DISTRIBUTION COLLAPSE: NO…NETFLIX PAYING FOR BRAD PITT’S “WAR MACHINE” ISN’T THE BLOW TO THE SYSTEM SOME THINK IT IS…

Morning Collapsers:

Beaucoup apologies for the delay between posts.

Your faithful chronicler of narrative morphology had to take trips to the belly of the disruption beast (Silicon Valley), and then into the innards of a whole other type of gorgon (Las Vegas), but as always, he’s been on the case, never letting the sun set on a mutation, so let us not tarry…

During my time away, it hasn’t been quiet OUT THERE — TWITTER has an Interim CEO for example — but for the purposes of our research here, one event should have us all talking, because it SEEMS like a sign of the COLLAPSE, but when you look CLOSELY, it REALLY ISN’T:

NETFLIX agreed to finance Brad Pitt’s next movie “War Machine”.

For $70 million, NETFLIX pays for the film and controls worldwide rights, including a brief theatrical run, before a full-on streaming release. The film itself — although that’s not really important to our discussion here — is a satire based on late journalist’s MICHAEL HASTINGS’ memoirs about his time in Afghanistan and his interactions with later shamed General Stanley McChrystal who was going to change the face of modern war.

So what is important to our discussion here?

The fact that everyone thinks what basically boils down to a GOOD BUSINESS DECISION FOR BRAD PITT, is somehow a sign of the the COLLAPSE OF THE THEATRICAL FILMGOING EXPERIENCE. Now those signs are all around you, but this isn’t one of them. So let’s briefly deconstruct the melding of Brad Pitt and Netflix, and why this isn’t quite the GAME CHANGER, people are making it out to be:

EVERYONE PASSED ON THE FILM:

It’s not as if NETFLIX was PLAN B’s (Pitt’s own production company) first choice. PLAN B has a three-year production deal with NEW REGENCY (run by ARNON MILCHAN, he of the deep-pockets and the scathing late night email) and RATPAC (a film-funding juggernaut made up of equal parts filmmaker BRETT RATNER, DUNE CAPITAL’S STEVE MNUCHIN, and billionaire JAMES PACKER). NEW REGENCY distributes through Fox. RATPAC through Warner Bros.

Both NEW REGENCY and RATPAC passed on WAR MACHINE, likely because it was over-budgeted, political, didn’t scream immediate awards-bait, and is the kind of risky move that costs a ton to MARKET for a proper THEATRICAL RELEASE. If you’re going to go risky: GO CHEAP is the message here…

And a SIDE NOTE: I’ve heard grumbling that NETFLIX swooping in and dropping potentially $70 million in Brad Pitt’s lap puts huge pressure on the INDEPENDENT MARKET — which thrives on producing the films that the STUDIOS WON’T TOUCH — because they don’t have NETFLIX’S deep pockets. Also, these producers can’t compete with NETFLIX’S UPFRONT DEALS, because they’re reliant on international sales to cover their end. But let’s be HONEST: No INDEPENDENT FUNDER (or mix of twelve of them) is going to find $70 million+ in the couch cushions to give to BRAD PITT to film a WAR SATIRE (and it sounds like they had the chance at CANNES to do it…). The next BIRDMAN or WHIPLASH (AWARDS BAIT) will likely not go straight to NETFLIX. It may one day…but NOT YET…

So it’s not as if PLAN B went exclusively to NETFLIX, and this isn’t NETFLIX’s first pickup of a movie that opted to bypass an EXTENDED THEATRICAL, and focus on STREAMING. They’ve also picked up the Idris Elba starring “Beasts of No Nation” and Jamie Dornan’s war thriller “Jadotville.”

SO WHY ARE PEOPLE SO EXCITED?

Because it’s BRAD PITT. But in reality: NETFLIX picked up a movie that NO ONE WANTED, even if it does star BRAD PITT. But they need BRAD PITT badly. Why?

Because Netflix is DESPERATE to GAIN INTERNATIONAL SUBSCRIBERS (they’re pretty much exhausted domestically). NETFLIX plans to be a presence in Italy, Spain, and Portugal soon, and they’re trying to crack into China, even as ALIBABA is starting its own homegrown NETFLIX model. The GLOBAL AUDIENCE loves BRAD PITT. His movies generally OVERPERFORM internationally, and having exclusive rights to his new movie, is an awfully big stick to swing for NETFLIX as they try to conquer international territories.

AND HERE’S ANOTHER ASPECT OF THE DEAL everyone’s focused on, but that ALSO DOESN’T MATTER:

That somehow the “WAR MACHINE” accord made it acceptable for a movie star like BRAD PITT to opt for the STREAMING MODEL, and reject the Hollywood machine. But PLAN B and Pitt didn’t reject the HOLLYWOOD MACHINE. The Hollywood Machine rejected them, and NETFLIX played white knight. And it’s not as if Pitt isn’t going STRAIGHT BACK TO HOLLYWOOD, after this project is done, if you look at his next few films, none of them are STREAMING.

What NETFLIX proved is that if you’re A MOVIE STAR, and have a passion project no one wants to touch, they WILL LIKELY OVERPAY FOR IT.

THIS IS NOTEWORTHY. However, it’s not a MUTATION.

BRIEF SIDE NOTE: DON’T GET ME WRONG. I THINK “WAR MACHINE” SOUNDS TREMENDOUS. MICHAEL HASTINGS WAS MY FAVORITE JOURNALIST IN HIS AGE GROUP. AND DAVID MICHOD — THE FILM’S DIRECTOR — IS AS TALENTED AS ALL GET OUT. I’M NOT KNOCKING THE FILM. I’M KNOCKING THE PERCEPTION…

In many ways, NETFLIX is beginning to resemble the birth and development cycle of —

MIRAMAX AND HBO.

Not to get overly economic for a moment, but NETFLIX is still in a state of primitive accumulation. It isn’t a fully developed economy yet. It needs a tremendous amount of CONTENT to support its model; however, it doesn’t have deep enough pockets yet to outright OWN any of it.

When MIRAMAX and HBO began they were in a similar stage.

In the late 80’s-early 90’s, MIRAMAX overpaid for controversial, frequently foreign art-house films (Henry & June, Hardware, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, Reservoir Dogs) and turned them into must-see events whipped up by battles with the RATINGS BOARD. They also overpaid for AWARDS BAIT and made sure it was AWARDS BAIT. No one worked harder to get their ACQUISITIONS NOTICED.

Then MIRAMAX was bought by DISNEY, at which point, they turned into TURNAROUND SPECIALISTS instead of ACQUIRERS, picking up projects (with a ton of development fees) laying dormant at other studios and reviving them (PULP FICTION, GOOD WILL HUNTING, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE) into some of the studio’s biggest hits…

…BUT MIRAMAX began to falter when they went into CONTENT CREATION, which is the next step in the ECONOMIC LADDER.

ACQUISITION SPECIALIST, then VAMPIRIC TURNAROUND ARTIST, and then finally: ORIGINAL CONTENT CREATION. Not everyone can do it. DEVELOPMENT is a tricky and EXPENSIVE procedure, and most can’t either afford it, or do it well. This is why the BIG STUDIOS still exist: They have the deep pockets and the talent to DEVELOP CONTENT from start to finish.

Enter HBO. HBO in its larval state was a BROADCAST ACQUIRER of THEATRICAL FILMS, then it moved into the MINISERIES, SITCOM, and DRAMA GAME, and it didn’t own MOST OF THE CONTENT IT AIRED (LARRY SANDERS for example) EITHER. It was a slow, evolutionary process, that moved from THE SOPRANOS, and crystallized in the beautiful phoenix of GAME OF THRONES that you see today: A show HBO developed from the bottom up and owns FULLY.

NETFLIX has this choice:

Eventually it must begin to produce ORIGINAL CONTENT IT OWNS (remember NETFLIX doesn’t OWN most of the hit shows it STREAMS, House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black included). “WAR MACHINE” is merely the sign that NETFLIX has passed into the 2nd stage of the GROWTH MODEL. It is now in the stage of VAMPIRIC TURNAROUND ARTIST. But you can only sieve off the detritus of other’s development process for so long.

Whether NETFLIX becomes MIRAMAX (unable to pass out of the 2nd stage) or HBO (GAME OF THRONES) is the big question NOW. Because developmentally — it has to become one or the other.

J.G. Ballard: Chrontopia and Post-Consumerist Society

Fascinating insights into Ballard, entropy sleeplessness, with just a touch of Nick Land thrown in…

Southern Nights

JGBallard

For the first time Man will be living a full twenty-four hour day, not spending a third of it as an invalid, snoring his way through an eight-hour peepshow of infantile erotica.

– J.G. Ballard – Manhole 69

In his short story Manhole 69 J.G. Ballard will envision a world where humans no longer sleep. One of the scientists who is part of an advanced exploratory team in this new world of sleeplessness, speaking to his team members will  say:

‘None of you realize it yet, but this is as big an advance as the step the first ichthyoid took out of the protozoic sea 300 million years ago. At last we’ve freed the mind, raised it out of that archaic sump called sleep, its nightly retreat into the medulla. With virtually one cut of the scalpel we’ve added twenty years to those men’s lives.’ (Ballard, p. 51)

When we think of…

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CELEBRITY COLLAPSE PART 2: GAWKER, MEDIUM and RECODE on one side: VOX, BUZZFEED AND VICE on the OTHER…

On Wednesday, I wrote a piece about how CELEBRITY wasn’t guaranteeing success to ONLINE JOURNALISM nor STREAMING MUSIC.

In addition to the two companies I highlighted there (RECODE and TIDAL), there’s another VICITM of overpaying for NAMES and CONTENT that’s now being forced to change it’s raison d’être: The much HYPED PLATISHER (PUBLISHER AND PLATFORM, more on that lexical disaster later): MEDIUM.

On May 20th, Ev Williams, former Twitter CEO, and now a partner at MEDIUM, penned an occasionally meandering missive about how MEDIUM was “not a publisher, but a platform:” It’s a longish piece (with some nifty graphics), but let me try and sum it all up for my faithful Collapsers with a direct quote from Williams:

“That’s why I say Medium is not a publishing tool. It’s a network. A network of ideas that build off each other. And people. And GIFs (yeah, we have those, too — not our specialty, though, to be clear).”

Now, I must admit I’m new at this Blogging game (as I wrote previously here and here), and I understand that it takes a LONG TIME to find a site’s voice, identity, etc…so believe me, I have a lot of sympathy for a business — like MEDIUM per se — that is experiencing growing pains or an identity crisis as it evolves.

However, the growing pains at MEDIUM have been there ALMOST SINCE its inception, and this is just the latest in a LONG LINE. And each and every one of it’s MUTATIONS has fascinated me.

However, Williams’s letter from May 20th, really, really FASCINATES me BECAUSE: It literally FLIES IN THE FACE OF THE COMPANY’S WHOLE PHILOSOPHY, and I’m not so sure this is a GROWING PAIN, but an outright NECESSITY for future survival, both in terms of economics and RELEVANCE. Here’s a prime example of what I mean by literally changing MEDIUM’S WHOLE REASON FOR EXISTENCE…

In an April 2015 interview with WIRED, WILLIAMS was ecstatic about the potential creative/economic/cultural windfalls of being a PLATISHER (here’s another fast link on that term) But apparently, now MEDIUM, is strictly a —

PLAT.

Now I’ve devoured lots and lots of takes on this decision, and I find there’s one aspect journalists (and these are GOOD JOURNALISTS) don’t seem to be touching on:

The TIMING of WILLIAMS’S ANNOUNCEMENT. It came on May 20th.

On May 26th, RECODE was bought by VOX.

MEDIUM and RECODE (NOTE: RECODE was never a PLATISHER, but…) share TWO things in COMMON:

They both have a markedly overwhelming appeal to tech people (in the case of RECODE, it was a literal TECH PUBLICATION), but even MORE importantly:

They are/were two employers of top-drawer, highly-regarded and FREQUENTLY EXPENSIVE WRITING TALENT that has never reached a WIDE ENOUGH AUDIENCE. RECODE not being a PLATFORM had to give itself over to VOX to try and build a sustainable audience off VOX’S PLATFORM. MEDIUM at least has the PLATFORM aspect to survive and not risk absorption into a larger entity, because if MEDIUM wasn’t a PLATFORM — It would be RECODE.

Hence, part of why it’s becoming a PLAT.

But if that wasn’t a big enough reason to become a PLAT, there’s more…

We have the chaos over at GAWKER, whose staff just decided to UNIONIZE with the WGAE (Writers Guild of America East).

RECODE (ironically enough) penned an article in 2014, that declared the RISE OF THE PLATISHERS (and in all fairness it didn’t know it if it was a SUSTAINABLE MODEL), but it highlighted FOUR PLATISHERS that could/are doing BIG THINGS: MEDIUM, GAWKER, BUZZFEED, AND VOX. And guess which of those MEDIUM was starting to resemble?

Mr. Williams is a SAVVY, SAVVY man (that whole CEO of TWITTER thing), and you can’t tell me that he didn’t read the writing on the wall. That RECODE (highest quality, expensive, sometimes long form journalism) and GAWKER (a fellow PLATISHER about the get wailed with a UNIONIZING writing force), plus a SEVERE TRAFFIC PLATEAU ISSUE (that MEDIUM also shares), didn’t have something to do with becoming a straight up PLAT.

BUZZFEED and VOX have gone all in on VIDEO, VIRAL, and BRANDED ADVERTISING CONTENT, because a successful in-house video operation lessens the pressures of being a straight-up DIGITAL MEDIA OUTLET (emphasis on JOURNALISM). A true VIDEO EMPIRE (think VICE) necessitates the kinds of multi-million dollar investments (BUZZFEED raised $50 million from VC TITANS ANDREESSEN/HOROWITZ), that takes the pressure off the PUBLISHING SIDE of things, by opening the floodgates of an explosive new revenue stream.

MEDIUM has none of this going for it.

Now, a little extra backstory on MEDIUM may be appropriate at this point, before I go any further:

The company launched in 2012, as just about the prettiest BLOG you’d ever seen — the aesthetics of the site have always been sleek — and the philosophy seemed ACTUALLY CLEAR at that point:

To provide a NETWORK ENABLED REACH for LONG FORM WRITERS and BLOGGERS forced into obscurity, or to write SHORT BITS, to try and keep pace and relevancy against FACEBOOK and TWITTER. So basically MEDIUM was going to be a SOCIAL NETWORK for BLOGGERS to try and resuscitate the form in the face of ACTUAL SOCIAL NETWORKS. And it was from the creator of BLOGGER. Sounds great… …

Then in a somewhat CONFLICTING VISION, MEDIUM —

Decided to bring in the STAR WATTAGE and shell-out for the type of editorial content that comes with highly compensated writers. Plus, it hired Kate Lee, a noted literary agent, former Wired.com editor-in-chief Evan Hansen, took on the science publication MATTER, and it poached Steven Levy from WIRED to start its own tech site called BACKCHANNEL. Additionally, Medium created it’s own “modern version of Dorothy Parker’s Algonquin Round Table” by bringing in some of the Web’s most distinctive (and once again not cheap) voices to write for “THE MESSAGE”. Not to mention David Axe’s WAR IS BORING collection. So in short — MEDIUM assembled quite the stable of unique voices.

But it was supposed to be a BLOGGING NETWORK. Right?

But moving on, what effect did absorbing all this expensive CONTENT AND NAMES have:

Consistently flattening traffic. It never broke out of its NICHE. Well first off, it never defined the NICHE because Medium wasn’t supposed to have one. But what did the NICHE turn out to be: The same demographic as the people who listen to “SERIAL” and “NPR”. “Serial” being a popular podcast broadcast on NPR.

And what is NPR: A certified private nonprofit.

i just don’t think one can build a sustainable PLATISHER MODEL when you’re pulling flat traffic from a dedicated crowd of NPR LISTENERS. On top of competing with other sites for the same NICHE, which is a TINY and unprofitable one, that leads to ABSORPTION in most cases.

In all fairness though, through it all, it’s not as if WILLIAMS didn’t go down SWINGING on the PLATISHER MODEL. He gave it his all.

To try and satiate his writers who were unhappy with the PAY-PER-CLICK MODEL, WILLIAMS developed a new way of gauging metrics called TOTAL TIME READINNG (TTR), a far more expansive method for measuring USER ENGAGEMENT, and which Williams claimed was a blind side to the ADVERTISING BUSINESS, which focused almost solely on CLICKS. He shouted his TTR from the rooftops; he tried to convince ADVERTISERS to get down with the TTR, and to prove its efficacy…

MEDIUM created RE:FORM, a BRANDED NARRATIVE PARTNERSHIP with BMW.

And in the GREAT REORG MEDIUM announced on MAY 20th, RE:FORM got the boot, largely because no one wanted the SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITY, after BMW’s six-month trial was up.

MEDIUM also partnered with MARRIOTT to launch a NATIVE ADVERTISING and BRANDING OPPORTUNITY called “GONE”.

Five stories would be MARRIOTT WRITTEN and FOCUSED and the other 55 would be SPONSORED by BMW. Metrics on that experiment are not available…

So after attempting WRITTEN (PLATISHER) STYLE attempts to bring in NATIVE SPONSORED ADVERTISING…

MEDIUM then decided to go into VIDEO with the AUTHOR INTERVIEW SERIES “FOREWORD”. Which interviewed BJ NOVAK, JASON SEGAL, and has hopes for LENA DUNHAM and TONI MORRISON, if it SURVIVES. It’s certainly off to a slow start. Plus, MEDIUM has no NATIVE VIDEO PLAYER to support the show, and is counting on YouTube. But “FOREWORD” has the best shot at SURVIVAL, because PODCASTS and VIDEO get you HIGHER AD RATES than STANDARD DISPLAY.

But here’s the problem (and it isn’t actually A PROBLEM), but it is if you’re a PLATISHER trying to go after AD DOLLARS to prove your viability (and I assume MEDIUM at some point would LIKE TO BE PROFITABLE):

One of the first people to love the “FOREWORD” IDEA was LENA DUNHAM. And LENA DUNHAM is MEDIUM’S CORE AUDIENCE already. And LENA DUNHAM is a CULTURAL FORCE that no one actually WATCHES OR READS. Much like RECODE or MEDIUM itself: She has an incredibly large NICHE that has had difficulty MONETIZING ITSELF.

But let’s ask ourselves Collapsers, when was the ONE and ONLY TIME, LENA DUNHAM made PEOPLE MONEY: HER BOOK. Why? Because it had the FULL-FORCE of an ADVERTISING TEAM at a PUBLISHER BEHIND IT. They paid $3.5 million for it, and they were going to make SURE everyone knew it EXISTED.

But LENA DUNHAM doesn’t sell ADVERTISING BUCKS, she needs ADVERTISING BUCKS poured into her to prove she’s a WORTHWHILE INVESTMENT. Then the KICKER HAPPENED…

On MARCH 19TH 2015, MEDIUM created an iOS APP that allowed you to write POSTS from your iPhone or iPad. It also bent the rules for allowing SHORTER and SHORTER CONTENT. That was the WRITING ON THE WALL RIGHT THERE… It was essentially a hands-up on LONGFORM and SPONSORED WRITTEN NARRATIVE ADVERTISING. A mea culpa on TTR. And an acknowledgment that ADVERTISING is a MOBILE BUSINESS focused on BULK BUYS, and CLICKS. And it’s going to stay that way…

Then directly after the iOS APP, came the May 20th MISSIVE.

MEDIUM wants to be a platform with HIGHER LEVELS of USER EXCHANGE. It wants to go all in ON CONVERSATION AND ENGAGEMENT (no more TTR) to boost MEMBERSHIP. The “PLATFORM” is going to rejigger content to include SHORTER PIECES, likely more CONTROVERSIAL PIECES that inspire DEBATE within the PLATFORM ITSELF, maybe even a few BUZZFEED style LIST-ICLES and QUIZZES. WHY?

Let’s summarize one more time Collapsers: It literally makes no FINANCIAL SENSE to build any PLATFORM, on the LURE OF BIG NAMES and building up a POSSE OF TALENT anymore. If you want to build the BEST BLOGGING PLATFORM EVER that’s a great PURSUIT, but then don’t gunk up the mission by blowing your whole purse on EXPENSIVE NAMES and EDITORS, be a sleek BLOG. And don’t DUMP all the money into the POSSE OF TALENT, without having a MOBILE PLAN in place, to help PAY FOR IT.

Because to quote the RECODE PLATISHER PIECE:

“…But the bigger reason is the rapidly changing landscape of media distribution and revenue. The combination of mobile’s small screens and programmatic ad buying has made it clear that successful consumer properties need to have enormous amounts of traffic, and ad units that are essentially content.”

NAME-BRANDED JOURNALISM wasn’t bringing people to MEDIUM, and it’s TTR approach wasn’t making ADVERTISERS happy either. It was TOO HARD TO MEASURE.

So in the future, I’d expect MEDIUM to start looking more and more like VOX and BUZZFEED, and a lot less like GAWKER and RECODE.

But at the end of the day, maybe this is A GOOD THING: MEDIUM was never supposed to be a place for celebrity-branded journalism (hell even Barack Obama, MItt Romney, and Leonardo DiCaprio posted on it, that’s a true shark-jump right there). It actually was supposed to be AN ENGAGED NETWORK in the first place. Maybe the road to RECODE and GAWKER righted the ship. One can hope. But what A MUTATION PROCESS it’s gone through to get back to the BEGINNING, with just a little more BUZZFEED thrown in…

CELEBRITY COLLAPSE: The ENIGMA of NEW MEDIA (MUSIC, PUBLISHING) and the ambiguity of CELEBRITY…

I didn’t hatch my blog for economic reasons, nor dreams of market saturation. As a novelist, I was frustrated by my inability to convey and comment in fiction all that was happening on a daily basis in our 24/7 world. And let’s be honest: STUFF is HAPPENING every single day. The role of the novel can’t be as a STRUCTURED CONTAINER for all this. At best, it can only offer post-facto analysis nine moths or years later. So the blog was a way for me to reach out to my readers and potentially find a few kindred souls who had no clue I existed.

Why the preamble Mutation Master, studier of all things Collapse? Well one of the things that seemed to augur well for a successful entry into ONLINE JOURNALISM was a PERSONAL BRAND or CELEBRITY STATUS. This also seemed to go for PRODUCT LAUNCHING. However, I read two articles in the past few days that were both severe blows to CELEBRITY CULTURE myth. They fascinated me, left me with questions, and seemed to point to a new mutation. Let’s examine both below…

The first article is by MICHAEL WOLFF, a frequently on-point entertainment and occasional political journalist. His piece is on the RE/CODE merger with VOX. The second is by BOB LEFSETZ, a semi-controversial music analyst and blogger. He discusses why APPLE’S MUSIC STREAMING SERVICE is likely to FAIL.

Now my fellow Collapsers are busy folk, we’re all busy counting the mutations, so I’ll do my best to summarize (and in some cases paraphrase/direct quote) each of Wolff and Lefsetz’s main points.

WOLFF talks about how there’s been another SEISMIC SHIFT in DIGITAL MEDIA. The prior shift was the rise of a “New model of PERSONAL BRANDED JOURNALISM…”. Journalists like NATE SILVER, EZRA KLEIN, GLEEN GREENWALD, and RE/CODE (the cream of tech journalism) were all going out on THEIR OWN, launching their own sites. They didn’t need to be latched to OLD MEDIA anymore.

But as WOLFF knowingly points out: “DIGITAL MEDIA SUCCESS had already moved on, it was no longer about how to AVAIL YOURSELF of EASY ACCESS to your AUDIENCE and PROMOTE and MONETIZE your PERSONAL FOLLOWING…”..it’s now about how to MAXIMIZE TRAFFIC TO YOUR SITE, “…a business more like DIRECT MAIL than traditional publishing.”

WOLFF reiterates many times that it’s all about BUZZFEED now. “ADVERTISERS now buy based upon BULK AUDIENCE BUYS, and not SPECIFIC BRANDS.” His analysis is that OLD SCHOOL JOURNALISTIC CONTENT needs some OLD-SCHOOL MEDIA MONEY to back it up, if it’s going to survive.

The crux of course is that OLD-SCHOOL MEDIA MONEY is cutting deals with FACEBOOK. And the only forms of NEW DIGITAL MEDIA MONEY big enough to buy anyone are: VICE, VOX (they absorbed RE-CODE), and BUZZFEED. These sites operate based upon TRAFFIC METRICS and AD REVENUE. Not PERSONAL BRANDING. Can you name more than one or two BRAND JOURNALISTS who report for these sites?

So what is the takeaway here:

There are no PERSONAL BRANDS big enough to satiate the urge of ADVERTISERS now that they’ve gotten a taste for VICE and BUZZFEED. This is one case in which CELEBRITY isn’t worth what it COSTS ADVERTISERS.

BUZZFEED is an AD GENERATED BEHEMOTH that sometimes publishes journalism. VICE is a site that was built to generate enough TRAFFIC to GET THE “BRAND” ON TELEVISION (and they really were ahead of the paradigm here, which looks like: SITE, PLATFORM, CABLE, and then BROADBAND PROVIDER, all morphing into ONE ENTITY). And VOX is piling on more and more VIDEO CONTENT…

…The SITE is the BRAND, the lure for AD TRAFFIC. In short, in the world of ONLINE MEDIA — CELEBRITY LOOKS OVER unless anchored to a BRANDED SITE, which doesn’t really need the ADDED EXPENSE of high-powered journalism.

LEFSETZ says something quite similar in his newsletter, but he cuts across a WIDER SWATH of both PERSONAL and COMPANY BRANDING.

APPLE will be launching its newly reconfigured MUSIC STREAMING PROGRAM, and Lefsetz argues that APPLE will not revolutionize the STREAMING MARKET, because it doesn’t have a FREE AD-SPONSORED OPTION like SPOTIFY. APPLE will only offer a $10/month STREAMING SERVICE, and of course iTUNES RADIO (with special DJ-curated content), which I didn’t even know existed. So in short: NO FREE. WE ARE APPLE.

LEFSETZ argues for the necessity of the FREE AD-SPONSORED OPTION. That if people like the product, eventually, they will pay for the PREMIUM. But APPLE feels like because it’s APPLE, and “it has everyone’s credit card number” that people will just PAY without experiencing it for FREE FIRST.

He then invokes, and quite astutely, the example of JAY-Z and TIDAL. Just because JAY-Z attached his name to the site, and told people to use it, NO ONE CARED. In fact, TIDAL has decimated most of it’s management and is desperately looking to sell. It became an even bigger JOKE when it took on JAY-Z. And if an actual music insider and proven entrepreneur like JAY-Z couldn’t make people desert SPOTIFY’S AD-SPONSORED SERVICE, neither will APPLE.

So what does this tell us?

It says that in the ROLE OF CONTENT, and in the ROLE OF CONTENT PROVIDER, CELEBRITY isn’t going to get you as far as it used to. ADVERTISERS pay for CLICKS (BUZZFEED), and USERS only pay after they’ve sampled the product (SPOTIFY). They don’t care seem to care AT ALL what GLENN GREENWALD or JAY-Z tell them to READ or BUY.

Thoughts, comments…All are welcome…What are we looking at here?

NARRATIVE COLLAPSE: The tug between CONTENT and OWNERSHIP (welcome back DELEUZE/GUATTARI and OPTIMUS PRIME), plus a brief appearance by the DEATH OF SEX…

Happy Monday Collapsers:

Your faithful documenter and statistician of the COLLAPSE has quite the round-up of links and comments to ring in the new week. The narrative FRANKENSTEIN’S, the INCUBATION ACCELERATORS, and the priests of RETERRITORIALIZATION (and for more info on this concept, here’s a primer for you), have been busy, so let us not tarry…

THE FLUX OF DETERRITORIALIZATION AND RETERRITORIALIZATION:

Ironically, as MEDIA (the CONTENT PROVIDERS and OWNERS) and HARDWARE (BROADBAND COMPANIES, et al..) merge left and right in a last-ditch attempt to remonetize and RETERRITORIALIZE, the stranglehold of BANKING INSTITUTIONS is being PRIED open by alternate means of electronic payment. Cable isn’t the only thing getting it’s CORD CUT and going A LA CARTE. Banks are feeling the sting from BITCOIN (of course), but also APPLE PAY, GOOGLE WALLET, and SNAPCASH, and that’s just the beginning…

And speaking of both MEDIA and MUTATIONS, here’s a real FRANKEN-MERGER:

RE/CODE was snapped up by the VOX MEDIA FAMILY, and COMCAST which happens to own stakes in both RE/CODE and VOX, may just end up devouring both of them. That’s what we call RETERRITORIALIZING at it’s finest…

When INDEPENDENT MEDIA OUTLETS (a form of DETERRITORIALIZATION) are forced to merge to survive, and then the fruits of said merger, end up being GOBBLED and BUNDLED by a HUGE DISTRIBUTOR (generally combining some mix of necessary HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE), this is a HUGE PROBLEM, because it makes it harder and harder for any INDEPENDENT SOURCES to survive without some GIANT MONOLITH providing SECURITY from all the NOISE (in the form of COMPETITORS) and other PREDATORY DISTRIBUTORS always on the hunt for CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT…

Remember, DETERRITORIALIZATION destroys CONTROL (the grip of the MONOLITH), RETERRITORIALIZATION (what we are witnessing now) re-inscribes CONTROL within the INSTITUTION. And generally a period of DETERRITORLIZATION is allowed when the INSTITUTIONS sense big money needing room to flower, but it NEVER EVER SURVIVES once it starts to HURT THE DISTRIBUTORS. And that’s the phase we’re in now…THE ECONOMIST, a musty institution, actually did an extremely credible job describing this situation (in an article, which is behind a PAY WALL), but well worth reading if you’re already a member. But if you’re not, I just did a good job summarizing it (it’s what I’m here for Collapsers)…

…And in other RETERRITORIALIZATION MOVES, CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS and TIME WARNER have MERGEDAnd BUZZFEED, one of the kings of DETERRITORIALIZATION, may be considering on an IPO, which means it could become one of the RETERRITORIALIZERS itself…

ENTERTAINMENT MUTATIONS (MOSTLY INCUBATIONAL):

The TRANSFORMERS series is one of the shiniest jewels in PARAMOUNT’S CROWN, and we’re all going to be seeing a lot more of it…

In a move somewhat reminiscent/inspired by FOX and JAMES CAMERON’S plan to plow you with AVATAR SEQUELS — they’re doling out writing duties to a series of individual writers/teams to speed up the INCUBATION process — PARAMOUNT has bought in AKIVA GOLDSMAN (living proof that EVERY WRITER should hope and believe they have at least ONE OSCAR in them), to create a WRITER’S ROOM to spawn faster TRANSFORMERS MOVIES, and they’ve been STAFFING UP, with alumni from the X-MEN SERIES, SPIDER-MAN SERIES, and THE WALKING DEAD…

…So why is this a NOTEWORTHY MUTATION?

Because to SPEED UP FRANCHISE DEVELOPMENT, the FILM INDUSTRY is pretty much xeroxing the concept of the TV WRITER’S ROOM. FILM is trying to be the new TV to SURVIVE…

The whole notion of INDIVIDUAL VISION (of a director, writer/director), as the sole trump-card that FILM still had going for it to separate it from TV — something BRET EASTON ELLIS talks about all the time on his PODCAST — seems to be coming to an end.

Ironically — and this is why TRUE DETECTIVE still remains the biggest recent mutation in TV — TV is willing to back an INDIVIDUAL VOICE in NIC PIZZOLATTO, in a way FILM now seems ready to PHASE OUT. Now you may argue, the FILM industry has always employed tons of WRITERS on FRANCHISES, and I agree; however, these writers/teams generally worked individually, and at different stages of a film’s development process. The notion of setting up a FRANCHISE INCUBATION FACTORY complete with it’s own television-inspired WRITER’S ROOM, now that’s a mutation…

…And now for a TELEVISION MUTATION…

In a move pioneered by STARZ, and haphazardly implemented by NETFLIX, PILOT SEASON is apparently being slowly phased out. Before a single second of PILOT FOOTAGE is shot/ordered, the entire now show is now being MAPPED OUT, and if it works on paper, it goes to SERIES.

Writer’s rooms at AMC are following this model, wherein FIVE SCRIPTS, and a fully outlined season are the new requirement, and if approved, the show will go STRAIGHT TO SERIES. No more PILOTS. A whole development stage is being skipped to facilitate the push for MORE AND MORE AND MORE ORIGINAL NARRATIVE CONTENT delivered at the SPEED OF THOUGH, because as I’ve said before: NARRATIVE CONTENT IS THE NEW MONEY

ADDITIONAL COLLAPSES (SEX AND ARCHITECTURE)…

Apparently, 25% of the student body at Harvard (bad pun alert) isn’t getting any. And not only aren’t they getting any — many aren’t even looking. It reminds me of reading about celibacy epidemics in JAPAN. Anyone have any ideas as to why the youth aren’t getting it on anymore? This is one mutation that baffles me…

And in the growing list of ARCHITECTURAL GIGANTISM — previously discussed hereUBER is starting construction on a glorious testament to its unstoppable world domination…