Category Archives for Information Marketing

The Best-Worst Marketing Ideas for International Womens Day

When I worked at a university in Mongolia, International Women’s Day was a kind of second Valentine’s Day. Male teachers and students brought flowers and sweets to dole out to their female counterparts, and the vibe among women was almost giddy. I had no idea what was happening. My coworkers were shocked: Surely I, an international woman, should have been anticipating—or at the very least known about—this day.

For a holiday that began here, Americans aren’t much for celebrating International Women’s Day. Its socialist history probably doomed it to the calendrical D-list, and besides, we supposedly dedicate the entire month of March to women anyway. Yet in the last few weeks, women at WIRED have found their inboxes swelling with pitches from marketers and publicists recommending topics, people, films, organizations, and corporate stunts we might consider for our International Women’s Day coverage—their best guesses at what you, our readers, care about on this newly relevant day. In aggregate, they’re a Picasso portrait (aggressive male gaze and all) of what International Women’s Day might mean and sell in America.

About a third of these pitches hope to call your attention to high-minded good works, things you can imagine Melinda Gates getting behind. (Was there a pitch “highlighting” the women fighting malaria? Yes, there was.) Several reporters received pitches from publicists about women fighting “neglected tropical diseases,” PepsiCo Foundation’s quest to bring gender equality to farming in developing countries, and the documentary Brave Girl Rising—which is about female refugees, features Beyoncé’s music, and is narrated by Thor: Ragnarok and Sorry to Bother You actress Tessa Thompson. Very virtuous and Important, very international, very women—and, in some cases, lightly scented with the white-savior-industrial complex.

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  • Also in the upstanding pitches brigade were data-driven reports about women in America, and especially women in the workforce. The best were thoughtful recommendations for how managers could improve their workplace’s gender equality and inclusion, like a Mercer report detailing the working conditions in which women thrive. The worst were dreary (oddly male-focused) statistics stacks: According to staffing firm Randstad US, 75 percent of workers think offices would be less sexist if men spoke more about gender equality, and less than half of men think feminism and #MeToo have had positive impacts on the workplace. (Thanks, but I already knew that. I’ve been on Twitter.)

    Then came the many businesswomen available for interview. Almost every industry often described as male-dominated—startups, tech in general, science, job recruitment—was pitching one or several of its women leaders. No gripes here, that’s all very much in the original spirit of International Women’s Day: fighting for equality by demonstrating the capability of women even within broken systems. The bleaker mirror-universe of these pitches were the companies just announcing they were doing something—anything—with more women than they think you’d expect, like majority-women game show lineups and woman-led films. (The latter of which were often described as “novel,” as if Wonder Woman never happened.) Cannabis and beauty companies peddled free samples tailored to your womanly body in addition to their women CEOs.

    Free samples rule on American International Women’s Day, the socialist origins safely hidden beneath the pink-packaged capitalism. Many of these pitches read like outtakes from the screenplay of What Women Want: “We all know girls rule, #duh. We all know girls can do and achieve anything, #obvi,” reads a real pitch a real reporter received about a real product. Another reporter was invited to a custom denim fitting that was also a “personalized skincare ritual” that was also a “natural wine class.” Need a way to empower women in the workplace? Forget that boring data stuff from earlier—try providing senior women with manicures and makeovers! Or go full Goop and hire an “energy healer” for the day.

    In every case, the people behind these pitches seem to find their ideas truly inspiring. “In the honor of International Women’s Day, we are hoping to highlight our work,” say two MIT scientists behind AI-generated little black dresses, jewelry, and perfume. “We think that some of our work might be inspiring for women in STEM!” Because a stereotypically femme consumerist future—delivered by biased algorithms—is the one we all dream about? I must be missing something #obvi.

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    Ceros raises $14M for its interactive content platform

    Ceros allows marketers to create animated, interactive content — but don’t call it a content marketing company.

    “We think content is just a dry, bland, over-leveraged, oversaturated space,” said founder and CEO Simon Berg. “The goal is not to hack the system, the goal is to make a great experience for your customers.”

    That’s why he describes Ceros as a platform for creating experiences. The company is focused on powering beautiful, well-designed graphics and web pages, instead of blog posts or white papers that mostly exist to snare search traffic.

    Ceros is announcing today that it has raised $14 million in Series C funding.

    Ceros previously raised $19.5 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. The new round was led by Greenspring Associates, with participation from Grotech Ventures, CNF Investments, Sigma Prime Ventures, StarVest Partners, Greycroft and Silicon Valley Bank.

    “Ceros is well known for empowering marketers to think creatively, but we have also come to know Ceros as a highly capital efficient business, which is a refreshing change in the burn-rate happy world of digital,” said Greenspring’s John Avirett, general partner, in a statement. “We’re confident that this investment will catalyze Ceros’ continued growth while enabling their team to opportunistically pursue acquisitions that enhance the core product and further penetration of key markets.”

    For examples of the difference between Ceros “experiences” and run-of-the-mill content marketing, check out Ceros/Inspire, where some of the most-viewed projects include a comic book-style blockchain explainer from Ozy and a “friend versus pro” created to promote H&R Block.

    “What we’ve continued to work on over the last seven years is to comply with laws of physics that are laws of internet, whilst giving as much creative freedom as possible,” Berg said. “We want to put the creative and the design piece first.”

    The company says it’s now working with more than 400 customers, including well-known brands like United Airlines and Red Bull, as well as publishers including Condé Nast and Vice, plus sports teams like the Baltimore Ravens and Detroit Lions.

    “Both in terms of the revenues that we’ve reached and the clients that we’ve worked with … you never really ‘arrive,’ but I feel like we’ve reached a critical milestone,” Berg said.

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    Fiverr acquires ClearVoice to double down on content marketing

    Fiverr is acquiring ClearVoice, a company that helps customers like Intuit and Carfax find professionals to write promotional content.

    The two companies seem like a natural fit, as they both operate marketplaces for freelancers. Fiverr covers a much broader swath of freelance work, but CEO Micha Kaufman (pictured above) said the marketplace’s professional writing category grew 220 percent between the fourth quarters of 2017 and 2018, and he predicted that the need for content marketing will only increase.

    “The types of channels that brands and companies need to be involved in and engaging in conversation with their audience are just growing,” Kaufman said. “I think any brand today that wants to be relevant needs to create a lot of engaging, interesting, creative content in their space, and I think that that creates a high demand for good content writers.”

    Kaufman also noted that this is Fiverr’s third acquisition in two years, and he said he’s a “big believer … in the consolidation of vertical businesses into horizontal businesses such as ours — the fact that we cover over 200 categories gives us a tremendous amount of power to serve customers across many different types of needs.”

    So what does the acquisition bring to the table that Fiverr wasn’t offering already? Kaufman said the ClearVoice team has “a lot of know how, both in technology side and the actual content side,” which will allow Fiverr to “cater to customers of all sizes and all needs.”

    ClearVoice editorial calendar

    More specifically, he said most of Fiverr’s content marketing customers are small businesses, while ClearVoice is able to work with large enterprises, especially with its collaboration and workflow tools that allow those enterprises to create content at “high velocity.”

    Founded in 2014 by Jay Swansson and Joe Griffin (who still serve as co-CEOs), ClearVoice has raised a total of $3.1 million in funding from investors, including PC Ventures, Desert Angels, Peak Ventures and Service Provider Capital, according to Crunchbase.

    Fiverr is not disclosing the financial terms of the acquisition. The company says ClearVoice will continue to operate as an independent subsidiary.

    “We are thrilled to be joining a company that is changing how people and companies work together in the modern era,” Swansson said in a statement. “This new chapter is a chance for us to use Fiverr’s depth and knowledge to globally scale our business and advance our mission of creating a platform that allows for worldwide creative collaboration.”

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    Jobvite raises $200M+ and acquires three recruitment startups to expand its platform play

    Jobvite, the company that was once an early mover in leveraging social networks to help source job opportunities and find interesting candidates for openings, is today announcing two big moves to double down on its ambition to build a bigger platform for recruitment and applicant tracking.

    The company has picked up an investment of more than $200 million, and it will be using the money to acquire three smaller companies focusing on different aspects of the recruitment process: Talemetry (which specializes in recruitment marketing); RolePoint (for employee referrals and in-company moves); and Canvas (a text-based conversational bot to get the screening process started).

    Jobvite is not disclosing its valuation with the funding, which is coming from private equity firm K1, but for a little guidance, in an interview, Dan Finnigan, Jobvite’s CEO, said it was a majority stake but nowhere near a full acquisition. (PitchBook’s last valuation of the company, of around $150 million, is very old, dating from September 2014; and it has never been confirmed by the company.)

    The combined company will have 2,000+ customers that include Schneider Electric, Lenovo, Santander, PayPal, Genuine Parts and Panasonic.

    Finnigan says that Jobvite’s growth, and investor interest in backing that, is happening in tandem with two changes, one technological and another the evolution in how organizations handle human resources.

    Several years ago, many companies — hoping to cut costs — merged their personnel and recruitment operations, “and recruiting became an afterthought,” he said. That led to companies tacking on, as a kind of minimum viable solution, applicant tracking software, but little or nothing else.

    But more recently, the war for talent has escalated — not just because unemployment is low but because there are now multiple different opportunities and shortages of suitable people for specific, often emerging skills. In turn, businesses have started to realise “that recruiting is the backbone of every company, and that applicant tracking is just not enough,” he said.

    At the same time, there have been evolutions in the technology. While a lot of recruitment software (and the recruitment process) has traditionally been quite fragmented, a move to cloud solutions has provided an avenue for consolidating the process and using one platform to manage it. (Google’s launch of Hire, which lets users manage job applicants using G Suite apps; LinkedIn’s recruitment platform; Zoho and SmartRecruiter are all prime examples of how cloud platforms are being used to build more complete sourcing and tracking services.)

    Coupled with this is a rising use of technology like machine learning to remove some of the more mechanical aspects of a recruiter’s job to speed up processes.

    Jobvite’s three acquisitions all play into both of these trends. Canvas, for example, uses a bot to source initial information about a candidate to start the screening process before human recruiters step in to take over.

    Talemetry, meanwhile, taps into marketing tech to help identify where the most ideal candidates might be in order to better target job opportunities at them, in the form of ads or other kinds of content.

    Lastly, RolePoint will add a new feature to tap into referrals from existing employees, and to help manage in-company moves.

    Finnigan likens the cloud-based platform approach that we’re seeing in the market to the impact Salesforce has had on the expanding concept of CRM. “We know that marketing and sales software have continued to evolve with new features like content marketing, and the same has happened in recruitment,” he said.

    “We are excited to be investing in such an innovative set of technologies,” says Ron Cano, managing partner at K1 Investment Management, in a statement. “The talent acquisition industry is critical to our economy and ripe for disruption with outdated software still prevalent. K1’s investment will create the only true end-to-end talent acquisition platform and will provide our customers with accelerated growth in innovation of product features and services.”

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    DataSine raises $5.2M led by Pentech and Propel for its AI content-marketing platform

    By now, most of us should be familiar with the concept of the tailored news feed. Right now my Facebook feed (yes, I’m still there, alas) has been messed up because I’ve clicked on too many posts about Brexit, but I digress. My point is that content has long since fallen to the tyranny of tailoring and personalization, and content marketing (that stuff that marketers like to pass off as editorial) is a big business. Making that content so enthralling as to be practically addictive is the aim of this industry, but right now all those poor copywriters have to do a lot of manual heavy lifting. Such is their burden.

    This is the problem DataSine is trying to address by tailoring content to the reader’s personality. It does this by applying machine learning to behavioral data they hold about that person, whether it be customer profiles or whatever.

    The idea is that marketers then make more informed decisions about what content they push out, and thus can spend more time being creative rather than spending time on writing, tweaking and A/B testing.

    DataSine has now raised $5.2 million in a Series A round led by U.K.-based VC Pentech Ventures and Propel Venture Partners. Other investors include C.Entrepreneurs/Cathay Innovation, Twin Ventures and Sistema_VC. Customers include BNP Paribas and the Tinkoff bank. DataSine claims it has helped achieve uplifts of up to 80 percent in engagement and 71 percent in sales.

    DataSine’s content-personalization platform is called Pomegranate. The company says it provides an AI-powered content-editing platform to guide marketers in tailoring a range of content elements, including words and images. The idea is that it will personalize everything from emails and landing pages to call center scripts. Pomegranate will launch in March, and it integrates with CRMs like HubSpot and email platforms like MailChimp .

    Founder and CEO Igor Volzhanin says he launched DataSine after moving to London to do a PhD in psychology because he believed “that personality can help companies understand their customers as a whole… and move beyond the traditional focus of click optimization.”

    According to Boston Consulting Group, personalization is worth an extra $800 billion in business to the 15 percent of companies that manage to get it right.

    Marc Moens, a partner at Pentech, commented that “DataSine is particularly well-positioned to bring psychology and AI to address contemporary marketing challenges. The idea that digital communications can be tailored for an individual in the age of Big Data is very appealing and addresses the needs of the market.”

    The company’s competitors include Meniga, The Signal Open Data Platform, Adapti, Textio, Crobox VisualDNA and Hello Soda. But Volzhanin says their approach differs from most of these in using a single customer profile, collaborative AI and a psychological approach. “We bring together AI and psychology to provide our recommendations. We do a lot of proprietary, cutting edge research to understand what kind of content different people like and use AI to power Pomegranate to provide these recommendations to marketers,” he told me.

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    Altice to acquire majority stake in OTT startup Molotov

    Telecom company Altice is about to close a significant investment in French startup Molotov — the two companies have entered into exclusive negotiations. While terms of the deal are undisclosed, Altice is investing a large sum of money and should end up with a majority stake in Molotov — it’s more like a fundraising round than a traditional acquisition.

    “We’re doing a 60/40 deal,” Molotov co-founder and CEO Jean-David Blanc told me. “Altice is taking 60 percent of Molotov. Existing investors remain shareholders and are even putting more money for some.”

    Molotov had raised around $35 million from Idinvest (Benoist Grossmann), Sky, TDF, Cherry Tree Invest and others. This is an interesting move as it greatly increases the reach of Molotov and opens up some new opportunities when it comes to internationalization, content and more.

    “Altice is also bringing access to cash, content, marketing and countries,” Blanc said.

    Molotov is an over-the-top streaming platform in France. You can find all major TV channels, stream live content and watch replays for free. There are optional subscriptions to unlock more features, such as cloud recordings and premium channels.

    The service is available on all major platforms — desktop, mobile, tablet, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, smart TVs from Samsung, LG, Panasonic, etc. It is one of the most popular apps on tvOS and Android TV, always at the top of the stores with Netflix and myCanal.

    When I last covered Molotov, the company told me that it has 7 million users in France. Every day, 1.2 million users watch something on Molotov. They stream a total of 1.1 million hours of content. As you can see, those Molotov sessions can be quite long.

    Altice currently operates in France under the name SFR, Israel, Portugal and Dominican Republic. Like many telecom companies, Altice and its founder Patrick Drahi also has invested in content and media.

    The company owns NextRadioTV (BFM TV, BFM Business, BFM Paris, RMC Story and RMC Découverte). It operates premium sports channels, as the company currently has the distribution rights of the Premier League in France. It owns different newspapers and magazines, such as Libération and L’Express.

    Interestingly, Altice has also acquired video adtech company Teads. You could already imagine new monetization opportunities for Molotov and Teads.

    As Altice has already negotiated distribution rights with every TV network in France for its own set-top boxes, you can imagine a better offering on Molotov in the coming months. For instance, you could imagine being able to subscribe to Canal+ or BeIN Sports from Molotov. Restrictions on some channels, such as TF1 and M6, will likely disappear, as well.

    Molotov is already thinking about new products. For instance, hotel chains have been asking for a special version of Molotov so that they can get rid of their complicated TV setup. Now, Molotov can collaborate with Altice’s B2B division to sell a software-as-a-service version of Molotov.

    While the service will remain available to everyone even, if you’re an Orange subscriber for instance, SFR customers will get an extended version of Molotov for free. Altice will keep the name Molotov.

    Blanc will remain at the helm of Molotov and the company will remain more or less the same for now. “We won’t have employees moving from one company to the other. Obviously there will be interactions between the companies, but they’ll remain autonomous,” Blanc said.

    With this open approach, Altice doesn’t just want to integrate the service into its offering. Molotov will remain an independent service and grow independently from Altice’s telecom operations.

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    Why so many tech companies are creating shows

    Editor’s note: Jay Acunzo is the author of the new book Break the Wheel, which explores how the world’s best creators break from conventional thinking to think for themselves. He’s a former digital media strategist at Google, head of content at HubSpot, and VP of brand at the seed VC, NextView.

    The deep tones of synth music begins to play. A crackling sound emerges, as if from static electricity, followed by a single strum from an electric guitar that shatters the silence. A man’s voice booms.

    “I really didn’t get fascinated with design until I learned what it was and what it could actually do.”

    These are the opening moments of InVision’s “Design Disruptors,” a now-famous film within the design community. This hour-long video features some of the biggest and brightest names in software design today, hailing from companies like Google, Lyft, Netflix, Dropbox, and more. The film launched in the summer of 2016, and although it was never aired online (the company debuted the film in 1,500 offline screenings worldwide), “Design Disruptors” helped InVision generate more than 70,000 leads and double its user base in a single year, according to sources within the firm.

    While this may seem like an outlier project, it’s become part of a larger marketing trend we’re seeing proliferate around the tech world today: marketers creating films and shows. Why?

    “Optimistically, I’d hope it’s because marketers are realizing that impressions and pageviews are BS metrics, and it’s a lot more valuable to get a smaller group of consumers hooked on a show that they’ll watch for a really long time,” said Joe Lazauskas, executive editor and head of content strategy at the marketing tech firm Contently. A journalist by background, Lazauskas now consults clients like Microsoft, IBM, and Autodesk for Contently, and while he clings to his optimism, he knows there’s a downside to any trend. “Pessimistically, I’d say that it’s because marketers still fall in love with big vanity projects without much thought to the return on investment.”

    So what’s causing this trend, anyway?

    Ultimately, Lazauskas concludes that the rise in branded shows is a combination of both his optimistic and pessimistic views. On the one hand, films and series are indeed strategic for some companies, enabling them to reap certain rewards that disparate pieces of content can’t provide. On the other hand, plenty of companies continue to glom onto the trend because, well, “it’s a thing.” Those in the former group, however, have identified a fundamental shift currently affecting how companies go to market. Most of us talk about the industry’s reaction to that shift: things like content marketing, influencer marketing, and similar experience-based approaches. The shift itself, though, is far more revealing. You see, the marketing mandate has changed. The goal is no longer to acquire attention. The goal is to hold it.

    It used to be sufficient for marketers to describe the value of their products in a few disconnected interruptions. Marketers would leap out in front of the content a consumer actually wanted to consume in order to grab just a few seconds of their attention and deliver the right message, with the right promotion, at the right time. Of course, we all know what happened to that old marketing playbook: (insert mushroom cloud GIF). Along came the internet. Buyers of both B2C and B2B products now face seemingly infinite choice, from content to competing products, all accessible on multiple screens, whenever and wherever they want it. Additionally, technologies whose sole purpose is to block advertising signal a larger trend: As consumers, we don’t want to be interrupted. We control what we consume because we have all the choice, and we only choose experiences that create value in our lives, like content–not advertisements, which are messages that merely describe value. (I’m painting with broad strokes, but we’re all part of the technorati after all.)

    If you’re a marketer today, and you’re stuck in acquisition mode, it’s like digging a hole in dry sand. Nothing you do sticks. The very best in our world are winning on customer experience, not brute-forcing their way into customers’ lives. We need to embrace the new marketing mandate: The job isn’t to acquire attention. The job is to hold it.

    “If you’re willing to make the investment in some serialized, engaging content, rather than a bunch of disconnected pieces, you can start thinking in terms of hours spent with your company as opposed to ideas like impressions,” said Dan Mills, creative director at video software company Wistia. This fall, the company announced a new documentary series called “One, Ten, One Hundred,” a partnership with video agency Sandwich, which boasts clients like Facebook, Slack, Uber, and Square. The series explores the effects of constraints on creativity when creating videos.

    Said Wistia’s cofounder and CEO, Chris Savage, “What’s interesting about a more substantial project like this is that instead of just moving on to the next piece of content to push out the door, we have the time and space to really invest in exploring all of the different angles and nuances of this complex topic.” First, the company asked Sandwich to create three videos to promote the same Wistia product (a Chrome extension called Soapbox): One ad for $1,000, one for $10,000, and one for $100,000 (hence the name “One, Ten, One Hundred”). Those videos launched in mid-September. In October, Wistia will release a four-part documentary series going behind-the-scenes of the entire process to examine exactly how changes in budget alter the quality of the videos. They believe that budget is a major reason why more marketing teams don’t prioritize video (and thus, buy Wistia). More specifically, they believe this is a perception problem and that teams don’t really need more money to create better videos in most cases. But it’s a messy subject.

    “A blog post or a two minute video just wasn’t going to cut it,” Savage said. “We wanted to create something that was deeper and lasting. The most valuable thing that we learned through this process, and what we explore in “One, Ten, One Hundred,” is the complex relationship between money and creativity.”

    InVision’s CEO and cofounder, Clark Valberg, seems to agree that holding significant audience attention means focusing on depth, not breadth. Like Wistia, InVision used its documentary, “Design Disruptors,” as well as its newer film with IBM called “The Loop,” to illuminate a large problem facing designers in their work and to rally the community around their brand to solve it. For Wistia, their customers struggle with budget. At InVision, they realized that product designers wanted a better sense of identity as a profession, as well as a seat at the proverbial table.

    “We went out and talked to our best customers,” he said. “They had a lot more to tell us than just what they were doing with our products. There was a movement [in the field of product design], and they all felt it. They all understood their role within the company and their company’s role in the formation of this new market called digital product design. It was evolving here and now, and they had a lot to say about it.”

    Wistia and InVision are not alone in creating shows and trying to spark movements in doing so. Other companies creating video series include Fuze, which will partner with CBS to create a new series about tech later this year, and LinkedIn’s sales and marketing solutions team, which debuted “B2B Dinner for Five” late last year. In audio, dozens of brands are breaking from the conventional wisdom of what a podcast has to sound like (namely, Q&A with experts) to create documentary series instead. These include Zendesk’s “Repeat Customer“ (created with the agency Pacific Content), Adobe’s upcoming “Wireframe” (Gimlet Media’s branded content studio Gimlet Creative), and “Exceptions,” a series exploring why high-growth SaaS companies are betting so heavily on brand marketing (which, full disclosure, I host and produce for my client Drift).

    These companies all seek benefits from their shows that the usual marketing campaign or “piece” of content doesn’t offer. By holding attention for hours on end, shows develop a level of intimacy and trust similar to a one-on-one meeting that scales far better. Shows provide endless amounts of marketing efficiencies, too, allowing marketing teams to mine each episode for excerpts, lessons learned, and new ideas, all of which can fuel company blogs, newsletters, and social media profiles. At some point soon, I expect to see a brand-sponsored book with material pulled exclusively from their company’s show, there’s that much source material bottled up in episodes. Lastly, shows create customers through both word-of-mouth and thriving subscriber lists. After all, it’s far more powerful to say to a visitor, “Get the next episode,” than, “Subscribe for alerts” or “more of our content.”

    According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual report measuring consumer trust in big institutions like government and business, trust in companies continues to fall. To get any individual, let alone an entire audience, to spend 10, 30, or even 60 minutes with your company each week is more powerful than ever. But that’s the benefit these companies seek.

    What would cause this trend to stick?

    It’s hard to ignore Lazauskas’s pessimism about brands adopting this approach. After all, most companies barely know how to market a single blog post well, let alone build and promote an entire series. For example, in many B2B niches, competing shows feel like copycat programs. They’re all effectively “Talking Topics With Experts!” (If everyone claims to have the smartest show in a niche, does anyone?) Additionally, many shows lapse after a season or two, even after a public victory lap over their first few episodes. Slack’s “Work in Progress” hasn’t aired an episode since October 2017, despite being widely loved and even syndicated to satellite radio. But while Lazauskas hints at the potential negatives, Wistia’s Savage sees it differently. His company is investing heavily in serialized content, but he believes marketers need to shift how they track results to justify doing so.

    “It starts with qualitative results: Are people talking about it, are they engaging and spending time with the content? Over a longer period of time, we expect to see that content like [“One, Ten, One Hundred”] brought in totally new and different audience that helps expand our customer base.” If most marketing focuses on reach with a broad group of people, then shows are all about resonance with the right people.

    Additionally, as Clark Valberg of InVision told me, it has to be a “portfolio approach.” Brands shouldn’t aim to be purely Netflix any more than they should act exclusively like Don Draper in “Mad Men.” Some things are directly measurable, some things are not. Some marketing looks like a piece of content, some like a series. Finding the right mix for your business is what matters most.

    Shows have long been a vehicle for holding attention, and marketers are finally catching up to what media companies realized long ago. Call it the Curse of Conventional Wisdom. As tech companies invent the future, marketers at those very same companies need to constantly question older norms and even the most tried-and-true best practice in order to keep up. After all, we may be at the start of something positive for companies and consumers alike—that is, if you’re optimistic.

    “We definitely think this is the beginning of a trend,” said Savage. “It’s clear that companies are making investments in engaging their audiences with things like podcasts. We see video series content and storytelling as the next logical step for companies to connect at a deeper level.”

    I’ve been a content marketer for a decade now, which makes me a grizzled vet in a relatively new career path. (In marketing, “grizzled vet” is code for “jaded as hell.”) But for once, I’m bullish on a trend. It’s not because the hype won’t fade. It will. But, refreshingly, this is an approach to marketing that can’t be gamed. When the goal is to hold attention, not merely acquire it, there’s no faking it. You have to earn that level of attention. Trust, influence, and hours of someone’s time aren’t things you can purchase or hack. Eventually, this wave will go out, and all who will be left will be companies like InVision and Wistia who truly dug into the ground, with real foundations of creativity and customer-focus. Those merely riding the wave will be washed away. When it comes to holding long periods of our attention, the hucksters and system-gamers have no power. Because fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice—can’t get fooled again.

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    Here are 25 of the most innovative new projects using tech to help refugees and NGOs

    From humble beginnings as a simple Facebook group I posted in September 2015, Techfugees has come a long way. It was conceived as a vehicle to enthuse technologists about the plight of refugees by waking them up to the idea that their innovation, startup mentality and design-led thinking could potentially bring new, scalable new solutions to the plight of displaced people. Today, Techfugees is an international non-profit with its own CEO, Joséphine Goube and a team based between London and Paris. Not bad for a handful of posts on social media…

    What’s fascinating about the project as it’s developed is that, at the time, it was considered quite radical, perhaps even odd, to bring tech people into the equation. But simply watching the footage of refugees clutching smartphones as they fled war-torn regions and natural disasters made the tech world realize it can be part of the solution to many of the seemingly intractable problems refugees face.

    Techfugees has grown into a community of around 18,000 innovators all over the world, supporting by way of their own projects or companies, via social media and taking part in hundreds of dedicated events around the world. This includes more than 30 hackathons and an annual Global Summit, the second of which happened over the last two days in Paris. The Summit had over 500 participants, such as social entrepreneurs, engineers, designers, humanitarians, policymakers, researchers or impact investors, a large number of whom who have a refugee background. Speakers discussed and debate the different uses of technology for displaced people during the time of migration until arrival to their new host societies.

    The impact of climate change will cause the migration of 143 million people by 2050

    This year’s program looked at four main topics: Access to Rights and Information; Data Ethics; Social Inclusion; and Climate Migration. The last issue is now of even greater urgency in 2018. According to a study by the World Bank published earlier this year, the impact of climate change will cause the migration of 143 million people by 2050, bringing with it looming humanitarian challenges.

    Just like at your typical tech startup conference, Techfugees has a similar programme: The Techfugees Global Challenges Competition. This showcases projects responding to the needs of displaced populations and building technological products or services for them, based on Techfugees’ 8 guiding principles and addressing one of Techfugees’ five focus area: access to rights and information, health, education, employment and social inclusion. The applications went through an international Jury of experts who selected the 25 finalists from hundreds of applications, from 52 countries across the world, which pitched their project in front of an international Jury and Summit attendees.

    The 5 winners (described in their own words) were:

    Integreat (Germany)

    “Integreat is an information app and website tailored to the specific needs of both newcomers as the users of the app and municipal administrations as the content providers. It’s a mobile guide for newcomers. Multilingual. Offline. Free. Can we provide the people arriving in our city with all relevant information in their native language as quickly as possible? Even without internet access and without confusing red tape? The result is an app called Integreat which passes on all relevant information in multiple languages to the newcomers. It is a holistic service ecosystem for cities, districts and organizations for the integration of people with a flight or migration background.”

    Australia / USA
    “Shifra is not only a life-saving mHealth intervention, it is also a research project which aims to explore the social, cultural and geographic barriers to quality healthcare access many refugees experience, as cited by the refugees themselves. The Shifra web app is designed to improve access to quality sexual and reproductive health care. It provides local, evidence-based health information in multiple languages for communities with varying levels of language and health literacy. Shifra also directs users to trusted clinics where they can access respectful and safe care. We work with local health networks to improve their existing services based on the self-identified health needs found in Shifra’s anonymous user trend data.”

    Antura and the Letters
    (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt)
    “Antura and the Letters is an engaging mobile game that helps Syrian children learn how to read in Arabic and improve their psychosocial well-being. Considering that most refugees have old smartphones and connectivity is always a challenge for them, the game runs on old devices (from 2010/2011), it’s very small to download (less than 80Mb on Android) and it does not require internet connection. Antura and the Letters is completely free and open source… and it has been designed in order to be easily adaptable to other languages! That’s exactly what we want to do next with the goal to reach and help as many children as possible around the world.”

    “In the era of machine learning and artificial intelligence, the data workers and annotators are the new programmers. From robots, drones, self-driving cars or e-commerce, the markets need for vision technology for artificial intelligence is extraordinary. One of the major building blocks of such AI-powered recognition systems is image annotation delivered with a human input – data training. Today’s data is driving tomorrow’s AI products. To be competitive in AI, innovation depends on having data-edge often more than a technology-edge, but 80% of data engineers’ time is spent on sourcing and preparing quality image data for AI models. TaQadam optimizes image annotation for data-driven companies with visual AI and delivers on-demand, vertical-specific, high-quality image annotation. With an API and a cloud architecture, we ensure a simple and secure way to build image data set with a high accuracy and precision, while simplifying the process of sourcing human insights from dedicated and trained teams of TaQadam. TaQadam is a unique service on the market that brings a specialized on use case teams that are building AI together with the client. With gamification and mobile accessible work on TaQadam Android App, we transform the experience of annotation to fit the younger generations. We create work of the future: accessible, flexible, allowing fluidity, community building and fun.”

    Refugees Are
    “Refugees Are map the public opinion around refugees in the news by:
    1- Extracting daily news related to refugees from GDELT (open source news dataset)
    2- Extracting location from the article
    3- Applying sentiment analysis to classify it as positive, negative or neutral article
    4- Extracting topics related to refugees using LSA (Latent Semantic Analysis)
    5- Extracting most common words occurring with refugees
    6- Visualizing it in an easy way for the public to understand
    7- Let the public help identify negative news around refugees”

    And finally The Mohajer App won a special jury prize for its outstanding work assisting Afghan refugees in Iran in incredibly difficult circumstances:

    The Mohajer App
    Android / IOS
    Iran, US, Canada and UK
    “The Mohajer App was created with the support of Afghan communities inside Iran to address their needs. The app was completed with a group of paid and voluntary refugee-rights attorneys, advocates and technologists. Mohajer has two features: – The “Get Informed” section provides information for users concerning Iran’s immigration policy, the rights of Afghans in Iran, and resources that are available for concerns such as health, education, combatting from discrimination and more; the list continues to expand as users share their needs. The section also provides a list of support groups that our team has verified directly. The “Submit Report” feature enables users to share their everyday experiences as Afghans in Iran and support the larger community in addressing challenges by sharing information on events and experiences. The information on the app is also accessible offline, so as to support those without regular internet access.”

    Here’s a run down of the rest of the 25 that pitched, in their own words:

    Challenge #1 – Access to rights & information

    TikkTalk (Norway)
    “Tikk Talk is an open marketplace for interpretation services for everyone who is in need for interpretation assistance. So far the platform handles 80% of all assignments automatically, limiting the overhead costs which traditional agencies have. The platform also gives all parties full transparency which empowers them to make better decisions. Because of the tech, interpreters are in the forefront deciding on their wage and which assignments they would like to take. Before, Helse Førde (Hospital partner) switched to TikkTalk they only received 24% qualified interpreters now they receive 99% qualified interpreters.”

    Refugee Info Bus
    (United Kingdom, France, Greece)

    “Refugee Info Bus’s mission is simple. Operating at the frontlines of Europe’s ongoing refugee crisis, we provide good quality multilingual legal information and free Wifi to refugees on the move in, or having just arrived, in Northern France and in Greece. Our first Refugee Info Bus began life as an old horsebox, purchased, stripped-out, cleaned-up, and converted into a mobile office and Wi-Fi hotspot for refugees and asylum seekers living in northern France. Within a year, we facilitated over 91,000 Wi-Fi logins and delivered more than 1,000 workshops to 50,000+ individuals on the UK and French asylum systems.”

    (Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia

    “In mid-2016, Refugee.Info pivoted to focus on social media to better serve the needs and preferences of users, which had drastically changed after borders closed in Europe in March of that year. hired local journalists to obtain and verify news and other up-to-date information about the context, as well as content professionals to optimize the information for social media, applying private sector content marketing principles to increase ROI. Now, refugees in Greece, Italy and the Balkans can message the page and receive a quick answer from a moderator who will work with the journalists and lawyers to provide accurate information, often sourced from their website or blog.”

    Challenge #2 – Health

    Connect 2 Drs
    The platform of Connect2Drs was initially built to strive the private sector as a target market, and it still is. However, with the injustice and lack of a good health insurance for mexicans – deported or refugees – people with disabilities and people who need medical attention at home with palliatives became their main goal.

    “Doctor-X is a multi-language medical history mobile application and website with, for each refugee, a private account that the doctor can update when he does an operation on the refugee, in the language the doctor speaks. The program will make it available in 5 languages in case the refugee goes to a new country and needs medical help.”

    “Until now, medical workers in camps used Excel spreadsheets to make notes about patients. On top of that, medical workforce turnover is high, bringing additional confusion and inconsistency to Excel records. Iryo enables accurate medical history recording. Because data storage is decentralized with a copy on a local server, a second one on the patients mobile phone and a third one in the Iryo cloud, even if a patient arrives at a new refugee camp where the Iryo system is already in place, the doctor there will be able to access the patient’s record.”

    “MedShr has been developed to enable doctors and healthcare professionals to share and discuss clinical cases for peer-to-peer learning and medical education. It is a private, professional, verified network for clinical case discussion between medical professionals. No patient information is visible, all cases are anonymous and members can use the mobile app to get consent from patients to share images. Beyond that, all images and media are securely cloud stored with no images stored on the user’s device. Importantly, MedShr members are also able determine who can see and discuss their cases.”

    Challenge #3 – Education

    (United States, Gaza, Lebanon)
    “Edseed is about narrating stories of youth and bringing them closer to donors in the USA; participating in networking; and building a network for higher education of refugees to address policy issues, mentor students.”

    Paper Airplanes
    (United States / Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, KSA, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine)
    “Paper Airplanes (PA) is a nonprofit that uses video conferencing technology to provide free, peer-to-peer language and professional skills instruction to young adults and teens affected by conflict in the Middle East and North Africa. PA works to support these individuals to pursue their educational and employment goals and ultimately rebuild their lives. PA teaches English and Turkish to youth and adults, journalism to citizen journalists, and beginners’ coding skills to women. By using virtual communication technology to provide live instruction, PA is able to reach internally displaced and refugee youth as well as underserved populations who may be otherwise difficult to reach, including those inside Syria (approximately 50% of our students), young women and girls, and individuals in rural areas across the MENA region. Additionally, PA supplies computer tablets for select Youth Exchange Program participant recipients and scholarships to defray the cost of the IELTS and TOEFL exams for qualified PA graduates.”

    “Powercoders’ solution is to offer intensive computer programming classes to refugees over a three month period and then place them in an IT internship. As a result of the comprehensive training and subsequent placement, within a little less than a year our refugee graduates are exponentially better positioned to find and keep an IT job in Switzerland, and many do just that. The program is fully customized to address the challenges and issues that refugees may face when trying to integrate professionally and the courses enjoy an almost 100% internship placement success rate and subsequent 80% integration rate.”

    RefugeeEd.Hub is an open source online database that promotes promising practice in refugee education globally. RefugeeEd.Hub aims to raise the quality of education for refugees and displaced people by generating knowledge and fostering collaboration among global and local stakeholders working to provide education to refugees. RefugeeEd.Hub will support education innovators, multilateral institutions, global development actors, education funders and government and policymakers to inform practice on the ground.

    Challenge #4 – Employment
    Bitae Technologies
    (United States, Jordan)

    “Bitae Technologies aims to help global, mobile talent, like refugees and migrants, carry their skills and experience with them in a secure, verified digital CV, addressing the lack of access to formal education and employment faced by refugees and other vulnerable populations. Bitae transforms non-formal learning and achievements into opportunities for refugees. We provide a platform to track, store and verify refugees’ non-formal learning and skills, creating a “digital backpack” of classes, workshops, internships and skills that together, can help a refugee move forward with education and employment. Bitae leverages mobile and blockchain technology to ensure that governments, international organizations, NGOs, educational institutions and employers are able to document non-formal learning and skills in the most inclusive, secure and transparent way. The Digital Backpack focuses on four key functions: creating badges and verifying skills, requesting and sending references, skills matching and skills assessment. Using existing tools, the platform makes it possible to create blockchain-backed credential badges that can be stored and shared.”

    Human in the loop
    Bulgaria – 2017
    “Human in the Loop is a social enterprise which employs and trains refugees to provide image annotation services to computer vision companies. It is a niche market that currently requires manual human input in order to train ML models to recognize images in a way that a human would, and Human in the Loop is part of a growing community of “impact sourcing” enterprises that is dedicated to providing employment to vulnerable groups in this sector. The opportunity they are seizing is that image annotation is a very accessible type of labor that does not require previous education or professional skills, but which can open the door to more advanced tech jobs and freelancing skills, which are especially useful for migrants. In this way, they are empowering refugees to earn a living in a dignified way and gain skills, and they are turning them in “digital nomads” who are able to make use of the opportunities that remote digital work provides to people who are on the move. Human in the Loop works as an outsourcing business with B2B sales. Their clients are companies from the computer vision, self-driving cars, drones, and satellite imager industry, which are training machine learning models.”

    (United Kingdom, Germany, Jordan)
    “Rafiqi is a matching tool that leverages artificial intelligence to connect refugees in real-time and in a customized way to the opportunities that are the most suitable to his/her profile and that would lead to lifelong employment. Currently, there is no single platform where resettled refugees can access and filter the wide range of opportunities available to them, including jobs, trainings, mentorships and degrees, and where any organization (company/NGO/university) can seamlessly access and filter refugee talent. Refugees lack of knowledge of opportunities and of the right opportunities is resulting in them being unemployed or being overqualified for what they are actually doing. Despite the existence of some refugee to jobs matching programs supported by governments and NGOs in countries like Germany and the Netherlands, these matchings remain largely manual and limited in terms of intelligence. These matching efforts cannot scale well given the high number of refugees and the diversity of their profiles, as well as the diversity of opportunities available to them.”

    Transformify Rebuild Lives Program
    (Worldwide / EU, Iraq)
    “The Rebuild Lives Program by Transformify exists to provide access to jobs and secure payment to displaced people as well as access to targeted eLearning to improve their skills by using recruitment CRM leveraging HR-tech, fintech and AI to connect refugees with employers and provide access to secure payment even if the refugees have no permanent address or a bank account.”

    Challenge #5 – Social inclusion

    (France, Germany, United Kingdom)
    “PLACE runs Innovation Labs for migrants and refugees in Europe. These labs transform the people from migrants and refugees into Innovators – creators of solutions for European societies. The labs are 1 to 3-day immersive experiences that apply design thinking methodology to enable Innovators to identify problems, understand their users, develop solutions and then rapidly test and prototype these solutions with a diverse community of local stakeholders. Beyond the Labs, the Innovators have the opportunity to develop their projects through the network of the PLACE collective – actors in the private, public and civil society that see the value of diversity in migrant-led innovation and who want to be a part of it. In addition to innovative solutions, the labs also produce a new leadership model for Europe. Innovators who demonstrate motivation and willingness to take on a role as a leader in migrant-led innovation are trained to be PLACE Catalysts. The Catalysts are trained in interculturality, sourcing, public speaking, networking and lab facilitation. They are then given the opportunity to apply these learnings as facilitators in Labs throughout Europe.”

    Register of Pledges
    “The Register of Pledges project workstream are: Humanitarian Database of Pledges (Accommodation, Goods and Services) administered by Red Cross with back-office capabilities for pledge management and workflow and reporting capabilities; Open-source version of the technology is available on Github, a humanitarian data capture system with APIs and a translation interface; Evolve and open-source our Case Management System, to optimize Service User outcomes.”

    “SchoolX envision a shared economy model with volunteer teachers which include university students, educated refugees, retired teachers and other local volunteers, who will teach refugee students. Due to the challenge of limited access to education that these displaced people face, our solution is to recruit teachers within the refugee community and local community, and connect them with refugee students who are eager to learn. The talents of these teachers are then harnessed to deliver rigorous and certified education to the students. Through this, volunteers, including refugee teachers, will also receive an allowance for their efforts as well. The solution, in a form of an online platform, will provide training packages that involve not only fundamental tenets of teaching, but also pedagogical and psycho-social training for the volunteers to prepare them to approach refugee children in the most appropriate and empowering manner, The online platform will also serve as a database which will be utilized to match teachers and students based on their needs, skills, availability, and geographical proximity in order to arrange flexible, face-to-face lessons.”

    (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany)
    SPEAK is a crowdsourced language and culture exchange network, based on an Online2Offline model. All processes are managed online, through a platform developed in-house, while the learning and sharing experience happens offline, allowing participants to establish a close relationship with one another. This model ensures a greater efficiency and minimization of fixed costs, allowing SPEAK to be sustainable at scale while charging only a symbolic fee for its program. SPEAK empowers its participants by expanding their language and cultural skills, all the while becoming part of mutual support networks. Through a language and culture exchange, SPEAK connects migrants, refugees and locals living in the same city. In creating bridges between migrants and locals, members often help each other with job offers or renting their first house in a new city thanks to the power of SPEAK communities. These networks are home to a multicultural community, based on equality and where cultural heritage is validated. In other words, SPEAK’s networks nurture unity in diversity.
    SPEAK’s volunteer Buddy system empowers anyone with the willingness to share their language and culture, allowing for an “everyone a changemaker” attitude, which encourages an even greater participation in local public life. he sustainability of the initiative relies on the community and willingness to promote SPEAK’s values of an integrated and inclusive society.”

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    Shasta Ventures is doubling down on security startups with 3 new hires

    Early-stage venture capital firm Shasta Ventures has brought on three new faces to beef up its enterprise software and security portfolio amid a big push to “go deeper” into cybersecurity, per Shasta’s managing director Doug Pepper.

    Balaji Yelamanchili (above left), the former general manager and executive vice president of Symantec’s enterprise security business unit, joins as a venture partner on the firm’s enterprise software team. He was previously a senior vice president at Oracle and Dell EMC. Pepper says Yelamanchili will be sourcing investments and may take board seats in “certain cases.”

    The firm has also tapped Salesforce’s former chief information security officer Izak Mutlu (above center) as an executive-in-residence, a role in which he’ll advise Shasta portfolio companies. Mutlu spent 11 years at the cloud computing company managing IT security and compliance.

    InterWest board partner Drew Harman, the final new hire, has joined as a board partner and will work closely with the chief executive officers of Shasta’s startups. Harman has worked in enterprise software for 25 years across a number of roles. He is currently on the boards of the cloud-based monetization platform Aria, enterprise content marketing startup NewsCred, customer retention software provider Totango and others.

    There’s no area today that’s more important than cybersecurity,” Pepper told TechCrunch. “The business of venture has gotten increasingly competitive and it demands more focus than ever before. We aren’t looking for generalists, we are looking for domain experts.”

    Shasta’s security investments include email authentication service Valimail, which raised a $25 million Series B in May. Airspace Systems, a startup that built “kinetic capture” technologies that can identify offending unmanned aircrafts and take them down, raised a $20 million round with participation from Shasta in March. And four-year-old Stealth Security, a startup that defends companies from automated bot attacks, secured an $8 million investment from Shasta in February.

    The Menlo Park-based firm filed to raise $300 million for its fifth flagship VC fund in 2016. A year later, it announced a specialty vehicle geared toward augmented and virtual reality app development. With more than $1 billion under management, the firm also backs consumer, IoT, robotics and space-tech companies across the U.S.

    In the last year, Shasta has promoted Nikhil Basu Trivedi, Nitin Chopra and Jacob Mullins from associate to partner, as well as added two new associates, Natalie Sandman and Rachel Star.

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    Netflix has revolutionised television. But is its crown starting to slip?

    Below-par subscriber numbers last week were bad news for a service that must keep growing to survive. How will it respond?

    The rise of Netflix has torn up TV schedules and destabilised Hollywood, but last week it was the streaming service’s turn to be shaken. Shares in the maker of Stranger Things and The Crown suffered their biggest drop in two years on Monday after a surprising failure to hit subscriber targets.

    A torrent of Netflix-produced content – 700 original TV shows and 80 films this year alone – has kept the fans rolling in and made Netflix a darling with investors. But last week’s figures revived doubts about the US company’s business model. Here are some of the challenges that Netflix must address if it is to sustain its $165bn (£127bn) valuation.

    Subscriber growth

    Netflix stock fell more than 14% in after-hours trading on Monday after the company missed subscriber growth forecasts for the second quarter by 1 million. The company still added 5.2 million new users globally, which, given its base of 130 million, hardly feels like a crisis. However, the Netflix investment case relies on remaining in constant high-growth mode, and that means continuing to be able to acquire new subscribers steadily, quarter after quarter. And that is getting tougher as the “easy” subscribers in the US and major western markets have mostly been converted.

    “Netflix’s big challenge is maintaining growth worldwide while its customer base saturates in core western markets,” says Richard Broughton, analyst at Ampere. “Netflix is having to work ever harder to gain new subscribers.” The low-cost nature of the streaming service – a premium subscription costs £9.99 per month in the UK and $13.99 in the US – means that it needs inexorable growth to pay for its content. Must-watch shows and films beget happy customers and draw new subscribers, which helps pay for even more content. Netflix’s content budget is $8bn this year alone – it costs a lot of money to attract a Hollywood star such as Will Smith to a sci-fi film like Bright – and in recent years it has been raised by about $1bn annually. Netflix is stuck in a costly and precarious cycle.

    Disney intends to withdraw all its content, including the Star Wars films, from Netflix as a prelude to setting up its own video-on-demand service. Photograph: Jonathan Olley/AP


    Netflix is running up substantial liabilities as it struggles to bridge the gap between revenue and the spiralling cost of content. Ampere puts Netflix’s total liabilities at $30bn-$33bn, with debt about a third of this, while the majority is programming commitments. Its debt mountain has grown from $300m as recently as March 2016 to almost $9bn at the end of the second quarter this year. In April, it issued its fifth bond in three years, which added $1.9bn in fresh debt.

    Netflix declares a profit – expected to be about $1bn this year – because it is able to spread the costs of making shows over a number of years. Its total streaming obligations, for making and licensing TV and film content, will cost it $18bn over the next few years. It also has $3bn-$5bn in costs it expects to pay relating to “traditional film output deals or certain TV series licence agreements where the number of seasons to be aired is unknown”.

    The growth machine is struggling to keep up. Netflix expects a negative free cash flow of between $3bn and $4bn this year, meaning the amount its spends on content, marketing and other costs in 2018 will exceed what it earns from subscriber revenue ($16bn) by at least $3bn.


    In the early days of building a streaming empire, Netflix was able to get hold of the rights to TV shows and films on the cheap. Rights owners and future rivals had not identified the global potential of subscription video-on-demand rights, and Netflix prospered. The value of those rights has now spiralled, which has pushed up Netflix’s content budgets and fuelled its drive to produce its own content.

    This strategy is also designed to help maintain Netflix’s popularity as some partners withdraw content because they now see Netflix as a threat to their own ambitions. Last year, Disney said it would pull all its content from Netflix in the US – including the Marvel superhero films, Star Wars, Pixar films such as Toy Story and big hits such as Frozen and Beauty and the Beast – as it tries to launch its own rival service.

    Disney’s $71bn bid for Rupert Murdoch’s Fox, which includes the studio behind films such as X-Men and Deadpool and TV shows such as The Simpsons, is a move to control crown-jewel content to supply its service and further starve Netflix.

    In addition, although Netflix’s huge budgets – the first series of The Crown cost £100m have opened up a new golden age of television, they have also stoked inflation for top on-screen and off-screen talent, with rising costs further fuelled by competition from Amazon and Apple. “Netflix has invested big and inflated the market for scripted drama, but this is classic unsustainable bubble territory,” says Tim Mulligan, analyst at MIDiA Research.

    Youth-oriented shows such as Thirteen Reasons Why have been a hit, but teenage viewing habits are changing. Photograph: Beth Dubber/Netflix

    Young viewers

    Netflix is doing fine against traditional TV companies. Earlier this year, the BBC revealed that 16- to 24-year-olds spend more time with the US streaming service in a week than with all of BBC TV, including the BBC iPlayer. Youth-targeted shows such as Stranger Things and Thirteen Reasons Why have been major hits, but Netflix faces some of the same pressures caused by the rapid generational shift in viewing habits.

    The BBC’s research found that more than 80% of children go to the Google-owned YouTube for on-demand content (half also go to Netflix). Last week, media regulator Ofcom revealed that 16- to 34-year-olds spend more time watching non-broadcast content – such as streaming services, catch-up and on-demand TV – than traditional scheduled TV. YouTube was again found to be the biggest winner, accounting for the highest proportion of non-broadcast viewing in the age group.

    The BBC’s research found that children aged five to 15 spend more time each week online (15 hours and 18 minutes on average) than they do watching conventional or streamed TV (14 hours). All media is now in competition for attention, and online it is the Facebook-owned Instagram and Snapchat that are currently dominating the attention of younger generations.

    Moving into sport and news

    A key part of Netflix’s rapid growth is that it is cheap: the most popular £7.99-a-month package is seen by many as a bargain for access to such a vast range of content.

    Last week, Ofcom revealed that subscribers to streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon had overtaken numbers taking traditional pay-TV services such as Sky and Virgin Media for the first time. However, Netflix’s low-cost nature has meant that subscribers mostly choose to bolt it on as an additional option. Viewers mostly keep their main pay-TV subscription, which is more expensive but provides wider content such as exclusive football and news services.

    Some analysts believe that Netflix needs to develop its content offering and become more like traditional TV companies in order to become a “must-have” service. “Netflix is the TV disrupter that everyone is watching to see what they do next,” says Mulligan. “To move to the next level they need to add global news and sport to their content offer.”

    Doing so would also justify the inevitable price rises that Netflix is having to introduce as it continues the race to cover its costs. The company is already experimenting in Europe with a high-definition “ultra” subscription, which costs €16.99-€19.99 a month in Germany and Italy. Traditional pay-TV companies such as Sky, which originally built its business on exclusive Premier League rights, charge up to £100 a month, though this also includes costs for landlines and broadband.

    “Netflix’s long-term strategy is that it has to increase its revenue from subscribers; it needs to move into those content genres to replicate the journey of traditional pay-TV companies,” says Mulligan. “You need a full suite of content if you want to be a real substitute, not just an additive service.”

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