Notable things: No more memoirs; the strange connection between Scarlett Johansson and young Christopher Walken; sequels that need to happen

Here’s an excellent piece by Hamilton Nolan that smacks sense into would-be memoir “journalists”:

The extent to which we train a generation of young writers to become robotic insta-memoirists is the extent to which a generation of stories from the wider world does not get told. The real tragedy of journalism-as-narcissism is not the general pettiness of the stories it produces; it is the other, better stories that never get produced as a result.


Here’s the scenario:

You see a post on BuzzFeed titled “Young Christopher Walken Looks Exactly Like Scarlett Johansson.”

“Surely, that can’t be true,” you think.

*Click*

Picture of Scarlett. Okay, got it.

Picture of young Christoph … holy hinges!

See for yourself.


This is the kind of pop culture discussion I live for: “What movie deserves a sequel that never got made?

The comment thread is great: “Léon: The Professional,” “Big Trouble in Little China,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and on and on.

One person suggested “Serenity.” I adore “Serenity” and a sequel would be just so very very lovely.

I’d also like to see a follow-up to “Cloverfield” (it might actually happen). Sequels try to be bigger and louder, and that’s exactly what “Cloverfield 2” should go for. I love the idea of taking the pinhole view from the first movie and expanding it into a massive monster flick with the second film.

Notable things: How do ToS changes apply to celebrities? Music writing is often very silly; there’s a lot of heavy lifting behind each Netflix stream

Instagram’s new privacy policy and terms of service (ToS) are getting the Interweb all riled up. It’s yet another example of a popular service challenging the patience of its community.

I don’t have an issue with Instagram or any service pushing the limits. My sense is that most ToS changes are public betas — if enough people cry “outrage!”, the company revises the offensive bit and carries on with the rest.

That said, there’s a part of Instagram’s new ToS that’s pretty damn brazen. From the New York Times:

A section of the new terms of service, titled “Rights,” notes that Instagram will also be able to use your photographs and identity in advertisements. “You agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you,” the new terms say. This means that photographs uploaded to Instagram could end up in an advertisement on the service or on Facebook. In addition, someone who doesn’t use Instagram could end up in an advertisement if they have their photograph snapped and shared on the service by a friend.

Wil Wheaton raises an interesting point about how this Instagram ad business applies to celebrity users:

Here’s what I’m wondering: if Kaley Cuoco uses Instagram to share a photo of her and Melissa Rauch doing something silly, does that mean that Instagram can take that photo and use it to advertise for something silly without compensating them for what becomes a use of their likeness for commercial purposes? I can see that being a pretty serious shitstorm if it happens.

The celebrity angle is fascinating. These folks spend their days managing their images and privacy in ways regular people don’t. So what happens when a service catches celebrities in their restrictive ToS nets? Will a savvy celeb enlist his/her lawyers and publicists to take the service to task? Will that sort of notoriety elevate ToS changes — which happen all the time — beyond the domain of tech writers?

Instagram addressed some of the ToS concerns in a blog post. Here’s what they had to say about the advertising segment:

The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question. Our main goal is to avoid things likes advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience. Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time. [Emphasis added.]

Looks like Instagram won’t be the battleground for a celebrities vs platforms fight. Nonetheless, the central issue stands. The push and pull between users and online services will eventually raise the ire of a user who has a big, broad, everyone-knows-them platform.


It’s impossible to write about popular music without sounding pretentious or insane.

Here’s an example from Grantland’s “Songs of the Year 2012” collection (the song in question is “Pop That“):

The backing track’s a bucket of bottle-service ice down your neck, with 101 synth strings going psycho killer/Norman Bates, relentless tick-tock percussion, and a hectoring sample of Uncle Luke badgering strippers to drop and give him 20, all of it borderline funkless and yet as relentless and undeniable in its air-raid intensity as “Beat on the Brat” or “Night on Bald Mountain” or “Hava Nagila.” This aggro not-safe-for-twerk Ciroc commercial/sack of super-expensive hammers was a hit record? People listened to this for fun and/or while having it? 2012, you were super-weird!

My response:


Wow. These stills are from a fascinating Netflix video (embedded below):

Netflix: How many different downloadables are prepared for a single movie?

Netflix: 120 per movie

Here’s the video:

Via GigaOm.

What we need is a good-better-best approach to digital content

Paramount is out with a new online service that lets customers purchase clips from films. As this New York Times article notes, it’s initially aimed at advertisers and marketers who want to use the clips in campaigns. Consumers will be…

Paramount is out with a new online service that lets customers purchase clips from films. As this New York Times article notes, it’s initially aimed at advertisers and marketers who want to use the clips in campaigns. Consumers will be let in on the action later.

I have a couple thoughts on this:

1. Kudos to Paramount for giving this a shot. It certainly can’t hurt, and we need all the experimentation we can get.

2. I think this is a fantastic opportunity to test good-better-best quality levels. I’ve long thought there’s a way to service different segments of the audience through resolution, features and convenience.

For example, writers, bloggers and others who simply want to reference a clip could grab a lower-resolution version for free (as many already do through YouTube). This boosts awareness and creates branding opportunities for the content provider.

One sidenote: The Times piece suggests folks on the low end — consumers, mostly — may have to pay a low per-clip fee. That’s the wrong move. These aren’t ringtones. Ringtones are a public expression of personality linked to an always-on, always-available device. Embeddable movie clips require placement within media forms, be it a website or a DVD. The all-important personality element is muted. I’m not going to shell out cash if that so-bad-it’s-good movie clip only broadcasts my ironic sense of humor to a limited audience. I need exposure, dammit!

But I digress …

Moving up the scale, companies that want to aggregate clips or make them available as part of another content product could pay a reasonable amount (likely a flat rate for a certain number of clips) and gain access to DVD-quality content. I can see utility here for the education world. A one-stop shop for clips could take a lot of the pain out of the copyright quagmire law-abiding teachers currently face.

On the high end, marketers and advertisers who need full-resolution (1080p, if available) and the absence of co-branding would pay a premium.

What won’t work is an “everyone must pay” declaration. I’m assuming that since this got written up in the Times, and given that a consumer option is part of the longer-term gameplan, Paramount wants this to be more than a back-channel marketers’ tool. Otherwise, why publicize it? This is clearly a public-facing product. As such, it needs to properly service the unique needs of all audience segments.

Want to encourage piracy? Netflix and the movie studios show you how!

Looks like Netflix and the movie studios are about to make piracy more enticing. Good move, guys. From TechCrunch: Here’s what this will do: It may drive sales of DVDs a bit short term. But soon, online movie piracy will…

Looks like Netflix and the movie studios are about to make piracy more enticing. Good move, guys. From TechCrunch:

Here’s what this will do: It may drive sales of DVDs a bit short term. But soon, online movie piracy will pick up to new heights. If the movie studios have nightmares about piracy now, their reality will be truly terrifying with this plan in place …

… with this new 30-day window in place, the masses would be driven online to search for more illegal content — and more importantly, it would begin to fuel a piracy ecosystem for Hollywood content. There would be more people downloading, but also more people sharing. That’s the key.

Take a look through any torrent site (looking is legal) and you’ll see that most of the activity occurs around new releases. And that’s happening under the current system where new releases are available for purchase or rental. Remove rental from the equation (you know, the lower priced, easier, less restrictive option) and suddenly pirates go from fringe-dwelling copyright violators to service providers. I’m guessing that’s not what the studios are shooting for.

“Twitter Effect” Story Covers Consumer Tech Without the Hysteria (… It’s About Time)

I was ready to rip this Twitter Effect story for being one of many “trend out of thin air” pieces commonly found in consumer-centric technology coverage. But I was pleasantly surprised to have my initial assumptions proven incorrect. The headline…

I was ready to rip this Twitter Effect story for being one of many “trend out of thin air” pieces commonly found in consumer-centric technology coverage. But I was pleasantly surprised to have my initial assumptions proven incorrect.

The headline teeters on hype, but the story itself asks a reasonable question — do rapid-fire Twitter reviews influence film revenue? — and (gasp!) presents multiple viewpoints that don’t glom on to comfortable conclusions. The piece, which is really worth a read, says Twitter might influence receipts for some films. It’s nice to see nuance for a change.