Five on Friday: Social Media, Sports and Smart Home Devices
Featuring CJR, Forbes, Business Insider, TechCrunch and Gizmodo
In this week’s Five on Friday, CJR explores the state of social media in 2019; Forbes shares sports entertainment trends, including subscription opportunities; Hulu hits 25 million subscribers, a 47 percent increase; Comcast launches a subscription to help people protect their smart home devices from attacks; and DC Comics joins Comixology’s unlimited subscription service.
Will We Give Up Social Media in the New Year? Not Likely…
As you look to the year ahead, do any of your resolutions involve spending less time on your phones or social media and more time with friends and family? Some experts believe that social media is detrimental to society, both individually and as a whole. When we are trolling Twitter, we are not engaging with our children or our partners. When we are scrolling through our Instagram feeds, we are not reading, studying, exercising or working.
In a recent article for Columbia Journalism Review, Mathew Ingram explores social media and how we use it, exploring the idea that perhaps we should rethink our social media involvement. He starts with an examination of our Facebook usage. Most of us have Facebook accounts. Some of us have personal and professional accounts, and others only have personal accounts because we have to have professional ones. But Facebook has been in the headlines a lot recently, and not in a good way. From security breaches to unauthorized sharing of personal data, Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are on the hot seat.
Ingram points out that some notable people have deleted their Facebook accounts in protest, spurring a #DeleteFacebook hashtag campaign on Twitter. Here’s a small sampling from the hashtag on Twitter.
Ingram also points out – and I’m sure we’re all aware – that deleting individual Facebook accounts won’t make a dent in Facebook’s influence, even if people left the social media platform en masse. Why? Because so much of our lives are tied to Facebook. Some of us manage Facebook pages for our employers or our own businesses, while others won’t leave Facebook because they use Facebook as a login for so many other online services.
Will Americans turn their backs on social media in 2019? I don’t think it is likely. While sometimes I dare to unplug, I always wonder what I’m missing and I probably spend as much if not more time catching up, personally and professionally, than I would have just checking in periodically.
I think the key is to be thoughtful of how we use social media – to spend the right amount of time, which will be different for each of us – to lock down our security as tightly as possible, and to vet everything before assuming it is factual.
For more on this topic, I encourage you to read Ingram’s in-depth article, “In 2019, will the tide turn against Facebook and social media?”
Can Subscriptions Work for Sports and Entertainment?
One writer thinks so. In a trend piece on ticket trends in sports and entertainment for Forbes, contributor Kirk Wakefield examines five ticket trends to watch for this year. Not surprisingly, one of those five is subscriptions. He believes memberships will replace season tickets and subscriptions could replace general admission sales. Wakefield cites research from McKinsey & Company on how the availability of subscriptions could be applied to sports and entertainment ticket sales.
1) Memberships and subscriptions are usually recurring fees, so payment and renewal are automatic. For a season ticket holder who does not want to miss a window of opportunity, this recurring feature is a bonus. It saves time, money and avoids missing out (FOMO).
2) Memberships and subscriptions reduce the number of decisions a subscriber has to make, creating fewer opportunities for a customer to rethink their original purchase. For example, Wakefield says, if a fan doesn’t have to think about the cost of individual tickets, what dates to choose, how much to spend, etc., it is an easier – and often automatic – sale.
Read more from Wakefield in “Five Ticket Trends to Watch in Sports & Entertainment in 2019” or more about the state of the subscription economy in 2018, according to McKinsey & Company, and summarized by Louis Columbus for Forbes.
Hulu Hits 25 Million Subscribers in 2018
Netflix may be the reigning streaming video on demand service, but Hulu is closing the gap with a banner 2018. According to a January 8 news release, Hulu ended the year with more than 25 million subscribers, adding 8 million new subscribers (net) during 2018. This represents a 47 percent gain over the prior year. By comparison, in the third quarter, Netflix reported 130.42 million paid memberships and 137.1 million total memberships.
Like Netflix, Hulu has popular original content like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but Hulu differentiates itself is in other areas:
- Advertising revenue from its ad-supported plans. In 2018, ad revenue grew by an impressive 45 percent, to nearly $1.5 billion, and it increased its advertiser base by 50 percent.
- Hulu has streaming video plans as well as live TV packages that include Disney, NBCUniversal, CBS, The CW, Turner Networks and more. The live TV service also includes access to Hulu’s on-demand library of more than 85,000 episodes.
- Hulu offers premium subscription add-ons including HBO, Cinemax, Showtime and STARZ.
“Consumers have spoken loudly about their desire for more choice and control in their TV experience. They are seeing the enormous benefits of streaming, they’re deciding which content and brands are most important to them, and they’re choosing Hulu,” said Hulu CEO Randy Freer in the news release. “In 2018, Hulu led the industry in attracting and engaging subscribers, building a powerful technology stack and cultivating a brand that both consumers and advertisers love. Looking ahead, Hulu is in the best position to be the #1 choice for TV – live and on-demand, with and without commercials, both in and out of the home.”
What’s next? Continuing to invest in content and improving the user experience. Read more on Hulu.
Comcast Launches Xfinity xFi Advanced Security Monitors for Connected Devices
At this week’s Consumer Electronics Show, Comcast launched its latest service – a digital security subscription service designed to protect WiFi connected devices in the home. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, the new Xfinity xFi Advanced security monitors block online threats in real time and notify customers of potential threats to their connected devices at home including smartphones, laptops, game consoles, cameras and more.
“As the digital world gets more complex, we wanted to make it simple and easy for our customers to protect their home networks. That’s why we developed xFi Advanced Security,” said Fraser Stirling, Senior Vice President of Digital Home, Devices and AI, Comcast Cable in a January 8 news release. “We want to give customers digital peace of mind for the devices they already own and the confidence to expand and evolve their connected homes knowing that every new camera, voice-assisted speaker or smart thermostat they add will be protected.”
Comcast says that the Xfinity xFi dashboard is easy for customers to install themselves, set up user profiles and parental controls, pause WiFi service during specific periods of time, and more. TechCrunch says this is Comcast’s first subscription-based offering “to live on top of xFi.” We have not yet seen subscription pricing for the new service. Comcast also offers xFi Pods as part of a whole-home mesh WiFi system designed to improve connectivity to WiFi throughout the home.
DC Comics Joins Comixology’s Unlimited Subscription
What’s better than unlimited comics from Comixology? Comixology Unlimited with DC Comics, including Superman, Batman, Harley Quinn, Justice League, Wonder Woman and Teen Titans. That’s the latest news from Comixology, reports Engadget. Comixology, an Amazon-owned company, is a digital comics service. In addition to single issue sales, comics lovers can subscribe to Comixology Unlimited to get access to more than 20,000 digital comics, graphic novels and manga from Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, Kodansha and now DC Comics. Members also get 10 to 15 percent off all books in addition to other member discounts.
Prospective subscribers sign in through their Amazon account, and after a 30-day free trial, the unlimited subscription is just $5.99 a month. There’s no long-term commitment, and subscribers can cancel at any time. DC Comics are also now available to Prime Reading members and Kindle Unlimited members.
“We are thrilled to now include an incredible selection of DC’s vast library of Super Heroes and DC Vertigo titles as part of comiXology Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited, and Prime Reading, bringing an even bigger benefit to all our subscription members,” said comiXology CEO and Co-Founder David Steinberger. “With the addition of DC and DC Vertigo titles we’re providing more convenience and a great opportunity for readers to discover and explore some of the best stories comics have to offer at no additional cost to their current Prime, Kindle Unlimited or comiXology unlimited subscription.”
“DC is constantly looking at ways of growing the audience for comics and graphic novels, so teaming up with comiXology Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited and Prime Reading is a natural fit,” said John Cunningham, Senior Vice President of Sales & Trade Marketing. “From Aquaman to Sandman, there’s so much for DC readers, old and new, to love here.”