Knives Out for Content

Baby Yoda, Windows 2020, Quibi Clip, Bud Light Seltzer, Good Newsletters

Busy week. As such, I’m reverting back to a bit of the old newsletter format, mixed with a few of the newer things I’ve been trying, based on feedback some folks sent along (thanks much!). Hope those in the US have a good, long weekend. I’m looking forward to catching up on some reading and maybe some of the 10,000 incredible television shows that none of us have time to watch. Maybe even Halt & Catch Fire. Maybe.


Links

Baby Yoda Is Your God Now 👶

The title is a little silly, James Poniewozik has some good points:

“The Mandalorian” is a delightful and artful entertainment. It’s also Disney saying, yes, we will re-gift you your childhood, over and over — but it will also be new, and cute, and genuinely inventive, and tweaked just an acceptable amount. It will gainfully employ brilliant people like Werner Herzog and Amy Sedaris. It will use the talents of visual artists who will combine the best of popcorn movies and art film, within the parameters of the franchises we need them to work in.

And you will help create it! Part of what made Baby Yoda a phenomenon was that he did not feel imposed from above — “Baby Yoda” is our name, not Disney’s — and his character, his place in the year’s pop vocabulary, was created as much by the fans smithing online memes as it was by the show itself.

It really is sort of wild that Disney — the masters of marketing — were caught by surprise by the “Baby Yoda” phenomenon. Sure, part of it was undoubtedly to help keep the secret. But they whiffed on merch during the most vital time of the year: the holidays. And The Mandalorian had teed it up perfectly…

Anyway, my main takeaway from the show is that Disney made a bigger mistake: Jon Favreau should have directed the latest Star Wars trilogy. Rather than having J.J. Abrams reboot only to have Rian Johnson negate only to have Abrams negate the negation, Favreau showcased how you mix nostalgia with newness, in a show, no less.

Windows: Facing the New Decade ⌨️

Steven Sinofsky gathered up a series of tweets on this topic to give us a compelling read. This part in particular resonated:

In planning what came next (started in 2009), the optimism was not uniformly shared. The product view was we were experiencing a “blackberry moment”. While financials and numbers looked good, it was increasingly clear the product was wrong. The short answer “we’d seen iPhone”.

Ah yes, anagnorisis!

Hollywood Bets On Quick Clips and Tiny Screens 🎬

Adam Rogers sits down with Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman to talk Quibi after the big reveal at CES.

“The ‘show’ part is the next turn of the evolution of story structure, he says. Movies are a couple of hours of story meant to be consumed in a gulp; TV shows you can choose to see as either a unit of 22 minutes or 42 minutes (that’s show minus commercials), or as a however-many-hours-long story taking one season or many.

But in all of those formats, the secret, irreducible unit is the act. As in a play, these are story subsections, akin to chapters. Movies have them, though smart screenwriters disagree about how many and how long they ought to be. In radio and broadcast TV, commercials became de facto act breaks—an hour-long show has roughly five, in the modern construction. “And the first act break is always at—” Whitman says.

“—eight and a half minutes,” Katzenberg finishes.

Most people — including the people in charge of Quibi! — talk about the service as a mobile-first Hollywood-quality video play. And that’s fine. But there are some fundamentals, such as the above, that are actually more interesting from a consumption-perspective. Think of it this way: how many people do you know that talk about how they love watching a show like The Office because it’s 30 minutes (actually 22, per above) versus an hour, let alone multiple hours?

Even in our era of “peak TV” where binge-watching rules, there would seem to be a space for some counter-programming here.

That being said, all the will ultimately matter is how good or bad the content actually is. If there’s nothing that’s a “must watch”, the service will fail. The good news (for Quibi) is that they have billions of dollars to keep trying to find those hits again and again and again. The bad news is that it’s harder than ever to convince people to take time away from the services they already use to give your content a shot. (The screen-rotation trick may at least give them a vector to get people in the door at least…)

A Baby Yoda, they need.

“Ain’t no laws when you’re drinking Claws” 🧃

After making fun of Bud Light Seltzer — seriously, WTF?! — I was directed to this piece about the “hard seltzer” revolution from last summer by Rebecca Jennings:

“It is difficult to overestimate the hugeness of hard seltzer to people who study the business of alcohol, but here are some exact figures: Hard seltzer is currently a $550 million business and is projected to keep growing, with one UBS analyst estimating to Business Insider that it could be worth $2.5 billion by 2021. Sales of hard seltzer have grown about 200 percent over the past year, with 164.3 percent of that growth occurring in July alone, according to Nielsen.”

“Half of those sales are concentrated on a single brand: White Claw, which is owned by Mark Anthony Brands, the owner of Mike’s Hard Lemonade. It and the next leading brand, Truly, which is owned by Boston Beer Company, together make up about 85 percent of total hard seltzer sales. As of this year, every major beer company has at least one hard seltzer on the market, as beer continues to lose market share in favor of less alcoholic, less caloric options.”

Which is to say, the White Claw revolution. “Healthy” drinking? Pure marketing? Some mixture of the two? As someone old enough to remember Zima, I find this trend fascinating. And I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Bud Light Seltzer is a total fail. It’s the Crystal Clear Pepsi of beer (which is not even beer, of course).

On Being a Good Newsletter 📝

Craig Mod has some excellent thoughts on some basic things that a good newsletter should do. I do almost none of them, but still, good thoughts.


Asides

  • Gladys Bourdain, a New York Times copy editor, passed away this past week at the age of 85. She was, of course, also the mother of Anthony Bourdain. And I didn’t realize just how vital she was to helping her son get his big break. Also try not to get choked up when you read this: “Ms. Bourdain memorialized her son with a tattoo of his name on her wrist — her first and only tattoo.”

  • The Oscars are going host-less again. Which I think is a good thing — it worked fine last year — but it is kind of wild that we live in a world where what was once consider the most prestigious hosting gig is not only that — it has now been completely eliminated, and people are happy about it.


Speaking of Rian Johnson…

Also, Knives Out was great. Highly recommend.

Formatting

AirPod Latency, AirPod Sales, Tiffany's Touch, Boris' Britain, Australia in Flames

M.G. Siegler

I tend to use the beginning of new years as forcing functions to try new things. And given that I’m some three-plus years into this newsletter “experiment”, I figured this was as good of a playground as any. (Though it’s a little awkward as there are now a few thousand folks reading this…)

One thing I want to play around with is formatting — I’m a sucker for trying to format documents so as to be easier to quickly parse. And given that I’m of the mindset that most newsletters are far too long, I’m attempting to streamline a bit.

One element I’ve always had a hard time reconciling here: links I feel like are worth your time to click on versus links to source material I simply wish to comment on. In an ideal world, you’d click on both, perhaps. But I want to be realistic in the difference between a news items, which you may have already read or know about, versus an unearthed gem of sorts. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting closer (in ‘Links’ versus ‘Asides’ below — but I’m also thinking about ‘Links’ versus ‘Commentary’ or the like).

I’ve also been thinking about cadence (as always). My current thought is that I’ll send this out on Friday. A few thoughts here: first, I’d like to get back into a more regular flow of writing my 500ish posts, so I’d plan to do that roughly Monday to Thursday. That would leave 5ish to be a recap of other things I wanted to weigh in on but didn’t get a chance to in longer form, and/or links to share. And, of course, links to the aforementioned 500ish posts from the week.

All of this is to say, expect more experiments over the next few weeks. And I appreciate the patience and feedback!


Links

The Speed of Bluetooth SoundStephen Coyle did the work to see just how much latency the new AirPods Pro have versus the original AirPods (and the 2nd generation), and some other wireless headphones. The results are encouraging:

If it's possible for the trend line to continue in the same direction, the next generation or two of AirPods will be very exciting. Not being a VoiceOver user, I'm unsure how much AirPods Pro improve its user experience in real terms, but I think this general trend can only be for the good. Similarly, for mobile gaming and general user experience, this trend means that what is, in my opinion, the primary downside of Bluetooth earphones may be gradually disappearing.

Though still not all that great, especially for things like the typing sounds on the iPhone (I long to turn such sounds back on, but until the latency improves, it’s silence).

iPods Pro — On the topic of AirPods, here’s Horace Dediu:

Looking forward to the next quarter, I am expecting a 51% increase y/y for Wearables and 24% growth in Watch. This results in a Watch revenues about $5.2 billion and non-Watch $5.7 billion. Now if we assume $1.7 billion for non-Watch-non-AirPods (i.e. Apple TV, HomePod, Beats, iPod, other) then this quarter AirPods will have overtaken peak iPod.

Remember that iPod was the phenomenon which reset all expectations for Apple. It caused Apple to cease calling itself Apple Computer. It (at least psychologically) laid the foundation for iPhone and everything else that followed. In 2005 and through 2007 Apple was “the iPod company”. I remember people working in a large search engine company calling Apple “that media company” as a result of over-intellectualizing iTunes.

The AirPods overtaking the iPod in terms of revenue is incredible. The AirPods overtaking iPod in terms of revenue this quickly and given the context Dediu mentions is astounding.

If Apple had the peak iPod numbers now, they would be a total afterthought and deemed a disappointment, if not failure, for Apple. Because they would have been nothing compared to the iPhone. But as with everything, it just speaks to how massive of a business the iPhone is — the iPod alone was bigger than many big, public companies, and now the AirPods are (for more context, see: below).

The Tiffany Touch — When I hear “Tiffany” I think of eggshell blue boxes and the movie/novel, but Vanessa Friedman opens the brand up to far more:

In 1885 Tiffany was responsible for the redesign of the Great Seal of the United States, which made the previously long and skinny eagle’s legs more muscular, apparently to match the country’s muscular ambitions. The design is still on the back of the currency.

And there are a handful of other didn’t-know-thats in here.

It’s Boris Johnson’s Britain Now — Tom McTague with a more nuanced look at the person now firmly running the UK:

Since becoming prime minister, Johnson has run a focused—even boring—campaign to turn the minority he inherited into his own majority. This is more like the real Johnson. Beneath all the hair and clothes, missives on Greek philosophy, and endless parking tickets is a man obsessed with his own elevation, who has won every popularity contest open to him, from school to university and on into politics, through to this moment, the only race that has ever really mattered to him. He is a man who exudes chaos, but has proved again and again that he is prepared to show enormous discipline, gather experts around him, empower them, and listen to their advice. He will bristle at and ignore anyone with real authority over him—whether a party leader or newspaper editor (he was previously a journalist)—but once he is the authority, he does not hesitate to ask for help. In the words of one former colleague who worked with him closely, he is a terrible team player, but a good team captain.

Mainly linking to this since I had linked to a less nuanced, though still provocative post on Johnson several months back.

The Age of Fire — Just an absolutely harrowing situation in Australia. Here’s Matt Simon with some context:

If you want to gaze into the hellish future of human existence on Earth, look to Australia. Huge bushfires have torched 14.5 million acres since September, killing at least 18. Vast plumes of smoke are pouring into major cities along the east coast, imposing a dire respiratory health hazard on millions of people. And Australia’s fire season is just getting started.

For Californians, the scenes are familiar. The same cabal of factors, including climate change and land management, is conspiring to produce bigger wildfires that consume more land and kill more people. We have entered the age of embers—think of it like an ice age, but with flames, what fire historian Stephen Pyne calls the Pyrocene.

There might be a billion animals dead at this point. That is not a typo. If you can do so, please donate.


Asides

  • Don Katz, who has been at the helm of Audible for 25 years — 25! — and 11 of those have been since Amazon acquired his company — 11! — is stepping down. In this day and age, both numbers seem rather incredible. I’m fascinated by large companies that do M&A well. This would seem to be a great example.

  • The amount of Street View imagery now found in Google Maps? 10 Million Miles — the equivalent of circling the Earth 400 times. Also, Google Earth now has 36 million square miles of satellite imagery — 98% of where people live. Just incredible.

  • The famous double-decker red buses in London are starting to go electric and F#maj7 is the key. That isn’t gibberish, it’s the chord that Transport for London wants these buses to play so as to avoid the eerie and potentially dangerous sounds of silence. It’s fun!

  • Just how big is that aforementioned AirPod business? This post would have you believe it’s truly massive. Bigger than many entire massive companies, massive. And while it’s undoubtedly big, it’s perhaps not quite that massive — at least not yet. But it may well be soon. Which is still incredible. Though some of us probably could have predicted this.


Posts

Looking Back On My 2019 Homescreen — My annual look back on my iPhone homescreen apps for the year.

Offline Curious — What if the kids of today naturally rebel against our screen-addicted ways?

A Surprising Morning JoltThe Morning Show, the first high-profile show from Apple TV+ stumbled out of the gate, then got good?


Potpourri

A Decree of Paramount Import

Disney's BO, the Studios BO, Holiday Netflix, RIP TiVo, Cats BO

Happy 2020. As previously noted, I used the holidays to think quite a bit about the cadence and structure of this newsletter. And I’m getting closer to some cohesive thoughts. But I’m also still dealing with some pretty bad jet lag, so not too much to share just yet. Beyond some links and commentary, that is.


Disney Produced 80% of the Top Box Office Hits in 2019

The headline number, while not exactly a surprisemore the continuation of a trend — is still a “wow”. As for what’s next, here’s Julia Alexander:

Let’s look at next year. Disney’s 2020 is far less packed with anticipated movies. There are a couple of major titles, including a live-action adaptation of Mulan and Black Widow and The Eternals from Marvel. But none of those have the cultural weight and recognition of Endgame, The Lion King, or a Toy Story film. Disney’s future isn’t just theatrical releases anymore, nor is it arguably a main focus. 2020 is about Disney+, the company’s streaming service, and continuing to entice people to sign up. All eyes from investors are on Disney’s streaming strategy, not necessarily just on box office returns.

Disney’s already shifted a number of theatrical titles into Disney+ exclusives (the Lady and the Tramp remake, Noelle), pulled its titles from competitors to offer exclusivity, and is bringing non-Disney franchises like The Simpsons over to ensure people have something to put on in the background. Expect to see more out of Disney+ in 2020, especially as the company heads toward its first full year as a streamer. And by 2021, when Avatar 2 and a number of other highly anticipated movies hit theaters, Disney could be at a place where it dominates the box office and streaming.

Just as they’ve completely conquered the box office, Disney is positioning themselves for a world in which the theatrical channel is just one piece of their content puzzle. Movies can drift in and out of Disney+ as they see fit. Maybe a movie runs there as a bit of a test, and if it hits, the sequel goes to theaters. Or maybe if they realize a planned theatrical release isn’t likely to do as well as hoped, it gets shifted to Disney+. There is so much opportunity here.

It’s hard to see how anyone else competes with this strategy. Others will do well — even extremely well in their lanes, like Netflix, but Disney just has so many channels. Did I mention merchandise and theme parks? Still, they have to make content that’s actually compelling, or things can slip rather quick.


Movie Studios Should Buy Movie Theaters

In a similar vein to above, here’s a post by Zach Evans from 2018:

One of the major strategic shifts traditional media companies are making to adapt is transitioning to direct-to-consumer. Unlike their tech rivals, most of these media companies do not own the platform in which their content is primarily viewed; this includes cinemas for their movies. This creates competitive disadvantages, financial and otherwise that are becoming more problematic as the competition grows. In an ultimate display of irony, both Netflix and Amazon recently considered purchasing a movie theater chain to bolster their own film businesses. For the same reason, but with entirely different implications, Hollywood studios should purchase theaters of their own. But not just one chain; rather, the majority that comprise the domestic box-office. In doing so, the moviegoing experience, moviegoing data, and moviegoing profits become entirely their own. And that’s just the beginning.

This, of course, would require the overturning of one of the most famous antitrust cases in the US: the Paramount Decree, which stopped movie studios from owning the theaters in which their content was shown. This mattered in 1948. Times have changed. And the Department of Justice clearly agrees — we’ll see what happens.

But it’s a compelling argument for how Hollywood — everyone not Disney, that is — can compete in our new era. Yes, it would suck for theater owners — though most theaters are chains now and suck anyway; this has played out as expected — but they would presumably be paid well to usher in this new studio/theater era.

Honestly, I’m not sure I agree with this idea, but it’s worth thinking about…


Let It Snow Content: Netflix Has Gone All in on Christmas

Alison Herman:

The streaming service has famously built its name on rejecting the specificity of premium cable outlets like HBO, or even less-premium cable outlets like Hallmark. Rather than market itself to a consumer base passionate enough about gritty crime dramas or scripted meet-cutes to reliably spend a few extra dollars a month, Netflix has spent billions on the unspoken guarantee that whatever you’re looking for, it has an in-house version—maybe not the best or most comprehensive version, but a conveniently accessible one. Netflix itself may be a mega-brand, though it’s more accurately understood as a collection of smaller brands, creating a facsimile of channel-surfing without ever leaving that eternal, scrolling grid. It’s CBS, and the CW, and Comedy Central, and the Criterion Collection. And now, for a few months, it’s also Hallmark.

Starting with Holiday in the Wild, released November 1, and culminating with A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby, set to land December 5, Netflix will release a total of seven festive offerings, ranging from a teen comedy (Let It Snow) to an animated fairy tale (Klaus). And that’s not even counting special holiday editions of preexisting Netflix properties like Nailed It!, The Great British Baking Show, and Alexa & Katie, now joining the ranks of scripted shows like BoJack Horseman and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina in releasing an off-season Christmas bonus. That’s still just a drop in the bucket compared with the Hallmark and Lifetime deluge, but if the past half-decade is any indication, Netflix never stays in the moderation business for long.

It is pretty wild just how quickly Netflix can turn over their slate of content and morph into something entirely tailored for a specific time, in this case, the holidays. It’s this agility and pace of execution that will keep Netflix more than safe in the age of what Disney is doing per above.

I do wonder why Netflix hasn’t delved into soap operas yet. After a newsletter several months ago (where I wondered if Netflix might face a churn challenge with so many streaming services entering the arena), James Lewis emailed me the following:

It had never occurred to me until I read that, but one answer would be to develop a modern-day soap opera (daily/weekly?) that essentially continues forever. If they made it compelling enough, that would be a great reason to never quit your Netflix account.

It seems like just the type of cheap, endless content that they could re-invent and own.


TiVo Nears All-Stock Merger Agreement With Xperi

Pour one out for TiVo as this seems like — finally — the sad end. It’s hard to overstate just how much TiVo changed the TV consumption landscape for me. As a kid, I actually didn’t love watching TV because I could not stand advertisements. Shitty ads aside, the constant interruptions ruined any sort of suspension of disbelief.

Getting TiVo was an absolute revelation and unlocked so much content for me in an age before streaming. Especially when I had moved across the country post-college by myself and didn’t know a soul in a new city, TiVo was my friend. I miss those bleeps and boops. I even liked the remote.


'Cats' Is Being Updated With "Improved Visual Effects"

In other movie news, here’s Pamela McClintock on Cats:

On Friday — the movie's opening day — Universal notified thousands of theaters they will be receiving an updated version of Tom Hooper's troubled film with "some improved visual effects," according to a copy of the memo obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.

The move is unheard of for a finished title already in release, according to cinema operators and Hollywood studio executives. Insiders say it is being done at Hooper's request.

Cats — which has been savaged by critics — is in need of any help it can get at the box office after opening to $2.6 million on Friday and receiving a C+ CinemaScore from moviegoers.

Ah, the old “we’ll fix it in post!” — except here, it’s post-post. What a disaster. And it just feels like one that could have been avoided had Universal read the room right. I’m sure they thought they could overcome the ridiculous look of the movie with the star power involved — or maybe the thinking was that people would see it because of all the buzz (positive or negative) — but come on, this was a self-own.


The Turbulent, Whiplash-Inducing, Repetitive Landing of ‘Star Wars’

On the topic of Disney and the box office, here are some 2,500-ish words on the latest Star Wars. Spoilers abound.


The Curtain Falls on 2019

J.J.'s End, Lucas' End, Jurassic's Poster, Maverick's Trailer, Craig's Farewell, Larson's Hello

As promised, one last newsletter before I’m off. Back on the road with a 14-month-old for two weeks. In a different time zone. In the cold. Wish me luck. Happy Holidays and New Years, all — thanks, as always, for reading.

Since it’s Star Wars week — I won’t get to see Rise of Skywalker until this weekend, but at my favorite theater — I figured I’d kick things off with a few relevant links.


Will ‘Star Wars’ Stick the Landing?

As per usual, I’m not going to read any reviews until after I’ve seen the film. But Dave Itzkoff sits down with director J.J. Abrams to chat about the meta points:

The Last Jedi,” released in 2017, was also a success. But each time it addressed one of several cliffhangers left dangling from “The Force Awakens” — what would happen when Rey returned Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber to him? who were her parents? who was the nefarious Supreme Leader Snoke? — Johnson’s movie seemed to say: the answers to these questions aren’t as important as you think.

Abrams praised “The Last Jedi” for being “full of surprises and subversion and all sorts of bold choices.”

“On the other hand,” he added, “it’s a bit of a meta approach to the story. I don’t think that people go to ‘Star Wars’ to be told, ‘This doesn’t matter.’”

Even so, Abrams said “The Last Jedi” laid the groundwork for “The Rise of Skywalker” and “a story that I think needed a pendulum swing in one direction in order to swing in the other.”

Two years ago, I had many thoughts on The Last Jeditwo posts-worth, in fact! Spoiler: I thought it was fine, but I didn’t love it. I enjoyed the second half more than the first. But I thought there were a lot of almost petulant choices made, which Abrams addresses in a diplomatic — though less diplomatic than I would have thought! “I don’t think that…!” — way, above.

I’m more than a little worried this trilogy ends up being remembered as a bad game of Telephone — with the person in the middle distorting the message. At the same time, if the trilogy had been all Abrams — which was never his intention — would it have been too pandering to the past?


Bob Iger Reveals George Lucas Felt "Betrayed" By New ‘Star Wars’

Sticking with that theme and the meta-analysis, here’s Graeme McMillan relaying a passage from Iger’s new book:

“George immediately got upset as they began to describe the plot and it dawned on him that we weren’t using one of the stories he submitted during the negotiations,” Iger writes. “George knew we weren’t contractually bound to anything, but he thought that our buying the story treatments was a tacit promise that we’d follow them, and he was disappointed that his story was being discarded. I’d been so careful since our first conversation not to mislead him in any way, and I didn’t think I had now, but I could have handled it better.”

Added the CEO: “George felt betrayed, and while this whole process would never have been easy for him, we’d gotten off to an unnecessarily rocky start.”

Things didn’t improve when Lucas saw the finished movie. Following a private screening, Iger recalls, Lucas “didn’t hide his disappointment. ‘There’s nothing new,’ he said.

Everyone’s a critic. But seriously, it’s a fair criticism! Then again, thank god they didn’t take any of Lucas’ treatments!

In terms of where Star Wars goes from here, Lucasfilms’ Kathleen Kennedy makes it pretty clear that it’s all still being discussed/debated in recent interviews. Including, apparently, her own role with the franchise. At this point, it seems pretty clear that it goes one of two ways. And both roads lead back to Marvel. Jon Favreau or Kevin Feige.


The Making of 7 Iconic Movie Posters

Finally got around to reading this post about Tom Martin, a veteran art director who designed thousands of iconic movie posters, that The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences put on Medium a few years back. Unsurprisingly, I loved it. On the topic of the poster for Jurassic Park:

“We added this little jungle scene at the bottom in order to give it scale because without that the dinosaur could be any size — it could be a baby,” he explained. “With the jungle below it made the dinosaur look huge. That’s my contribution to making that logo work.”

Each of these is great — including the ones not used for Jurassic Park.


Sticking with movies, how great do the trailers for the new Top Gun movie continue to look? I know, I know! I’m just as surprised by this as anyone. But it seems like they may have taken the right approach here…


Meanwhile, the trailer for the new James Bond film, No Time to Die, also looks great. Daniel Craig going out with — brain: don’t say it, don’t say it… — style?

One can only hope…


‘Far Side’ Creator Launches Website

Also making a comeback — Gary Larson! Alison Flood on the creator of the long dormant cartoon:

Syndicated in almost 1,900 daily newspapers from 1980 to 1995, Larson retired The Far Side in 1995, citing “simple fatigue and a fear that if I continue for many more years my work will begin to suffer or at the very least ease into the Graveyard of Mediocre Cartoons”. He has worked to keep his cartoons from being reproduced digitally, because of what he called the “emotional cost” of having his work “offered up in cyberspace beyond my control”.

Marking the launch, Larson thanked fans for their patience, and set out to explain “why I’m so late to this party”. Larson admitted to “some ambivalence about officially entering the online world” but said that security and graphics are both better today, and there has also been some evolution in his own thinking. “I’m finally here,” said Larson. “And I could use a drink.”

His entire letter is worth a read. As someone who was obsessed with the comic in my youth, I’m quite happy about this.


A Couple 500ish Posts...

Twitter the Genie, Bluesky the Bottle

About those plans for Twitter to decentralize — or something…

May the Fortnite Be With You

And we’ll end with Star Wars, of course.


Whales & Bears

PrimeEx, Netflix Globes, Twitch Cloud, NeXbox, Day One, Day Zero, Halt

And now, the end is near. Of the year. Of the 2010s. Wild.

With the holidays just a busy workload, I’ve slowed down here a bit to end the year. But as always, I have some thoughts and plans for 2020 to attempt to make my cadence a bit more consistent. For now, two final dispatches. One tonight. One tomorrow. To clear out my Bear notes. To start anew.


Amazon Delivering Nearly Half Its Packages Instead of UPS, FedEx

Michael Sheetz:

Amazon Logistics is the e-commerce giant's in-house logistics operation. Morgan Stanley said Amazon Logistics "more than doubled its share" of U.S. package volumes from about 20% a year ago and is now shipping at a rate of 2.5 billion per year. For comparison, Morgan Stanley estimates UPS and FedEx have U.S. shipping volumes of 4.7 billion and 3 billion packages per year, respectively."

"We see more of this going forward as our new bottom-up US package model assumes Amazon Logistics US packages grow at a 68% [compound annual growth rate from 2018 to 2022]," Morgan Stanley said.

That would put Amazon Logistics at 6.5 billion packages per year by 2022, according to the firm, far exceeding its estimate for UPS at 5 billion packages per year and FedEx at 3.4 billion packages per year.

This is both incredible, and not at all surprising.

What is mildly surprising is how quickly Amazon has played the long game. They didn’t need to “disrupt” FedEx and UPS by competing directly with them, handling shipping for merchants outside their network. They just grew their network so large, so fast that the opportunity in their network will soon be bigger than it is outside.

With that in mind, you can read past statements as sincere — Amazon didn’t want to run out FedEx and UPS out of business, they wanted to work with them as long as they could help them in their goals. As the above makes clear, that time is fading…


The 2020 Golden Globes Nominees

Speaking of doing the end-run-around old stalwarts, by Kimberly Nordyke , Jennifer Konerman, and Annie Howard report:

Leading the film distributors is Netflix with 17 nominations, including its first noms for best picture drama with The Irishman, Marriage Story and The Two Popes and for best musical or comedy motion picture for Dolemite Is My Name. Sony follows with eight total noms.

Netflix also leads the TV noms with 17, followed by HBO with 15.

This is incredible. Netflix not only leads in TV nominations, they lead in film nominations. As a reminder, seven years ago, Netflix had no original content. None. From zero to domination of two major creative categories in seven years.

The Squid, alongside that Whale, still got it.


Amazon’s Cloud Gaming Service Could Arrive Next Year with Twitch

Back to the Whale, the businesses that make sense (thanks to the foundation they’ve built over years) seemingly keep piling up:

Though you may not think of Amazon as a gaming company, it makes some sense that it wants to make a cloud gaming service and that it understands the massive potential for such a service. AWS already powers much of the internet (including huge games like Fortnite), which means Amazon already has a massive amount of infrastructure and streaming know-how at its disposal that it could use to try to make a reliable cloud gaming service. Amazon also owns Twitch, an incredibly popular live-streaming service, which probably gives Amazon a lot of intel about the types of games people might spend hours playing every single day.

I find the “cloud gaming wars” fascinating in that it’s a natural reset of the order of things. If it works, it’s not Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft in the best position, it’s Microsoft, Amazon, and Google. And it seems less of an if and more or a when. And it’s yet another reason to watch Nintendo’s moves in particular.

(BTW just got my hands on a Stadia which I’m excited to try out.)


The NeXt-Generation Xbox

But ahead of the cloud-gaming future, Microsoft is forging ahead with their next “traditional” console, unveiling the ‘Xbox Series X’ — a very Microsoft name — or so we thought. Here’s Ben Gilbert:

Upon closer inspection, it appears that "Xbox" is the make and "Series X" is the model — as if the name going forward for Xbox consoles is simply "Xbox."

It turns out there's a good reason for that.

"The name we're carrying forward to the next generation is simply Xbox," a Microsoft representative told Business Insider. "And at The Game Awards you saw that name come to life through the Xbox Series X."

Like the first Xbox generation, the next one is simply named "Xbox."

It's a basic rebranding, but a meaningful one that could help to simplify the Xbox line for interested consumers. It also clarifies Microsoft's intention with its console line.

As someone who has long wanted Apple to go back to calling each new version of the iPhone and iPad simply the ‘iPhone’ and ‘iPad’ (with variations for ‘Pro’ and whatnot), I should be a fan of this branding move. But Microsoft bungled the announcement and now people seem even more confused. Are we going to get a ‘Series __’ for every letter in the alphabet? Will this switch back to numbers?

Xbox NT 95 for Workgroups, anyone?

I do quite like the new design though!


Some people are lucky. Jeff Bezos is not one of those people. Unless it’s in the Billy Zane way.


I’m Running for President of the United States

Speaking of making your own luck, here’s Mike Bloomberg:

And then, when I was 39, I got laid off. I didn’t know what I’d do next. But I had an idea to start a company — so I took a chance.

And:

I know how to take on the powerful special interests that corrupt Washington. And I know how to win — because I’ve done it, time and again. I will be the only candidate in this race who isn’t going to take a penny from anyone and will work for a dollar a year.

His campaign is already proving divisive. But come on, part of this is enticing…


Halted & Caught Fire

I have a confession to make. It’s sort of a weird one. Despite it being one of my favorite shows of all time, I refuse to watch the end of Halt and Catch Fire

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