Quick Takes – Marketing and Media News for 2/13/18

I don’t have much to add to it but if you haven’t read this piece at Buzzfeed about the very real dangers we face from technology that allows reality to be manipulated in scary ways, you need to do so right damn now.

Similarly, Wired has a report on the upheaval within Facebook in the last two years as the site as it’s struggled with an identity now that “help people connect” isn’t enough of a goal and those in charge are actually being asked what good or bad purpose it solves and what it plans to do about the latter.

Media

Disney’s streaming OTT plans have begun to come into focus and it’s more or less exactly what you would expect. There’s an emphasis on Star Wars as well as updates or new twists on established Disney properties like Lady & The Tramp and more. The question of what this means for the studio’s stake in Hulu is also answered as it will become the outlet for any R-rated or adult fare while the branded service remains all-ages friendly.

Along those same lines, Viacom will be launching its own branded streaming service with its own titles. In the same earnings call the company made it clear it has plans to turn around the ailing fortunes of Paramount, which has struggled as it sold off a number of films, had others flop and more. Also, the reactions to Viacom purchasing the VidCon conference are…yeah, just what I thought.

Digital media jobs in a number of sectors are growing in the Los Angeles area. That’s great for them, but not so great for anyone not there.

Given the anger directed at the media – anger that’s been fueled by powerful people who are unaccustomed to being held to account – it’s hard to argue that some sort of journalist protection law is necessary, thought its necessity doesn’t make the reality any less disappointing.

M.G. Siegler has some outstanding thoughts on why the movie theater-going experience is terrible. Notably, he hits a point I’ve made a couple times: The theater chains and the studios basically only want us to go to the theater for blockbusters, but when those blockbusters are terrible or simply fail to catch on, there’s literally no other model they’re willing and able to fall back on.

Content Marketing

Unilever Chief Marketing Officer Keith Weed has said his company will pull back advertising from sites like Facebook and YouTube if they don’t do more to protect children and make other safety changes. I’d like to believe this but don’t see a hard line being drawn here as shareholders won’t long stand for the company not reaching that kind of audience. My cynical side says this is a lot of rhetoric that’s meant to get headlines but won’t amount to very much. That being said, the biggest – the only – thing that will affect real change is if the social network companies start feeling a pinch in their wallets.

Of course that may not matter at all because Facebook is more reliant on small advertisers than big ones.

David Cohn at Adweek has a really interesting piece on how Tumblr has fallen out of the spotlight when it comes to the attention received by advertisers and brand publishers, something that he ties to the platform’s mishandling by Yahoo after that purchase. The one caveat I would add is that while user growth isn’t expected to be massive and the marketing industry isn’t counting on it any longer there still *is* a vibrant community there that actually may get stronger without the interference of advertisers, one that’s much more about support than a toxic environment like reddit and others.

Social Media

Medium has tweaked its homepage, but it’s still not the RSS-like “here’s everything that’s new from the people/topics you follow” experience I really want, just more of the “recommended for you” approach.

Someone needs to start a single-serve site displaying whether or not Logan Paul is or isn’t suspended from YouTube’s monetization program. As of last Friday the status would have been “Suspended.” Along those lines, the video-sharing site has outlined the new rules for creators and the access they have to preferred partner status.

Facebook is testing a downvote button but just for comment moderation because “make the rest of the internet just like Digg 1.0 or reddit” was apparently someone’s idea of how things should go. It’s also changing the way it calculates post reach to only include when a post has been loaded on someone’s screen, not just when someone *could* have seen it. And there’s a new section coming specifically devoted to breaking news videos along with a new “Lists” post type which should make those “…your first eight concerts” memes that much more irritating.

The redesign of Snapchat – much-anticipated and heralded as the key to the platform finally catching on with older people – is so far doing a fantastic job of honking off the younger users who have made it so popular to date.

New numbers from eMarketer report that Facebook is losing young – under 25 – users faster than expected and the problem is only going to accelerate. As the story says, these numbers may not be 100% accurate but even if reality isn’t quite that bad, the *perception* that the site is quickly shedding hip, young users could mean advertisers start to abandon it.

Technology

Urrmmm…The live news app being added to Apple TVs isn’t really that, it’s just a portal to the apps for various media brands and it still requires you to have a cable subscription to access.

One element I haven’t seen completely explored in the news Amazon is testing its own delivery service is that it essentially used USPS, UPS and other services as a testing ground for over a decade, learning what worked and what didn’t before going out on its own.

Gen X and Millennial investors are tech-savvy themselves and are looking for financial advisors who use social media, apps and more as well.

A good op-ed in Variety about how those who rely on copyright protections for their livelihood and career desperately need the rules regarding infringement – specifically how it relates to the tech companies that serve as pathways to content – to be rewritten as part of a renegotiated NAFTA.

Virtual reality devices are still too expensive for people – particularly kids – to own themselves and so are flocking to VR arcades to get the immersive experience they expect. In case you’re not old like me, this is exactly the same reason kids went to video game arcades in the 70s and 80s, because the Atari 2600 we had at home wasn’t nearly as cool as the big games available elsewhere. Once PlayStation and Xbox brought higher game quality home, you didn’t need arcades. So as VR technology gets cheaper, expect the same pattern to unfold.

AMP Stories is a new format that’s been introduced by Google, allowing publishers to put together nifty little packages around a single topic, monetizing those stories with interstitial or other ads, though there still seem to be other issues needing to be worked or figured out. “AMP for Email” will let you do more all without leaving the Gmail environment because it’s now a universal belief among tech companies that letting people leave at all is a bad thing.

Want even more recommendations? Check out my Pocket Shared Items.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Rogue One: Recon Takes You Inside An X-Wing Cockpit

Last week Star Wars and Verizon debuted Rogue One: Recon, an immersive 360-degree virtual reality experience available exclusively at Verizon stores. Recon, developed and directed by ILM chief creative officer and Star Wars veteran John Knoll, takes you inside the cockpit of an unnamed X-Wing pilot who, along with his wingman, picks up and decides to investigate some mysterious Imperial communications chatter. As soon as they jump into a system, though, they’re confronted not only with a fleet of Star Destroyers but also an as-yet-incomplete Death Star. The pilot has to transmit what data he’s assembled back to the Rebel base quickly, before the encroaching Tie Fighters or Star Destroyers blow him and his partner out of the sky.

The video, released recently, only shows a fraction of what’s available to anyone who goes and puts on the headsets at Verizon stores themselves. Those people can turn their head to see alternate angles from any perspective outside the virtual cockpit they’re strapped into, giving them even more of an immersive experience. So you can see the underside of the Star Destroyer you’re flying under, watch as Tie Fighters fly past and more.

That’s a pretty incredible leap from where we were 20 years ago when the X-Wing PC video game was essentially a modified flight simulator with Star Wars graphics. Not only was your field of vision limited but you couldn’t fly your ship (different missions let you choose different starfighters) outside of defined areas.

Not only is a massive technological achievement but it’s an important part of the Rogue One story and the marketing for the movie. This week also sees the release of Catalyst, a new novel that tells the story of how Orson Krennic (played by Ben Mendelsohn in the movie) recruited a brilliant scientist, Galen Erso, to eventually build the superweapon that would later become known as the Death Star.

With big movies and franchises like Star Wars it’s quickly becoming insufficient to simply market and release the movie itself. The audience now expects the backstory to be told in some manner. In this case it’s with a VR experience and a novel. With Doctor Strange, released earlier this month, it was a prequel comic from Marvel that setup the magical world and characters the movie would expand on.

Part of this is driven by the companies who are managing these brands. Why just sell one movie ticket when you can also sell a $15 book and drive traffic to a store of a promotional partner? But it’s also becoming part of the customer’s expectations in terms of entertainment media.

Not only do entertainment brands need to constantly stay in front of people’s eyes, even when there isn’t something new to actively promote, but it needs to do so on various and shifting channels. So Twitter needs this, YouTube needs that and Facebook needs another thing. Keep it fresh and offer as many touchpoints with as much original content as possible because you need to hit someone’s attention when they’re waiting at the bus stop or in line at the grocery store or just ignoring their work duties for a few minutes.

Add on to that the proliferation of fan theories online and on social media. Any lingering question from these big, shared-universe franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, DC or other brands will be endlessly debated and questioned by fans and others until all possible answers have been sussed out. So there are dollars to be had in providing official, canonical answers to some while letting others remain hanging out there, with talent and producers usually teasing that it *might* be answered in whatever movie, book or TV episode is coming next. Unanswered questions are the new cliffhangers, with fans anxiously awaiting until a hanging plot point is resolved.  

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The Rogue One: Recon experience is the second big virtual reality movie-based story to be in the news recently. A fully-immersive VR experience based on last year’s hit Matt Damon drama The Martian is coming this month to PlayStation VR and HTC Vive, with an Oculus version coming soon. A new trailer with narration by Ridley Scott, who directed the movie and oversaw the VR story, teases how this is the closest most all of us will likely come to actually walking on the red planet.

VR is going to be a big part of future movie marketing efforts, especially for tentpole science-fiction movies that have strong built-in appeal with the geek and tech crowds, at least at first. These additional stories – they are to movies what expansion packs are to video games – will eventually hit all genres and audiences. It won’t be enough to simply watch the reboot of Bridget Jones’s Diary in 2036, you’ll also expect to be able to virtually explore her apartment and favorite neighborhood pub. Movie marketing and storytelling will be, by default, immersive.

When Will Movie Marketing Get a Full Virtual Reality Use Case?

There have been a handful of stories recently, especially with SXSW going on, like this one that talk about how brands are beginning to seriously experiment with virtual reality. That has me wondering: What will the first movie be that is marketing at least in part with a fully-immersive VR experience?

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Yes, there was The Martian VR Experience at E3 earlier this year, but that was mostly after-the-fact. I’m wondering what movie will use VR as part of the in-advance marketing.

A comic book or other science fiction makes the most sense right off the bat. These movies have fully immersive and fleshed-out worlds that they take the audience into and so it would be easy to expand that to the VR experience. Imagine becoming familiar with the world of Pacific Rim or Batman v Superman or something like that before the movie comes out? Not only would anticipation be heightened but the audience’s sense of what was in that world would be that much greater.

In essence it’s not much different from the prequel comics and other stories that come out that are meant to do likewise and lead the audience into the movie’s story. It’s just another cross-media story execution that fleshes out the setting of the movie and provides context that a two-hour (or more) story can’t by virtue of its constraints.

Considering movie studios are actively looking at how VR can be used and how they are usually among the early adopters of new promotional technology and platforms I don’t think it will be too much longer before this happens. What will be interesting is to see who exactly pulls the trigger first.