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If you’re a regular reader of this column, you won’t be surprised to know I have live events on my brain. A decade or so ago, it was fashionable in some journalism circles to turn up one’s nose at conferences. They were showmanship or soft or worse. I never bought into that notion. At Fortune, we commit journalism in print, online, and onstage. A good live-event interview can be as illuminating in its own way as an informative article.
The world has caught on to the value of experiences. (Airbnb even has a product by that name. It literally sells experiences.) The Wall Street Journal reports that music streaming services have turned to live events to drum up business. That’s a bittersweet turn of events, given that online music-sharing, which destroyed the recorded music industry as we knew it, forced artists to make their living primarily with live performances. A Spotify executive told the paper: “We’re not just a square on their phone. We’re bringing them something they can’t get anywhere else.” Hear, hear.
The president of the United States is in the events business too—a not altogether illogical progression from his previous career in the unscripted television industry. He’s convening a group of often hateful social-media commentators who seem to be united in a dislike for the online platforms that fueled their prominence. Unusually—wait, what’s usual these days?—the White House isn’t saying who is attending today’s “Social Media Summit.” Published reports have disclosed a few self-identified attendees and have said Google, Facebook, and Twitter won’t be present.
The president’s meme is that the “social media” platforms, including his favorite, Twitter, are somehow biased against conservatives. It’s altogether probable that the leadership of those companies has no patience for right wingers with loose relationships with the truth. But Twitter, for one, must thank its $29-billion market value daily for being the habit the president can’t quit.
Fortune, by the way, is proud to publish exactly who will appear at its Brainstorm Tech event in Aspen, Colo., next week.
On Twitter: @adamlashinsky
Wild west. Initial coin offerings, or ICOs, have a bad–though mostly deserved–reputation as investment scams. But now the Securities and Exchange Commission has approved a $28 million offering from startup Blockstack PBC which will presumably put buyers in a safer position. The digital token offering starts today. But elsewhere, another top financial regulator, Jerome Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, is growing worried about Facebook’s digital currency project, Libra. Testifying in Congress on Wednesday, Powell said there were “serious concerns” about how Libra would deal with “money laundering, consumer protection and financial stability.”
Loose in the wild. The Zoom video scandal rolls into day three, as Apple took preemptive action to eliminate the security hole in Zoom’s Mac app. Apple pushed out a MacOS update that removed the bit that the Zoom app installs that allow malicious web sites to spy on users. Meanwhile, Apple also had to temporarily disable its own Walkie-Talkie app on the Apple Watch due to a flaw that could allow eavesdropping on an iPhone.
Wild ride. Cybersecurity company McAfee is planning to go public soon, three years after private-equity firms TPG and Thoma Bravo bought control of the company from Intel, which had gobbled up the company from the public markets back in 2011.
Wild ride and more. Expect a major European expansion from scooter startup Bird, which says it will hire 1,000 employees over the next two years to staff its Paris office. But no-longer-a-startup Amazon says it can’t find enough qualified people to hire so it plans to spend $700 million retraining 100,000 employees for higher-tech jobs.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
We’ve covered many developments in cord cutting and the resulting streaming online video wars here, but sometimes you need to pull way back to see the big picture. Writer Jonah Weiner seemingly spent time with every major player–from Hulu to Netflix to HBO–to research his deep dive on the future of TV programming for the New York Times Magazine. As one wag tells Weiner, the future may be less about prestige TV and more about making a lot of “low-cost, high-margin stuff.”
The advent of digital platforms streaming video on demand (S.V.O.D.s, in trade lingo) has broken the 24-hour day into infinite possibilities. Questions once crucial have been made irrelevant: “Does this show deserve a prime-time spot?” “Would this make a good lead-in to that?” The success of a given streaming show isn’t determined by how many people watch it but by how many subscriptions it helps to generate or maintain. The programming goal of an S.V.O.D., then, is an overall atmosphere of plenitude, a constantly updating slate of would-be “tentpole shows,” buttressed with enough theoretically watchable other stuff that viewers don’t flee once “Stranger Things” is over. As one producer put it to me, the mission at a streaming service like Netflix is “to basically create channel surfing within Netflix” — to entice us into a walled garden where the plantings are so copious we never think of leaving.
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BEFORE YOU GO
Forget quitting your day job to open a coffee shop or start your own YouTube channel. How about scouring off-the-beaten-path department stores for discontinued merchandise that’s held dear by some or other group of online shoppers. The Verge has the amusing tale of modern day gold diggers, crisscrossing the country to find discontinued Star Wars Lego sets and other desired tchotchkes.