Author Archives: lasr467

Media and Tech Moguls’ ‘Rare Displays of Mortality’ Will Make You Feel Better About Your Mistakes

Jeff Bezos is #1 on Vanity Fair's listWeighted way-too-heavily with tech platform executives, journalists and media moguls, Vanity Fair’s New Establishment list (out today) is basically a who’s-who of people I idolize… But my favorite part of the list is how they recap their picks and in particular, an occasional category dubbed “RARE DISPLAY OF MORTALITY” which highlights one of their colossal missteps in 2017, instead of how they continued to dominate.

I’m a perfectionist. I’m an asshole to myself when I make mistakes. So it helped me a ton to read a laundry list of mistakes and embarrassments made by a usually infallible elite. They’re just like us! Here are some highlights:

  • Peter Thiel would have $6 billion if he hadn’t unloaded his Facebook stock soon after the IPO
  • Two of Shonda Rhimes‘s new shows were cancelled this year
  • The joke was on Stephen Colbert and Showtime’s Election Night Special when the election results upended the entire show
  • Remember when Mark Zuckerberg said it was “crazy” that Facebook might have swung the election?
  • Larry Page‘s own CFO is giving hell to his pet-projects like Fiber
  • Tim Cook helms a company about to be worth a trillion dollars… but his latest innovation is an Echo rip-off and their first original program was Planet of the Apps which one reviewer said “feels like something that was developed at a cocktail party”
  • Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet/Google, made a $2.7-billion-dollar anti-trust mistake in the EU
  • The New York Times is firing hundreds of employees
  • Snap’s stock is down 40% and it was probably the most-anticipated IPO of the year
  • Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and DB Weiss announced their next project was about an alternate-history where the Confederates won the Civil War and it was naturally hosed into submission online
  • Head of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy has had to fire 3 directors of Star Wars installments
  • Marc Andreessen has never hired a female partner at Andreessen Horowitz
  • But of course Jeff Bezos, #1 for the second year in a row… is perfect

The Google/Facebook Digital Ad Duopoly by the Numbers – 2017 Advertising Revenue by Company

Digital ad revenue by company 2017People keep saying that Google and Facebook get 90% of digital ad spending… though still a concerning stat, this is somewhat of a distortion. The rumor started with Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report and has been paraphrased and rounded up. The real stat is that the duopoly gets about 90% of digital spending growth. So, as advertisers and agencies spend more on digital ads, Google and Facebook are gobbling up most of the new money. That doesn’t really make them a monopoly… it just means they’re doing a great job at keeping other companies from growing in a white-hot space.

eMarketer released some reports giving us real insight into their dominance. Turns out, the duopoly has about 63.1% of the spending. Again, this should still be concerning to you if you work in advertising for anyone but Google and Facebook… but it paints a slightly more optimistic picture.

Check out their data below. Since I’m mostly concerned with market share, I’ve compiled that nicely here:

  • Google 42.17% (YouTube 4.67%)
  • Facebook 20.93% (Instagram 3.71%)
  • Microsoft 4.34% (Linkedin 0.98%)
  • Verizon 4.34%
  • Amazon 1.99%
  • Twitter 1.46%
  • Yelp 0.87%
  • Snap 0.77%
  • IAC 0.54%

Here are my observations:

  • Google has twice the market share of Facebook – When we say the word “duopoly” or call out 90% of growth and 60% of market share, we’re missing the fact that Google has more than twice the market share of Facebook. Put another way, Google has more market share than Facebook and all the other significant digital ad companies combined.
  • Instagram vs. YouTube – By the same token, Facebook has one asset that’s whooping Google: Instagram. Without much of a video product, Instagram is still only $800M behind YouTube in terms of net revenue and the eMarketer predictions have Instagram surpassing YouTube next year.
  • Photo finish for 3rd – I’m really interested in who has the best chance of eating away at the duopoly and it’s a photo-finish for third place with Microsoft and Verizon holding 4.34% of the market each. But they might not really be competitors because AOL/Verizon actually reps a lot of Microsoft’s inventory and why wouldn’t they partner to take down the Goliaths? It would be interesting if these two could start to chip away at either.
  • Snapchat is slightly better off than they look – I’m bullish on Snap because I like a good underdog. eMarketer points out that while they only have .08% of the overall digital ad market, they have more than 1% of mobile and a lot more teens than Facebook and Instagram.
  • And Amazon is lurking at 2% and they just started trying.
  • Apple isn’t on this chart.

Could Disney Be the First to Stream Day-and-Date?

I love how ballsy this would be. Disney is out of Netflix and has announced their plans to make a similar service. And in a guest post on THR, Ben Weiss posits this crazy new move: that Disney could quickly amass a big subscriber base by launching their movies on the service “day-and-date” — that’s the much-feared-by-theaters idea that a movie could be streamed the same day it releases in theaters. 

It’s brilliant because it endruns the entire traditional entertainment distribution-windowing business model in favor of the consumer preference of when-I-want-where-I-want. It would definitely grow them a huge base of subscribers. But they’ll never do it. 

  • Disney is already giving up $300 million in revenue by opting out of Netflix. 
  • Theatrical is the majority of their studio entertainment revenue, about 60%… and a move like this wil piss of theaters and threaten that nut. Theaters may refuse to carry the movies or put them in fewer cities. It may even piss off some consumers who still like the theater experience– if their local chain decides not to carry the movies over this move. 
  • If Disney does day-and-date they’re not just threatening the theatrical revenue. They’re endrunning all of their studio ent distribution: pay TV, home entertainment, etc. Why would another provider value their content the same way if it’s already debuted in a streaming window? 
  • And finally, the REAL business of Disney is parks and products — maybe twice the revenue of all of the studio business. What if this slow, gradual windowing model actually helps propel their brands in those venues? It might be a stretch but my instinct is that being in every theater in America is the best billboard ever for a parks attraction or action figure. Better not mess with that. 

But, boyyyy, would I love to live in a world where studios made distruptive moves like this. I dare you, Bob! 

My Favorite Slide Explaining Apple, Google and Amazon’s Domination of Entertainment Companies like Disney

Market Caps of Content Companies vs Distributors via BTIG

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this slide from Rich Greenfield at BTIG. His whole presentation is definitely worth the watch but this one graph truly says it all. (And I’m always trying to pull it up online to share in meetings… so I’m also posting it here to make that much easier.)

In the presentation, Rich first shows market caps of the companies below the line — all of our beloved entertainment creators. We see them in print and on every screen and think of them as massive, powerful companies. Then, he layers on the market caps of the “platforms” and distribution companies that sit between those companies and their audiences… and it’s easy to see how those content co’s are dwarfed.

Rich is looking at this through almost exclusively through a lens of financial analysis and market value… which might not tell the WHOLE story, but it paints a pretty dim picture for content creators and brand owners: Content is not king.

Some things worth noticing (many of these points are made by Rich):

  • None of the entertainment companies below the line — even the juggernaut, Disney — has a meaningful direct-to-consumer platform… they all depend on the companies above the line to reach their audiences
  • Apple could buy Disney in cash
  • Google or Apple could buy the entire entertainment industry in cash, except Disney
  • Every one of the distribution companies above the line have meaningful plans to make their own content that they own completely and perpetually (in other words, they could start to make their own content without depending on the content companies and their brands)
  • Netflix isn’t even on here but its market cap around $70B, making it bigger than everyone but Disney
  • Neither is Snap… it’s much smaller than Netflix at $20B (as of this writing), but it still stacks up above Viacom, Discovery and others
  • The digital-oriented distributors like Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon have incredible volumes of data and knowledge describing their audiences, which is a huge advantage in content creation
  • While some of the content companies have partnered with and invested in the FANGS companies, they’ve missed their chance to buy one of them or build their own; Hulu is the only example and they half-heartedly participate in it
  • Nobody has been able to successfully create a large “direct to consumer” platform with content or brands alone… Netflix had to use DVD rentals, Amazon is using ecommerce, Spotify is using music and UI. In other words, we haven’t seen someone earn lots of subscriptions and ad revenue by only saying “we have ESPN.” It’s always content paired with some other strategy.

What Rich calls the “punchline” is this great thesis: content companies — especially Disney — have to make an acquisition in order to complete their business. What should they buy? Well, all of their options SUCK. Netflix is too expensive. Snap and Twitter don’t come with subscriptions. Pandora or Spotify aren’t video platforms.

That punchline explains many of the plays we see being made around the industry: Twitter continuing to pursue video in an attempt to demonstrate its value as a video platform. Time Warner selling itself to AT&T. Netflix spending billions on original content. NBC investing heavily in Snap. The list goes on…

Development and Advertising Creative via Crowdsourcing and Committee

I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.

– British writer, G.K. Chesterton

Boy this is a GREAT quote cited by copyranter Mark Duffy on Digiday. Duffy is focusing on creative agencies in the post, explaining why a new trend of “crowdsourcing” creative work is a horrible idea.

On the digital entertainment side of media, there are examples of the same trend (that are frequently also labelled as “innovation”). For instance, Amazon, for a long time, has used crowdsourcing to determine which movies and shows it would produce. And that’s a big, obvious example. On less consumer-facing level at digital platforms and in development, I’ve experienced many teams more or less “internally” crowdsourcing their development process by allowing too many people with disparate tastes, areas of expertise and business goals to give creative notes on a project. Inevitably, projects get watered-down, regress toward the mean and join the internet “sameness” crap-trap… And it’ll only get worse as digital content gets more closely controlled by distributors.

Duffy explains some of the cons of this approach in advertising, and internal crowdsourcing is a problem in digital entertainment for the same reasons. But that G.K. Chesterton quote says it all for me.

Here’s the awkward Publicis video explaining their new creative tool:

SnapChat’s Viewability Advantage Over Facebook

What’s one of today’s prime digital advertising concerns? Viewability.

In case you’re out of the loop: Viewability is more or less a measurement of whether or not a video ad is actually viewed by an audience. (Seems odd, right? A marketer can buy and pay for an ad that was never “viewed.”) A number of factors contribute to the dwindling of this number from fast-scrolling users to bots and videos played “under the fold” or hidden in banners or buggy units.

That is why it should be very concerning that Facebook was recently accused of a less than 30% viewability rate by agencies using third-party measurement firms. Viewability is never going to be perfect and that’s OK — viewability is really just a proxy for “how much is my ad dominating that consumer’s attention” and that’s why agencies are measuring it. Some products and platforms will always perform better in this way… we love TV because that’s a big-ass screen with sight, sound and motion and I get all of it for a 30-second spot.

SnapChat’s ad product, by comparison, is extremely viewable. This is one reason that Snap has a huge advantage (esp. in terms of shifting TV ad spend), even though Facebook and Instagram have potentially slowed their growth. Snap’s ad product takes up the whole screen. It can’t be minimized, ignored or “tuned out.” Further, its users are completely engaged in the content — they’re burning the screen, skipping anything they deem unworthy of their attention. They’re leaning forward, right into your ad. Earn their consideration and you get a never-before-seen level of “dominating the consumer’s attention” for 10 seconds. It’s probably BETTER than TV.

Here’s SnapChat continuing to master product design and UI — it’s all about the user first… and just so happens to whet the advertisers’ demand for viewability.

How Apple’s iOS Advantage is Like a Content-Distribution Merger

WWDC 2017 Apple vs Google Penetration statsThere’s a quick Recode note by Tess Townsend pointing out Apple’s huge advantage over Google: they can quickly deploy new features across all of their devices. So, even a mediocre augmented reality feature would catch fire among Apple users well before it could with Google’s Android. (Apple pointed out at WWDC: 86% of iOS users have the current software, iOS 10, while only 7% have Android 7.)

This reminded me of the entire content-distribution “debate” and the mergers we’re seeing lately between the two types of companies. This Google vs. Apple AR metaphor makes it much easier to see why it’s good for content businesses to join distribution pipes (aside from the obvious data and advertising synergies).

Theoretically, Verizon can use its pipes, retail stores and devices to quickly seed new content from HuffPo, TechCrunch and content arms of AOL/Yahoo. And a new combined AT&T + Warner could launch new shows and franchises the same way. They don’t have to wait for the right cable channel to say yes or for the right network slot to open up. Then, once the show or brand or character or channel has earned a following or gained momentum, they can force their competitors to carry it or license it. Just like Apple can quickly deploy new features, a content + distribution co can quickly deploy new IP. So, whether it’s an AR revolution or the next Game of Thrones, those that own distribution are still in the driver’s seat.

The Uber Strategy to Selling a Pilot or Screenplay

I don’t endorse this at all and I have no idea if it works…

…But I got a ride from an Uber driver from LAX the other day. He was very friendly and we started talking. I learned that he’s a screenwriter by trade and he told me that Ubering lead to an option on a script he’s been working on for years.

Here’s his strategy for leveraging Uber to sell his screenplay:

  1. Flip on Uber and idle near Sony, Paramount, WB — choose your favorite studio lot
  2. Pick up an unusually high frequency of executives you’d never otherwise have a chance to meet let alone host as a captive audience; be friendly and not weirdly pushy about your script or skills
  3. Profit

Again, I have NO idea if this would work at scale or if the guy was telling the truth. But I just love the hustle so I had to post it.

Secret Access to Netflix’s Algorithm to Help You Understand Your Audience

I talk a TON about how important knowing your target is. You don’t have to be a marketer — even if you’re just MAKING content. You need to know your audience.

Netflix does an incredible job of analyzing their audiences and serving them targeted, empathetic content. And there’s a secret way of leveraging their algorithm, data and analytics to help you understand your own audience.

Secret Codes and Shelves of Targeted Content

Rant standup comedy category on Netflix

Rant Stant-up Comedy, TV Dramas and Understated Comedies are some of the categories on my Netflix homepage.

Netflix has an algorithm that creates “shelves” of movies and shows that they believe please certain content niches. If you use the service, you’ve probably noticed some of them like “Dramas Based on Real Life,” “Rock & Pop Concerts” or “Asian Action Movies.” Some of them get eerily specific, including ones that target specific children within 2-year age ranges.

If you’re trying to target a specific content audience, chances are, Netflix has a very specific category that caters to that target. You can use these shelves to see they types of shows that Netflix believes are “stickiest” for people in that psychographic corner of entertainment. Watch a few of these shows and you’re suddenly inside the mind of that consumer (their wants and fears) or at least beginning to understand what types of content you’re competing with.

The trouble is, Netflix usually picks when to serve these up to you based on your watches, likes/dislikes and preferences. So, if you’re a fan of Thrillers, you usually can’t view the content Netflix recommends for fans of Tearjerkers. The hack, which you may have seen before, is to find the specific “deep link” URL that’s assigned to the category you’re interested in. They follow this pattern netflix.com/browse/genre/#### and some smart people have made them conveniently available in lists like this one and this one. Click on the category or guess the right genre number and you go right to the page of content that Netflix recommends.

Are you targeting kids 11-12? Here are “feel good comedies,” “coming of age” and and just plain movies that Netflix thinks they’ll like. Looking to expand your understanding of the Latin American market? Watch all 182 movie here or get even more specific with “Latin American Crime Movies“. There’s even a section for “deep sea horror” fans.

(The most comprehensive list I could find was split between two pages on What’s On Netflix: Page 1 and Page 2. According to them, new categories pop up almost daily. InstantWatcher also has a good index. )

Getting More Detailed and Selling to Netflix

If you want to get even more granular, you can use these categories with a site like InstantWatcher which will let you narrow your target even more by adding filters like runtime, publish year and Rotten Tomato score.

I believe you could use this info to enhance a pitch for Netflix to buy a series from you. Netflix has said to THR that it doesn’t want content similar to other content they already have:

There’s some overlap but surprisingly little… as a general rule, the audience who watches House of Cards does not watch Hemlock Grove — and yet again, is not the audience that watches Arrested Development. We hope to reach the entire subscriber base with at least one original series by the time we’re done.

This makes sense because they want to attract households with diverse content desires and become broadly popular through many content niches. As Matthew Ball puts it, they want “underlap.” Hence their emphasis on Kids.

This could be important to a content pitch because you want to show them that your content isn’t “too” similar to the content they already have. If you want to make or sell content that doesn’t overlap with their existing library, you could browse categories that are empty or dial in an area in InstantWatcher that they’re lacking.

Pretty soon you’ll be making “Angsty British Military Zombie Sitcoms for Kids 8-9 Years Old.” But with the help of Netflix’s genres algorithm, at least you’ll know what that audience likes.

Work at a Digital Media Company? Here’s How Much It’s Worth

We’re in a huge boom of VC-backed media start-ups with tons of investment in digital media brands that are growing because of the obvious shift of consumer attention from print and radio to mobile and internet. And if you work at one of these, you might be wondering how much your equity is worth or when/what the co’s exit prospects are.

There’s a pretty neat article on Medium called The Art and Science of Online Media Exit Valuations. It’s a simple 101 about how media companies are being valued these days based on interviews with real media investors and detailed research on these types of companies.

If you’re just looking for the so-called “multiple valuation” punchline, here it is:

Digital media companies tend to sell for between 2.5 and 5 times (2.5–5x) revenues from the previous, or “trailing,” 12 months.

Also:

Most digital media companies sell for about 8–12x EBITDA.

I find it interesting how investors prioritize different types of revenue. Digital media is generally very TBD in the business model department and part of the excitement to me is how much experimentation we see in this space: loyalty programs, tip jars, paywalls, merch, licensing… but according to Dorian Benkoil and Rafat Ali’s research, four areas add big value. These could kind of be used as a playbook for CEOs and strategists trying to bump their valuations:

  1. Subscriptions services — because these are much more predictable than advertising
  2. Paid research
  3. IRL events/conferences/parties, and…
  4. Databases of user info (very lacking for co’s in the distributed media world)