What we’re looking at in 2018

[Editor’s note: This first appeared in SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen’s weekly newsletter. Details to sign up below.]

Every year it’s the same conversation.

Us: “We’re closing the office from the 20th to January 1st.”
Them: “What?! So everyone gets two weeks of paid vacation?”
Us: “Yes.”
Them: “That’s amazing!”

What’s amazing is that it’s still rare. Since starting SuperData seven years ago I can still count the number of companies that do the same on one hand.

Common comment #1: “Easy for you to say, you’re the CEO.”
Correct. It would be a terrible business decision to instill an unsustainable work culture.

Common comment #2: “Easy for you to say, your company is only 30 people.”
Correct. But you also said that when we were 2, 10, and 20 people. It hasn’t, in fact, gotten easier over the years to free everyone’s schedule for that long. We’re a service provider with customers, after all. But giving people a chance to rest and pursue other interests is what makes us successful.

Anyway, here’s an early holiday wish for you. I wish that in 2018 you, too, will work with people who are focused. That at the end of each day you will feel fulfilled and part of something meaningful. And that there is no idle busy-ness happening in your office. That you’ll be valued for your contributions and paid in full and on time. And finally that, wherever possible, you will provide these things for others.

It is the season of giving. It is the time of the year when you show your appreciation for the people with whom you spent most of your time. From where I sit two weeks of vacation shouldn’t be amazing. It should be average.

NEWS

Fear and loathing among live-streamers
In a refreshing moment of honesty, one of the hottest Twitch streamers today is going on hiatus after admitting to cheating on his wife. Contrary to the image that is emerging of what happens off-camera in traditional entertainment industries like TV and movies, here’s a media personality who doesn’t get away with it. DrDisrespect has been on the rise in 2017: in April he broke 400,000 channel followers, and is currently at 1.3M. Channel views quadrupled over the same period. My guess is that this will only boost his numbers. Meanwhile in China the biggest streamer on Douyu, Wh1t3zZ (a former League of Legends runner-up team member with 13M followers), was questioned for cheating in PUBG. Despite refusing to apologize on the grounds that he’d been falsely accused, PUBG publisher Blue Hole banned his account. To make matters worse, his girlfriend and agent was exposed for owing money to their employee and resorted to racial slurs off camera.

Disney acquires most of NewsCorp
After weeks of speculation, the cat is out of the bag with the announcement of a $66B acquisition. Specifically, the Mouse bought NewsCorp’s international cable networks, regional sports networks, 20th Century Fox Film and TV studio, FX and National Geographic Cable Network, the 39% stake in Sky, and 30% of Hulu. This gives Disney a market cap of over $200B, making it larger than Comcast ($186B). The move comes largely in response to the threat (opportunity?) of digitalization (aka Netflix) and Disney is banking on its content library.

That said, Disney is betting on its past, not its future. Disney has announced it is cutting ties with Netflix but has yet to explain what its ‘going it alone’ strategy will look like. Different from digital competitors like Netflix and Amazon, which are both quickly building up their own libraries, Disney’s deal lacks an emphasis on back-end analytics. Instead of hoping to successfully produce and distribute the ultimate must-see content (whatever that is), Amazon and Netflix focus on finding efficiencies and solving the discovery problem. More so, especially Amazon excels in using its user data to inform its content acquisition strategy. Meanwhile, Disney is doubling down on cable TV which sees dwindling subscriber numbers. And good luck getting that tide to turn after its execs kill off most of Fox’ more fringe movie productions and shovel more superhero sequels our way. Silver lining? I have a new favorite Disney princess: Ellen Ripley from Alien. Link

The UK released its annual report on young people and gambling
Whereas Brexit is wholly disinterested in the long-term chances for the next generation, this report does a pretty good job laying out the challenges for 11–16 years olds as far as gambling is concerned. Despite 80% having seen ad on TV, the report classifies only 0.9% as problem gamblers, which should tell you roughly how effective advertising is nowadays. Link

Nintendo sells so many Switches it doesn’t need mobile. Right?
With 10M units sold, the Nintendo Switch has outperformed even the most optimistic of forecasts from earlier this year. After ramping up production, suddenly everyone’s an expert on how well things are going at Nintendo. But few seem to notice that the firm’s mobile effort is still at an early stage. So far, even its strongest IP has managed to only earn the company meager returns. Content aside, could it be that Nintendo is too distracted with the Switch’s success to formulate a solid mobile platform strategy for its long-term?

Gold farming is back: this time in Venezuela
Instead of performing back-breaking labor, a growing number of Venezuelans is playing games for money and getting paid better. Runescape and Tibia are popular mostly because of the lack of infrastructure and high-end PCs. Link

Apple buys Shazam at $400M valuation
Music is quickly becoming a new frontier among tech giants. In addition to announcing an equity swap with Spotify, Tencent is also eyeing a floatation of Tencent Music to the tune of $10B. With the acquisition of Shazam, Apple is taking its own steps toward doubling its services revenue to $50B annually. Shazam wasn’t doing so hot because it struggled to make a living, so Apple paid well below the $1B valuation from Shazam’s financing round. Link

The French are banning mobile phones from schools
As part of his campaign promises, French president Macron is looking to make good on banning smartphones from schools. Already the devices weren’t allowed in classrooms. But it’s looking like kids up to 15 years old will not even be allowed access to their phones while at school at all, including during recess. Experts warn about the practical challenges, which is a familiar brand of fatalism in France. You have to remember, though, that initially TV was going to boost educational efforts, too, only to be ousted from the class room. It’s an amazing idea: to think that technology alone is not a shortcut to Enlightenment. Link

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