They broke the number one rule of the internet.
You start from the bottom up.
Downloads are anemic, because most people are unaware of the product, all the hype has been in traditional news outlets, and the readers of those might have credit cards, but they are not the target audience for a service like this.
Take TikTok… Did you see a carpet bomb promotional campaign? OF COURSE NOT! That would have killed it, the kids can smell a rat.
The kids found TikTok, and the press didn’t glom on until Lil Nas X had a hit with “Old Town Road.” As for Drake employing TikTok to break his new track big…that paradigm is gonna die, soon, because everybody will be trying to do this and really TikTok is a platform for the users, not the promoters. Think of viral videos on YouTube, everybody was amazed by PSY’S “Gangnam Style,” has there been a viral video recently? OF COURSE NOT! After the “Harlem Shake,” fully seven years ago, the audience realized it was being manipulated, and refused to be marks. Just like people stopped e-mailing jokes like they did in the AOL era, people stopped e-mailing “viral” videos, there was no excitement there. Right now there’s excitement at TikTok, and it might continue, but it won’t be built to benefit major label musicians, just like all the talk about YouTube these days is about influencers, nobodies who’ve gained traction, many of whom have moved on from YouTube to Instagram, the people remain constant, the platforms change.
And it’s hard to break a new platform. Bing is pretty good, but after billions it just has a sliver of the search market, and a lot of it is paid for. Google was good enough, people didn’t need an alternative. As for content on the handheld device, there are already too many options. Have you ever heard someone complain that there’s nothing to watch, do or say on their smartphone?
All of the internet platforms that broke big started small. Can you say YouTube and Instagram and Snapchat? People like the process of discovery, they want to own things, they want to be able to turn others on to them, that’s half the fun, they don’t like things jammed down their throat.
And there’s nothing cool about Quibi, the usual suspects telling us to watch? Don’t we have enough Chrissy Teigen anyway? Today celebrities have enough outlets to expose themselves online, can you say Facebook Live?, they’re not yearning for more platforms, they’re yearning for more eyeballs!
Netflix streaming was new. It broke open with “House of Cards.”
Ditto with HBO, “The Sopranos” made it must see TV.
So, if Quibi wanted to do it the right way, they’d have released very little product and waited until they had a hit, and then built upon that, eventually charging. Or at least have a two-tiered system, like Spotify, free with ads and pay without. And Apple would have had no traction with its streaming service if Spotify didn’t pave the way.
And it’s too late for new platforms anyway. You can’t game the system. Everybody’s on overload, we don’t have time for everything we’re paying for already! The new paradigm in TV streaming services is free with ads, because the networks know there’s no way the public is going to pay for one more service. But Quibi seems oblivious to this. The outlet could have pivoted, that’s the Silicon Valley way, but Katzenberg thinks he knows better. No, Ed Catmull knew better. Katzenberg had a moment, like a rock star, and he thinks he can keep innovating and we’ll care, even though after an initial window it’s hard for any musician to have another hit.
So, the second day downloads went DOWN! That’s heat for you! We see no ramping up, no hockey stick. Sure, Meg Whitman trumpeted 1.7 million downloads since launch, but that’s bupkes, and how many apps do you download and not use? I’ve got Disney+ and Apple TV+. I got both of the apps free, as did many, they came with a Verizon unlimited account and the purchase of an Apple product. I haven’t fired up either of the apps since the day I installed them, last fall, there’s no programming I have to see.
It used to be about platforms.
Now it’s about content.
Used to be you built your fame on someone else’s site, and then you broke free and created your own site, hoovered up all those dollars. But now, in an era where you can’t get enough attention, where there are so many options, you can no longer do that, be thankful anybody is paying attention at all, even if it’s on someone else’s site!
And speaking of the media…
Did you catch the multi-page spread on Quibi in the “L.A. Times” yesterday? Almost as much in the “New York Times”? Made me puke. Shows the power of public relations people, but even worse it shows the susceptibility of these “news” outlets. If you think they’re independent, and chasing news, you’re wrong, oftentimes they’re just printing what is fed to them.
Furthermore, this press blast has no lasting impression. It’s here today and gone tomorrow. And most of the target market missed it anyway, never mind not caring about it. There’s no virality whatsoever.
We’ve seen this movie again and again in Hollywood, the old powers trying to eclipse the young. Do you remember all those false starts in the music business twenty years ago? The Farm Club? And others I can no longer remember the name of without research firing my synapses (oh, that’s right, PressPlay!) Furthermore, it was labeled “Jimmy & Doug”‘s, only people in Hollywood would be so self-aggrandizing. The techies let their work speak for itself.
And the techies started with a clean slate. Sony got hung up with MiniDiscs and DRM and missed the MP3 revolution. Furthermore, those stuck in the past can rarely see the future.
So, there’s nothing new about Quibi, other than it’s chopped-up television. Do you think that’s appealing?
But all those investors bet on Katzenberg and Whitman because of what they’d done. But what they’d done had little to do with what they were attempting to do!
Now I doubt Quibi will expire. They’ll pivot and declare victory, and the media will repeat the fiction.
But I ask you, based on almost a week’s worth of numbers and reviews, are you ready to pay?
OF COURSE NOT!