Netflix for kids, Spotify Canvas, Audius copyright blues, & more

Happy Monday to you all! Today’s subscriber update covers streaming tv, visual innovation in music, online media M&A, and a wannabe Soundcloud competitor promoting blockchain as the new P2P.

What You Need To Know 👀

  1. Netflix Goes All Out to Wow Children as Streaming Wars Intensify 🧸

The NY Times reports on how Netflix is adapting to the upcoming threat of Disney’s new streaming service Disney Plus, which launches on 12 November:

Families are valuable streaming customers, analysts say, because they are reliable, paying month after month instead of “churning” in and out based on what is available. Children’s entertainment also comes with a potentially enormous bonus prize: sales of related merchandise. Netflix has started to explore consumer products; “Super Monsters,” a Netflix show about preschool witches and werewolves, has its own line of Halloween costumes.

My take: Given the immense amount of brand equity Disney has built up over the decades – including in recent years with Pixar – Netflix will need to churn out some new hits of its own making to compete in the kids market. As the NY Times piece pointed out, it’s been hit and miss so far on that front (Boss Baby was a hit, Tall Girl got “weak reviews”). But Netflix has poached a bunch of talent from Disney and others, so it seems like a good bet they will come up with a Stranger Things-like breakout soon.

  1. Spotify expands Canvas beta, says visuals can “increase streams, saves, artist profile visits and shares” 🎹

Music Business Worldwide reports:

There are going to be a lot more looping visuals on Spotify soon.

Spotify has expanded its Canvas visualization beta program for the ‘most active Spotify for Artists’ users and the streaming company says that adding a ‘high-quality one to a track can increase streams, saves, artist profile visits, and shares’.

Canvas allows artists to create and feature looping visuals in the “Now Playing” area, which Spotify says is the most-viewed location in the Spotify mobile app.

My take: As I wrote last month, the rise of “vertical videos” and the short, looping Canvas videos in Spotify is a welcome evolution of the music video, which has been a largely forgotten art form ever since MTV turned itself into a reality tv network (around the turn of the century). On a new website Spotify has just launched to promote Canvas, it calls Canvas videos “album artwork, for the streaming age.” More like the Instagram Stories and TikTok age, but regardless it’s an excellent innovation from Spotify.

  1. Media consolidation wave is an effort to outlast, not outrun the industry 🗞️

Digiday provides an analysis of the recent trend of online media M&A:

Group Nine CEO Ben Lerer told me he thinks a rising tide lifts all boats and that a handful of companies — BuzzFeed, Vice, Vox and Group Nine (of course) — are “stepping out and moving into leadership positions.”

[…] Now the strategy is less to “outrun” the industry and moving more to an “outlast” mentality, Lerer said. The new digital media operators are now looking for acquisitions that can offer revenue diversification, companies that can fill gaps in their advertising client lists, and a smooth and quick path to profitability.

As DotDash CEO told Digiday’s Max Willens last week, after its acquisition of “We are a media business. We believe in cashflow…if they don’t make any money, currently, we need to figure out how to fix that.”

My take: What’s interesting is that for all the online media companies mentioned by Ben Lerer (Buzzfeed et al), subscriptions isn’t a big part of their ‘diversification’ strategy. That’s because so far the subscription model has really only been successful for premium news publishers (NYT, WP, et al), magazines who have transitioned well to digital (e.g. The Economist), and a handful of niche newsletters (Stratechery et al). For consumer media plays, like Buzzfeed and Vice, they’ve had to consolidate to get more advertising and/or try the DTC route (like the deal).

  1. New blockchain-based music streaming service Audius is a copyright nightmare ⚖️

The Verge reports:

New startup Audius says its blockchain-based music streaming service is the solution that finally pays attention to indie artists’ needs. It’s also full of pirated material.

[…] But one of the most pressing problems in music right now is copyright. Audius contains infringing material — such as an unlicensed version of Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea’s “Problem” — that, if its promotional materials are right, the company cannot remove.

My take: As The Verge notes, Audius is trying to claim the same audience of up and coming musicians that Soundcloud serves. But whereas Soundcloud has been active in policing copyright, ever since it started inking deals with the major record labels, Audius is using the ‘when it’s on a blockchain it’s immutable’ argument. Audius doesn’t host the music files – it’s basically a P2P service, but with blockchain. That strategy didn’t work legally for the P2P startups of the previous era, and it won’t work for Audius and other blockchain streaming startups either.

Good Reads 👓

  • What we learned about habit-forming news products at Digital Growth Summit; by Mary-Katharine Phillips from Twipe (“While experimenting, publishers need to mix the comfort of predictability and the serendipity of the unexpected.”) 📰

  • How Zola Jesus Cut Out the Middleman to Engage With Her Fans Directly; by Muriel Vega on the Patreon blog (“For me, it proves the deep relationship that I have with my fans and that they have with me. It’s about people connecting.”) 🎸

  • In the UK, the ‘Library of the Future’ Looks a Lot Like Lego; by Porter Anderson (“Publishing Perspectives is particularly taken with the idea of firing books at readers from a cannon.”) 📚

  • Hacking The Museum Tour – Entertainment With Attitude; LA Times via ArtsJournal (“I found some of the interactive portions of the tour superficial and a bit corny, but the younger, millennial members of the group seemed to enjoy them.”) 🖼️

  • Moving beyond ‘Zuck sucks’; Columbia Journalism Review (“Journalists […] will need to help readers understand not only Big Tech’s problems, but also potential solutions to those problems.”) 🗞️

Tweet of the day 🐦

Good context about Audius from Brian Polar, self-described “music licensing professional just trying to help.”

That’s the Monday update, hope you found it useful! Your support of Cybercultural is much appreciated. 🙏