Monday Musings (1/28/19)

Notorious Netflix

Hey everybody, 

Netflix has a new superpower: manufacturing virality. In the past two months, Netflix has launched four viral hits: Bird Box, Fyre Fraud, You, and Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. 

Each release has a different takeaway. Together, they illustrate Netflix’s influence over Hollywood and American culture. 

Bird Box: The movie was viewed by more than 45 million people over its first seven days (Netflix defines a video as 70% complete). Amazingly, Netflix barely marketed or promoted it. As Matthew Ball noted, the Netflix homepage is the most valuable promotional real estate in the world of it. Netflix controls every single pixel and won’t rent it to anybody.

Fyre Fraud: This documentary will teach more people about fraud and deception than any book on the subject. 

You: You first premiered on Lifetime, where it averaged 650,000 viewers, which led to the cancellation of the show. You was then picked up by Netflix, where 40 million households watched it in the first month. As Greg Berlanti said: “It went from being one of the least-watched shows I’ve ever worked on—and I’m choosing to take Netflix at their word on this—to being the most-watched show I’ve ever worked on in 20-something years."

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo: This Netflix Original was adapted from a book with the same title, published in 2014. You’ve likely seen it in book stores. But until the Netflix show, the ideas in the book were rarely discussed. Now that it’s a Netflix show, Marie Kondo comes up in memes, tweets and conversations all the time. 


  1. People love to say that the best content wins. I disagree. Distribution is king.

  2. The best education smells like fun and looks like entertainment. 

  3. If you want an idea to spread, put it in video, not in writing.

Congratulations to Netflix. These are impressive achievements. 

If you’re interested in learning more about Netflix, I have two recommendations for you: 

  1. Matthew Ball’s four-part series on “Netflix Misunderstandings"

  2. This two-part podcast about Netflix’s history

Fresh Ideas

New Article: The Pivot to Owned Commerce

First, the pivot to video. Then, the pivot to podcasting. Now, the pivot to subscription.  Where will media companies pivot next?

Media companies will pivot to “Owned Commerce.” Here’s the bitter truth: subscription will only work for a small number of differentiated media companies. Most media companies don’t have the culture, the personnel or the brand affinity to pursue a subscription model.

Here’s the takeaway: Content and commerce are converging. Publishers who appeal to owned audiences will win the upcoming pivot to owned commerce.

You can read the full article here.

Coolest Things I Learned This Week

Tit for Tat is the Best Strategy

What Game Theory teaches us about how to live. From the Evolution of Cooperation:

Professional game theorists were invited to submit their favorite strategy, and each of these decision rules was paired off with each of the others to see which would do best overall. Amazingly enough, the winner was the simplest of all strategies submitted. 

This was TIT FOR TAT, the strategy which cooperates on the first move and then does whatever the other player did on the previous move. A second round of the tournament was conducted in which many more entries were submitted by amateurs and professionals alike, all of whom were aware of the results of the first round. The result was another victory for TIT FOR TAT! 

The analysis of the data from these tournaments reveals four properties which tend to make a decision rule successful: 

  1. Avoidance of unnecessary conflict by cooperating as long as the other player does.

  2. Provocability in the face of an uncalled for defection by the other.

  3. Forgiveness after responding to a provocation.

  4. Clarity of behavior so that the other player can adapt to your pattern of action.

The Fall of Newspaper Advertising Revenue

Writing Tip from Kurt Vonnegut

From Steve Yegge: 

"Kurt Vonnegut Jr., one of my all-time favorite authors, says that to be successful in writing, you should pick one person and write just for that person. Forget for the moment that other people will be reading what you write, and just write as if you're talking to that one person."

Why You’re Tired During the Day But Awake at Night

From Rhonda Patrick: 

"We don’t get enough light during the day and we get too much light at night. Our brain realizes it’s day time later than it should and sleep hormones don’t activate as a result, which tells us it’s day time at night time and causes our circadian rhythms to shift. It shifts our alertness rhythm. Our awake rhythm starts too late and is under-stimulated during the day. At night, it’s over-active. That’s why we’re sleepy all day and wake up right before sleep. It’s proof of a normally functioning body in an abnormal environment.”

Evolutionary Reasons for Humor

From Bret Weinstein

  1. “Laughter is the sound of comprehension.” - Tom Stopper

  2. Humor is the mechanism where we sort out the grey area of what can and can’t be said.

  3. Humor treads at the frontier of consciousness. When a comic finds a funny joke, they are unearthing a truth that people are only kind of aware of, but the whole room grasps that everybody else is aware of the truth, and laughter ensues.

Interviewing Lessons from Robert Caro

Advice to interviewers: Be quiet.

How Singapore Has Changed

Photo of the Week

A fun story for you: I co-wrote my most recent article, The Pivot to Owned Commerce, with Austin Rief, the founder of Morning Brew. 

A couple weeks ago, Austin and I met for the first time. We met at the Beekman Hotel, a hotel in Lower Manhattan which is straight out of the Roaring 20s. Within minutes, we were discussing the future of media and the convergence of content and commerce. 

Two hours later, when we were done with drinks, we walked out of the hotel, looked at each other, and said: “That conversation was awesome. Let’s turn it into an article.” It was a Sunday night but it didn’t matter. Fired up, we raced down to WeWork and stayed up until midnight turning the conversation into an article — which you can read here.

I’ve met Austin exactly once so technically… we’ve published an article every time we’ve ever seen each other. Awesome.

Thank you for reading!

Until next week,

David Perell