Facebook for Kids

Executive Summary:

  • FB launches Messenger Kids for 6-12-year-olds
    • Parents download and manage friend requests
    • Kids not found via search
  • Offers 3 Benefits to FB:
    • 1. PR
    • 2. Early Brand Affiliation
    • 3. Monetizable data

What it Means:

Smart for many media COs to have kid-specific offering:

  • Encourage family co-viewing / make babysitting easy
  • Create early brand affiliation
  • Enrich viewer datasets (I feel sick typing that but it’s real)


Facebook Launches Messenger Kids

Facebook launched Messenger Kids for 6-to-12-year olds in the US Monday, saying it took extraordinary care and precautions. The company said its 100-person team building apps for teens and kids consulted with parent groups, advocates, and childhood-development experts during the 18-month development process and the app reflects their concerns. Parents download Messenger Kids on their child’s account, after verifying their identity by logging into Facebook. Since kids cannot be found in search, parents must initiate and respond to friend requests.


Messanger Kids makes sense for Facebook for three reasons:

  1. PR – It sends a message that Facebook values giving parents comfort that their children have a safe environment on Facebook to communicate.

I wonder if the timing of this release is serendipitous, or possibly influenced by YouTube Kids’ current debacle in screening inappropriate content (USA Today).

2.  Early Brand Affiliation – Kids that use Facebook are more likely to become teenagers that use Facebook.

According to Facebook, Kids will not automatically be rolled into adult accounts when they turn 13 but it’s easy to imagine Facebook sending Kids a nice “Happy Bday!” message on their 13th birthday while facilitating an easy-as-possible upgrade to Adult Facebook.

3. Data – Messenger Kids expands Facebook’s data within a valuable demographic which can be monetized

Facebook has not disclosed a plan to monetize Messenger Kids and they will not serve Kids with ads. However, per The Verge, the data it collects could be useful for ad targeting elsewhere on the service. Tactics that come to mind:

  • Kids data could be used to target parents with ads
  • Once Kids become Adults, Kid account data could easily become associated with Adult accounts

Also, Messenger Kids will improve the integrity of Facebook’s age data since it’s likely that over the years, millions of Kids have fabricated their birth dates in order to create Facebook accounts.

What this means for media companies:

Scepticism of Facebook’s altruism aside, it’s hard to deny that Messenger Kids is a savvy product development.

As media companies develop their content strategies on linear, digital, and OTT channels, they should consider the value of offering children’s content:

  1. Encourage family co-viewing / make babysitting easy
  2. Create early brand affiliation
  3. Enrich viewer datasets (I feel sick typing that but it’s real)

Apple Goes Glass

(Originally posted on 12/3/2017)

Executive Summary:

  • Apple acquires Vrvana as part of plan to launch AR headset by 2020
  • AR finding utility in mobile but real value is through mass headset adoption
  • Apple product design track record signals mass adoption of AR headset (& underlying value) more likely

What it Means:

Mass AR adoption impact on media:

  1. Engaging content available everywhere (3D hologram content standalone or triggered by QR code)
  2. New frontiers for ads (3D hologram ads, real-life ad blockers)
  3. AR as video content user interface (OS owner becomes gatekeeper)

Apple Buys into Glass

Apple acquires augmented reality headset startup Vrvana for $30M (TechCrunch). The acquisition positions Apple one step closer to its goal of shipping AR headsets by 2020 (Bloomberg).

It’s not the first time we’ve been promised AR headsets and prospect of mass AR adoption seemed doomed once Google gave up on Glass (NewDaily).

However, the success of Pokemon Go proved the potential of AR on mobile devices and just this year, both Apple and Google have launched AR developer kits (TechCrunch). Even Amazon has released software tools to help developers more easily build virtual reality and augmented reality apps (Fortune).

The first round of mobile AR apps start to explore the possibilities of AR-enabled software, outside of gaming:

  • WallaMe: Leave an Augmented Reality message on the wall, or somewhere in a real place, that can be seen only by those you want
  • INKHUNTER: Try on virtual tattoos with AR before it’s inked forever (for your next one AV 😉
  • Amikasa: Use augmented reality to see how furniture really looks in your room before you buy
  • Yelp Monocle: Display AR markers for nearby restaurants, bars, and other businesses in real time, each bundled with the service’s user-generated ratings and reviews

These apps are cool but AR’s potential to become an important future technology depends on the availability of a headset that people actually want to wear. Apple is the master of creating software integrated hardware products that we can’t live without (Quartz). Their commitment to bring their craftsmanship to a headset signals the potential for AR becoming a big deal.

What This Means for Media Companies:

If Apple, or someone else, is successful in making AR headsets cool, the impact on media consumption could be huge:

1. More engaging content that can be even more present, and frictionlessly accessible, than on mobile

Use cases:

  • Video content displayed as a 3D holograph regardless of location
    • The video below shows an AR children’s story but imagine the possibilities of the types of content that could fit the format:
  • A QR code displayed on a television screen, while watching a show, could trigger your AR headset to display 3D hologramed content in your living room (a viewer can feel like they’re on set of their favorite talk show)
    • Similarly, front row seats to live events (concerts, sports games, et al.) become virtually available to all
  • Print media becomes interactive – a QR code in a magazine can display a dynamic 3D hologram…

One clear result is less viewer attention left available for traditional, non-AR content.

2. New frontiers (and challenges) for advertising

Use cases:

  • Snapchat has shown the potential for turning a selfie into branded content

Image result for snapchat branded content filter

  • A QR code in a commercial triggering a life-size 3D hologram display of the product being advertised (an actual size Lexus in your living room)
    • One step further, an advertisement for a retailer could trigger the holographic display of a complete virtual store in which viewers can purchase items directly
  • Say you’re walking around a city with an AR headset on…contextually relevant, personalized ads could be displayed on virtually boundless city scenery inventory
    • Or, a premium AR service could block the view of real-world billboard advertisements and replace them with pleasant landscape images
    • The ethical implications of these use cases are explored by NewCo here

3. AR could become a primary user interface to access video content

This video shows the utilization of AR to control machines. Imagine using this type of interface to control your television.

The implications of this potential are significant because it would place AR as the gatekeeper between viewers content. Meaning the AR interface could:

  • Influence viewer content decisions
  • Collect vast data on viewer behavior and preferences

This HBR quote sums up what we can expect, and only begin to imagine, from AR’s future role in communication:

AR complements existing print and 2-D digital communication approaches and in some cases can replace them altogether. Yet we see AR as much more than just another communication channel. It is a fundamentally new means of engaging with people. Just consider the novel way it helps people absorb and act on information and instructions.
The web, which began as a way to share technical reports, ultimately transformed business, education, and social interaction. We expect that AR will do the same thing for communication—changing it in ways far beyond what we can envision today. Companies will need to think creatively about how they can use this nascent channel.

In my opinion, Big Tech’s focus on AR and specifically Apple’s headset acquisition lays the groundwork for a technology that could have a huge impact on the media industry. If media companies want to be first movers in exploring an innovative technology, AR could offer a generationally favorable risk/reward opportunity.

Amazon’s Cloud Innovation

(Originally posted on 12/3/2017)

Executive Summary:

Announced new offerings include:

  • New translation/transcription service
  • Auto recognize video objects/scenes/activities, in the field
  • ML model process mgmt
  • Alexa for Business
  • Kubernetes container support
  • Graph DB that quickly shows data connections
  • New IOT OS/security/analytics
  • New relational DB service

What it Means:

  • Media-specific big data value in targeting audiences, informing content & sales analytics insights
  • Announcements validate future of container systems and serverless architecture
  • Services available to all that use AWS

Amazon Announces a Flurry of New AWS Services

Tech journalists had a busy week covering Amazon’s re:Invent customer conference. TechCrunch wrote 25 articles on the event (TechCrunch).

Here’s a descriptive list of the most notable announcements:

  • New translation service: Text translations for supported languages (Google and Microsoft have been offering these services for years)
  • Transcription service: Turns an audio file into grammatically correct text
  • Amazon Rekognition Video service: Developers can now automatically get information about objects in a video, the scenes they are set in and the activities that are happening in them
  • AWS Deeplens: A video camera that runs deep learning models directly on the device, out in the field
  • SageMaker: Provides a simplified framework for developers and data scientists to manage the machine learning model process
  • Alexa for Business: Allows companies to build out their own Alexa skills and integrations for both practical and business use cases (more on this next week)
  • Amazon EKS: Support to manage Kubernetes container orchestration system
  • Amazon Neptune: A graph database that quickly shows connections between data
  • New IOT operating systemsecurity and analytics: Products to simplify the development and security of IoT devices
  • Aurora Serverless: A database service that makes it easier and cheaper to quickly launch relational databases

What This Means for Media Companies:

Media companies are recognizing ‘big data’s value in targeting audiences, informing content and sales analytics insights.

The structure of their data science teams and the data architecture they utilize can have significant impacts on the ability to develop high quality products with scale and flexibility. Amazon’s decision to focus on themes such as container systems and serverless architecture validates their value and future role in cloud computing.

One of the great benefits of companies managing data in the cloud is that services like AWS act like platforms. Their customers have access to the many micro-services offered on the platform, such as those announced at re:Invent.

5G Wireless Service Becomes Real

(Originally posted on 12/3/2017)

Executive Summary:

  • Verizon announces plan to launch 5G in 5 cities by end of 2018
  • 5G will allow low latency mass adoption of next-gen internet tech:
    • media on demand
    • self-driving cars
    • VR/AR
    • drones
    • IOT
    • smart cities
    • smart grids

What it Means:

  • Digital content becomes more accessible to all
  • Increases important of net neutrality ruling – 5G to heighten digital content barrier to entry to companies that cannot pay for fast lane access


Verizon Announces Plans for 5G Service

Verizon says it will have 5G service in five cities by the end of next year (The Verge) – arguably the first step to 5G ubiquity in the US which according to Wired, should be around 2020.

5G is expected to fuel low latency mass adoption of next age internet technologies such as:

  • media on demand
  • self-driving cars
  • virtual and augmented reality
  • delivery drones
  • interconnected home devices
  • smart cities (WSJ)
  • smart grids (SmartGrid)

This whitepaper from Ericsson gives a comprehensive overview of the technology and the roadmap to making it accessible.

What This Means for Media Companies:

Higher speed internet means video content can be consumed even more easily…as long as the content is offered in the 5G fast lane.

The 5G network could make the implications of repealing net neutrality even more significant. A faster network for those that can afford to access it is a higher barrier to entry for those who cannot.

Other 5G enabling technologies such as self-driving cars and AR/VR are relevant to the media industry due to the impact they’ll have on the supply of viewer attention i.e., self-driving cars will increase the amount of viewer attention available to consume content and AR/VR will create new types of content to consume viewer attention.

Centralized Power & The Crypto Asset Backlash

Executive Summary:

  • Bitcoin was created, and embraced as a result to the 2008 financial crisis
  • Google, FB face the risk government regulation from non-neutral stance they’re taking against what they deem as ‘inappropriate content’
  • Decentralized platforms stand to benefit if Google, FB are regulated, similar to how Bitcoin did from financial market government regulation

What it Means:

  • This is all too speculative to be actionable now but it’s a dynamic worth keeping an eye on
  • FB, Google appear unstoppable but as history has shown, all tech incumbents are eventually disrupted
  • Decentralized platforms currently seem better positioned to disrupt tech incumbents in the future than any other organizations
  • What every the outcome, the implications for the media industry will be significant

In case it’s not already clear, all of this is hugely speculative and not necessarily a likely scenario. However, I think there is enough possibility for at least some components coming to fruition that it’s worth being aware of. At the very least, it’s a fun rabbit hole for entertaining intellectual thought.
I am going to focus on how crypto assets are most relevant to the media and am avoiding discussing them as an investment vehicle. If investing in crypto assets interests you, I recommend these podcasts:
  1.  Tim Ferris podcast featuring blockchain philosopher (and founder of AngelList) Naval Ravikant and the rumored inventor of blockchain (aka Satoshi), Nick Szabo
  2. Hashpower– A podcast Documentary on Blockchains & Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin – A Backlash Against Centralized Financial Power

It’s no coincidence that Bitcoin, the longest sustaining crypto asset, was created in the heat of the 2009 financial crises. The US federal reserve pumped over a $T of liquidity into the economy, the banks that caused the crises were bailed out and some tech-savvy people were pissed off at the lack of democracy controlling the money supply. Bitcoin, a digital asset that controls its supply through a set algorithm and tracks transactions on a decentralized ledger, was created and embraced by this pissed off community.
Through 8 years of crazy drama and volatility Bitcoin is still standing stronger than ever and has convinced many of its utility as a digital store of value, or even as its potential to become the world reserve currency (Forbes).

Exposing Platform Cracks

As today’s tech platforms have gained tremendous power in the form of attracting people’s attention, bad actors have taken advantage of their neutral, frictionless aggregation systems to spread malicious agendas (no link required). In response to people being pissed off at the platforms for enabling the spread of these agendas, platforms are attempting to secure their platforms from these bad actors:

The Growing Backlash Against Platform Censorship

However, in the platforms’ attempts to remove bad actors, they have sacrificed their neutrality and have become inherently biased. While it’s easy to agree with their current motivations, it’s scary to think of the possible repercussions from them exercising this type of editorial control in instances in which their motivations are not necessarily aligned with those of society. Some argue that the platforms are not properly incentivized to regulate themselves effectively and that government regulation is the solution (NYT)
The potential for this cycle of platform censorship and backlash to result in government regulation is summarized here by Stratechery’s Ben Thompson:
“it is hard to escape the sense of a perfect storm forming: the left, already more politically inclined to favor regulation, is increasingly pushing tech companies to exercise their power; the tech companies will be especially vulnerable to this push because it will come internally, not just externally. That internal reality, though, means that policies that “make us proud”, to use Twitter’s words, are going to be perceived as biased by the right — the same right that would be more politically inclined to defend the prerogative of private corporations, unless, of course, they feel discriminated against.”

Trust in Government

You don’t have to be a glass half empty kinda person to shit your pants at the prospect of the US government regulating our most powerful media distribution platforms.
Stated in <140 characters from the aforementioned crypto philosopher, Naval Ravikant:
If government regulation of social media isn’t enough to give you Orwellian nightmares, look no further than today’s hot takes on net neutrality to consider the possible outcomes of the FCC repealing net neutrality:

The Response of the Crypto Community: Get to Work!

That’s an extended detour to make the case that the media could be facing a serious threat of centralized power abuse that even Ben Bernanke’s 2009 make it rain party could not touch. Just as in 2009, the crypto asset community is preparing to create alternative means of media distribution.
If you’re like me, you have no clue what most of this tweet means but I think the point is, with decentralized systems data storage, decision making, and/or ownership are in the hands of many entities rather than one. They are therefore much less susceptible to government regulation that today’s platforms.
I’ve recently come across a few crypto asset companies that are very early stage but have made real progress in developing decentralized media platforms.


Steemit is a social network that looks a lot like Reddit except Steemit compensates content creators and those who curate content through upvoting, with its own cryptocurrency.
I do not have the answers to all of your warranted questions on how this is sustainable but if you’re curious here’s the white paper and the simplified, Steemit for Dummies.
Steemit launched just over a year ago since which they’ve reportedly acquired 335K users, paid out over $22M in rewards and are currently sporting healthy traffic trends:


Blockstack is taking on the even more ambitious goal of creating an entirely “new internet for decentralized apps where users own their data.” By using the Blockstack browser, users can access cloned versions of Facebook, Amazon, Google, Airbnb, Twitter apps, that operate similarly to their platform predecessors except user data is encrypted and decentralized rather than stored on centralized application databases – white paper link.
Along with the $5M (Update – 12/4/17: $55M) in equity Blockstack has raised from high profile investors including Union Square Ventures they’ve also launched a $25M venture fund to be invested in developers that create decentralized apps for their browser. They currently have over 13K community developers.
If developers are the chicken and users are the egg, the question remaining in my mind – is decentralized encryption enough of a value prop to entice a critical mass of users join? We’ll see.


SingularDTV brands itself as:
“a blockchain entertainment studio laying the foundation for a decentralized entertainment industry. Building the future of rights management, project funding, and peer-to-peer distribution, SingularDTV’s platform empowers artists and creators with powerful tools to manage projects from development to distribution.” – whitepaper link
From my understanding, SingularDTV uses blockchain technology to allow content creators to completely control, and be compensated for the distribution of their work while removing the need for middlemen in the value chain.
In today’s world in which creators can already be compensated for distributing their work directly through Spotify, YouTube, and even Netflix, SingularDTV’s value-add is not completely clear to me. However, it’s been enough to sign, kind of a big deal, electronic music producer Gramatik.

What’s This Mean for Media Companies

While it’s entirely possible, and probably probable, that these platforms will become the Myspace of the future, if you rub your eyes and squint hard enough, you may be able to picture them as playing a significant role in the future of media.
The point is, while we’re laser-focused on the media ecosystem as it exists today in the hands of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (FANG). History has so far shown us that, on a long enough timeline, all technology incumbents are eventually disrupted. In today’s especially crazy world, the stars of government regulation could be aligning to drain the rising FANG tide. If we are approaching that high water mark, decentralized, difficult to regulate, systems are positioning to fill the void.
What would the impact on our business be if effectively owner-less, decentralized platforms became the defacto for media distribution?

Next Level

If that didn’t take you far enough to the fringes, here are some ultra-meta, decentralized system thought pieces: