Saturday, August 3, 2019

The Great Hack | Lefsetz Letter

People need movies to explain it to them.

And streaming services have elevated documentaries as an art form, and given them more heft.

You think it’s about theatrical, when the truth is it’s about streaming.

But theatrical is like the “Billboard” chart, a facsimile of what’s happening. If a film grosses a hundred million, and few do, how many people actually saw it? The key is access. We learned this in the era of “free music.” Those who did not make their music free, got passed by. Those who embraced new technologies emerged victorious. This is one way hip-hop beat rock, it embraced Soundcloud and mixtapes and…

Netflix gives you access. You pay your monthly fee, and then you partake of what you want, and it doesn’t feel like it costs anything. Charge per film/show, and you have to make a decision. And you’re not always going to say yes. This is like music streaming services, suddenly you can hear everything, the history of recorded music, as opposed to having to purchase albums one by one. Same thing is happening in theatrical. It makes no economic sense. You overpay for one flick. Whereas on Netflix you’re now gonna even get Scorsese. That’s right, unlike the Democrats Netflix goes big, the company knows it’s important to stay out front, to innovate, to leave little margin for newcomers. Come on, Katzenberg’s Quibi? Like people are really gonna pay five bucks for another streaming service. Even worse is Graydon Carter’s new weekly newsletter, at fifty bucks a year. Are you paying ANYTHING for your news? And if you are, you’re paying for the newspaper, which you get every damn day. Both Katzenberg and Carter are behind the times. They figured out a business, figured out how much it needed to cost, and didn’t bother looking at the platform it was going to appear on, i.e. the Internet. Everybody I asked thought fifty bucks was too much for Carter’s “Air Mail,” I don’t know a single person who has subscribed. On the internet it’s about growing your niche, getting traction, you don’t want to marginalize yourself from the start, which is why Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat are FREE!

You gain mass and then figure out how to monetize.

And the way you monetize on a social network is the data. In “The Great Hack” it is said that data is now more valuable than oil. Think about that. We think of all the wealth and power in oil, but data is more important and worth more!

Ostensibly “The Great Hack” is about Cambridge Analytica. But really, it’s about the aforementioned data, and how no one has a grip on how it is used. How in truth, no election today is trustworthy. Did the data collectors/sellers ruin democracy? It appears so, just watch this movie and see.

“The Great Hack” is on Netflix. And I wasn’t interested until I caught the buzz. Now not everything gets buzz, but something that does…I want to be able to check it out immediately. Hell, there’s buzz on the Tarantino film, but I’ve got to drive to the theatre to see it at an appointed time for mucho dinero.

The real problem I have with theatrical movies is they never start when I’m calm, cool and collected. I go and I can’t get my regular life out of my brain. So the experience is compromised.

But when I’m at home…I only watch a movie or show on a streaming service when I’m ready, and Netflix is ready whenever I am. If I’m in a groove, I don’t have to wait for HBO to drip out an episode a week. That’s too much effort, I want it all when I want it. That’s the new paradigm, in all walks of life, and if you break it…you’re one of those Luddites left behind who wants to go back to physical media.

Now “The Great Hack” is not perfect, the arc is not perfect, you’re not always riveted. But when confronted with the real people who did this. And the lies they tell… You’re overwhelmed. Yes, the big issue is election security Moscow Mitch, and it’s not only the Russians who are hacking/influencing the process.

You can’t apply an old framework to a new model. When you see what Cambridge Analytica did in Trinidad, your head will explode. They started a fake movement to get people not to vote. It was genius, and it worked!

And the “star” of “The Great Hack” is one Brittany Kaiser. Oh, she’s been in the news, but her name slips away until you watch this flick. She did it for the money! She worked for Obama, but in 2016 the Democrats wouldn’t pay!

And Kaiser says how her family lost their house and you think this is a 2008/recession story, until you dig deeper and find out she went to Andover and college overseas. In other words, she’s obfuscating, like all rich and powerful people do. They say they’re broke when it’s patently untrue. And even if she is truly broke, Kaiser’s mother worked for Enron, the apple does not fall far from the tree.

In other words, you don’t know what to believe. Or who.

In his podcast, Michael Lewis featured a Cambridge Analytica employee who said that the service the company was selling didn’t work, they couldn’t target the persuadables like they said they could. But in this film, seemingly everybody who worked at Cambridge Analytica lies outright about who they work for and what they do. The bigwigs say they weren’t involved in the Leave campaign of Brexit, when that is patently untrue. And the head of Cambridge Analytica portrays himself as a victim! After all, the scandal forced the business to go bankrupt.

And when Zuckerberg goes to Congress he says he doesn’t know when he does. He makes it look like Facebook is innocent when its sales people met with Cambridge Analytica.

And the other star of the film is Carole Cadwalladr, an English reporter who is the opposite of the bozos making lists at Buzzfeed. She’s living the story 24/7, and she’s not doing it for the cash, but because it’s right! Remember that?

Yes, while the techies feed us pabulum for clicks, there are people who still know the power of truth.

Meanwhile, Trump twists the concept and calls the real news fake news.

No wonder people are clueless.

And we fight over transgender rights and immigration and the rest of the social issues dominating the conversation because no one can really understand what is going on in tech. The oldsters are too old, they didn’t learn it in school. And what’s worse is the techies themselves aren’t even aware of the power of the data they gather.

So you’ll be hearing about “The Great Hack” if you haven’t heard about it already.

You should watch it.


Because you want to be part of the conversation, which is what Netflix allows.

And…you might find out you know less than you think you do, and the world is more unstable than it appears, and the government really doesn’t want to tackle the big issues, they’re beyond its comprehension.

This is the world we live in.


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