This Week’s Insights: The insidious narrowing of algorithmic taste… Publishing depends more on the hits… Netflix is changing and the audience is following… Cellphone prison for theatres?… What happens when library fines are gone.
- If Algorithms Shave Off The Edges, What’s Left? It begins with a good impulse – people want to be able to find things they’re interested in. Content makers also want to get their work in front of people who will appreciate it. So algorithms facilitate this process. But over time, content makers adjust to make their work better feed the algos. And consumers over time narrow their choices as their innate taste is reinforced and refined. Writer Zadie Smith identifies a problem: “The key with the unfreedom of the algorithm is that it knows everything and it feeds back everything. So, you can no longer have this bit of humanity which is absolutely necessary — privacy: the sacred space in which you do not know what the other thinks of you.”
- Publishing Is More Dependent On Mega-hits Than Ever: Though the hits-driven nature of publishing has not changed in recent years, the nature of those hits has. Due to a number of coalescing factors—including a shrinking physical retail market and an increase in competing entertainment driven by the proliferation of streaming TV platforms—book publishing has watched as a handful of mega-selling titles have begun to command an ever-larger share of its sales. This doesn’t mean smaller titles will disappear, but it’s the content that is selling that is being impacted.
- Netflix Is About To Change. The Audience Will Change: The vast majority of Netflix’s viewers (upwards of 80 percent, according to him) watch licensed content (“Friends” and the like) and in order to create a library of programming audiences will pay for, the company’s gone massively in debt: “Netflix is currently in the hole for about $20 billion. This is unsustainable. Additionally, a lot of that licensed content will go away and streaming services melt away. So Netflix will have to fundamentally adapt.
- Is The Solution To Ringing Phones In Theatres A “Cellphone Prison”? Some believe so, and some theatres are locking up phones as patrons arrive. It’s effective sure. But does it address the wrong problem? People forget to turn their phones off, so aren’t effective reminders better? Evidently not.
- Eliminate Library Fines, Increase Returns: Will public library users return books on time if they aren’t under threat of overdue fines? Turns out yes. The Chicago Public Library dropped fines and found the return of late books increased by 240 percent. “It’s a big piece of evidence countering a major argument used by those arguing against ditching overdue fines for library books.”