How Netflix Creates ‘Taste Communities’

Wired: “The Defenders provides Netflix with a unique case study. Instead of merely allowing it to find out if someone who likes, say, House of Cards also will like Daredevil (yes, BTW), it tells them which of the people who landed on Daredevil because of House of Cards will make the jump to The Defenders.”

“Wildly different programs lead people to The Defenders’ standalone shows. The top lead-in show for Luke Cage? Narcos. But for Iron Fist, it’s a Dave Chappelle special. Someone who watches Jones probably will watch Cage, but beyond that the groups of people—Netflix calls them ‘taste communities’—gravitating toward those shows enjoy very different programming.”

“Every Netflix user belongs to three or four taste communities. It’s easy to say that this influences what appears in your recommendations, but it’s not quite that simple. Membership in those communities does more than dictate the top 10 comedies appearing in a row of your queue, it determines whether comedies appear there at all … Each time you open Netflix it exposes you to 40 or 50 titles. Netflix considers it a win if you choose one of them.”

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MoviePass: Like Netflix for Theaters

Vulture: “The subject of the week in Hollywood is MoviePass, a company from the co-founder of Netflix and Redbox that’ll let you go to the movies once a day, every day, for just $9.95 a month — just barely more than the average price of a single ticket, and less in cities like New York and Los Angeles. While MoviePass has been around for a little while now, it’s in the news at the moment because of that new, comically low price point, as well as the controversy it’s provoking among theaters.”

“What the company hopes to offer over time is a large base of proven, frequent moviegoers — and the proprietary information that comes from having access to their every ticket-buying decision. It’s a Big Data move, one that will utilize investor money to subsidize a money-losing business model in the hopes that other revenue streams will eventually open up, most likely coming from the likes of AMC, who might one day offer MoviePass tickets at a discount and use the consumers’ behavioral information to improve advertising, curation, concessions, and so on.”

“MoviePass’s challenge is that it threatens to cut into the revenue stream of Hollywood’s most loyal customer, with the added, ethereal benefit of ‘data,’ a concept with which theaters already have a complicated relationship, considering the struggles of tracking and the unpopularity of in-theater advertising. And ultimately, it isn’t good for anyone in the business of movie-making if people become used to the idea that they should be entitled to all movies for ten bucks a month. Just look at the music industry.”

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Serenity Kids: Paleo Baby Food

Quartz: Serenity Kids is “marketing a line of liquid baby food that has the highest meat content of any pouched baby food. It hit the market this month. Meals include liquified uncured bacon with organic kale and butternut squash, chicken with peas and carrots, even beef with kale and sweet potato. The product is sold in packs of six 4-ounce pouches for about $27.”

“As a concept, the diet is comprised of food that would have been available to Paleolithic humans‚ which includes non-processed foods that could be found by foraging or killing animals for meat. That means no dairy, no grains, and definitely no Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies.”

“Designing such a diet for very young children hasn’t come without controversy … Health officials considered it a risk because there was fear children would miss out on important nutrients during a critical stage. Complications down the road could mean poor growth and a weaker immune system, among other things … As of early August, Serenity Kids pre-sold 1,800 pouches. As of now the company is selling the food online, and hopes to be in grocery stores within the next year.”

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LVMH: A Winner in Real-Life Retail

Axios: “LVMH, the French conglomerate and owner of brands Louis Vuitton and Sephora, had a 15% rise in first-half 2017 revenue, and that did not come by running fire sales — profit was up 23% … LVMH’s success is a reason for traditional retailers to despair as much as hope. The secret behind LVMH’s success is near total control of products from conception through manufacturing and sales, the opposite strategy of traditional mass-market retailers that largely act as middlemen and little more.”

“Next to Louis Vuitton, LVMH’s most important brand is Sephora, the beauty retailer that has been gobbling up market share in the $22-billion cosmetic retail industry. Customers interviewed by Axios raved foremost about the in-store experience, with freely accessible samples of any product absent any interaction with a salesperson. If shoppers want help, these customers say, Sephora’s staff is knowledgable and eager to find them the right look.”

“LVMH is demonstrating one formula for making a success of brick-and-mortar retail. That does not mean it can rest: Even high-flying luxury retailers like Louis Vuitton must constantly innovate as e-commerce matures and offers more products and more ways to buy them.”

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Does Rudeness Affect Job Performance?

The Wall Street Journal: “When we’re pressed at work, it’s tempting to let manners slip … a growing body of research suggests that rudeness can harm an employee’s well-being and job performance. When rudeness feels like a threat, it occupies cognitive resources and focuses our attention on processing the unpleasant interaction, says Amir Erez, a management professor at the University of Florida.”

IN 2015, Dr. Erez conducted a study of doctors and nurses who had been subjected to disparaging words. He comments: “The results were scary. the teams exposed to rudeness gave the wrong diagnosis, didn’t resuscitate or ventilate appropriately, didn’t communicate well, gave the wrong medications and made other serious mistakes.”

“Mistreatment in other workplaces may not lead to such critical failures, but persistent low levels of rudeness—such as being ignored or put down, particularly by someone in a position of power—can threaten an employee’s sense of belonging, according to research published this year in the Journal of Organizational Behavior. This isolation, in turn, can bring on stomach problems, sleeplessness and headaches.”

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Why Do Grownups Suck At Innovation?

Alison Gopnik & Tom Griffiths: “Why does creativity generally tend to decline as we age? … the explanation may have to do with a tension between two kinds of thinking: what computer scientists call exploration and exploitation. When we face a new problem, we adults usually exploit the knowledge about the world we have acquired so far … On the other hand, exploration — trying something new — may lead us to a more unusual idea, a less obvious solution, a new piece of knowledge. But it may also mean that we waste time considering crazy possibilities that will never work, something both preschoolers and teenagers have been known to do.”

“This idea suggests a solution to the evolutionary paradox that is human childhood and adolescence. We humans have an exceptionally long childhood and prolonged adolescence. Why make human children so helpless for so long, and make human adults invest so much time and effort into caring for them?”

“The answer: Childhood and adolescence may, at least in part, be designed to resolve the tension between exploration and exploitation. Those periods of our life give us time to explore before we have to face the stern and earnest realities of grown-up life. Teenagers may no longer care all that much about how the physical world works. But they care a lot about exploring all the ways that the social world can be organized. And that may help each new generation change the world.”

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Pizza Al Taglio Doesn’t Cut Corners

The Wall Street Journal: “A number of New York pizza makers are now offering the classic treat with different geometry: Their ‘pies’ aren’t pie-shaped. Instead, they are based on a rectangular-shaped style, known as pizza al taglio, that is popular in Rome. Further distinguishing this version: Slices are often served at room temperature. And when it comes to cutting the pizza, forget about the traditional wheel-style cutter. This is a pizza best divided with a scissors.”

“To some extent, the interest in pizza al taglio speaks to the appetite New Yorkers have for a broadening array of pizza styles, circular or rectangular-shaped. The city has seen restaurants offering everything including Detroit-style pizza and the classic Chicago deep-dish version. And that is not to mention the Sicilian pie, another rectangular style, that has been a mainstay at New York pizzerias for decades.”

“Moreover, other Roman styles are also finding their way to the city. Pinsa Lab, which opened earlier this year in Brooklyn, specializes in an crispy circular style, known as pinsa, that is said to date back to ancient times … But pizza al taglio has special appeal for a host of reasons, say fans. Some like the fanciful toppings that are often used: At Fornino, for example, the pizza al taglio comes in versions with everything from heirloom tomatoes and goat cheese to radicchio and figs.”

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Blue-Corn Pixza Helps Homeless Kids

Fast Company: “For every five slices of blue corn pizza sold at Pixza, a piece of paper denoting a sixth slice is set aside. Once a week, those slips are counted up, and the corresponding number of slices are made and brought to a nearby homeless shelter, where Pixza representatives–many of them who once lived in the shelter–distribute them to the youth and have a conversation about Pixza’s program, and how it could lead to a job offer at the pizzeria.”

“Next, the youth are set up with a haircut, a shower, a T-shirt, a doctor’s appointment, and a life-skills course; Souza has set up partnerships with local hairdressers, medical students, and doctors who volunteer their services to the program. When the youth make it through all of the steps–their progress is recorded via a bracelet in which each step is hole-punched as it’s completed, like an analogue Fitbit–they are offered a job at Pixza.”

“Once employed at Pixza, the youth are matched up with a dedicated coach, who walks them through life planning and securing necessities like housing … The youth and mentors meet at Pixza during closing hours to plan: how to use the two-month stipend doled out to the kids to help them secure an apartment, how to source furniture, how they might want to direct their career beyond the pizzeria.”

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Aledade: A Silicon Valley ‘Healthcare’ Solution

Farhad Manjoo: “The American health care system is a fragmented archipelago, with patients moving through doctors’ offices and hospitals that are often disconnected from one another. As a result, many primary care physicians — who often see themselves as a kind of quarterback who calls the shots on a patient’s care — have no easy way to monitor a patient’s meandering path through the health care system.”

Software developed by Aledade, a Silicon Valley startup, “addresses that by collecting patient data from a variety of sources, creating a helicopter view. Doctors can see which specialists a patient has visited, which tests have been ordered, and, crucially, how much the overall care might be costing the health care system … More important, the software uses the data to assemble a battery of daily checklists for physicians’ practices. These are a set of easy steps for the practice to take — call this patient, order this vaccine — to keep on top of patients’ care, and, in time, to reduce its cost.”

“Yet even though Aledade thinks of itself as a technology company, its doctors said its software is the least interesting thing it does …
Aledade — which now operates in 15 states and has relationships with more than 1,200 doctors … It has hired a battalion of field coordinators who visit practices and offer in-depth training and advice.”

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Novo Oh-No: ‘New & Improved’ Doesn’t Sell

The Wall Street Journal: “Danish drug giant Novo Nordisk is living through a corporate nightmare that any CEO might recognize from business school. After the company concentrated on making essentially one product better and better—and charging more and more—customers have suddenly stopped paying for all that improvement. The established versions are, well, good enough.”

“Doctors, health-plan managers and insurers all have balked at paying for Novo Nordisk’s newest version of its insulin. Clinical trials show it works as promised in controlling diabetes and delivers significant side benefits compared with its predecessors. But for many customers, all that isn’t enough to warrant paying more—because the older drugs on the market already work pretty well, too.”

“Common, deadly ailments, such as asthma, high cholesterol and heart disease, were the focus of the pharmaceutical industry during a golden age of drug launches in the 1990s. Now, building on those advances has proven costlier and more complex, and usually results in smaller gains. Incrementally improved medicines are harder to sell at the prices needed to cover their development costs.”

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