Watching Platforms

"Issue": 022

I’ll probably just go home and watch Netflix. I’ve been watching a lot of Youtube lately. My friends have all been watching TikTok.

Recently, the phrasing of “watching [insert platform name]” has really been pricking my ear. It seems to only happen with video. I’ve yet to hear someone say “I’m going to listen to Spotify.” We would probably collectively find that person to be a psychopath. We do say things like — let’s turn on the radio. However I rarely find myself in cars because… New York so I’m not going to focus on that right now.

But instead on the the proliferation of this behavior with video, and what it means.

Image result for glued to the screen

I recently tweeted that Netflix is the Millennial+ TikTok.

It knows what I want to watch. Will keep me watching it. Will serve what I want to watch next. And occasionally, will check to see if I still have a pulse.

The language we now use for these video platforms are similar to what we use for social. I don’t say what specific friend I may want to interact with on Twitter, I simply go on Twitter. Despite this, I end up taking the same actions day after day. In a similar way, perhaps this is the goal of Netflix. To actually never have us care about the content being surfaced, but instead, to simply understand that Netflix WILL surface content. Maybe this is why they were willing to spend so much money on the Seinfeld deal. Because they know that the majority of Americans can simply turn it on, without thinking, and start sinking into the most familiar sitcom of all time. That this age of content will be part of the automated routine we take part in to not blow our brains apart at the end of another work day. It is death by directed entertainment in a consistently skeptic age of post-truth.

I don’t want that to come off as obviously dark as it is written, but it comes down to the two decision modes we will generally fall into. Intentional vs Automatic (I know decision theory breaks into more categories, it’s part of the few classes I cared about in college but this is a newsletter). It’s the difference between going to the movies to have a new cinematic experience, and watching American Psycho again. The difference between taking the time to cook a balanced meal, and ordering the same salad from Sweetgreen.

On the phone the other day, Paari and I were discussing how people still really don’t get video and how hard / misunderstood it still is. Hannah and I also have chatted on this topic as well. Two very obvious product founders you should be paying attention to in the space.

But truthfully I’m having a really hard time pairing down why that is.

christian bale GIF

If I had to boil it all down to why we struggle with consumer video, it would be because it has historically been a very public medium. And public mediums of expression have to be tailored, due to the economic factors that made video so difficult and expensive, to be widely accepted.

But we’ve hit a new age where, again relatively speaking, video is cheap. But not necessarily less difficult.

Perhaps culturally, we find video hard because it is the act of self reduction. I reduce my surroundings in order to watch. I reduce myself in order to be invested in the video on screen. I reduce what I’m seeing to make sense to my sense of self. And then what am I left with, the reconstruction of self based on what was delivered to me.

Over time as the delivery became cheaper and closer, the act hadn’t changed much. But that is all changing, from creation - discovery - connection - rendering… you name it.

  • On Trash I can shoot, have AI edit, and deliver to my audience a rhythmic compilation of an experience.

  • On Interlace I can potentially catch feels, match, and swap videos with dates.

  • On Eternal… lol not telling you.

Video has been a slow motion explosion, that still hasn’t broken its shell.

It is the open demonstration of process vs photo, which is quite literally the technical example of residuals. And what this does to our intentional social experience, or even our passive experience is unknown at scale.

Daniel Day Lewis Mistake GIF by Phantom Thread

This is becoming a bit of a rambling, but I need that every once in a while.

I think, at least what I started with, is the fact that we refer to our video experiences by the platform we consume them on. Unless it is intentional, in which case I say “I’m going to watch the Midsommar Director’s Cut”. Not Netflix.

I think this opens the door to anyone building in the space, as there is the ability to create an identifiable view on how video should or can feel. What that means to the creator, and how that is delivered to the consumer.

There’s no formula here. Yorgos isn’t going to tell Barry Jenkins what to do. It would go against the tenants of style. Which is a whole other conversation.

But then we must question if the goal is to be the platform that is watched, or invisible for the content itself. And maybe this ties to the intention of the creator. I would argue, with more time, that it is.

The last thing I’m thinking about is this tweet thread and the nature of consumer tooling and the subsequent outputs a team makes possible. How that compounds or contracts on itself.


But seriously I’m very fine, I’m just excited with a lot of chaotic energy I need to get out.

Random side jawn, hanging out with Tiffany & Nikhil I pitched them why Trump should ban TikTok as part of the trade war. In which we then got to discussing how China could weaponize US teenagers by creating a propaganda war using deepfakes tied to pseudo-accounts that appear real they simply push over the For You feed. Fun stuff.

Thanks so much for giving me your attention. I hope it was worth it, if not… unsubscribing will not hurt my feelings, and will give you back time you literally cannot have back.

Much love.