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Quick Switch Thoughts

(First published on 3/29/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter — more)

A small miracle happened last week (despite Nintendo’s worst efforts): Amazon received a new shipment of the Switch. And I was able to snag one. It arrived on Monday, so I haven’t had much time with it, but wanted to post some quick first-impressions.

I decided to publish the thoughts as a Medium Series. Find it here:

5ish Links

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Bn so949 0322ne top 20170322084015

Netflix: The Monster That’s Eating Hollywood

I linked to this article in my post (500ish, below) about Netflix, but worth highlighting a couple parts by Joe Flint and Shalini Ramachandran:

Netflix is also attracting big-name reality show creators like David Broome of the hit NBC weight-loss show “The Biggest Loser.” In an interview, Mr. Broome said he struck a deal with Netflix that will give it first dibs on all his future creations ahead of other networks, and allow him to sell merchandise world-wide based on his Netflix shows, with the streaming service receiving a cut.

Had not heard about the ROFR (right of first refusal) clause and the merchandizing element of these deals before. But it’s smart. Netflix is getting more aggressive as it grows in power

Some TV executives are trying to turn one of Netflix’s supposed selling points — releasing entire seasons of shows at once for users to binge — into an argument against the company.

“I think a lot of people have now come around to say it’s nice when your show is out there 10 or 13 or, in the case of ‘The Walking Dead,’ 16 weeks. That is cultural currency,” said Joel Stillerman, AMC’s president of programming. Advocates say the “water-cooler effect” — friends chatting about and spreading excitement for a show — can help build its momentum.

I’ve made this argument as well in the past. I can see both sides. But there is no question that Netflix owns this model for releasing things.

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26amazon facebookjumbo

Amazon’s Ambitions Unboxed: Stores for Furniture, Appliances and More

Nick Wingfield:

Joe Thompson, a former general manager in Amazon’s retail business, sees physical retail as key to Mr. Bezos’s outsize ambitions for the company. “I can’t help but feel that, in Bezos’s mind, he wants to be the first trillion-dollar valuation company,” said Mr. Thompson, who is now an executive at BuildDirect, an online home improvement store. To do that, he said, Amazon would have to “crack” a couple of “completely underpenetrated markets online.”

I, personally, would not bet against Bezos reaching his trillion dollar goal in this regard — new all-time high today, in fact ($421B and counting)… And:

But a group within Amazon has explored another larger grocery store format, according to both a person familiar with the concept and to internal Amazon documents reviewed by The New York Times. The store could stock fresh produce, meats and other items in a public area of the store, while keeping frozen foods, cereals and other items traditionally found in the center of a grocery store behind a wall, in what would be a kind of small Amazon warehouse. Workers behind the wall, not robots, could quickly package orders for customers.

This concept makes sense to me in theory at least. One hold-up with online grocery has been the desire to see (and feel) produce in person. So what if you make a store where you can do that, while everything else is handled behind-the-scenes, literally?

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Bn sq866 amazon top 20170326213520

Amazon Delays Opening of Cashierless Store to Work Out Kinks

Speaking of Amazon stores, here’s Laura Stevens on the struggles Amazon has had with its “Go” (cashier-less) concept stores:

The Amazon Go store in the company’s hometown of Seattle uses cameras, sensors and algorithms to watch customers and track what they pick up, according to the people familiar with the matter. But Amazon has run into problems tracking more than about 20 people in the store at one time, as well as the difficulty of keeping tabs on an item if it has been moved from its specific spot on the shelf, according to the people.

For now, the technology generally functions flawlessly only if there are fewer than about 20 customers present, or when their movements are slow, the people familiar with the matter said. After it opens, the store will still need employees for the near future to help ensure the technology is accurately tracking purchases.

20 customers is obviously not going to work. But is there any question that Amazon will be able to solve this?

You know how awesome it is when you can just get out of an Uber and not worry about pulling out your wallet, figuring out tip, etc? That’s going to happen here too. It’s just a matter of time.

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140609 r25118 1200 630 21172717

The Teen Whisperer

This is an old one — “old” being 2014 — but The New Yorker tweeted it out recently, so it caught my attention.

Margaret Talbot caught up with John Green on the eve of the opening of the movie version of his book “The Fault in Our Stars”:

Publishing executives talk about successful books as if they were lightning strikes, but the popularity of “The Fault in Our Stars” was no accident. Nerdfighters, who by then numbered in the millions, were evangelical about it, tucking notes into copies of the book and encouraging readers to join their movement. In fact, “The Fault in Our Stars” reached the №1 position on Amazon six months before it was published, when Green announced its title online. Many authors do pre-publication publicity, but Green did extra credit: he signed the entire first printing — a hundred and fifty thousand copies — which took ten weeks and necessitated physical therapy for his shoulder.

I actually somehow had no idea about Green’s massive YouTube following leading up to his writing success. But I love the concept of the multi-pronged/multi-channel approach in our current day and age. To that end:

In a different era, “The Fault in Our Stars” could have been that kind of cultish book. For many young people today, however, reading is not an act of private communion with an author whom they imagine vaguely, if at all, but a prelude to a social experience — following the author on Twitter, meeting other readers, collaborating with them on projects, writing fan fiction. In our connected age, even books have become interactive phenomena.

Again, this is from 2014, but if anything, it seems even more applicable now. (Aside: it’s still ridiculous that we have this preference to read recent articles versus old ones, which may be just as good, if not better…)

Moe wagner twitter 1200x630
Moe wagner twitter 1200x630

Still Alive

Yeah, Michigan was eliminated in the Sweet 16 by Oregon last week — another great game, losing by one with a shot to win it at the buzzer — but to follow up on their incredible run, I wanted to link to this post by Forward Moe Wagner on the team. It’s his first-hand account of what happened when their plane flew off the runway.

Mark and Tyler, thinking quickly, open the emergency doors on both sides of the plane. And man … it’s crazy. I’m pretty much running for my life. We evacuate onto the wing, while the plane is still moving. (Like, with the engine still going and everything.) Then we climb off (only a few feet, without the wheels) — and, as soon as we hit the ground, we straight-up book it. I’m telling you: We’re sprinting as fast as we can, as far away from that plane as we can get.

And then, for the next hour or so, we’re all just sort of … there.

It turns out you can’t simply call an Uber after your plane crashes. So we’re standing around — you know, all 120 of us, on the runway — with this giant plane stalled out on its belly beside us. It’s almost like a beached whale. It’s surreal.

I love this post. It’s not too polished, just raw enough. Has a voice. Another great example of the kind of stuff at which The Players’ Tribune (disclosure: GV investment) excels. Thanks for indulging me :)

Quickish Hits

Real Story Behind Stories: Advertising

I don’t 100% agree with this post by Nilay Patel. But I 50% agree :) Yeah, it’s a nice mobile format (for some things), but I do believe it’s one FB wants to succeed as well for their own bottom line…

NBC to Broadcast 2018 Olympics Live in All Time Zones

Wait, so NBC is going to admit it’s 2018 in 2018. Or, as Ben Thompson quips: that it’s 1998 in 2018. How forward-thinking of them after the 2016 💩.

GameStop is looking to close up to 150 stores this year

I always, always, always hated these stores. They were like Blockbuster, but worse: they totally ripped kids off with trade-ins. Eventually, they’ll suffer Blockbuster’s fate as well. Good riddance.

500ish Words


The Squid

As mentioned above, some broader thoughts about The Squid, Netflix. (With thoughts about Amazon, The Whale, yet to come.)

(First published on 3/29/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter)

Written by

General Partner @ GV (née Google Ventures). In past lives I wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon. A man of few words. Except when writing. 🍻

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