DataDownload: Epic Games wants to fix a broken internet A weekly summary of all things Media, Data, Emerging Tech View this email in your browser
Tick-tock. You can hear the sound almost everywhere you go. Change is in the air, and it’s exhilarating.
Epic Games is making a strong statement about how the current role of social media is ready for reinvention. Read the WaPo article, and you’ll see why this is worth paying attention to. A.G. Sulzberger is focused on trust, and how to rebuild audience credibility. A daunting task. The high-risk business of music festivals is a bit outside our ordinary focus, which makes it all the more interesting to watch FT’s video report. Peter Kafka’s podcast series takes a deep dive into Apple, with great insights.
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So, with that — our standard sign-off. We always want to hear from you. Steve@nycmedialab.org.
The NYC Media Lab Must-Read Epic Games Believes the Internet Is Broken. This Is Their Blueprint to Fix It.
Sima Sistani, CEO at video chat platform Houseparty, which got acquired by Epic Games in 2019, thinks the future of online interaction will distance itself from likes, comments, and posts, and get closer to complex interactions, where users share experiences across services. Or put another way, the move from sharing to participating.
That participation will occur in games, says Sistani. Donald Mustard, chief creative officer at Epic, says games have become like experimental labs, incubators of ideas, with Fortnite being an obvious example: “Mustard sees ‘Fortnite’ as an ever-changing virtual world that’s molded by feedback from players and the brands with which Epic partners, whether it’s Marvel directors Anthony and Joseph Russo to rapper Travis Scott, all of whom were heavily involved with the direction and creative process of their respective in-game events.”
The Washington Post / 16 min read
This is a fun one. We usually cover lists more “modern” and “serious” innovation lists, like MIT’s annual 10 Breakthrough Technologies, but when was the list time you saw Super Soakers sharing an HTML page with space telescopes? Here are some fascinating snippets.
Toilets: “Flush toilets like his had been available to Western Europe during the Roman Empire, but after Rome fell, Europe essentially resorted to sh***ing outside again. All of those systems fell into disrepair.”
Super Soaker: “NASA engineer Lonnie Johnson…. got the idea… while testing a new type of heat pump he had created that used water as a coolant in the early 1980s. While the heat pump worked fine, he also realized it was pretty fun to shoot concentrated streams of water from the pump across his bathroom.”
Pizza Box: “Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan changed the game in the early 1960s when he worked with Triad Containers in Detroit to develop the modern pizza box. Prior to this, pizzas were delivered in bags or paperboard bakery boxes.”
Mental Floss / 31 min read Read More Tech+Media “Crisis of Trust in the Media”: Inside A.G. Sulzberger’s Top Times Project
In 2014, The NY Times’ sweeping digital transformation report centered around the “art and science of getting our journalism to readers.” That initiative has largely paid off, with over 130M online readers as of late.
Last month, Sulzberger and his 10-person, cross-functional team unveiled a new initiative — “developing innovative ways of deepening our audience’s trust in our mission and in the credibility of our journalism.” That’s something to parse, but the gist is, trust in the media is at an all-time low — how do we bring it back? Because, besides the integrity thing, trust brings readership:
“The goal is 10 million paying readers by 2025; at the end of the second quarter, there were 7,936,000, including 7,133,000 digital-only subscribers. As a third source with knowledge of the project put it, part of the idea is ‘to broaden the Times’ readership and make sure that the Times is innovating. Broader means all kinds of readers, including politically.’”
Vanity Fair / 4 min read Read More What Social Media Needs to Learn From Traditional Media
Kind of a funny title from Wired, considering that 1994’s launch of offshoot HotWired marked the the first major online publication to feature original content. But ultimately relevant given the diminished trust in media (see The NY Times’ new mission above). As the author notes, “the social media industry has yet to articulate a philosophy of how the pursuit of advertising revenue should be balanced against other social values.” In other words, a clear separation of church and state.
Lack of trust in online sources has become so prevalent that it’s spawned a formidable business model, as evidenced by the proliferation of trust-as-a-service apps, from platforms that pay you for sharing your data to a search engine who’s biggest selling point is a lack of ads. As for the lesson:
“The most interesting thing about journalism’s separation of church and state is that it’s self-imposed. No federal statute says a newspaper must keep its advertising operations walled off from coverage decisions. It’s a value that crystallized in the 1920s, when American journalists adopted a commitment to objective, nonpartisan reporting. As historian Michael Schudson explains in his book Discovering the News: A Social History of American Newspapers, this was a key moment in the professionalization of journalism”
WIRED / 10 min read Read More How Salesforce Is Gathering Its Own Customer Data Through Its New Streaming Video Play
Salesforce plus — inspired by other streaming platforms — aims to bring the “magic of Dreamforce to viewers across the globe with luminary speakers, Trailblazer success stories, and groundbreaking innovations,” according to a company press release. Customer behavior data from the company’s new streaming platform will be funneled into Salesforce CDP (customer data platform), which in turn will be… pitched back to the viewers, along with other Salesforce products. Mike Kostow, marketing cloud EVP and GM, coins the approach Salesforce-on-Salesforce.
“Call it an extreme example of the first-party data. Salesforce wants its own customers to take into its CDP to manage and use when they themselves market to their own customers. The company recently added the CDP to its AppExchange, the compendium of software applications that plug into Salesforce technologies, to make it easier for clients to connect that first-party data to the data from third-party companies that’s available in the exchange.”
Digiday / 2 min read
“Festivals were already a precarious business, but after a record year in 2019 the coronavirus pandemic brought outdoor events to a halt. The FT talks to organisers, bands, and stage hands to find out whether they can bounce back.”
Financial Times (YouTube) / 20 min watch
“In 1997 Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy and falling far behind its biggest competitor, Microsoft. But that all changed when Apple started building revolutionary new devices that strayed from its roots as a computer company. The iPod and the iPhone propelled Apple from an underdog to the company that dominates the way we think about consumer electronics today.”
Spotify / 42 min listen
Listen Now Virtual Events Free Event: Hello Show by Orange Silicon Valley
Date: October 5–7
The Hello Show by Orange Silicon Valley is a three half-day summit crafted to provide thought leadership and community connections through innovation, startup demos, and partnerships that Orange Silicon Valley leads in the US. Register Here. A Deeper Look DeFi Has Something to Learn From Napster
The goal of decentralized finance — like with most Dapps — is to cut out the middle-person. Peer-to-peer lending, borrowing, payment, and investment minus the banks, brokerages, or exchanges. This makes regulating DeFi apps, as Bloomberg puts it, a game of whack-a-mole. But it’s not without precedent: “Much as Napster’s viral growth in 1999 quickly overran the traditional music industry, the sums at stake in this new era of digital money are becoming the 800-pound gorilla in the room for the traditional financial system.” (Crypto has a ~$2T market cap.)
“Two things are likely to prove true. 1. Like Napster, the innovators of the DeFi world are probably due for a comeuppance as regulators catch up. 2. Also like Napster, which prompted a digital music streaming business model with new middlemen such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora, DeFi has probably changed the financial industry forever.”
Bloomberg / 4 min read