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Main article: Video

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Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 357

Inside StockX’s authentication center

01:00 | 9 November

Joshua Luber runs a sneaker empire valued at more than $1 billion, but he thinks they’re just now scratching the surface. The consumer marketplace recently expanded to include a fifth category (collectibles). “It’s an evolution of eBay that works similar to the stock market,” Luber states, “but at the core, it’s around the concept of true market price.” 

We visited StockX’s 15,000-square-foot facility in Detroit to get a peek into their authentication process, and sat down with Luber to chat about humble beginnings, business expansion and sneakers.

 


0

Adobe’s Premiere Rush can now publish to TikTok

17:00 | 4 November

Adobe is launching a slew of updates to its various Creative Cloud video production tools today. For the most part, these are aimed at professionals (or at least YouTubers). Premiere Rush, however, has always been positioned as Adobe’s tool for anybody who wants to dabble in video and so it’s maybe no surprise that the company today announced that it will now also support sharing videos directly to TikTok, the red hot (yet not uncontroversial) video sharing platform for sharing short clips. That makes Adobe the first third-party app that can publish directly to TikTok.

Rush launched last October, with support for sharing to all of the usual video publishing services. Now, thanks to this new partnership with TikTok, the company is bringing all of the built-in and easy to use editing features of Rush to the TikTok community as well. With that, TikTok users now get access to video editing features like auto-ducking, transitions and color filters, timelapse and slo-mo.

Thanks to some of Adobe’s machine learning smarts, video producers — especially those who don’t usually shoot the kind of vertical videos that TikTok prefers — can switch to a different aspect ratio with just the click of a button and Premiere Rush will automatically reframe these shots for you.

“We spoke to video-makers around the world and the thing we heard over and over was a need for speed, ease, and sharability,” Adobe notes in today’s announcement. “Enter your ability to share on yet another favorite platform, TikTok.”

The new feature is now live in Premiere Rush, which is available to all Creative Cloud users, as well as in a free version.

 


0

Why publishers shouldn’t trust Facebook News

04:29 | 25 October

Are we really doing this again? After the pivot to video. After Instant Articles. After news was deleted from the News Feed. Once more, Facebook dangles extra traffic, and journalism outlets leap through its hoop and into its cage.

Tomorrow, Facebook will unveil its News tab. About 200 publishers are already aboard including the Wall Street Journal and BuzzFeed News, and some will be paid. None seem to have learned the lesson of platform risk.

facebook newspaper dollars

When you build on someone else’s land, don’t be surprised when you’re bulldozed. And really, given Facebook’s flawless track record of pulling the rug out from under publishers, no one should be surprised.

I could just re-run my 2015 piece on how “Facebook is turning publishers into ghost writers,” merely dumb content in its smart pipe. Or my 2018 piece on “how Facebook stole the news business” by retraining readers to abandon publishers’ sites and rely on its algorithmic feed.

Chronicling Facebook’s abuse of publishers

Let’s take a stroll back through time and check out Facebook’s past flip-flops on news that hurt everyone else:

-In 2007 before Facebook even got into news, it launches a developer platform with tons of free virality, leading to the build-up of companies like Zynga. Once that spam started drowning the News Feed, Facebook cut it and Zynga off, then largely abandoned gaming for half a decade as the company went mobile. Zynga never fully recovered.

-In 2011, Facebook launches the open graph platform with Social Reader apps that auto-share to friends what news articles you’re reading. Publishers like The Guardian and Washington Post race to build these apps and score viral traffic. But in 2012, Facebook changes the feed post design and prominence of social reader apps, they lost most of their users, those and other outlets shut down their apps, and Facebook largely abandons the platform

guardian social reader dau done done done 1

-In 2015, Facebook launches Instant Articles, hosting news content inside its app to make it load faster. But heavy-handed rules restricting advertising, subscription signup boxes, and recirculation modules lead publishers to get little out of Instant Articles. By late 2017, many publishers had largely abandoned the feature.

Facebook Instant Articles Usage

Decline of Instant Article use, via Columbia Journalism Review

-Also in 2015, Facebook started discussing “the shift to video,” citing 1 billion video views per day. As the News Feed algorithm prioritized video and daily views climbed to 8 billion within the year, newsrooms shifted headcount and resources from text to video. But a lawsuit later revealed Facebook already knew it was inflating view metrics by 150% to 900%. By the end of 2017 it had downranked viral videos, eliminated 50 million hours per day of viewing (over 2 minutes per user), and later pulled back on paying publishers for Live video as it largely abandoned publisher videos in favor of friend content.

-In 2018, Facebook announced it would decrease the presence of news in the News Feed from 5% to 4% while prioritizing friends and family content. Referral shrank sharply, with Google overtaking it as the top referrer, while some outlets were hit hard like Slate which lost 87% of traffic from Facebook. You’d understand if some publishers felt…largely abandoned.

Slate Facebook Referral Traffic

Facebook referral traffic to slate plummeted 87% after a strategy change prioritized friends and family content over news

Are you sensing a trend?

Facebook typically defends the whiplash caused by its strategic about-faces by claiming it does what’s best for users, follows data on what they want, and tries to protect them. What it leaves out is how the rest of the stakeholders are prioritized.

Aggregated to death

I used to think of Facebook as being in a bizarre love quadrangle with its users, developers and advertisers. But increasingly it feels like the company is in an abusive love/hate relationship with users, catering to their attention while exploiting their privacy. Meanwhile, it dominates the advertisers thanks to its duopoly with Google that lets it survive metrics errors, and the developers as it alters their access and reach depending on if it needs their users or is backpedaling after a data fiasco.

Only recently after severe backlash does society seem to be getting any of Facebook’s affection. And perhaps even lower in the hierarchy would be news publishers. They’re not a huge chunk of Facebook’s content or, therefore, its revenue, they’re not part of the friends and family graph at the foundation of the social network, and given how hard the press goes on Facebook relative to Apple and Google, it’s hard to see that relationship getting much worse than it already is.

how news feed works copy 2

That’s not to say Facebook doesn’t philosophically care about news. It invests in its Journalism Project hand-outs, literacy and its local news feature Today In. Facebook has worked diligently in the wake of Instant Article backlash to help publishers build out paywalls. Given how centrally it’s featured, Facebook’s team surely reads plenty of it. And supporting the sector could win it some kudos between scandals.

But what’s not central to Facebook’s survival will never be central to its strategy. News is not going to pay the bills, and it probably won’t cause a major change in its hallowed growth rate. Remember that Twitter, which hinges much more on news, is 1/23rd of Facebook’s market cap.

So hopefully at this point we’ve established that Facebook is not an ally of news publishers.

At best it’s a fickle fair-weather friend. And even paying out millions of dollars, which can sound like a lot in journalism land, is a tiny fraction of the $22 billion in profit it earned in 2018.

Whatever Facebook offers publishers is conditional. It’s unlikely to pay subsidies forever if the News tab doesn’t become sustainable. For newsrooms, changing game plans or reallocating resources means putting faith in Facebook it hasn’t earned.

What should publishers do? Constantly double-down on the concept of owned audience.

They should court direct traffic to their sites where they have the flexibility to point users to subscriptions or newsletters or podcasts or original reporting that’s satisfying even if it’s not as sexy in a feed.

Meet users where they are, but pull them back to where you live. Build an app users download or get them to bookmark the publisher across their devices. Develop alternative revenue sources to traffic-focused ads, such as subscriptions, events, merchandise, data and research. Pay to retain and recruit top talent with differentiated voices.

What scoops, opinions, analysis, and media can’t be ripped off or reblogged? Make that. What will stand out when stories from every outlet are stacked atop each other? Because apparently that’s the future. Don’t become generic dumb content fed through someone else’s smart pipe.

Ben Thompson Stratechery Aggregation Theory

As Ben Thompson of Stratechery has proselytized, Facebook is the aggregator to which the spoils of attention and advertisers accrue as they’re sucked out of the aggregated content suppliers. To the aggregator, the suppliers are interchangeable and disposable. Publishers are essentially ghostwriters for the Facebook News destination. Becoming dependent upon the aggregator means forfeiting control of your destiny.

Surely, experimenting to become the breakout star of the News tab could pay dividends. Publishers can take what it offers if that doesn’t require uprooting their process. But with everything subject to Facebook’s shifting attitudes, it will be like publishers trying to play bocce during an earthquake.

 


0

Trump gets on Twitch

14:05 | 11 October

The reelection campaign will be livestreamed. US president Donald Trump has joined Amazon-owned livestreaming platform Twitch.

Twitch is best known as a social video streaming platform for gamers but does host other content, including politics.

The verified DonaldTrump Twitch account, spotted earlier by Reuters, has just one video in the recent broadcast section so far: A livestream of a Trump rally which took place in Minneapolis yesterday evening.

Alongside the saved video of this broadcast is a growing selection of user generated clips culled from the stream, with titles such as “This is our president.”, “LOL”, “KEK” and “pepelaugh”.

Another clip remarks on how a single black man — who’s visible in the top corner of the shot of the audience behind Trump — vanishes as “they zoom him out of the picture”.

Trump is not the only high profile US politician to be taking to Twitch to broadcast campaign rallies in real time ahead of next year’s presidential election.

Democratic senator Bernie Sanders, who is making a pitch to be the party’s presidential candidate, joined the platform a few months ago. And at the time of writing Sanders still has more followers than Trump on Twitch (88,795 vs 37,754).

Over on Twitter, meanwhile — Trump’s go-to social media soapbox for skewering opponents and deflecting criticism, via his preferred medium of the early morning attack tweet — the president has ~65.6M followers.

So Twitter is very unlikely to be concerned that its highest profile user is flirting with Amazon’s social streaming platform. (Though it’s much less clear how happy “

” will be about Trump getting on Twitch.)

Trump has dabbled with using Twitter’s own video streaming tool, Periscope. But the choice of Twitch for streaming his campaign rallies looks mostly like a case of horses for courses. Periscope is more for on-the-fly mobile streaming, whereas Twitch is a platform built for playing to (and building) a ‘lean back’ audience.

Troll culture also thrives on gamer Twitch. And Trump is of course edgelord of the trolls. Ergo he should fit right in.

With Periscope Twitter has been taking a stronger approach to tackling abusive comments in recent years (and also trying to fight fake and spam content) — in line with its stated desire to increase ‘conversational health’ on its platforms. So it’s probably happy to have dodged a bullet here.

Certainly Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has more enough flying his way over whatever Trump choses to tweet next.

 


0

How Bongo, the ‘Netflix of Bangladesh’, won the local video streaming market with just $10M

22:48 | 2 October

Thousands of miles away from the U.S., where technology giants, cable networks, and studios are locked in an intense multi-billion dollar battle to court users to their video streaming services, a startup in Bangladesh has already won the local video streaming market.

And it did all of this in six years with just $10 million. And it’s also profitable.

Ahad Mohammad started Bongo in 2013. The on-demand video service began life as a channel on YouTube in 2014 before expanding as a standalone app to users a year later.

Of the 96 million people in Bangladesh who are online today, 75 million of them are subscribed to either Bongo’s YouTube channel or to its app, Mohammed said.

Bongo’s domination in Bangladesh is second to none in the nation. iFlix, which raised $50 million a few months ago to expand its presence in several Asian markets, and India’s Zee5 are among the players that Bongo competes with, though their market share remains tiny in comparison.

TechCrunch caught up with Mohammed to get an insight into the early days of building Bongo and what holds next for the “Netflix of Bangladesh” as it increasingly expands to international markets.


0

The time is right for Apple to buy Sonos

19:20 | 26 September

It’s been a busy couple of months for smart speakers – Amazon released a bunch just this week, including updated versions of its existing Echo hardware and a new Echo Studio with premium sound. Sonos also introduced its first portable speaker with Bluetooth support, the Sonos Move, and in August launched its collaboration collection with Ikea. Meanwhile, Apple didn’t say anything about the HomePod at its latest big product event – an omission that makes it all the more obvious the smart move would be for Apple to acquire someone who knows what they’re doing in this category: Sonos.

Highly aligned

From an outsider perspective, it’s hard to find two companies who seem more philosophically aligned than Sonos and Apple when it comes to product design and business model. Both are clearly focused on delivering premium hardware (at a price point that’s generally at the higher end of the mass market) and both use services to augment and complement the appeal of their hardware, even if Apple’s been shifting that mix a bit with a fast-growing services business.

Sonos, like Apple, clearly has a strong focus and deep investment in industrial design, and puts a lot of effort into truly distinctive product look and feel that stands out from the crowd and is instantly identifiable once you know what to look for. Even the company’s preference for a mostly black and white palette feels distinctly Apple – at least Apple leading up to the prior renaissance of multicolour palettes for some of its more popular devices, including the iPhone.

airplay2 headerThen from a technical perspective, Apple and Sonos seem keen to work together – and the results of their collaboration has been great for consumers who use both ecosystems. AirPlay 2 support is effectively standard on all modern Sonos hardware, and really Sonos is essentially the default choice already for anyone looking to do AirPlay 2-based multiform audio, thanks to the wide range of options available in different form factors and at different price points. Sonos and Apple also offer an Apple Music integration for Sonos’ controller app, and now you can use voice control via Alexa to play Apple Music, too.

Competitive moves

The main issue that an Apple-owned Sonos hasn’t made much sense before now, at least from Sonos’ perspective, is that the speaker maker has reaped the benefits of being a platform that plays nice with all the major streaming service providers and virtual assistants. Recent Sonos speakers offer both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support, for instance, and Sonos’ software has connections with virtually every major music and audio streaming service available.

What’s changed, especially in light of Amazon’s slew of announcements this week, is that competitors like Amazon are looking more like they want to own more of the business that currently falls within Sonos’ domain. Amazon’s Echo Studio is a new premium speaker that directly competes with Sonos in a way that previous Echos really haven’t, and the company has consistently been releasing better-sounding versions of its other, more affordable Echos. It’s also been rolling out more feature-rich multi-room audio features, including wireless surround support for home theater use – all things squarely in the Sonos wheelhouse.

alexa echo amazon 9250064

For now, Sonos and Amazon seem to be comfortably in ‘frenemy’ territory, but increasingly, it doesn’t seem like Amazon is content to leave them their higher-end market segment when it comes to the speaker hardware category. Amazon still probably will do whatever it can to maximize use of Alexa, on both its own and third-party devices, but it also seems to be intent on strengthening and expanding its own first-party device lineup, with speakers as low-hanging fruit.

Other competitors, including Google and Apple, don’t seem to have had as much success with their products that line up as direct competitors to Sonos, but the speaker-maker also faces perennial challenges from hi-fi and audio industry stalwarts, and also seems likely to go up against newer device makers with audio ambitions and clear cost advantages like Anker, too.

Missing ingredients/work to be done

Of course, there are some big challenges and potential red flags that stand in the way of Apple ever buying Sonos, or of that resulting union working out well for consumers. Sonos works so well because it’s service-agnostic, for instance, and they key to its success with recent products seems to also be integration with the smart home assistants that people seem to actually want to use most – namely Alexa and Google Assistant.

Under Apple ownership, it’s highly possible that Apple Music would at least get preferential treatment, if not become the lone streaming service on offer. It’s probable that Siri would replace Alexa and Assistant as the only virtual voice service available, and almost unthinkable that Apple would continue to support competing services if it did make this buy.

That said, there’s probably significant overlap between Apple and Sonos customers already, and as long as there was some service flexibility (in the same way there is for streaming competitors on iOS devices, including Spotify) then being locked into Siri probably wouldn’t sting as much. And it would serve to give Siri the foothold at home that the HomePod hasn’t managed to provide. Apple would also be better incentivized to work on improving Siri’s performance as a general home-based assistant, which would ultimately be good for Apple ecosystem customers.

Another smart adjacency

Apple’s bigger acquisitions are few and for between, but the ones it does make are typically obviously adjacent to its core business. A Sonos acquisition has a pretty strong precedent in the Beats purchase Apple made in 2014, albeit without the strong motivator of providing the underlying product and relationship basis for launching a streaming service.

What Sonos is, however, is an inversion of the historical Apple model of using great services to sell hardware. The Sonos ecosystem is a great, easy to use, premium-feel means of making the most of Apple’s music and video streaming services (and brand new games subscription offering), all of which are more important than ever to the company as it diversifies from its monolithic iPhone business.

I’m hardly the first to suggest an Apple-Sonos deal makes sense: J.P. Morgan analyst Samik Chatterjee suggested it earlier this year, in fact. From my perspective, however, the timing has never been better for this acquisition to take place, and the motivations never stronger for either party involved.

Disclosure: I worked briefly for Apple in its communications department in 2015-2016, but the above analysis is based entirely on publicly available information, and I hold no stock in either company.

 


0

What’s the right way to sponsor a YouTube influencer?

23:59 | 23 September

Julian Shapiro Contributor
Julian Shapiro is the founder of BellCurve.com, a growth marketing agency that trains you to become a marketing professional. He also writes at Julian.com.

We’ve aggregated the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you’re going stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice you can’t get elsewhere.

Our community consists of 600 startup founders paired with VP’s of growth from later-stage companies. We have 300 YC founders plus senior marketers from companies including Medium, Docker, Invision, Intuit, Pinterest, Discord, Webflow, Lambda School, Perfect Keto, Typeform, Modern Fertility, Segment, Udemy, Puma, Cameo, and Ritual.

You can participate in our community by joining Demand Curve’s marketing webinars, Slack group, or marketing training program. See past growth reports here, here and here.

Without further ado, onto the advice.


How do you sponsor YouTube influencers cost-effectively?

Based on insights from Bjarke Felbo of Rune (LinkedIn). Lightly edited with permission.

  • Influencers often expect compensation proportional to subscribers, but conversions happen proportional to views. So go after the influencers with high views and low subscribers. That’s the trick.
  • We’ve had the best success with 30-60 second promo spots at the beginning of the influencer’s video.
  • We’ve seen success depend on the video it’s attached to and what time of day/week it’s posted, so we’re strict about setting rules around that. Or, we give them a bonus based on the video’s view count to incentivize them to put our spot on a high-quality video.
  • Be careful with repeat promotions with the same influencer. These haven’t yielded noteworthy returns for us — even after months. It’s likely that the audience becomes saturated.

For SEO, how much does link building really matter in 2019?

From Nat Eliason of Growth Machine. Lightly edited by Demand Curve with permission.

  • Links are still important, but their importance is decreasing steadily. Google is getting better at evaluating content quality, and it’s focusing more on that.
  • Consider this: Google doesn’t want to be gameable, and domain authority and link building are very gameable. But content quality is not. You can’t fake good content.
  • Many major blogs outside of high authority spaces have grown rapidly using less link-building. Much of their energy is instead spent on choosing the right keywords (low competition, but still acceptable volume) and writing useful content that satisfies the searcher’s intent.
  • However, link-building can still speed up the process quite a bit if you’re on a tight timeline, or if you’ve given content 3-4 months to rank and aren’t seeing the results you want.

Growth masterclasses kick off now

Today, the advanced growth masterclasses kick off. They’re all free.

These are rapid-fire, short, and advanced webinars. They’re not boring introductory lectures. This is some of the best content we produce. Don’t miss these, especially when they’re free.

Enroll here: demandcurve.com/webinars

What’s the best way to take over a Twitter account from an inactive user?

Based on insights from Andrew Ettinger of Atoms. Lightly edited with permission.

Someone has your brand name as their Twitter handle and their account is inactive. How do you get access to it?

  1. Create an ads account with an existing handle you want to swap for the one you’re trying to claim.
  2. Go to twitter.com/en/help
  3. Click on Account issues -> Claim an inactive username.
  4. Submit a case.

You’ll then want your Twitter ads account manager to escalate your case (give them the case #).

This is not guaranteed. Your best chance of claiming that handle will be to have an existing Twitter employee escalate your case.

Demand Curve’s Asher King Abramson will lead a growth marketing session where he’ll tear down your landing pages and Facebook/Instagram ads in front of a live audience. He’ll deconstruct how effective they are at (1) conveying what you do (2) and doing so enticingly — so that people click.

If you’re attending Disrupt and want to participate, you can submit your assets to ec_editors@techcrunch.com for him to consider.

 


0

How Peloton made sweat addictive enough to IPO

02:16 | 23 September

It makes lazy people like me work out. That’s the genius of the Peloton bicycle. All you have to do is velcro on the shoes and you’re trapped. You’ve eliminated choice and you will exercise. Through a succession of savvy product design choice I’ll break down here, Peloton removes the friction to getting fit. It’s the leader in a movement I call “pushbutton health”. And this is why I think Peloton will be a big succes no matter what short-term investors do when it IPOs this week after raising $994 million in venture capital.

Peloton Bike Photo

The bike

Basically, Peloton is a $2300 stationary bike with an iPad stuck to the front. The $40 per month subscription unlocks thousands of live and on-demand video cycling classes where instructors positively yell at you. When you think you’re tired already, they look into your eyes, tell you “you got this”, the soundtrack crescendos, you crank up the resistance, and you pedal harder at home. The resulting endorphin rush is addictive, and you find yourself persuading friends they need a Peloton too.

That viral loop which adds to its 500,000 subscribers is how Peloton plans to raise ~$1.16 billion going public this week at an ~$8 billion valuation. Its revenue doubled this year as it began to dominate the connected exercise equipment market, though losses quadrupled as it burned cash to become a household name. But after riding 110 of 150 days I’ve been home since buying its bike, I’m confident in the company. Whatever it invests now to build its lead will likely be paid back handsomely by its increasingly handsome customers who can’t bear to clip out. Here’s why.

Peloton Class

Peloton classes are recorded in front of a live studio audience of riders

The Brilliance Of This Bike

The Shoes – Usually the activation energy to start a workout requires dragging yourself to the gym or suiting up to face the elements outside. That can be daunting enough that you rarely do. But once you slip into the Peloton bike shoes, you can hardly walk normally which means you can hardly procrastinate. You’re home so you don’t even need clothes. Just a few velcro straps and you’re over the hump and resigned to exercise.

The Clips – Home gym equipments reduces the barrier to entry but also the barrier to exit. You can tell yourself you’ll keep doing push-up sets or squats jumping rope, but you can stop any time. Yet after you’re clipped into the Peloton bike, you’re almost assured to keep pedaling until the instructor gives you that end-of-ride congratulations.

Peloton Shoes

Just put the shoes on and you’ll exercise

The Schedule – You can get a sweat in just 10 or 20 minutes going hard on a Peloton. Combined with zero commute, that means you’ll practically always be able fit in a ride regardless of how busy you are. No more “I don’t have time to make it to the gym so I’ll just skip out”. When my calendar gets crunched or I dawdle a little before deciding to ride, classes as short as 5 minutes ensure there’s no weaseling out.

The Instructors – I wish I had these coaches to motivate me through sorting email. Peloton’s 20+ instructors range from hippie-dippie gurus to no-nonsense trainers that fit your personality type. You find yourself craving your favorite’s special brand of relentless positivity. I burn far more calories in a shorter time than exercising solo because they inspire me to push a little harder or they slow their countdown to add a couple all-out seconds to the end of a sprint. They’re even becoming celebrities, with bankers lining up for selfies during Peloton’s IPO road show. Sick of them? You can always Scenic Ride through video of some of the world’s prettiest bike paths.

Peloton Instructors

Peloton instructors (from left): Alex Toussaint, Emma Lovewell, Ben Alldis, and Leane Hainsby

The Intimacy – You’re eye-to-eye with those instructors as they stare into the camera and out of the giant screen bolted to your handlebars. That generates intimacy despite them broadcasting to thousands. Even in person, a SoulCycle coach across the room can feel further away. You’re mostly guided by audio cues, but their gaze compels you to perform. Peloton almost feels like FaceTime, and that’s a sense of connection many long for more of these days.

The Pavlovian Response – Your brain quickly begins to associate the sounds of Peloton with the glowing feeling of finishing a workout. The rip of the velcro shoe straps, the click of clipping into the bike, but most of all the instructor catch-phrases. You get hooked on hear the bubbling British accent of “I’mmmm Leeaannne Haaaaainsby” as she introduces herself, Ben Alldis’ infectious “You got 5, you got 4…” countdowns, or Emma Lovewell reminding you to “Live, learn, love well”. That final ‘namaste’ followed by wiping down the bike and jumping in a cold shower forms a ritual you’re inclined to repeat.

Peloton Class

Eye-contact with the instructors creates an intimate bond

The Soundtrack – Popular songs are more than just a pump-up accompaniment to Peloton classes. Your pedaling pace is often pegged to the tempo, with sprints starting when the beat drops. As your legs tire, you feel obliged to maintain your speed so you don’t fall behind the drums. You can even search classes by music genre and preview each’s playlist. Peloton has paid out $50 million in royalties for its music, and faces $300 million-plus in lawsuits for copyright infringement. But having the best tunes to bike to might end up worth the penalty since it helped Peloton race ahead in a lucrative market.

The Bike As Decor – Most home exercise equipment ends up in a closet or as a clothing rack. By designing its bicycles for beauty, Peloton coerces you to place them conspicuously in your home. You might have seen the

parodying this practice, but it’s funny because it’s true. You’re a lot more likely to ride it if it’s central to your home (ours is between our bed and the doors to the veranda), and you’ll be embarassed if visitors ask about it and you haven’t hopped on recently.

Dx9pHXuUwAAixVa

“A good place for your Peloton bike is between your kitchen and your living room facing the cactus garden so you always remember virtual spin class” –

on Twitter

The Network Effect – Many of these smart product design moves could be copied by competitors. But by amassing a community of 1.4 million members to date, Peloton benefits from social features and economies of scale. You can ride together with pals over video chat, send each other digital high fives, or race and compare achievements. Each friend that joins Peloton is one more reason not to sign up for a competitor. The whole concept virtual personal training is being legitimized. And the cost of producing more classes gets spread wider as membership grows.

The Shared Accounts – Peloton has even built in a way to feel noble about your sanctimonious prosyletizing about how it “jumpstarted your metabolism”. Each $39 on-bike subscription allows unlimited accounts on up to three devices, so you can hook up some friends if you convince them to buy the big-budget gadget.

Peloton High Five

High-five fellow riders as you virtuall pass them

The Growth Hacks – Peloton streaks are for adults what Snapchat streaks are to kids: a clever way to reward consistent usage. But beyond the achievement badges displayed on your profile, you’ll get in-ride leaderboards full of people to proudly pass, progress bars to fill by pedaling, and kilojoule output high scores to beat. Peloton makes exercise a game you want to win.

The Shoutouts – Yet Peloton’s most explicit levering of our psychology comes from the in-class name-drop shoutouts instructors give. Whether mentioning the screen names of a few participants at the start of a session or congratulating users hitting their 50th, 200th, or 500th ride, the recognition pushes people to join the dozen live-streamed classes each day that add urgency to the on-demand catalog. Proof it works? People strategize to ensure their 100th ride is a long live class to maximize the chance of a shout-out.

Peloton Century Club Free Shirt

A free cult shirt after your 100th ride

The ‘Transcendence’ – Peloton minimizes the isolation from working out at home. In fact, its whole product enables people to feel ‘glamorous’ and ‘manifested’ yet nonchalant in ways going to a sweaty gym or using a personal trainer can’t. It’s like being able to buy a little piece of the smug satisfaction and in-group affiliation of going to Burning Man. That’s why the company even sends you a free “Century Club” t-shirt when you hit your 100th ride. You’re meant to feel cool sharing that you “Peloton”, using the startup’s name as a verb.

Peloton Conspicuous Self Actualization 2

Conspicuous Self-Actualization

Still, Peloton has plenty left to optimize. There’s room to expand use of its camera to offer premium one-on-one coaching, head-to-head racing, group video chat with friends, and augmented reality filters to make people feel comfortable on screen and take shareable selfies. A wider range of intense but short classes could appeal to overworked professionals who picked Peloton precisely because they don’t have an hour for the gym.

Novelty could come from celebrity guest instructors, or themed classes for pre-gaming for a night out, fans of a particular artist, or songs about a certain topic. And it should definitely have some iconic sounds like an om or singing bowl chime that play before each class to center you and after to release you.

Most excitingly, the Peloton screen has the potential to be a platform for exercise-controlled gaming and apps. Whether pedaling to escape zombies chasing you or piece together a puzzle, maintaining an output level to keep your cross-hairs locked on an enemy plane as you dogfight, or making a garden bloom by growing each flower during a different interval, Peloton could evolve riding to be much more interactive. Apps could offer training simulators for different sports focused on sprints for basketball or marathons for soccer. Or just put Netflix on it! By opening up to outside developers, Peloton could build a moat of extra experiences competitors can’t match.

With the strengths and opportunities of its core product, Peloton is poised to absorb more of your fitness time and money. It’s already branching out with yoga, meditation, lifting, bootcamp, and jazzercise classes you can do standing next to your bike or without one on its $19 per month app. Its second gadget is a $4300 treadmill.

From there it could break into more of the “pushbutton health” business. I categorize these as wellness products and services that rely on convenience instead of your will power. Think delivery health food instead calorie-counting apps that are a chore. My pushbutton regimen includes Peloton, six salads per week dropped off in batches by Thistle, monthly packages of Nomiku vacuum-sealed meals that RFID scan into its sous vide machine, and a Future remote personal trainer who nags me by text message.

Peloton Coaching

It’s easy to get hooked on the positivity

Peloton could easily dive into selling meal kits, personal training, or a wider range of workout clothes to compete with Lulu Lemon. If it’s the center of your fitness routine, the company could become a gateway to new health products it owns or partners with.

I’m bullish on Peloton because I’m betting people are going to stay busy, lazy, and competitive. It offers the effectiveness of a spin class but with scheduling flexibility. It removes every excuse for staying on the couch. And in an age of visual communication where many seek to share both the journey to and the destination of an Instagrammable body and the discipline to ge there, Peloton provides conspicuous self-actualization through consumerism. Plus, finishing a ride feels damn good.

 


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YouTube to spend $100M on original children’s content

20:48 | 4 September

Creators of child-directed content will be financially impacted by the changes required by the FTC settlement, YouTube admitted today. The settlement will end the use of children’s personal data for ad-targeting purposes, the FTC said. To address creators’ concerns over their businesses, YouTube also announced a $100 million fund to invest in original children’s content.

The fund, distributed over three years, will be dedicated to the creation of “thoughtful” original content for YouTube, the company says.

“We know these changes will have a significant business impact on family and kids creators who have been building both wonderful content and thriving businesses, so we’ve worked to give impacted creators four months to adjust before changes take effect on YouTube,” wrote YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki in a blog post. “We recognize this won’t be easy for some creators and are committed to working with them through this transition and providing resources to help them better understand these changes.”

YouTube plans to share more information about the fund and its plans in the weeks ahead.

In addition, YouTube said today it’s “rethinking” its overall approach the YouTube kids and family experience.

This could go towards fixing some of the other problems raised by the consumer advocacy groups who prompted the FTC investigation. The groups weren’t entirely pleased by the settlement, as they believed it was only scratching the surface of YouTube’s issue.

“It’s extremely disappointing that the FTC isn’t requiring more substantive changes or doing more to hold Google accountable for harming children through years of illegal data collection,” said Josh Golin, the Executive Director for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), a group that spearheaded the push for an investigation. “A plethora of parental concerns about YouTube – from inappropriate content and recommendations to excessive screen time – can all be traced to Google’s business model of using data to maximize watch time and ad revenue,” he added.

Google already began to crack down on some of these concerns, independent of an FTC requirement, however.

To tackle the scourage of inappropriate content targeting minors, YouTube in August expanded its child safety policies to remove — instead of only restrict, as it did before — any “misleading family content, including videos that target younger minors and their families, those that contain sexual themes, violence, obscene, or other mature themes not suitable for younger audiences.”

Separately, YouTube aims to address the issues raised around promotional content in videos.

For example, a video with kids playing with toys could be an innocent home movie or it could involve a business agreement between the video creator and a brand to showcase the products in exchange for free merchandise or direct payment.

The latter should be labeled as advertising, as required by YouTube, but that’s often not the case. And even when ads are disclosed, it’s impossible for young children to know the difference between when they’re being entertained and when they’re being marketed to.

There are also increasing concerns over the lack of child labor laws when it comes to children performing in YouTube videos, which has prompted some parents to exploit their kids for views or even commit child abuse.

YouTube’s “rethinking” of its kids’ experience should also include whether or not it should continue to incentivize the creation of these “kid influencer” and YouTube family videos, where little girls and boys’ childhoods have become the source of parents’ incomes.

YouTube’s re-evaluation of the kids’ experience comes at a time when the FTC is also thinking of how to better police general audience platforms on the web, where some content is viewed by kids. The regulator is hosting an October workshop to discuss this issue, where it hopes to come up with ways to encourage others to develop kid-safe zones, too.

 


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Launching from beta, ProGuides is making money ensuring that gamers never play alone

17:21 | 29 August

When ProGuides pulled the covers off of its service earlier this year, the young Los Angeles-based startup intended to give gamers a way to train with professional and semi-pro esports players from around the world.

But as users signed on to the service, it became clear that they weren’t looking for training necessarily… Instead what players wanted was a ringer.

“After we launched the beta, we found some interesting user behavior,” says Sam Wang. “We found that gamers who were experienced already and wanted experienced players who are better than [the matches] the game can provide… At the end of the day you do get to play with someone pretty awesome and is something that i think  can make games better.

That’s right, ProGuides is pitching a marketplace for experienced gamers so that its customers aren’t randomly matched with some noob if they can’t game with their usual partners.

“Our tagline is ‘Play with pros’ now,” says Wang. “We already have over 5,000 sessions that were played in the last two months.”

The professional gamers who list their services on the site charge an average of $10 per session and ProGuides takes about a 25% cut. The company lowers its rates for popular gamers or gamers who are willing to spend more time on the platform either selling their services or actually coaching esports players.

Wang says that that pros on the platform are making anywhere from $750 to $2500 per month and that there are currently 250 coaches on the platform.

A typical session on ProGuides lasts around 45 minutes and players are available for Fortnite, League of Legends.  Super Smash Brothers, CS:GO and Hearthstone

ProGuides raised $1.9 million in pre-seed funding last June. The company is backed by Amplify, an LA-based early stage investor and company accelerator, Quest Venture Partners, Greycroft Tracker fund and the GFR Fund.

The LA-based company also has some venture-backed competition on the East Coast. Gamer Sensei, which has raised roughly $6 million (according to CrunchBase) has a similar proposition. It’s backed by Accomplice and Advancit Capital.

Screen Shot 2019 08 29 at 9.17.36 AM

 


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