Hitting targets at 1000 Meters
Next gen media, Quibi, and why small bets are better
It’s weird. I think about building big things as “Hitting a target from 1000 meters away”.
Realistically, that shit is impossible. Almost nobody can walk up to a rifle, aim down the sights, and hit the broadside of a barn from that distance. There’s wind, there’s kickback, and it’s just way too far away.
So why do we keep trying?
It’s so easy to rip on Quibi, but you can take Magic Leap or any of those other companies that raises a stupid amount of money too early. I’m gonna stick with Quibi.
If we flashback to 2018-2019, the current state of media is:
Media in general is blowing up. Back in 2010 Avatar blew so many records out of the water. Now, a billion dollar box office gets written about, but it happens almost yearly
Mobile content like TikTok and YouTube are in full swing
Phone usage is king, movies are on a general decline adjusted for this
Now, the people at Quibi have hypothesized that “If we can take those high cost blockbusters and put them on people’s phones, we’ll print money”. And so that’s what they did. Spoiler: it’s not going great
How are you going to attribute the problem with your VIDEO platform to a virus that keeps people indoors watching Netflix?
Every young person knows Quibi was dead on arrival. It completely missed WHY short form mobile content takes off. I’ll let you in on a secret:
It’s good because it’s bad
Now obviously, this statement sounds counter intuitive, but bear with me here and let’s take a trip down memory lane, back to Vine.
Vine blew up because it was the epitome of “fuck it” content. “Fuck it” content is directly proportional to how ephemeral the platform is, particularly the upfront cost/time to produce it. Here’s a handy line to help you illustrate. Note: Quibi should be WAY farther right since regular people can’t even produce anything on it.
Easier to produce content = More shots at the target = more great content
Vine had this nailed, and that’s why it blew up. It wasn’t completely ephemeral like Snapchat, but the feed went fast enough that your misses got buried and your hits stuck around. This means people can try newer, more experimental stuff with minimal risk. Smaller bets if you will.
However, they failed to monetize and looked to Twitter, who also isn’t very good at this, to help them. Ergo, deadmeme.
So, back to Quibi, which IMO is destined to fail because:
You cannot fight an army of young people creating content on their phones
Quality content isn’t what you think it is
People today have the attention span of a goldfish
Not only these three, but a larger one: people love engaging. It’s why Twitch is big, it’s why Snap is big, it’s why literally everything we have right now is big. Phones have pulled people away from physical engagements, and their brains are searching to fill that void. It’s why the next generation of celebs isn’t people like Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise, it’s David Dobrik and Jojo Siwa who are constantly engaging on IG/Snap/TikTok.
It’s also why I’m obscenely bullish on TikTok (For better or worse) and Snap. Monetization on these platforms is pretty ghetto right now, mostly through agent found brand deals, but once they figure out how to monetize their creators they’ll stop losing them all to YouTube, who used to do this well but now does a it mediocre-at-best.
But back to the original topic of this blog: Making big bets is almost impossible at this scale, and it’s particularly hard for older people, who are so far from the mark of “What’s next”. If you want your company to be big in 10 years, you need to aim to where your audience will be in 5 years.
If you’re catering to a generation where 75% of them want to be vloggers, and you are because they’re the ones on the phones, you won’t get far with high budget content. If you fight this by begrudgingly producing content they won’t give a shit about, don’t be surprised when they get tired and start building these platforms themselves. Huge wins for Snapkit, enormous L’s for Quibi.
Sidenote: I think the ease of access of VC has made this difficult. It takes a while to establish yourself enough to get access to that capital. Once you’ve got it, you’re almost too far away from the people who you’d want to target. The old man with the rolex isn’t going to make the next generation of content for 13-30yos, that target is just way too far away. This is compounded by the fact that everyone wants to make big bold bets, but they have no fucking idea where to point that enormous vector, so they end up in the complete wrong direction like Quibi.
Now maybe I’m wrong, but I really don’t think so. I really hope, once we’ve got clarity on this, that we can learn from these experiences where we’ve set money on fire and realize smaller, incremental bets are the way to go for almost everything. Hit the target at 20, 50, 100 meters first. Then you’ll maybe know how to get to 500, 1000 and beyond.