Katzenberg, a longtime Hollywood executive, had blamed the coronavirus pandemic for a lackluster launch in May — an app designed for on-the-go viewing didn’t have much appeal when people were largely stuck at home. And whatever the reason, none of Quibi’s shows ever became a breakout hit.
A new entry in the greatest collapses of startups ever
In memory of the death of Quibi, here’s a quick sendoff from four of our writers who came together to discuss what we can learn from Quibi’s amazing, instantaneous, billions-of-dollars failure.
Lucas Matney looks at what the potential was for Quibi and how it missed the mark in media. Danny Crichton discusses why billions of dollars in VC funding isn’t enough in competitive markets like video. Anthony Ha discusses the crazy context of Quibi and our interview with the company earlier this year. And Brian Heater looks at why constraints are not benefits in new products.
Lucas Matney: A deadpool company before it was even launched
There will be dozens of post-mortems on Quibi, but the fact is there were dozens of post-mortems written about Quibi before it even launched. The whole idea was, to be kind, audacious, though it was also clear to most people that weren’t personal friends with founder Jeffrey Katzenberg that it was doomed from the start.
Quibi’s death is an important moment for streaming, largely because it’s a pretty strong rebuke of services trying to one-up the Netflix model by solely focusing on high-dollar original content. I think Quibi made several mistakes, but its most pertinent ones can be tied to a lack of flexibility in vision.
The startup insisted that all of its titles were mobile-only, high-production value and relying on Hollywood star power when they probably could have succeeded by keeping a closer eye on what kind of quick-bite content was succeeding elsewhere. Snap has seen success with Discover after years of attempts, and there is space for a dedicated player here, but Katzenberg tried to level-up by throwing checks at his friends and not doing the hard work of scouting out rising trendsetters in the creator world.
There are other lessons here that apply to other streaming new-comers like Apple. Namely that creating a hit TV show is hard and buying a hit TV series is easier if you already have the money. Quibi and Apple TV+ both launched with plenty of new series and no back libraries of beloved legacy content for users to spend time digging into. There’s just so much good stuff out there already. Apple has shifted strategy here, but Quibi boxed itself in and probably couldn’t afford to play here once its error was made clear.
Quibi showcases how the streaming wars’ upending of Hollywood has probably eclipsed reason at this point. Players like Apple don’t belong here, and there’s just too much money pouring into original content that loosely fits the Hollywood mold.
Netflix stock is down 7% today after earnings yesterday showcased slowing growth. With HBO Max, Disney+, Peacock and Apple TV+ all launching in the last 12 months, the streaming market’s cup runneth over. And while I don’t think a Quibi death spells the end for innovation here, I think that the market is ready for some 2021 consolidation.
As part of this new strategy, the company is undergoing a major reorganisation of its media and entertainment business that will focus on developing productions that will debut on its streaming and broadcast services.
This will include merging the company’s media businesses, ads and distribution, and Disney+ divisions so that they’ll now operate under the same business unit.
As TechCrunch’s Jonathan Shieber reports, Disney’s announcement follows a significant change to its release schedule to address new realities, including a collapsing theatrical release business; production issues; and the runaway success of its Disney+ streaming service — all caused or accelerated by the national failure to effectively address the COVID-19 pandemic.
So what better time than now to give Disney+ the Extra Crunch user experience teardown treatment. With the help of Built for Mars founder and UX expert Peter Ramsey, we highlight some of the things Disney+ gets right and things that should be fixed. They include zero distractions while signing up, “the power of percentages,” and the importance of designing for trackpad, mouse and touch outside of native applications.
Zero distractions while signing up
If the user is trying to complete a very specific task — such as making a payment — don’t distract them. They’re experiencing event-driven behaviour.
The win: Disney have almost entirely removed any kind of distractions when signing up. This includes the header and footer. They want you to stay on-task.
Image Credits: Disney+
Steve O’Hear: This seems like a very easy win but one we don’t see as often as perhaps we should. Am I right that most sign-up flows aren’t this distraction-free and why do you think that is?
Peter Ramsey: Yeah, it’s such an easy win. Sometimes you see sign-up screens that have Google Adwords on it, and I think, “You’re risking the user getting distracted and leaving for what, half a penny?” If I had to guess why more companies don’t utilise this technique, it’s probably just because they don’t want to deal with the technical hassle of hiding a bunch of elements.
The power of percentages
Only use percentages when it makes sense. 80% off sounds like a lot, but 3% doesn’t. Percentages can be a great way of making a discount seem larger than it actually is, but sometimes it can have the reverse effect. This is because people are generally bad at accurately estimating discounts. “What’s 13% off £78?”
The fail: If you sign up to a year of Disney+, then you’re offered 16% free. But 16% isn’t easy to calculate in your head — so people guess. And sometimes, their guesses may be less than the actual value of the discount.
The fix: In this instance, it would be far more compelling (and require less mental arithmetic), if it was marketed as “60 days free.” Sixty days is both easy to understand and easy to assign value to.
Image Credits: Disney+
Percentages may be harder to process or evaluate in isolation as an end user but they are easy to compare with each other i.e., we all know 25% off is better than 10% off. Aren’t you advocating obscuring the actual saving in favour of what sounds better on a case-by-case basis and therefore actually working against the end user? Of course I’m playing devils advocate a little here.
So, it’s actually a really complex dilemma, and there’s no “easy” answer — this would probably make a great dinner time conversation. Yes, if you’re offering two discounts, then a percentage may be the easiest way for people to compare them.
SiriusXM today completed its previously announced $325 million acquisition of podcast platform Stitcher from E.W. Scripps, and has now launched Stitcher’s podcasts on Pandora across all tiers of the streaming service. The deal brings top Stitcher titles to Pandora, including “Freakonomics Radio,” “My Favorite Murder,” “SuperSoul Conversations from the Oprah Winfrey Network,” “Office Ladies,” “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend,” “Literally! with Rob Lowe,” “LeVar Burton Reads” and “WTF with Marc Maron,” among others.
On Pandora, the podcasts will be indexed using the company’s proprietary Podcast Genome Project technology. This system leverages automated technology — like natural language processing, collaborative filtering and other machine learning approaches — then combines that with human curation to make personalized recommendations to podcast listeners on Pandora’s app.
The podcasts will also continue to be available in the Stitcher app in North America, the company says.
The Stitcher acquisition brought with it several key assets, including its own mobile listening app, which includes a premium tier of exclusives, and the Midroll Media network for podcast advertising. Stitcher also creates its own original programs and runs multiple content networks, via Earwolf.
That means SirusXM gained thousands of top podcasts with the deal’s closure. The company also now claims it has the “largest addressable audience in North America” across all categories of digital audio, including music, sports, talk and podcasts thanks to the combination of satellite radio service SiriusXM, streaming app Pandora and now Stitcher.
The company believes the deal will help it attract more creators to its platform, thanks to the enhanced production, marketing and distribution capabilities it offers, following the deal’s close. Advertisers, meanwhile, will be able to more precisely target podcasts for better ad efficiency, and will gain access to improved measurements, says SiriusXM.
In terms of Stitcher’s execs, CEO Erik Diehn will now report to Scott Greenstein, president and chief content officer of SiriusXM, who also oversees content at Pandora. Stitcher’s chief revenue officer, Sarah van Mosel, will report directly to John Trimble, chief advertising revenue officer of SiriusXM.
“We are deepening our position in podcasting, the fastest-growing sector in digital audio, and with completion of this transaction, our vision is taking shape,” said SiriusXM CEO Jim Meyer, in a statement about the deal’s completion. “With Stitcher and its varied assets, we are now a one-stop shop able to meet the needs of podcast creators, publishers and advertisers, while also providing listeners with access to great shows, series and programming.”
“Emily in Paris,” a new series on Netflix, has provoked skeptical responses from actual Parisians who are happy to point out the abundant clichés in its story of a young American (played by Lily Collins) who takes a last-minute transfer to a marketing agency in Paris.
Some fairly obvious culture clash moments ensue, along with equally implausible storylines where Emily’s extremely basic ideas about social media are treated as controversial and groundbreaking by her employer.
And yet, as we discuss on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, we actually found the show delightful — or at the very least, highly watchable.
Yes, the show’s Paris is a fantasy, but it’s a fantasy that we’re happy to visit, particularly now. Yes, most of the show’s characters are basically cartoons, but they’re entertaining and fun cartoons. And at the end of the day, we’re all suckers for a slick, escapist romantic comedy, which is exactly what “Emily in Paris” delivers.
15 researchers propose a new standard for advertising disclosures
Laura Edelson Contributor
Erika Franklin Fowler Contributor
Erika Franklin Fowler is Professor of Government at Wesleyan University where she directs the Wesleyan Media Project (WMP), which tracks and analyzes political advertising in real-time during elections.
Jason Chuang Contributor
Jason Chuang is a researcher at Mozilla.
Dear Mr. Zuckerberg, Mr. Dorsey, Mr. Pichai and Mr. Spiegel: We need universal digital ad transparency now!
The negative social impacts of discriminatory ad targeting and delivery are well-known, as are the social costs of disinformation and exploitative ad content. The prevalence of these harms has been demonstrated repeatedly by our research. At the same time, the vast majority of digital advertisers are responsible actors who are only seeking to connect with their customers and grow their businesses.
Many advertising platforms acknowledge the seriousness of the problems with digital ads, but they have taken different approaches to confronting those problems. While we believe that platforms need to continue to strengthen their vetting procedures for advertisers and ads, it is clear that this is not a problem advertising platforms can solve by themselves, as they themselves acknowledge. The vetting being done by the platforms alone is not working; public transparency of all ads, including ad spend and targeting information, is needed so that advertisers can be held accountable when they mislead or manipulate users.
Our research has shown:
Advertising platform system design allows advertisers to discriminate against users based on their gender, race and other sensitive attributes.
Platform ad delivery optimization can be discriminatory, regardless of whether advertisers attempt to set inclusive ad audience preferences.
Ad delivery algorithms may be causing polarization and make it difficult for political campaigns to reach voters with diverse political views.
Sponsors spent more than $1.3 billion dollars on digital political ads, yet disclosure is vastly inadequate. Current voluntary archives do not prevent intentional or accidental deception of users.
While it doesn’t take the place of strong policies and rigorous enforcement, we believe transparency of ad content, targeting and delivery can effectively mitigate many of the potential harms of digital ads. Many of the largest advertising platforms agree; Facebook, Google, Twitter and Snapchat all have some form of an ad archive. The problem is that many of these archives are incomplete, poorly implemented, hard to access by researchers and have very different formats and modes of access. We propose a new standard for universal ad disclosure that should be met by every platform that publishes digital ads. If all platforms commit to the universal ad transparency standard we propose, it will mean a level playing field for platforms and advertisers, data for researchers and a safer internet for everyone.
The public deserves full transparency of all digital advertising. We want to acknowledge that what we propose will be a major undertaking for platforms and advertisers. However, we believe that the social harms currently being borne by users everywhere vastly outweigh the burden universal ad transparency would place on ad platforms and advertisers. Users deserve real transparency about all ads they are bombarded with every day. We have created a detailed description of what data should be made transparent that you can find here.
We researchers stand ready to do our part. The time for universal ad transparency is now.
Jason Chuang, Mozilla Kate Dommett, University of Sheffield Laura Edelson, New York University Erika Franklin Fowler, Wesleyan University Michael Franz, Bowdoin College Archon Fung, Harvard University Sheila Krumholz, Center for Responsive Politics Ben Lyons, University of Utah Gregory Martin, Stanford University Brendan Nyhan, Dartmouth College Nate Persily, Stanford University Travis Ridout, Washington State University Kathleen Searles, Louisiana State University Rebekah Tromble, George Washington University Abby Wood, University of Southern California
“Away,” a new drama on Netflix, tells the story of the first manned expedition to Mars — Emma Green (played by Hilary Swank) leads an international team of astronauts on the three-year mission, while her husband Matt (Josh Charles) is part of the support team back on Earth.
As we explain on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, the show starts a bit slowly, and its space sequences (particularly an early space walk) aren’t quite as thrilling as we’d hoped.
But “Away” excels at creating compelling human drama — there’s believable tension on the spaceship and in mission control, and pain and guilt on both sides as the astronauts are separated from their loved ones for the long journey to-and-from Mars.
Anthony admitted that before watching, he worried that the show might be a bit too weepy and melodramatic. Instead, he was impressed by the way it made all the storylines feel natural and important, no matter how high or low the stakes. And we also appreciated how the astronauts’ backstories are filled in via flashbacks — the third episode, focused on Chinese astronaut Lu Wang (Vivian Lu), was an early highlight.
Google is paying a lot of money for its news licensing program, Microsoft announces an affordable laptop and Facebook says it won’t accept ads casting doubts on the election. This is your Daily Crunch for October 1, 2020.
The big story: Google commits $1B to pay publishers
Specifically, CEO Sundar Pichai said today that the company will be paying $1 billion to news publishers to license their content for a new format called the Google News Showcase — basically, panels highlighting stories from partner publishers in Google News.
Around a quarter of U.S. adults, or roughly 26%, say they get news by watching YouTube videos, according to a new study from Pew Research Center, which examined the Google-owned video platform’s growing influence over news distribution in the U.S., as well as its consumption. The study, not surprisingly, found that established news organizations no longer have full control over the news Americans watch, as only one-in-five YouTube consumers (23%) said they “often” get their news from channels affiliated with established news organizations. The exact same percentage said they “often” get their news from independent channels instead.
Independent channels in this study were defined as those that do not have a clear external affiliation. A news organization channel, meanwhile, would be a channel associated with an external news organization — like CNN or Fox News, for instance.
These two different types of news channels are common, Pew found, as 49% of popular news channels are affiliated with a news organization, while 42% are not.
A small percentage (9%) were those from “other” organizations publishing news, including government agencies, research organizations and advocacy organizations.
Image Credits: Pew Research
To determine its findings, Pew Research ran a representative panel survey of 12,638 U.S. adults from January 6-January 20, 2020.
This study found that a majority, or 72%, of Americans said YouTube was either an important (59%) or the most important (13%) way they get their news. Most also said they didn’t see any big issues with getting their news from the site, but they did express some moderate concern about misinformation, political bias, YouTube’s demonetization practices and censorship.
Image Credits: Pew Research
Republicans and independents who lean Republican were more likely to say censorship, demonetization and political bias were YouTube’s biggest problems, while Democrats and independents who lean Democrat were more likely to say the biggest problems were misinformation and harassment.
A second part of the research involved content analysis of the 377 most popular YouTube news channels in November 2019 and the content of YouTube videos published by the 100 channels with the highest median of views in December 2019. This was performed by a combination of humans and computational methods, says Pew.
The analysis discovered that more than four-in-ten (44%) popular YouTube channels can be characterized as “personality-driven,” meaning the channel is oriented around an individual. This could be a journalist employed by an established news organization or it could be an independent host.
However, it’s more often true of the latter, as 70% of independent channels are centered around an individual, often a “YouTuber” who has gained a following. Indeed, 57% of independent channels are YouTuber-driven versus the 13% centered around people who were public figures before gaining attention on YouTube.
The study also looked into other aspects of the YouTube news environment and the topics being presented.
According to YouTube news consumers themselves, a clear majority (66%) said watching YouTube news videos helped them to better understand current events; 73% said they believe the videos to be largely accurate, and they tend to watch them closely (68% do) instead of playing them in the background.
Around half (48%) said they’re looking for “straight reporting” on YouTube — meaning, information and facts only. Meanwhile, 51% said they are primarily looking for opinions and commentary.
In response to an open-ended question about why YouTube was a unique place to get the news, the most common responses involved those related to the content of the videos — for instance, that they included news outside the mainstream or that they featured many different opinions and views.
Image Credits: Pew Research
Pew also examined how often news channels mentioned conspiracy theories, like those related to QAnon, Jeffrey Epstein and the anti-vax movement.
An analysis of nearly 3,000 videos by the 100 most viewed YouTube channels in December 2019 found that 21% of videos by independent channels mentioned a conspiracy theory, compared with just 2% of those from established news organizations. QAnon was the most commonly referenced conspiracy theory, as 14% of videos from independent channels had discussed it, compared with 2% of established news organizations.
Independent channels were also about twice as likely as established news organizations to present the news with a negative tone.
Overall, the videos from the top 100 most viewed YouTube news channels assessed in December 2019, were neither too negative or positive (69%). But broken down by type, 37% of videos on the independent channels were negative, compared with 17% for established news organizations. Negative videos were more popular, too. Across all channels, negative videos averaged 184,000 views compared with 172,000 for neutral or mixed tone videos and 117,000 views for positive videos.
Image Credits: Pew Research
Meanwhile, videos about the Trump administration made up the largest share of views in December 2019, as roughly a third (36%) were about the impeachment and 31% were about other domestic issues, like gun control, abortion or immigration. Another 9% were about international affairs. Videos about the Trump administration saw around 250,000 average views compared with videos on other topics, which averaged 122,000 views. Trump was the most common video focus in about a quarter of the videos studied, or 24%.
Videos about the 2020 elections, which at the time were centered around the Democratic primary, were the topic of just 12% of news videos, by comparison.
Image Credits: Pew Research
The study also examined how YouTube news channels presented themselves. It found that the vast majority don’t clearly state a political ideology even when the content of their videos makes it clear they have an ideological slant.
Only around 12% of YouTube news channels presented their political ideology in their description. Of those, 8% were right-leaning and 4% were left-leaning. Independent news channels were more likely to present themselves using partisan terms and more likely to say they leaned right.
The demographics of the typical YouTube news consumer was a part of the study, too. Pew Research found the news video viewers were more likely to be young and male, and less likely to be White, compared with U.S. adults overall. About a third (34%) are under the age of 30, compared with 21% of all U.S. adults; 71% are under 50, compared with 55% of U.S. adults overall.
And 58% of YouTube news consumers are more likely to be male, compared with 48% of U.S. adults overall. Half (50%) are White, 14% are Black and 25% are Hispanic. In the U.S., 63% of adults are White, 12% are Black and 16% are Hispanic.
The full study is available via the Pew Research Center website.
The pandemic has accelerated adoption of a number of technologies, from online grocery to multiplatform gaming to streaming services and more. But one industry that has not benefited is traditional pay TV. According to new research from eMarketer, the cable, satellite and telecom TV industry is on track to lose the most subscribers ever. This year, over 6 million U.S. households will cut the cord with pay TV, bringing the total number of cord-cutter households to 31.2 million.
The firm says that by 2024, the number will grow even further, reaching 46.6 million total cord-cutter households, or more than a third of all U.S. households that no longer have pay TV.
Despite these significant declines, there are still more households that have a pay TV subscription than those that do not. Today, there are 77.6 million U.S. households that have cable, satellite or telecom TV packages. But that number has declined 7.5% year-over-year — its biggest-ever drop. The figure is also down from pay TV’s peak in 2014, the analysts said.
Image Credits: eMarketer
The pay TV losses, as you may expect, are due to the growing adoption of streaming services. But if anything, the pandemic has pushed forward the cord-cutting movement’s momentum as the health crisis contributed to a down economy and the loss of live sports during the first part of the year. These trends may have also encouraged more consumers to cut the cord than would have otherwise.
“Consumers are choosing to cut the cord because of high prices, especially compared with streaming alternatives,” said eMarketer forecasting analyst at Insider Intelligence Eric Haggstrom. “The loss of live sports in H1 2020 contributed to further declines. While sports have returned, people will not return to their old cable or satellite plans,” he added.
Pay TV providers have been attempting to mitigate their losses by shifting their focus to more profitable internet packages, which help power the services that consumers are turning to, like Netflix and Hulu.
Related to the pay TV decline, the loss in TV viewership is also impacting the advertising industry.
Image Credits: eMarketer
Total TV ad spend will drop 15% in 2020 to $60 billion — the lowest-ever figure the industry has since since 2011.
Some of this is pandemic-related, however, so TV ad dollars are expected to rebound some in 2021. But, overall, TV ad spending will continue to remain below pre-pandemic levels through at least 2024, the analysts said.
But it may never get back to “normal” levels in the future.
“While TV ad spending will rebound in 2021 with the broader economy, it will never return to pre-pandemic levels,” Haggstrom stated. “Given trends in cord-cutting, audience erosion and growth in streaming video, more ad dollars will shift from TV to digital video in the future.”