My interview with Laura Martin of Needham & Company

I saw leading Wall St media analyst Laura Martin of Needham & Company debate the future of Netflix on stage at the Banff World Media Conference in June and caught up with her after to expand on her assessment of the streaming giant and the streaming video landscape more broadly. Check out the transcript of our conversation on TechCrunch >>

Wall St analyst Laura Martin on the fate of Netflix, breaking up Google, EU regulation, and a decade of more money for Hollywood

A guide to Virtual Beings

Last week in San Francisco, I spoke at the first Virtual Beings Summit (organized by Fable Studio CEO Edward Saatchi).

The term “virtual beings” gets used as a catch-all categorization of fictional personalities that humans can interact with. This ranges from activities like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft pouring resources into conversational AI technology to chip-maker Nvidia and game engines Unreal and Unity advancing real-time ray tracing for photorealistic graphics to VCs backng “virtual influencer” startups like Brud and Shadows.

There are really three separate fields getting conflated though:

  1. Virtual Companions
  2. Humanoid Character Creation
  3. Virtual Influencers

These can overlap — there are humanoid virtual influencers for example — but they represent separate challenges, separate business opportunities, and separate societal concerns. I’ve outlined an overview of at these fields and how they collectively comprise this concept of virtual beings… Read my article on TechCrunch >>

A guide to Virtual Beings and how they impact our world

Where top VCs are investing in media, entertainment, & gaming

In my TechCrunch column, I just posted long-form quotes from these 9 sharp VCs on their investment interests in the media, entertainment, & gaming space. If you’re an entrepreneur planning to raise money (or an investor curious what your peers are focused on), I suggested you give it a read.

The definitive guide to Patreon

(This was originally published as a section within today’s Monetizing Media newsletter. Sign up here.)

Patreon: the definitive report
I wrote a 20,000+ word analysis of Patreon and monetization strategies by independent content creators. Patreon is a platform that creators use to run membership businesses (monthly payment in exchange for special access) with their superfans. Think CRM + CMS + payment processing.

The report dives into the company’s founding storyproduct developmentbusiness model & financialscore thesiscompetition, and potential exit scenarios. I also added a syllabus for further reading.

Some quick takeaways:

  • Patreon has undergone a strategy shift from being a marketplace / social platform to a SaaS company making business tools for creators. The goal seems to be to provide all tools & services a creator needs, including small business loans.
  • Patreon’s rake is too low, but they’re about to roll out new premium features. I suggest pricing tiers as a path forward, which is the norm for B2B SaaS.
  • The product needs to put creators’ brands first and Patreon’s second.
  • 70% of revenue comes from creators who make $1k+ per month. That’ll be $35M+ this year.
  • The key question is how big this market size is. The % of creators who make even $1k per month is tiny…but is that 10s of thousands or 100s of thousands of them?
  • Last valued at $450M in 2017, I expect Patreon to close a Series D in the next few months that makes it a “unicorn”.
  • An IPO in a few years is possible, but I think it will get acquired first. Facebook and YouTube are obvious candidates. I make the argument that Endeavor should buy them though.

Stats on teen social media use

A new Pew Research Center survey shows that YouTube is the most popular online platform among US teenagers age 13-17, with 85% using it. Instagram (72%), Snapchat (69%), and Facebook (51%) trail behind. A plurality (35%) say they use Snapchat most often though – followed closely by YouTube (32%) and distantly by Instagram (15%) and Facebook (10%). (link)

Another interesting data point from the survey is that teens from households with income under $30k are twice as likely (70% vs. 36%) as teens from households with income over $75k to use Facebook.

90% of US teens play video games (83% of females, 97% of males).

95% of US teens have access to a smartphone nowadays (it’s above 90% for every demographic).