This newsletter is back to being on a Sunday. Even if the pandemic screwed up our perception of time, let's face it: Sunday is still the best day for ideas and inspiration.
Do you miss going to the mall? Well, I got you covered. You can tour a virtual mall with 56 newsletter... in a Google Sheet. How crazy is that? You will find mine on floor two.
Big shout out to my friend and Google Sheet wizard Andrew Kamphey for putting this together. If you want to learn how to unleash the potential of Google Sheets, make sure to check out his project Better Sheets.
Today, we'll explore 3 ideas on the future of physical and digital consumption:
- How a subscription service is rethinking the relationships between designers and users without corporations owning the work
- The 3 factors that make paid media successful
- How participation might become the best monetization path for creators
Build Stories and Languages, not Things
13 minute watch | YouTube
Vadik Marmeladov started his design firm Lapka in 2012, which was later purchased by Airbnb. He then started LOT, a subscription-based service that designs and develops clothing, footwear, self-care products, and media content.
I was captivated by this interview where he shares his philosophy and vision for the future of consumerism. I love his idea of a world where creators are incentivized to create unique work, and consumers to express their identity through it - without a corporation acting as middle man and owning the work.
"People don’t work as good if their work belongs to someone else. Your work should belong to you."
New Media Economics
17 minute read | The Diff
With paid newsletters getting more and more popular, many are wondering if it's just a bubble or they can actually be a sustainable model.
This great post from The Diff breaks down the topic very well. It argues that paid media is subject to three pressures, which work in tension with each other to determine the optimal structure of a media company.
Bundling works when customers have heterogeneous tastes and the cost of creating one more copy of the product is low. The thing that makes bundles work is they eliminate waste. What waste? The wasted demand of all the people who want access to each newsletter a little bit, but not enough to pay the market price.
Bundles tend to grow until they reach a highly profitable mature state—at which point any change in the underlying audience, or the availability of competing products, seriously weakens their economics.
Media companies have complained that Facebook and Twitter took over their distribution: instead of selling an entire edition, media companies' outputs get deconstructed into their individual components and distributed to the audience that wants exactly that. When distribution is through social media and peer recommendations, it belongs to the writer, not the publication. If you see an article you like, you may end up following the writer directly - they start to take control of their distribution.
Controlling distribution for a product with high fixed costs and low marginal costs is powerful, because it means not just getting content to anyone who’s interested, but restricting it to people who express their interest in dollars.
3. The convexity of knowledge
One thing the most popular newsletter writers have in common is a set of obsessions they keep coming back to, mental models they keep applying, and themes they keep revisiting (i.e. Ben Thompson's Aggregation Theory). It’s very hard to outsource this kind of thing. Knowledge has compounding returns, but mostly when it’s contained in the same skull.
In niches where there’s too much information for any one person to absorb, the most economically efficient outcome is for media coverage of that niche to be dominated by exactly one person, who works fairly hard and has more comprehensive knowledge of the topic than anyone else.
The Participatory Economy: when fans participate in a creator’s success
7 minute read | Check Your Pulse
The problem with the subscription economy is there is no opportunity for fans to own assets, and further, subscription models don’t take into account the value that fans bring to their communities. While it’s still a nascent space, there are a few companies building in what I call “the participatory economy” — where fans participate in a creator’s success.
Before the Internet, information and power were controlled by gatekeepers that chose what to publish, produce, and distribute. The creator and the consumer were passive, and existed primarily to serve the industrial machine.
Internet platforms removed many gatekeepers, but introduced new ones: influencers. They allowed brands to connect directly with their customers, spawning a direct-to-consumer retail movement. But being able to talk to your customer is very different than being able to talk with them. Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook have helped brands build a unidirectional relationship with their customers, but for all the talk of customer empowerment, the resulting relationship is still top down.
In the participatory economy, the creator is bidirectional because the customer is also a creator. The participation can happen in several ways:
1. The customer participates in the creation of the product. Brands are increasingly empowering customers by making them partners in the brand-building process and letting them inform the product roadmap.
2. The company’s core product enables more people to participate, thereby democratizing the nodes of influence. A new wave of social networks is eschewing one-way broadcast in favor of two-way dialogue (in many ways, TikTok is the best example of a participatory network).
3. The customer is aligned with the network’s upside and participates in the financial rewards. Networks are slowly evolving from being intermediaries that take a commission on each transaction, causing participants to resent them, to being collectively owned platforms that reward contributors, making users more committed.
With more aligned incentives, networks that give their contributors economic incentives will grow faster.
BOX OF RANDOM
🎞 I loved this branded film from Deutsche Telekom narrated by Billie Eilish. It's a manifesto for digital natives that invites them to communicate more with others. I believe the bad reputation new generations get often derives from this - the difficulty of communicating with and involving "the grown ups" who feel left out.
💻 A curated list of websites that spark joy.
📣 A darkly comic series of ads about the perils of distraction by Droga5.
📓 Some great thoughts from Seth Godin about how outside forces don't care about the situation:
Newton’s law doesn’t care that you were really distracted and that’s why you weren’t wearing a seatbelt, and the virus that infected your friend doesn’t care about why that person in the office decided not to wear a mask, either.
People are very good at stories. That’s our core technology. Everything else in the world, though, has no interest in them.
🤖 Fortnite released a parody remake of Apple's famous 1984 ad after being removed from Apple's and Google's store.
👨💼 The Office on Slack debuted Monday, and it might be the future of tv.
🧠 A very insightful article about how to think (4 minute read):
I find for myself that my first thought is never my best thought. My first thought is always someone else’s; it’s always what I’ve already heard about the subject, always the conventional wisdom. It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the question, being patient, letting all the parts of my mind come into play, that I arrive at an original idea. By giving my brain a chance to make associations, draw connections, take me by surprise.
🚘 A license plate worth reading:
💡 An awesome post about branding from my favorite creative duo on Instagram, letsbazooka:
And if you come across anything interesting this week, send it my way. If there's something I like more than beer, it's finding new things to read through members of this newsletter.
-Gian🍺Buy me a beer