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Sub-Genre Media Newsletter:
Semi-frequent musings on indie film, media, branded content and related items from Brian Newman.

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Brian Newman & Sub-Genre Media

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Artificially Intelligent: AI, Voice, DA's and Film

Remember when you used to go to conferences and people would talk about the future of media, and someone would hold up their flip-phone and say that the future was all about the cellphone, and you thought they were crazy? Admit it, sure you do, even if it’s so obvious and old school now.
Well, that’s what’s happening now around Artificial Intelligence (AI), Voice (Alexa, Siri) and DA – Digital Assistants – and if you speak with anyone in marketing or tech, it’s all they can talk about, but if you speak with anyone in media, much less film, well…crickets, of the non-virtual kind.
How does this possibly impact the film business? A quick detour/tour of the utmost in simplicity is needed:
  1. Voice is taking over the world. Alexa, Siri, etc. - It seems like a novelty now, but just think of 2001: A Space Odyssey or HER or many other science fiction films for 30 seconds, and you should get it. Almost everything you do will somehow interface with voice, and that has huge implications for brands, content, how things get discovered, etc.
  2. Artificial Intelligence is also taking over the world. Read this to see how people freaked out about Google’s new AI platform, Duplex, at the recent I/O conference where their robots made reservations from real people who didn’t know they were speaking to a robot, and generally creeped everyone out. Or read how Stephen Hawking predicted AI will essentially wipe us out. Regardless, AI is getting smarter, and if you think Netflix is good at finding what you want to watch next, it’s only getting much better;
  3. Digital Assistants are also the next big thing. And they are tied to both AI and Voice. Daniel Miessler has a great article on this subject called The Future of Content Destroys the Middleman, and by that he doesn’t mean sales agents or the usual middle-men of our content world – film and video – he means Google, or Medium and maybe (just maybe) Netflix if they don’t start taking this space seriously, although I bet they already are. Read his article for the best break-down out there.
Think of your Digital Assistant as your best friend, but in your brain and also in your computer, and because it’s tied to AI and voice, it gets smarter by the minute, and over time, it knows what you want to ask about or say, or schedule, before you do. So my DA will know that I am coming home and turn down the AC, warm up my food, chill my beer and maybe even tell my robot to turn down my sheets.
But it will also know that when I hang out with my wife tonight we both probably want to watch the next episode of Atlanta, but when I see my friend Paul, we want to start back on that exact moment we left off in our favorite video game, and when I see my Mom, our DA’s talk to one another and order her a wine, me a whiskey and suggest Haji as a mutual interest family film that we always seem to like, and makes sure that Amazon restocked the tissues, because we’ll be crying a lot.
You can already see how this overlaps a bit with film. The film business has been built around blunt force marketing, where you throw a ton of money at something and hope people show up. And that will still work for blockbusters. And for the last decade, it’s been built around getting smarter with search and recommendations via a graphic interface (GUI) essentially tied to movie posters.
But the future of content discovery and viewing (or consumption as they like to say) is going to be around voice, AI and DA (and maybe Blockchain, but the jury is still out on that one). And if your delivery service – be it Netflix, FilmStruck or HBO isn’t built for this world, things won’t be pretty. How will voice interact with that? I have no idea. But I think it will be more than just “Hey Alexa, show me The Avengers.” It’s going to be a combo of that, plus knowing what I want before I know I want it, plus knowing the wants of who I’m with, and it will definitely be better at remembering which SVOD service has my favorite show and which episode I fell asleep in last night.
Now, people will still want great content, so HBO as a producer is fine. But HBO as a skinny bundle is probably not. I think this coming world  – like so many other things – favors Amazon, where your subscription to Prime, coupled with the best AI/DA and Alexa gets me not just video but also text and diapers. I’m not sure that even Netflix can survive in that world, but they have a much better chance than anyone who hasn’t aggregated a lot of stuff under a lot of data and intelligence.
Having one place that knows what I like to watch and can pull it from ANY provider, while also re-ordering my coffee and suggesting a book for my book club tomorrow night is infinitely more interesting to me than just having a service that offers me the films they have but not others. And if that place also owns the newspaper
Or maybe not. Maybe it will be a new DA company that just pulls from the APIs of the various Netflix’s and Amazon’s of the world, and they are reduced to suppliers.
Or maybe I’ll just be stuck in my living room yelling “No Netflix, that’s not the show I wanted” or be stuck arguing in circles with a chat-bot all night for a refund from iTunes for the film that never streamed.
Given that we were promised jet packs, the latter is just as likely, but it’s more fun to think about the former ideas when dreaming about the future. I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure this all out.
But it gets even more interesting when you start thinking about how this all combines to impact story-telling as opposed to story-delivery. Because in theory, a really smart AI coupled with a DA that knows your every wish could combine with a few other technologies and just maybe make the movie you want to see or write the book you want to read for you. Robot’s already compose symphonies, so is that a stretch?
Yeah, I know, that’s pure crazy. But I find it funny that no one believes that a computer can be a great filmmaker or author, but we all have a sneaking suspicion we might be living in the Matrix.

Stuff I'm Reading


Blockchain takes Cannes by storm: I swear I’m going to just have to stop linking to Blockchain articles soon because people are launching new projects in this space almost every day. . Screen has a nice little article about several of the new players in the space who launched at Cannes.  Note to start-ups – Cannes is not the new SXSW. Fests are terrible places to get traction, attention and/or explain complex technology, but good luck with that.
Will Spotify be the next Netflix? Scott Galloway thinks so. He has an interesting argument that basically says Spotify has mastered mobile and social, the two things Netflix is not good at, and if you envision a video Playlist curated by your friends, easily accessible via mobile, you might have a real competitor to Netflix. Me: I hope he’s right, because we need more than five players (FAANG) in this space.
But…maybe Microsoft will buy Netflix? That’s what a smart media analyst named Porter Bibb thinks. He makes a compelling case and Microsoft has the money and needs something to do with itself, but dear god, I can’t imagine a better way to ruin a good thing, and I’d really feel bad for my few friends over there. Let’s hope this one is just conjecture.

I Don’t Know How to Waste Time on the Internet Anymore. This article by Dan Nosowitz in NYMag sums up my daily problem with the web for the last year or two – it’s not fun anymore. Can’t put it any better than he did here.
TMOBILE Social Conscious Spend Increase – Ok, this is advertising, and a little confusing, but buried in the news about the Fox Upfronts was this tidbit from Joe Marchese: “A T-Mobile campaign during the World Series highlighting the company’s support of hurricane relief efforts…was deemed a success…So much so, he said, that T-Mobile has increased its budget for socially conscious spending (a quality that 80% of consumers expect from brands) from 5% of its overall marketing spend last year to 30% this year.” (emphasis mine). Ok, so that’s big. A – 80% of consumers want socially conscious spending from brands; B – the new ad formats from Fox, where there are less ads, but more strategically placed, are working; and C – they’re working so well that a brand is increasing it’s spend six times over in one year. Seems to me that’s a place that Foundations and others who support socially conscious media should also be looking, and we should all look for more news in this space soon.
Question Your Answers. Sometimes branded content comes from two platform brands, making an ad for themselves. That’s the case with the new Question Your Answers series from The Atlantic and HBO, where HBO talent will star in shorts to air online, on the Atlantic’s OTT channels, on HBO before their shows and on their YouTube channels. The first of the series are with Jeffrey Wright and another with Michael K. Williams and they’re fun to watch, and a clever way to remind you to subscribe to HBO, or the Atlantic, instead of someone else.
REI Presents: Women in Fire: REI has been doing some great outdoor content, all focused on women in sports, and their newest video is about women fire-fighters, which make up just 10% of firefighters. Reading the comments can make you sad, but a great branded content effort. Full disclosure: REI is a client, but this was made prior to my involvement and I still like it.
Copyright © 2018 Brian Newman, All rights reserved.

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