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The April (+March) Reading List
I was slacking on the reading list a bit over March, a combination of finalising my renovation, exhaustion and honestly, a lack of motivation. But I’m getting back to it.
So this reading list is a bit of a combo of the best bits from last month AND the one before. There’s quite a lot.
We’ve all seen the headlines recently re: Netflix - subscriber numbers dropping, content costs increasing and therefore share prices declining when investors put two and two together. So it’ll be interesting to watch how Netflix decides to move forward when it comes to exploring new revenue streams, deepening viewer engagement and building out stickier content franchises that go beyond the binge.
They’ve been investing heavily in acquiring gaming studios, to build out the potential for repeat-play concepts and micro transactions, but I’m more interested in their stealth but significant moves into interactive content (think TV show + game, in one), which they’ve been mostly testing and learning on using kids content:
They’ve also launched their first interactive trivia show:
And they’ve taken an external game concept and and made it into a show and a mobile game (a reverse move for them), which I expect to see become interactive at some stage too:
Speaking of Netflix, what would you get if you combined it with Kickstarter, Wattpad and a web3 angle? Shibuya. An NFT centric platform for the fan-funding and steering of new movie and animation projects. Very cool.
As PFPs seem to have morphed into becoming the preferred modes of self expression and identity for some (i.e. having a Bored Ape as your profile picture and building you Twitter persona around it), it’s logical to think about how we then imbue these computer generated PFPs with more personal and changeable forms of expression - such as updating their outfits, adding jewellery, new backgrounds, hyped clothing items etc.
Brands such as Champion, adidas and Puma are already experimenting by creating 'apparel' the PFPs can 'wear':
And in the last month, Gucci have partnered with 10ktf (WAGMI-san) which enables accessories for 11 PFP collections, including BAYC, Cool Cats, Forgotten Runes Wizard’s Cult and World of Women - with the luxury brand creating virtual Gucci accessories for the collections:
This is the very start of what the Direct-To-Avatar (DTA) economy could become (hint, massive).
You’d had to have been hiding under a rock to miss the big Yuga Labs coup, as the creators of BAYC bought both Cryptopunks AND Meebits, two of their biggest rival NFT collections in both stature and revenue. That move now places Yuga at the top of pyramid when it comes to web3 players. But more interesting to me was their decision to open up the IP rights for both collections, which had previously had been closed to owners. It underpins for me the importance of letting creative ideas run wild in the web3 world, allowing for iterative building, community steering and the rise of headless brands.
On the subject of big NFT PFP projects, Azuki is most definitely one to watch. A relative new kid on the block, they’ve soared to success in their initial and secondary market sales and have a strong roadmap ahead of them. This deep dive takes you through what they’re all about and aims to explain some of the hype:
I’m personally fascinated with the power that tokens and NFTs could give fans when it comes to entertainment universes - allowing them the ability to vote on narrative arcs, new character developments, story tangents and to become show contributors themselves. We’re in he very, very early innings of exploring these possibilities, but there’s so much potential there. Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis have set up a web3 production studio to do just this and post their first project, Stoner Cats, they’re already out with their second - an animated wrestling show where fans pick the plot:
And in a similar vein, a great piece on how web3 is an evolution in collaborative fan behaviours and dynamics.
“The Web3 creator mindset is closer to internet fan culture than traditional media structures. The bigger the NFT character universe gets, the better for the creator and the Web3 world more broadly.”
"It's all good for everyone involved because both the creator & derivative creator can earn from it. The equivalent is a Star Wars fan-fic writer earning from selling this fan-fic AND also earning from owning Disney shares at the same time. There's a counter-intuitive value loop"
And another great overview of five NFT ‘worldbuilding’ projects currently underway, in which fans co-create every aspect as a collective:
And hopping from fictional universes into reality TV ones, Mad Realities is 100% one to watch.
Their mission is to create Youtube but for web3 - community funded, community owned and community driven reality TV.
“Today, audiences have never had more power in distribution or creativity: we’ve seen TikTok’s algorithm expand who can achieve fame; Twitch’s livestreams reinvent parasocial connection; and companies like HQ Trivia pioneer new forms of interactive media. But audiences have no ownership or upside. Mad Realities hopes to change that.”
I’ve been banging the drum on the power of gaming engines for a while now and the perfect ‘case-in-point’ for my enthusiasm is Unreal Engine 5, the latest update from Epic, which will blow your socks off in terms of what it’s capable of - from creating whole virtual cities in the client of a button, to human-like avatars via Metahuman, to creating weather conditions in games that mimic what’s happening right outside your window. It’s 🤯
IMO, UE5 will likely underpin whatever the metaverse turns out to be, so it’s worth wrapping your head around it.
“The improvement from UE4 to UE5 suggests that the holy grail of movie-quality digital experiences is within reach.”
The High Tea team have written a cracking piece on the cultural power of the TikTok comments section, where in-jokes become memes, memes become copycat content, copycat content becomes millions of views and those millions of views create new stars, businesses and brands. Fascinating.
We’re moving from minimalist millennial aesthetics to maximalist/janky/90’s era style. Why? Well, here’s a great take on it all…
"Minimalist design has become synonymous with the shadowy corporations that have taken over the net. The open-source, maximalist and lo-res nature of Web 1 therefore subverts this status quo."
"We're entering a new chapter of internet culture, characterised by private Discord servers and subscription-based models. Like the messaging boards of Web 1, these hyperspecific online spaces allow users to swap ideas away from the corporate clutches of Meta"
"Early web aesthetics serve as a brash, pixelated weapon against the neoliberal rat race, each glittery gif and page divider a middle finger to the hyper-realistic, drab graphics pedalled by Meta execs."
Loyalty, memberships, community. Oh my!
Obviously, this is my jam. But a great read on the rise of brand memberships as a move away from the typical model of brand/revenue building.
Hate to say I told you so, but…
And in the same theme, another great piece from Rex on the demise of mainstream culture and the rise of niches, microcosms, communities and 'digital phyles'
And finally, it’s what I keep telling you and if you won’t listen to me, maybe you’ll listen to the Professor.
'The sun may have passed midday on the hype cycle, but NFTs (or something similar) have real potential to be an unlock for a fundamental aspect of the digital economy.'
Over and out.