netflix already borrowed the concept of short-form video “Stories” from social apps like Snapchat and Instagram for its Previews feature back in 2018. Now, the company is looking to the full-screen vertical video feed, popularized by TikTok, for further inspiration. With its latest experiment, Fast Laughs, Netflix is offering a new feed of short-form comedy clips drawn from its full catalog.

The feed includes clips from both originals and licensed programming, Netflix says. It also includes video clips from the existing Netflix social channel, “Netflix Is A Joke,” which today runs clips, longer videos and other social content across YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Fast Laughs resembles TikTok in the sense that it’s swiped through vertically, offers full-screen videos and places its engagement buttons on the right side. But it’s not trying to become a place to waste time while being entertained.

Like many of Netflix’s experiments, the goal with the Fast Laughs feed is to help users discover something new to watch.

Instead of liking and commenting on videos, as you would in a social video app, the feed is designed to encourage users to add shows to their Netflix watch list for later viewing. In this sense, it’s serving a similar purpose to Netflix’s “Previews” feature, which helps users discover shows by watching clips and trailers from popular and newly released programming.

As users scroll through the new Fast Laughs feed, they’ll encounter a wide range of comedy clips — like a clip from a Kevin Hart stand-up special or a funny bit from “The Office,” for example. The clips will also range in length anywhere from 15 to 45 seconds.

In addition to adding clips to Netflix’s “My List” feature, users can also react to clips with a laughing emoji button, share the clip with friends across social media, or tap a “More” button to see other titles related to the clip you’re viewing.

The feature was first spotted by social media consultant Matt Navarra, based in the U.K. In his app, Fast Laughs appeared in front of the row of Previews, where it was introduced with text that said “New!”

Netflix confirmed to TechCrunch the experiment had been tested with a small number of users earlier this year, but has recently started rolling out to a wider group this month — including users in the U.K., the U.S. and other select markets.

It’s currently available to a subset of Netflix users with adult profiles or other profiles without parental controls on iOS devices only. However, users don’t need to be opted in to experiments nor do they need to be on a beta version of the Netflix app to see the feature. It’s more of a standard A/B test, Netflix says.

And because it’s a test, users may see slightly different versions of the same feature. The product may also evolve over time, in response to user feedback.

Netflix is hardly the first to “borrow” the TikTok format for its own app. Social media platforms, like Instagram and Snapchat, have also launched their own TikTok rivals in recent months.

But Netflix isn’t a direct competitor with TikTok — except to the extent that any mobile app competes for users’ time and attention, as there are only so many hours in a day.

Instead, the new feed is more of an acknowledgment that the TikTok format of a full-screen vertical video feed with quick engagement buttons on the side is becoming a default style of sorts for presenting entertaining content.

“We’re always looking for new ways to improve the Netflix experience,” a Netflix spokesperson said, confirming the experiment. “A lot of our members love comedy so we thought this would be an exciting new way to help them discover new shows and enjoy classic scenes. We experiment with these types of tests in different countries and for different periods of time — and only make them broadly available if people find them useful,” they added.

#apps, #comedy, #media, #mobile, #mobile-applications, #netflix, #social, #social-media, #streaming-service, #tc, #tiktok, #video, #video-clips

0

Disney+ has more than 73M subscribers

Disney+, the streaming service that launched one year ago today, grew to 73.7 million paid subscribers as of early October.

That’s according to The Walt Disney Company’s fourth quarter earnings report, which covers the company’s finances through October 3. The company previously said Disney+ had 60.5 million subscribers as of August 3.

The release also includes subscriber numbers for Disney’s other streaming services — Hulu had 36.6 million (including 4.1 million subscribers to Hulu + Live TV), while ESPN had 10.3 million (more than doubling from 3.5 million a year earlier).

Overall, Disney’s direct-to-consumer segment saw revenue grow 41% year-over-year to $4.9 billion, while its operating loss fell from $751 million in Q4 2019 to $580 million this year. Disney attributed the shrinking losses to “improved results at Hulu and ESPN+, partially offset by higher costs at Disney+, driven by the ongoing rollout.”

It was a tough quarter for Disney overall, with the pandemic forcing the company to keep some parks closed and the rest operating at reduced capacity. Disney’s revenue fell to $14.7 billion (compared to $19.1 billion during Q4 2019), with a loss of $0.39 per share.

“The real bright spot has been our direct-to-consumer business, which is key to the future of our company, and on this anniversary of the launch of Disney+ we’re pleased to report that, as of the end of the fourth quarter, the service had more than 73 million paid subscribers – far surpassing our expectations in just its first year,” said CEO Bob Chapek in a statement.

During the investor call, Chapek also noted that Disney+ is currently available in more than 20 countries worldwide, with plans to launch in Latin America on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, earlier today, Disney+ pushed the premiere date of its first Marvel series, “Wandavision,” from December until January 15.

#disney, #media, #the-walt-disney-co

0

RIP Google Music, one of the company’s last examples of generosity

Google Music is dead, and with it one of the few remaining connections I have to the company that doesn’t feel like a gun to my head. The service, now merged haphazardly with YouTube Music, recalled the early days of Google, when they sometimes just made cool internet things. It made it nearly a decade, though — pretty impressive for a one of their products.

I’ll just say it up front: I’m a lifelong music pirate. Oh yes, I’ve reformed in recent years, but I’ve got a huge library of tracks that I’ve cultivated for decades and don’t plan to abandon any time soon (likewise you can pry Winamp from my cold, dead hands). So when Google announced back in 2011 I could stream it all to myself for free, it sounded too good to be true.

And indeed it was a relic of the old Google, which was quite simply all about taking things that are difficult to do yourself (find things online, set up a new email address, collaborate on a spreadsheet) and make them easier.

Google Music — as we’ll call it despite it having gone through several branding changes before the final indignity of being merged into another, worse service as a presumably short-lived tab — was not first to the music-streaming or downloading world by a long shot, but its promise of being able to upload your old music files and access them anywhere as if they were emails or documents was a surprisingly generous one.

Generous not just in that it was providing server space for 20,000 songs (!) for free and the infrastructure for serving those songs where you went, but in its acknowledgement of other models of owning media. It didn’t judge you for having 20,000 MP3s — they weren’t subjected to some kind of legitimacy check, and they didn’t report you to the RIAA for having them, though they certainly could have.

No, Google Music’s free media locker was the company, or at least a quorum of the product team, announcing that they get it: not everyone does everything the same way, and not everyone is ready to embrace whatever business model tech companies decide makes sense. (Notably it has shifted several times more since then.)

Though my perennial work frenemy at the time MG Siegler was not impressed with the beta, I vigorously defended it, noting that Google was starting simple and looking forward rather then trying to beat Apple at their own game. Plus, secretly, I was feverishly uploading a hundred gigs of music I’d gotten from Audiogalaxy, Napster, and SoulSeek. Here, I thought, was a bridge between my antiquarian habits and the cutting edge of tech.

Since then, like the resentfully loving owner of a junker, over the years I’ve been frustrated by Google Music in the ways that only one who truly relies on something can be. The app became essential to me even as its ever-changing and confusing interface confounded me. As Google’s media strategy and offerings fluctuated and blurred, my uploaded music sat there quietly, doing the same thing it did at launch: hosting my music files. Whatever it did in addition to that, it still let me access the glitchy, 128kbps version of The Bends I downloaded in 2001. I also had the security of knowing if my many drives died in a fire, I could at least recover my precious MP3s.

Whether I’d ripped it myself, pirated it in college, bought it on Bandcamp, or got it from a code inside the vinyl I bought at a show, it worked on Google Music. It integrated all my music in a truly all-accepting cloud player, and for that reason, I loved it in spite of its flaws and total lack of hipness.

Now, in deference to the explosion of YouTube’s popularity as a music platform — which more  than anything else really is due to a new type of laziness and platform agnosticism peculiar to the next generation — Google Music exists as a sort of ghost of itself within the YouTube Music app, itself an evolution of a couple other failed music strategies.

Perhaps Google felt that the optics of obsoleting a service and cutting off millions of users from something useful and beloved were not worth risking — after doing exactly that with Reader (RIP).

So (after culling the users who forgot they had accounts) they settled on the next best thing, which was making Google Music suck. Buried inside the new app, the music I uploaded has undergone a regression: intermingled and mixed, poorly organized, unable to be searched through, and at every occasion presented as the worse option, the uploaded library function seems to have been hidden away and hobbled.

The ugly and reliable Music Manager, which has run in the background on my Windows PCs for years, is dead, and adding new music is done by manually dragging the files onto the YouTube Music tab. Complaining about having to move my fingers a few inches when I get a new album seems a bit pampered, so I’ll just say that it’s telling that Google chose to make the user do the work when the whole service was built around preventing exactly that kind of work from having to be done.

I suppose I’m an exception to the usual Google and YouTube user, and as I’ve been careful to show the company for the last 20 years or so, there’s no money to be made from me. Yet as soon as I understood that Google was going to make it hard for me to do what I had been doing with them for a decade, I decided I was willing to pay for it. Now I pay Plex for a service Google decided was below them, and incidentally it’s way better. (Come to think of it, I started paying for Feedly after Google killed Reader, too.)

In a way I’m thankful. The idea of divorcing myself entirely from Google’s ecosystem isn’t a realistic one for me, though I do it where I can (though having moved to iOS, the cure sometimes seems worse than the disease). One of the tattered bindings holding me to Google was the music thing. And while I do plan to take up a hundred gigabytes on one of their databases somewhere for as long as I possibly can, I’m glad the company admitted that what they were giving me didn’t make sense for them any more. It means one less reason that what Google has to give makes sense for me.

Every service from Google now, especially with those new, bad logos, feels less like it’s offering a solution to a problem and more like it’s just another form of leverage for the company. We were spoiled by the old, weird Google that did things like Books because they could, throwing it in the teeth of the publishers, or Wave, an experiment in interactivity that in many ways is still ahead of its time. They did things because they hadn’t been done, and now they do things because they can’t let you leave.

So, RIP Google Music. You were good while you lasted, but ultimately what you did best was show me that we deserved better, and we weren’t going to get it by waiting around for Google to return to its roots.

#google, #google-music, #media, #opinion, #tc

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After Biden Win, Right-Wing Sites Still Push False Vote-Fraud Claims

Many publications have refused to acknowledge the president-elect.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #blaze-the, #epoch-times, #federalist-the-web-site, #fox-news-channel, #media, #news-and-news-media, #newsmax-media, #one-america, #presidential-election-of-2020, #rumors-and-misinformation, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #voter-fraud-election-fraud

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MTV partners with Unrd to create a mobile version of ‘Ghosted: Love Gone Missing’

Mobile storytelling startup Unrd is making its first move into adapting existing intellectual property — specifically “Ghosted: Love Gone Missing,” an MTV reality series about ghosting (the dating practice, not anything supernatural).

Until now, Unrd has created original crime, horror and romance stories that are told through characters’ phones, through content like text messages, video footage and more.

Starting next week, on November 16, the app will feature a version of “Ghosted” that — unlike the TV show — is scripted, as users explore characters’ text messages, photos and video calls to discover why they’ve been ghosted. They’ll even get to vote on whether the characters should “ghost” or “make up” before they see the stories’ ending (their votes won’t affect the outcome).

MTV Head of Digital Rory Brown told me that this was a “very close collaboration” between MTV and the Unrd team, led by CEO Shib Hussain.

“This is the first time they’ve partnered with an already established IP — but that didn’t scare us at all, to be that first media partner that they worked with,” Brown said. “There was a strong point of view on our side of the house how to keep it true to the existed format, while the Unrd team helped us reimagine it, and our collaboration met in the middle of that Venn diagram.”

Unrd

Image Credits: Unrd

He also argued that while interactivity can be “a bit of a buzzword in the industry,” Unrd isn’t focusing on “interactivity for interactivity’s sake.” Instead, the aim is to create “a more immersive experience for the user.”

Unrd will feature three stories tied to “Ghosted,” each of them unfolding over six days.

“The key thing that we do different is this notion of real time,” Hussain said. “You can’t just binge it and consume every story in one day. You’ve got to wait with the character for the next message. That’s more immersive, and it also builds that tension and excitement amongst users as well.”

Brown noted that these stories are airing during a break in the second season of “Ghosted.” The hope is that they’ll keep existing fans engaged while creating new fans as well.

“At MTV, we’re always going to keep looking at ways to test the elasticity of IP,” he said. “I think Unrd is one way to do that. We’re talking to other partners, but Shib and his team have been fantastic to work with and we’d love to keep the relationship going.”

#apps, #entertainment, #media, #mobile, #mtv

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This startup is betting that you want to binge remote-work content

As the coronavirus pandemic evolved into a genuine threat, offices closed to limit spread and people suddenly had to download Zoom and work from home. In the months since, many offices have remained closed. And with the number of coronavirus cases growing at a rapid clip, it’s not clear when, or even if, offices will reopen.

Jesse Chambers, the founder and CEO of wrkfrce, thinks there’s an opportunity for a media publication dedicated solely to helping workers navigate what he thinks is an irreversible shift.

Launching today, wrkfrce will offer content, job postings and consulting services to help workers understand how to adapt and thrive in a remote-work environment. The site is starting with 60 articles and will post more information daily, on topics like how to adapt as a parent to the best way to ask for vacation time as a remote worker.

In addition to its articles, the company is creating documentary-style video content in collaboration with a Los-Angeles based studio. The videos will cover the troves of buzzy enterprise remote work tools out there to add some clarity to the now noisy space.

Beyond the content library, wrkfrce dedicates a portion of its site to job listings for remote-only gigs. The job board has more than 217,000 listings with jobs across the spectrum, from tech to blue-collar industries.

Image Credits: Jesse Chambers

All three products work in tandem to create what Chambers hopes will be a one-stop shop for anyone in a flexible working situation. And it’s a subtweet at the old structure of offices.

“The 9 to 5 in-the-office model is a relic of the Industrial Revolution,” Chambers said. “But the reality is that professionals these days are not assembling Model Ts.”

While the company is exiting stealth amid a pandemic, the platform has been in the works for more than a year. Chambers worked as the vice president of monetization for AOL when it still owned TechCrunch for over a decade. When Verizon acquired Yahoo and merged with AOL, Chambers saw an opportunity to try a new path. He went on a job search that would allow him to have flexibility to work from home. He couldn’t find much.

“I had about 35 seconds of frustration,” he said. “Before I said to myself ‘wait a minute, you know, Jesse, you know a few things about building digital media brands.’ ”

The company isn’t competing with any publications, as most cover remote work as one topic of many. Still, to acquire readers, Chambers said he is not putting the content behind a paywall. Instead, wrkfrce makes money through affiliate links on its job board, advertising remote-work tools and consultancy fees it charges companies that ask for advice on how to scale a remote team. It declined to disclose how much it will charge companies.

The biggest challenge ahead for wrkfrce, according to Chambers, is building a healthy and sustainable audience.

The strategy of targeted, niche advice blogs has worked well in categories that never lose importance, such as personal finance or mental wellness. Currently, wrkfrce’s total addressable readership is larger than ever because of the pandemic, but that could all change once offices reopen and people head back to work.

But the pandemic puts Chambers, like any founder launching a remote-work startup during this time, in the same, complicated spot: While demand surges right now, what if it’s all a fad? None of these founders can predict the future, but they all offer some version of the same argument, which is that millions of people have tasted flexibility and will now demand it going forward.

To prove his bullishness on remote work, Chambers has lived it. The founder traveled across the country with his wife Lindsey in a 27-foot Airstream for the past two years. He is launching the remote work company while working remotely, and is self funding the business entirely.

Jesse Chambers and his wife traveled across the country in their 27-foot Airstream.

The pandemic is an accelerant of his vision, but not a catalyst.

“The digital evolution has brought us to this point where distributed work is totally possible,” he said. “If the pandemic had happened five to seven years ago, this would be a completely different situation.”

Some techies have approached remote work by recreating hacker homes. While some remote-work enthusiasts think these homes are the future, others think the approach is attention-seeking and, at times, tone deaf as the pandemic continues to rage on. Chambers thinks that the coastal elite tech worker approach might brand remote work as cliché, when in reality, it’s broader than the singular experience.

“The reality is, for the vast majority of people, even if they want to pick up and go take a laptop to Fiji, they couldn’t do it,” Chambers said. “They’ve got kids, they’ve got familial responsibilities.” Chambers wants to write for those remote workers, the enthusiasts, the haters and everyone in between.

The fact that millions of people around the world finally adopted remote work because they had to is not lost on him. But, he does see a future where people hybridize their workflows.

“We’re not beating a drum for totally remote work only,” he said. “It’s really about the whole spectrum of flexibility.”

 

#media, #remote-work, #startups, #tc, #wrkfrce

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India’s broadcasting ministry secures power to regulate streaming services, online content

India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which oversees programs beamed on television and theatres in the country, will now also regulate policies for streaming platforms and digital news outlets in a move that is widely believed to kickstart an era of more frequent and stricter censorship on what online services air.

The new rules (PDF), signed by India’s President Ram Nath Kovind this week, might end the years-long efforts by digital firms to self-regulate their own content to avoid the broader oversight that impacts television channels and theatres and whose programs appeared on those platforms. (Streaming platforms may be permitted to continue to self-regulate and report to I&B, similar to how TV channels follow a programming code and their self-regulatory body works with I&B. But there is no clarity on this currently.)

For instance, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting currently certifies what movies hit the theatres in the country and the scenes they need to clip or alter to receive those certifications. But movies and shows appearing on services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video did not require a certification and had wider tolerance for sensitive subjects.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has previously also ordered local television channels to not air sensitive documentaries.

India’s Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology previously oversaw online streaming services, but it did not enforce any major changes. The ministry also oversees platforms where videos are populated by users.

Officials of India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting have previously argued that with proliferation of online platforms in India — there are about 600 million internet users in the country — there needs to be parity between regulations on them and traditional media sources.

“There is definitely a need for a level playing field for all media. But that doesn’t mean we will bring everybody under a heavy regulatory structure. Our government has been focused on ease of doing business and less regulation, but more effective regulation,” said Amit Khare, Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, earlier this year.

The move by the world’s second largest internet market is bound to make players like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney’s Hotstar, Times Internet’s MX Player, and dozens of other streaming services and web-based news outlets more cautious about what all they choose to stream and publish on their platforms, an executive with one of the top streaming services told TechCrunch, requesting anonymity.

Netflix, which has poured over half a billion dollars in its India business, declined to comment.

Digital news outlets and platforms that cover “current affairs” will now also be overseen by India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Over the years, the Indian government has pressured advertisers and indulged in other practices to shape what several news channels show to their audiences.

Information and Broadcasting minister Prakash Javdekar is expected to address this week’s announcement in an hour. We will update the story with additional details.

#amazon-prime-video, #apps, #asia, #government, #hotstar, #india, #media, #mx-player, #netflix

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HBO releases a wellness-focused AR app to promote ‘His Dark Materials’

With the second season of “His Dark Materials” premiering on HBO on November 16, the network has partnered with creative studio Framestore to create a new iOS and Apple Watch app called His Dark Materials: My Daemon.

The free app gives fans of the show (and the Philip Pullman novels the show is based on) a chance to interact with their very own “daemons” — the magical animal companions that serve as an extension of characters’ souls.

“It’s a really great opportunity to give users and fans of the show the opportunity to have a daemon companion that’s personalized to them,” said Christine Cattano, Framestore’s global head of VR. “And what better way to do that than on your phone, which is a constant companion to us all?”

Users are assigned a daemon after taking a simple quiz consisting of questions like “day or night?” and “above or below?” They can then interact with the daemon by providing basic updates on their current state (like whether they’re feeling focused or distracted). Based on those updates, the daemon will recommend tasks tied to physical and emotional wellness, like going for a walk or a run, or watching a movie.

As users perform more wellness tasks, their daemon becomes happier and healthier. The app also allows users to go on “journeys,” where they perform a series of (again, wellness-focused) tasks that are tied to the activities of characters on the show.

His Dark Materials: My Daemon

Image Credits: HBO/Framestore

His Dark Materials: My Daemon will learn more about your activities by integrating with Apple Health and Spotify. And it incorporates augmented reality by allowing you to watch animations where you daemon interacts with the world around you. You’ll be able to share your companion interactions on social media, as well.

HBO’s vice president of program marketing Emily Giannusa noted that the original plan was for “large, real world activations.” After all, Framestore didn’t just work on visual effects for the actual “His Dark Materials” show. It also collaborated with HBO to develop “Beyond the Wall,” a virtual reality experience tied to “Game of Thrones,” as well as Magic Leap GoT experience called “The Dead Must Die,” which were both available via installations in flagship AT&T stores. (AT&T owns HBO’s parent company WarnerMedia.)

But given the pandemic and the need for social distancing, HBO and Framestore knew they had to take a different approach, so Giannusa said they came up with something that could “delight [fans] while they’re at home” — and that should reach a much larger audience in the process.

#apps, #augmented-reality, #hbo, #media, #mobile

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Patreon and Acast partner for patron-only podcast distribution

Patreon and Acast are teaming up to make it easier for podcasters to publish episodes that are only available to the patrons financially supporting them on Patreon.

Most paywall solutions for podcasts are pretty clunky or limited. That’s why Acast launched technology last year that allows publishers to release paywalled episodes that listeners can access on any podcast app.

Patreon, meanwhile, already supports the creation of a patron-only RSS feed, and Brian Keller, the company’s director of creator success said that “exclusive content is the biggest and most effective benefit that [podcasters] can offer to their members.”

Still, he said that many of the podcasters on Patreon are asking for a better solution, which is where the Acast partnership comes in.

Through the integration, a podcaster can link to their Patreon account in their public podcast show notes. If someone clicks on the link and they aren’t already a patron, they can sign up. If they are a patron, their membership level will be authenticated and they’ll be directed to a listening experience allows them to subscribe, via the podcast app of their choice, to a feed that combines whatever patron-only content they should have access to, plus all the free content included in the public feed.

Patreon + Acast

Image Credits: Acast

So from the patron/listener experience, you should only need to sign up once, then you’ll can get your premium episodes without any extra work. The podcaster, meanwhile, can manage their public and private feeds from a single dashboard, while also getting access to detailed listener data from Acast.

Leandro Saucedo, Acast’s chief strategy and business officer, noted that the companies aren’t forcing any Patreon creators to go down this route. They can still distribute their podcasts with whatever platform or tool they were using before.

“With this partnership in place, we hope that usage will be high as possible, but we’re not forcing anybody into it,” Saucedo said.

At the same time, he suggested that there should be a seamless migration process for any podcasters making the switch to Acast, without requiring any listeners to subscribe to a new feed.

Patreon and Acast have already been beta testing this integration with select podcasts, including  Sleep With Me and 90 Day Gays.

“I love the Acast integration!” said Sleep With Me’s Drew Ackerman in a statement. “The analytics let me know that patrons are listening to the content and give me clear insight into exactly what and how they’re consuming it. It’s secure and easy for patrons to get set up, and the fact that there is only one link to share makes it simple for listeners to find the content and brings new patrons to our membership!”

#acast, #media, #patreon

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YouTube copies Spotify’s ‘Daily Mixes’ with its new ‘My Mix’ feature

YouTube Music is taking another cue from Spotify with today’s launch of a set of personalized playlists that are essentially YouTube Music’s own take on Spotify’s “Daily Mixes.” Each of these new “My Mix” playlists will feature a different aspect of a user’s tastes and interests, allowing users to dive in to a particular vibe or music genre.

Up to seven of these new “My Mix” playlists will be featured on the Home tab, the company says, and will include a combination of favorite tunes as well as potential new favorites for discovery purposes.

With the launch, YouTube is also rebranding its personalized playlist previously called “Your Mix.” To better clarify its purpose and eliminate possible confusion with the new “My Mix” playlists, this playlist will now be called “My Supermix,” and will combine all of a user’s music tastes into one playlist, like Spotify’s “Discover Weekly.”

YouTube is making other changes to its Home tab and personalized selections, too, it says.

Image Credits: YouTube

Now, the Home tab will feature an activity bar offering easy access to four activity types, including Workout, Focus, Relax, and Commute. These will take the user to a dedicated personalized homepage with a variety of playlists suited to the activity in question. The Workout tab, in particular, has been updated to include up to four new personalized mixes that feature music you already like as well as new recommendations. These tabs will also include a “Supermix” of the different playlists.

Personalization has become a key battleground for music streaming services, which aim to use technology to better cater to users by creating unique mixes and delivering more targeted recommendations. YouTube and Apple have both mimicked Spotify’s features on this front, offering their own variations on personalized playlists like Spotify’s flagship playlist, “Discover Weekly,” and others.

YouTube Music, though, has not had as much success in gaining a following, perhaps due to Google’s confusing and overlapping music strategy over the past several years, where it offered two different music apps.

Google has finally begun to correct his, and has started the transition that will shift users off its older service, Google Play Music, and over to YouTube Music. The latter, to date, has struggled with gaining a sizable share in the competitive music market, where Spotify and Apple dominate.

According to a MIDiA report in June, Google is in fifth place with a 6% share, behind Spotify, Apple, Amazon, and Tencent. However, the report suggested that YouTube Music’s appeal to a younger demographic could help Google turn things around, as its share had grown from just 3% in Q1 2018 to Q1 2019.

YouTube says the new changes to its playlists will arrive today.

#google, #media, #music, #streaming-music, #youtube

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Uzabase sells Quartz to the site’s CEO and staff

Quartz is going private, with co-founder and CEO Zach Seward buying the business news site from its current owner Uzabase.

In his post announcing the deal, Seward described the move as a management buyout that will also see Editor in Chief Katherine Bell and the rest of the Quartz staff taking equity in the new company.

“Most of the time, I hope, Quartz’s finances and our corporate parentage are irrelevant, as long as we’re doing our job well,” he wrote. “But this is an important moment in the life of our company, and we want to share it with all of you, whose readership and enthusiasm for Quartz have carried us successfully through the past eight years.”

Seward suggested that while Uzabase’s ownership was “helpful,” the company is “better off right now as a startup, freer to chart our own path.” And as a startup, it’s looking to raise outside funding.

The Wall Street Journal, which broke the news that Uzabase wanted to sell the property, also reported that Uzabase CEO Yusuke Umeda (pictured above) has made a personal loan to support the site.

Quartz was founded in 2012 by Atlantic Media, then acquired by Uzabase (a Japanese financial data and media company) for $86 million in 2018.

The company has struggled to make the business side work in recent years, reporting a loss of $18.4 million on revenue of $26.4 million in 2019, and cutting about 80 staff positions earlier this year.

In an assessment of the site’s troubles published in June, Digiday’s Steven Perlberg noted Quartz has been restructuring around its subscription business, but he suggested that it’s been caught in digital media’s “mushy middle”: “Not quite niche enough to be essential to a small group of readers, but not quite big enough to compete at scale.”

#media, #quartz, #startups, #uzabase

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Apple Music adds 10 new playlists aimed at Gen Z, including one with TikTok hits

Apple Music is targeting Gen Z users in its battle with Spotify . On Friday, Apple launched ten new Apple Music playlists focused on the music interests of Gen Z users — including one playlist that features the latest tracks to go viral across social media apps like TikTok. Other playlists feature emerging artists and sounds, experimental or cross-genre selections, or music by mood — like playlists for getting energized to go out or one to destress, for example.

One of the more interesting additions from this new group — at least from a technology perspective — is the new editorial playlist, “Viral Hits.” While Apple doesn’t specifically mention TikTok by name here, the short-form video app’s influence is apparent.

TikTok’s music-laden memes and trends today heavily influence what younger users are listening to. The app has also long-since proven its ability to break new artists and send tracks, both new and old, up to the top of the streaming charts across Spotify and Apple Music, as well as the Billboard charts, at times.

With the “Viral Hits” playlist, Apple will round-up the songs that are making the leap from social media channels to “the broader cultural stream,” the company explains.

“Social media hasn’t just changed how we communicate, but also what we listen to and how we hear it,” says Apple.

Image Credits: Apple Music, screenshot by TechCrunch

Because of the nature of viral trends, there’s no set schedule as to when the “Viral Hits” playlist will update. Instead, Apple Music editors will updated the selections throughout the week, as needed.

Currently, there are 98 songs representing nearly 5 hours of music on the playlist, including many tracks that are also now on Apple Music’s top charts. But the tracks on “Viral Hits” aren’t ranked by number of plays they’re receiving — it’s an editorial selection, not a chart.

Apple isn’t alone in formally acknowledging the power TikTok has over popular music. Spotify last week launched a new feature for artists that would allow them to promote tracks that were going viral on TikTok.

Image Credits: Apple

In addition to “Viral Hits,” the other new Apple Music playlists aimed at a Gen Z demographic include the following additions:

  • Superbloom: Apple describes this playlist as a “new home for young, risk-taking visionaries who think about music differently.” The selections will feature artists who often have developed grass-roots followings across social media, where they’ve experimented and sparked trends.
  • Lifted: This cross-genre playlist is a melting pot of music Apple describes as “a little underground, but too dynamic for the mainstream to ignore.” Tracks will range from the poppy end of the spectrum to hip-hop, R&B, and indie rock, Apple says.
  • Wildflower: This playlist will feature emerging voices across a mix of hip-hop, R&B, dance, indie pop and rock.
  • Glow: An upbeat playlist of “feed-good, mood-boosting” tracks.
  • The Nerve: This playlist features “downcast hybrids” of hip-hop, pop punk, emo, and grunge that are “a little too raw for broader audiences.” Apple says the music can be “bleak.”
  • The Sound: A playlist featuring the best in new rock.
  • Verified Hits: Another cross-genre playlist, this one featuring hit songs from genres including pop, indie, arty R&B, and electronic.
  • Catching Feelings: Music for chilling that’s a little slow moody, mellow and low-key.
  • Do Not Disturb: Music on this playlist aims to help listeners not feel alone when dealing with mental health issues, like the ups, downs, crashes and the coping, says Apple.

Apple says the new playlists were created specifically with the needs of Gen Z users in mind, describing this young group as “tech savvy, social media mavens” as well as “rabid music lovers.”

In addition to the Gen Z playlists, Apple Music released 24 brand-new playlists aimed at helping users center and find a few moments of calm. These playlists follow what has been a tense week in the U.S., particularly, due to the 2020 Presidential Elections and their delayed results.

#apple, #apple-music, #media, #social-media, #spotify, #tiktok

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Riverside.fm launches its video podcasting platform

Riverside.fm is a new startup with an easy-to-use platform for recording professional-quality video podcasts.

In fact, although the company only recently came out of stealth, it already has a number of high-profile customers including TechCrunch’s parent company Verizon Media and Hillary Clinton, who’s using Riverside.fm to record her new podcast “You and Me Both With Hillary Clinton.”

“Just imagine, we needed a recording platform that could help us make a podcast during a pandemic, and, boy, did they step up,” Clinton said in a statement.

The startup was founded by brothers Nadav and Gideon Keyson — Nadav, who serves as CEO (Gideon is CTO), explained that they first created a platform where politicians could participate video debates, but then realized that there was a more promising business model for a broader podcasting tool.

In addition to officially launching, Riverside.fm is announcing that it has raised $2.5 million in seed funding led by Oren Zeev .

Gideon gave me a quick demo of the platform, showing me that it’s a fairly straightforward recording experience — the host just shares a link with the guests, no software installation necessary. There are plenty of other browser-based podcasting tools (for example, Zencastr recently expanded beyond audio with video support), but the Keysons suggested that they’ve spent a lot of time solving common technical issues for podcasters.

For one thing, each participants’ audio and video is recorded as a separate track on their device, so that a bad internet connection won’t affect recording quality. The recording is uploaded during the session, so you don’t have to have a long wait for files to upload. And there are automatic backups, in case someone’s browser or computer freezes.

“Stability … is so important,” Nadav said. “[Otherwise,] you could spend half year to get a certain guest and then you lose their recording.”

Despite its simplicity, Riverside.fm supports 4K video and uncompressed WAV audio. It also includes an interface where podcast producers can monitor each guest’s equipment and adjust audio levels.

“We do really make it easy for the beginner and faster for the professionals,” Nadav said.

Gideon added that Riverside.fm isn’t interested in getting involved in the podcast distribution, but instead focuses on being a reliable production platform, as well as providing cross-platform analytics.

“We don’t want to start competing with Spotify and YouTube,” he said — in fact, Spotify is already a Riverside.fm customer.

The brothers also suggested that even if you’re not interested in creating a full-fledged video podcast, Riverside.fm is still the right choice for recording audio. Plus, you could still use the video recordings to create promotional clips for YouTube and social media.

#media, #oren-zeev, #startups

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