It’s scorching hot outside and I’m not hating it

I don’t hate the heat, and I kind of feel guilty about it, Netflix will be just fine, the worst kept secret in media

The eastern United States, from South Carolina to Maine, and parts of the Midwest, are dealing with heat advisories and excessive heat warnings this weekend as heat indexes rise over 100 degrees. While this isn’t the most pleasant weather, I for one am not hating the heat. Thanks to my Raynaud’s phenomenon, I’m cold around 90% of the time, and right now walking outside feels like a dream.

Heck, I’ve even considered wearing shorts. Outside. To a location other than a pool.

That’s a wild concept for someone who hasn’t worn shorts for reasons other than sleeping or cutting grass (and only because I wore them the night before while sleeping) in years. Yes, the humidity still sucks, but the warmth of the sun feels stupendous.

I do realize that I’m outside of the norm on this one. Thankfully it looks like the heatwave will break by Tuesday.

My love of the heat does come with some guilt. I love the heat, and extreme heat is becoming more common. The problem is that these things are true because of the damage we’ve done to our planet.

My wife and I used to say that when the kids graduate from high school we’re moving south so I can be warm. But, as the average temperatures continue to climb, the next 20 years in the area we live in now will look more like the areas we would have considered moving to when we graduated college (almost) 20 years ago.

Map: Climate Impact Lab, 1981-2010 Historical Temperatures.
Map: Climate Impact Lab, 2020-2039. Projected temperatures with moderate emissions and median probability.

At some point the leaders of our country will have to put aside their petty differences and start to legislate serious change. Our nation has a history of coming together and doing what’s right when pushed to the brink, hopefully history repeats itself.

The sky is falling! (for Netflix)

After its most recent price increase, and the impending end to several content streaming deals, for the first time in eight years Netflix had a quarterly loss in U.S. subscribers. Predictably media pundits have declared this the end for Netflix and streaming.

Just as they did eight years ago.

I remember because I made the argument wrote on my now-defunct former blog that, despite the loss in subscribers and some negative press, the price increase was good for the company. At the time, the increase injected much needed cash that would allow Netflix to produce more original content.

I’ll make the same argument now. Or at least a similar one.

Note that I recognize that my argument doesn’t consider Netflix’s own projections for the quarter of 5 million new subscribers worldwide. A projection that they missed.

Netflix has just over 60 million U.S. subscribers. During the quarter they lost less than 0.5% of these subscribers, about 160,000. It’s safe to assume that they still have around 60 million U.S. subscribers.

If we assume that the price increase lead to a monthly yield of $2 per subscriber, that’s an additional $120 million dollars a month, $1.44 billion annually. What’s more is that this new revenue comes with little to no expense. It all drops straight to the bottom-line.

The price of Netflix’s standard package is now $13 a month. Which puts it above Disney+ ($7), Starz ($8), and Showtime ($11). It’s still below HBO ($15), and will offer a large, more diverse, lineup than any of those.

I’m certain that during this next quarter Netflix will again see U.S. subscriptions grow. It will continue to invest more money into creating or buying original content, and will be just fine. They’ve proven again and again that they know how to navigate these waters.

The worst kept secret in local media

Ken Doctor, who writes for and runs Newsonomics.org, and writes on niemanlab.org, has been writing about a possible GateHouse/Gannett merger since reports about Alden Global Capital’s bid to take over Gannett. Now, as Ken wrote this week, and has been reported by several sources, it appears as though the merger is going to happen. It sounds like it’s a matter of when, not if.

Unfortunately for the employees and their respective local communities, this is not a merger meant to spur innovation, creativity, or increase local news. This is a merger of financial necessity. All it merger does is buy the new company a few years to try and figure it out.

As Ken notes:

Simply put, these companies’ leaders think a megamerger buys two or three years — “until we figure it out.” The “it” is that long-hoped-for chimera of successful digital transformation. Gannett and GateHouse, like all their industry brethren, look at ever-bleaker numbers every quarter; the biggest motivation here is really survival, which in business terms means the ability to maintain some degree of profitability somewhere into the early 2020s.

Source: Newsonomics: It’s looking like Gannett will be acquired by GateHouse — creating a newspaper megachain like the U.S. has never seen

For those in the industry tough times and end-of-days projections are nothing new – people have been talking about the end since at least the mid-90s – I get the feeling this could be different. This merger will represent 1 in 6 newspapers in the country. Putting a lot at risk if they don’t figure it out. On the bright side here, as I noted above, Americans tend to come up with the best solutions when pushed to the brink.

The appetite for local news and professionally sourced content has not dissipated, it’s increased. It’s the means of distribution that have changed, thus decimating the methods through which newspapers could monetize content and pay workers.

I’m not sure what the solution is (although I’m certain the megamerger will not find it), but I’m sure those involved with local journalism left in the wake of this merger will. It won’t come with 30% profit margins and 75% market penetration, and it probably won’t gain national prominence, but many will (and probably already have) figure it out on the local level.

Christmas Drawing – 2019 Edition

Last year I did a series of drawings as gifts for family members, which I rather enjoyed doing. To be honest, I don’t draw enough, but when I do I feel energized. Doing it as a gift makes it even more rewarding.

While I was working on the drawings last Christmas, I was already thinking forward to 2019, and what I wanted to do. And, while I started thinking about it in 2018, and I got the subject for this drawing this past summer, the idea actually came a few years ago. I just didn’t realize it at the time.

A few years ago I was visiting family in my hometown and noticed that my only niece at the time, Elizabeth Eck, had a portrait I drew of her displayed on her dresser. It wasn’t a new portrait, it was of her at one or two, drawn when I was still in high school, almost two decades prior.

For her to keep this all of these years later, and still display it, made me proud. She’s always been an important person in my life, and it brought a smile to my face to see something I did so long ago displayed with pride.

I’ve never admitted this publicly, but when my niece was born I was going through a tough time, and she was the beacon I needed at that moment. She kept me motivated and helped me persevere. I wanted to give her an updated portrait to say thank you.

This past summer, on July 9, 2018, she married the love of her life in a ceremony on the beach in Ocean City, Maryland. I took photos that day knowing that I wanted to use one of them as a subject for this eventual Christmas present.

I took a few hundred photos, but the one that stood out to me was of her and her new husband dancing on the beach, still in their wedding apparel, with ocean waves crashing behind them.

It felt like the perfect setting for what I wanted to achieve.

I hope they enjoy this. It’s my way of thanking her for just being when I was at a difficult point in my life.

Lyz (Eck) and Tyler Smith’s wedding on the beach in Ocean City, Md, July 9, 2018.
Pencil and charcoal.

Doing some construction

Remember when 90% of websites had an under construction sign for their homepage?

I haven’t had time to write the last two weeks – I’ve been doing some construction on the back end of the site and building out a content calendar. I should be back to writing meaningful (at least to me) content next week.

In the meantime, I encourage you to visit Occam’s Razor, an analytics blog by Avinash Kaushik, and sign up to receive the email newsletter. Don’t worry, he’s not going to spam you. An email comes every few weeks and is well worth your time if you are a marketer, or just love analytics.

Speaking of marketers, if you’re looking for great marketing tips in podcast form, check out Marketing School with Neil Patel and Eric Siu. It’s daily, but is short, usually between 5 and 10 minutes. They give lots of actionable tips that I find myself testing within a few days.

You know, I feel like I need a signature to end these with …

November 19 – First Family Photo Final

This is the last in a series of posts chronicling a Christmas gift I’m working on for my wife’s brother and his family. You can check out the previous two posts here and here.  The final version is below, followed by the original photograph I was working from.

Study sketch of Matt and Katie with Addison

Continued work for family drawing of Matt and Katie with Addison. Approximately 50% complete.

Pencil and charcoal drawing of Matt, Katie and Addison

Original image used for drawing

The next step

Like I said, “Someday I’m going to do this.” So I am. But what’s the next step?

Despite the (current) name of this project, Random Focus, I want my blog to have some focus, and, more importantly, a purpose. The last thing I want is to have a Seinfeld blog. Not a blog about the show, a blog about nothing.

My blog’s name isn’t about a blog, actually. No, the name is about how I see myself as a person, personally and professionally. I’ve never really fit into a single group, or limited myself in my hobbies and interests. Like most people, I think, my interests are diverse. The difference is that I’ve embraced this as part of my personality.

And I’m fine with the fact that I am a master of none. I feel like being so keeps me sharp. I have to keep learning to satisfy my interests.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy, king of Polk High.

Not to Al Bundy this, but even when I was in high school I didn’t fit into one group. I was an art student, participated in theater, and was part of the forensics team (I gave a great talk on the voice actor Mel Blanc). I was also a captain on the football team, ran track – technically I threw – and ended my high school career in the National Honor Society.

College was a little different, but that’s because I had no clue what the hell I was doing. I’m certain this will be a future post topic.

While my high school days are now decades behind me, the eclectic part of my personality never left. I like to keep my interests diverse, it keeps me motivated and focused on my personal goal to be a life-long leaner.

Early on I suspect my posts will be like this one, about the process I’m going through. However, my sense is that they will quickly turn to the things that I have passion for – and opinion about – professionally: media and audience development.

And to that last point, if you have some extra time, Kantar Media recently released some great qualitative research on paying for online news. It’s a little long, 48 pages, but if you’re interested in the future of media, and are wondering to what degree paid subscriptions are part of the future, it’s a good read.