Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

Crash Course

August 26, 2011

I just finished watching all 22 videos of Chris Marentson’s Crash Course. Being naturally paranoid myself, I am now paralyzed with fear. If you haven’t seen the videos, Chris is predicting economic collapse, and he makes a very good case. I have searched the Internet for criticism of Martenson, and it is hard to find. He appears to be a well-meaning, almost altruistic person, who has developed the videos with his own money, just to warn everybody.

My only problem is that Chris recommends buying gold as a hedge. This might have been a good idea 4 years ago, when Chris first published The Crash Course, but today the chart of gold prices looks like Chris’s own textbook example of a market bubble. And since Chris himself has been buying gold heavily for the past 4 years, the advice is starting to seem tainted. I’m wondering if the whole Crash Course might have been part of a pump-and-dump scheme. (See what I mean about paranoia?)

The Future is Light and Short

December 7, 2006

Many writers have pointed out (e.g. Crooked Timber, Daniel Read et al, and the Wall Street Journal) that when we have to choose what movie to watch days ahead of time (as with Netflix), we tend to make more ambitious choices than what we want when the time comes to watch. For example, many people select a bunch of “highbrow” movies on Netflix, then don’t feel like watching them when they arrive.

Netflix is a great bonanza for highbrow movies today, but what will happen when people have access to a library the size of Netflix, but no longer have to make choices days ahead of time?

Brad Templeton wrote a great piece about this, predicting:

…the real shift coming is to pay-per-view and downloading. If people look at the PPV menu and usually pick the light movie over the serious one, then the market for the serious ones is sunk.

Sadly, I think he is right. But neither good nor bad is his other interesting observation:

I’ve also noticed a push for shorter programming… When you just sit down to choose something from your library, the temptation is strong to watch shorter things instead of making a 2 hour committment to a longer thing.

The data sample is small, but my experience is definitely similar. I now have a pile of a few dozen DVDs acquired through Peerflix. Picking a movie at my house means straining my eyes to find the “running time” in tiny print on every disc, and more often than not, choosing among the shortest.

This could be good news for independent filmmakers, because shorter means cheaper. But if this small sample is predicting correctly, even the big studios would be wise to take note.

Communist Manifesto Set to Animated Greats

November 16, 2006

This has been making the rounds. It is now on the technorati home page. See it while you can—I’m sure the copyright holders will have it off YouTube in no time.

Abundant Choices

November 1, 2006

Last week, I had an odd first-time experience. I was at a neighborhood party, when the host asked if anyone had heard the funny story on NPR about the cocker spaniel. Some of us had not, so he went to his PC (hooked to the stereo via Airtunes) and played it.

As technological advances reduce the cost of storage and distribution, we are getting more and more choice as to what media content we consume and as to when and how we consume it. This trend is expected to continue until we can watch or listen to any TV show, radio show, movie, concert or song any time we want on any device.

But how will such abundant choices affect the content that is produced?

Chris Anderson argues in his Wired article, blog, and book, The Long Tail, that this trend will cause our economy to shift away from producing a small number of hit products to producing a large number of niche products. He has found hard evidence that, “The biggest money is in the smallest sales.” (E.g. Amazon’s total sales of less popular books is greater than their sales of bestsellers).

I see clearly how this will affect distributors—I would much rather be Amazon (whose technology allows them to sell Long Tail as well as hit products) than Tower Records (whose limited shelf space only allowed them to sell popular titles).

As for producers, there will now be a place at the table for the little guy. Lots more low-budget content will get produced because Long Tail distribution will make it economical. For example, this excellent video on how children can train puppies with clickers probably made a profit.

It may be true that all the Long Tail content out there will siphon some consumer spending away from hit content. This would mean smaller hits or fewer hits.

But does the Long Tail phenomenon mean big producers will stop trying to make hits? I think not, for two reasons. The first is emotional: humans are competitive and ambitious. Even the little guy making low-budget productions really wants to have a hit. The second is rational: for those few producers who have the dough, there will always be a reasonable inducement to spend money on things that increase sales (e.g. in movies: star talent, special effects, and advertising).