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The Rise And Fall Of Netflix

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For the first time in over a decade, Netflix has lost 200,000 U.S. subscribers and expects to lose more. This would be shocking news if it weren’t for recent decisions by the steaming giant’s executives. The rise and fall of Netflix is a story of trendsetting domination to a single-day 35% plummet in stock value. 

To fix this, Netflix has proposed cracking down on password sharers and introducing ads

Are they sure they wanna do that? Netflix was once the cool kid for not having commercials. It even relied on password sharers in order to grow

What was once the future of media consumption has begun its inevitable downfall. The pioneer for streaming services has plummeted across the board. How did this happen? How could a company go from underdog to trendsetter to failure in just 20 years? 

This is another business tale of cheer and woe: the rise and fall of Netflix.

The Birth of DVDs

Netflix was founded in 1997 by Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings as an online DVD rental service. Hastings loves to say he was inspired to start Netflix after being charged $40 in late fees at his local Blockbuster. 

I had a big late fee for Apollo 13. It was six weeks late and I owed the video store $40. I had misplaced the cassette. It was all my fault.”

It’s a cute, relatable story, right? Well, it’s not true. It’s totally fabricated for marketing. Co-founder Randolph clarified in an interview:

The founding stories are just that, they’re stories. They’re constructs that we come up with to take what’s a very messy process with input from many, many people and condense it into a story which you can get across in a sentence or two.

Also known as an “elevator pitch,” the story of a company’s founding works as a sales pitch. Everyone loves a story, and Hastings told a good one. 

The real story of how Netflix was founded was much like every other tech company’s story in the late 90s. 

Hastings’s software company, Pure Atria, had just been sold for $700 million – a Silicon Valley record. Randolph worked as a marketing director for Pure Atria. The two came up with the idea for Netflix while carpooling between each other’s homes. 

Randolph admired Amazon’s large catalog of items to sell over the internet. Hastings and Randolph wanted to take that model and apply it to movies. VHS tapes were too easily damaged to sustain an online delivery service, but the brand new DVDs proved to handle travel well. 

And so, Netflix launched in 1998 with 30 employees and 925 titles available for rent. The races were off. 

The Death of Blockbuster

You can’t talk about the rise and fall of Netflix without mentioning Blockbuster. Despite being direct competitors, very different and specific business decisions led to Blockbuster’s eventual downfall that cannot be attributed to Netflix’s success. 

Still, it’s hard not to imagine Netflix being the company that “killed” Blockbuster. 

In 2001, DVD players were the hot holiday gift item. Netflix was in a position to be the cool alternative to Blockbuster as DVD subscription services were growing like crazy. But Blockbuster was still the king of movie rentals. It was an event for friends and families to visit Blockbuster on a Friday evening to rent the hot new flick or a timeless classic. 

But there was one thing that everyone equally hated about Blockbuster: Late fees. 

Netflix, despite totally having late fees at the start of their business, jumped on this with glee:

Being the sexy alternative to Blockbuster helped give rise to Netflix. Eventually, due to poor leadership and the Great Recession in 2008, Blockbuster eventually declined. Today, only a single store remains open in Oregon

Netflix continued to grow. By 2005, Netflix had 35,000 different films available and shipped 1 million DVDs in a single day. 

But that wasn’t all for Netflix. They were about to completely upend the movie industry. 

How To Binge An Entire Series In One Weekend

In 2007, Netflix launched its streaming media service. They had 1000 films available for stream and 70,000 available on DVD. With TiVO being the current “cool kid” in movie/television consumption, the original idea was to build a “Netflix box” where one could download movies overnight. 

The success of YouTube, however, nixed that idea. People didn’t want to download content, they wanted to stream it. 

Soon, Netflix acquired the streaming rights to series like The Office, Futurama, Friends, Breaking Bad, and many more. Viewers quickly latched onto this method like content junkies ready to fight sleep in order to watch “just one more episode.” 

Before you knew it, Netflix was inspiring other streaming services like Hulu. Their viewership grew and grew as regular cable viewership dipped. Networks like FOX, CBS, and NBC soon began to openly tease their own streaming services. Why should Netflix get viewers for NBC shows? 

With big networks in the rearview mirror, there was only one logical step forward for Netflix: original content. 

Netflix is the New HBO

In 2013, Netflix jumped into the world of original content. When House of Cards, Hemlock Grove, and Orange is the New Black first aired it harkened back to the Golden Age of HBO with The Sopranos, Sex and the City, and Six Feet Under

Netflix ran with original content as fast as they could. A deal with Marvel brought about Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Daredevil to the home screen. Comedies like BoJack Horseman, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Master of None, and Grace and Frankie expanded Netflix’s audience even further. 

By the time the blockbuster series Stranger Things premiered in 2016 to great success and acclaim, Netflix was the premier network. Everyone had a Netflix. And if you didn’t, why the hell not? 

Netflix was acquiring so much content at such a high rate that it soon became a joke amongst certain crowds that Netflix would buy anything

Exclusive, multi-million dollar stand up specials with comedy legends like Dave Chappelle, Louis C.K., Chris Rock, Jim Gaffigan, Bill Burr, Hannah Gadsby, Ali Wong, Jerry Seinfeld, and more garnered even more viewership. 

With a continuous stream of high-quality content, the desire for prestige soon followed. 

Here Come The Awards

Now that you have all the viewers in the world, you need the awards to cement their status as a major player in entertainment. Netflix didn’t want popular soap dramas to gobble up audiences, they wanted those shiny awards. 

Starting in 2019, Netflix began to dominate awards shows. Films like Roma, The Irishman, Marriage Story, Mank, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Don’t Look Up, The Power of the Dog, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Two Popes, 13th, Icarus, My Octopus Teacher, and many more were bestowed Oscar nominations and wins. 

Netflix also dominated television. Starting in 2014 with Emmy wins for shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black began to rack up for the streaming service. Uzo Aduba and Claire Foy famously won Emmys for their performances in Netflix original series. 

Nothing like a whole bunch of awards to cement your status as the king of content. When you’ve made it this far, why stop? 

Too Much and Never Enough

If you were to scroll through Netflix’s massive library of content, you might find yourself a little overwhelmed. There is so much original and licensed content, with more being added and subtracted every month, that you can never run out of something to watch. 

But all of that content means very little can succeed from within. Peter Csathy, founder of media advisory firm Creativ Media, summed it up nicely:

Netflix is voraciously gobbling up movies and television shows across all genres, making it a seller’s market. 

“The main negative for creators and content owners in working with Netflix is that there is so much new original content that is featured by Netflix, it is increasingly difficult to break out and find an audience on Netflix.

“Without a deep marketing commitment on the part of Netflix, those movies and television shows face the cold reality that they become lost in the content shuffle.” 

If you were to have an original show idea, the smart thing to do used to be to take it to Netflix. Chances are, they were going to buy at least one season from you right off the bat. But if success isn’t guaranteed (and it never is in entertainment), you’re going to start exploring your options. 

HBO, still one of the best networks for a creative series or film to take off, knows this. Casey Bloys, HBO president of programming, uses this very specific metaphor to explain how they give shows the necessary attention they need: 

If you have 50 kids, you’re not going to every soccer game. We go to every soccer game, and we’re the snack parents at every soccer game.”

HBO CEO Richard Pleper follows up:

More is not better. Only better is better.” 

HBO continues to dominate its reputation as a source of seriously high-quality content. 

What Is Netflix’s Future?

Netflix will surely bounce back from this recent setback. Its stock will rise again, and subscribers may return. But their reputation as the future of media is no longer. The company went from thinking ahead to throwing all the money at anything. 

Throwing everying at the wall to see what sticks is a necessary strategy for any company looking to grow. But that strategy has a limit. Netflix appears to be throwing more and more and more at the wall and letting all of it stick. 

Who asked for video games on Netflix? That’s an odd medium for the company to step into. $30 million per episode of Stranger Things? Settle down, that’s way too much. 

Currently, Netflix has three price tiers: $10, $15.50, and $20. No competitor costs more than $15/month. They may raise their prices once again. But as Disney+, Paramount+, Peacock, Hulu, and HBOMax snag a sizeable share of the market, Netflix is looking like they’re playing catch up. 

Suddenly, Netflix’s future looks a little more like this: 

Chris Blondell is a Philadelphia-based writer and social media strategist with a current focus on tech industry news. He has written about startups and entrepreneurs based in Denver, Seattle, Chicago, New Haven, and more. He has also written content for a true-crime blog, Sword and Scale, and developed social media content for a local spice shop. An occasional comedian, Chris Blondell also spends his time writing humorous content and performing stand-up for local audiences.

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Billionaires Be Warned: Organized Labor on the Rise

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Last week, Apple retail workers in Towson, Maryland, voted 65-33 to seek entry into the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers trade union. It’s a story that’s consistent with a promising trend.

In the last several months, a number of victories have been tallied for worker’s rights around the country.

In December, a Starbucks in Buffalo became the first of its company-owned U.S. locations to form a union. Since then, at least 150 of the 9,000 company-run U.S. stores have voted to unionize, with 10 stores rejecting the union. 

In January, engineers and other Google workers announced that they had formed a union—the Alphabet Workers Union— named after Google’s parent company, Alphabet. It represents about 800 Google employees.

April saw Amazon workers in Staten Island, New York vote to unionize, marking a first for the retail giant.

In May, video game workers at a division of game publisher Activision Blizzard voted to unionize, making them the first to create a labor union at a large U.S. videogame company.

Per a 2021 Gallup Poll: at least 68% of Americans approve of labor unions, the highest since Gallup found a 71% approval in 1965.

A resurgence of unions after years of decline.

President Biden has been vocal about his support for the decision. 

“I am proud of them,” 

Biden said in a statement to reporters. 

Workers have a right to determine under what condition they are going to work or not work.”

This is a far cry from the days of President Reagan publicly firing striking air traffic controllers, a move that signaled to the weakening labor movement that times were changing. Of course, labor rights weren’t always such a contentious topic. 

In the mid-1950s, approximately one out of every three non-farm workers were unionized. This was, of course, the peak of labor’s power in the US. 

In subsequent decades, the ranks of unionized workers would shrink. By the 80s and 90s, due to a combination of economic and political developments, the decline in unions accelerated.

The opening of overseas markets and the emergence of outsourcing put organized labor at a severe disadvantage. 

Around this same period, U.S. employers developed a set of legal— and illegal—practices that could effectively rid establishments of existing unions and prevent new unions from organizing. 

These practices included: threatening union sympathizers with firings and holding a mandatory meeting wherein workers would be subject to anti-union propaganda. Additionally, many employers hired permanent replacements for striking workers.

But Biden has been relatively labor-friendly. In February, a Biden administration task force issued a set of recommendations aimed at making it easier for federal workers and contractors to unionize.

The report argues that the trend of declining union membership has coincided with a rising share of income going to the top 10% of earners.

Youth movement gives labor unions a new hope.

After decades of decline, U.S. unions are finding hope in a growing movement among the youth. Union approval is high— and growing—with the youngest workers. This is reflected by membership levels, which are trending upwards for workers between the ages of 25 and 34. Even as they decline among other age groups.

According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of union members among workers aged 25-34 rose from 8.8% to 9.4% 

The aforementioned Alphabet Workers Union, for example, is run by five people under the age of 35.

This is consistent with a greater political trend among young people: the youth is less susceptible to the anti-socialist boogeyman rhetoric that successfully fleeced previous generations of working people’s rights.

It’s important to remember that many of the things we take for granted today are the products of union involvement. The eight-hour work day? Labor unions. Job safety laws? Labor unions. Overtime pay? Labor Unions. Weekends? Labor unions. Worker’s Comp? Labor unions. Employer-based health coverage? Labor unions.

And the list goes on.

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Who Does Tori Dunlap Think She Is?

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If you haven’t heard of Tori Dunlap, you’re probably not seeking financial advice. If you are seeking financial advice, you can do a lot better than Tori Dunlap. 

Tori Dunlap is an entrepreneur who claims to have saved $100,000 by the age of 25. After achieving such astonishing success so early in life, she simply had to quit her corporate job so she could devote her energy to helping women learn their financial independence and unassumed dominance in our white cis male-run society. 

Her mission? To create the brand HerFirst100K and…

Idk man… seems kinda gimmicky. 

Disclaimer: I am a cis white male with no financial expertise to speak of criticizing a cis white female financial pundit. I have zero doubts that Dunlap could balance a checkbook better than I ever could. I am not here to offer any financial advice. Rather, I am criticizing Dunlap’s approach to fiscal responsibility and her overall authenticity. 

In short: We’re not buying it and neither should you. 

How Did She *Really* Get $100K by 25? 

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At 25, I was working as a barback in a local gay bar and on the cusp of starting my first professional writing job. I had maybe $600 to my name and very poor financial instincts – you could call me a ‘spendthrift.

My peers around the same age were all fairly financially inept or carefree. Sure, we would meet our responsibilities but we sure as hell weren’t saving – and not for lack of trying. We all worked incredibly hard, dirty, thankless jobs for very little money and could be fired on a whim. None of us would have been able to save up to $100K by 25. 

By 25, I had been working steady jobs for 10 years. Even if I didn’t spend a single cent over those 10 years I don’t think the number would have ever reached $100K. Pardon my doubts, but how is a 25-year-old, any 25-year-old, able to save up to $100,000 all by themselves? After some digging, it turns out she did it with a lot of discipline and a lot of luck. 

She graduated college with zero debt, landed a job in digital marketing with a salary of $55K/year, and put a disciplined percentage of her take-home into saving and an investment fund. These are all great, very privileged ways to save $100,000 in three years. 

I’m curious to know how a 22-year-old snagged an investment fund and knew which investments would pay off and how much they earned but… I digress. 

I don’t sneeze at this kind of discipline. Many people would benefit from a financial discipline such as that. I do sneeze a little by using this as a marketing tactic. While she qualifies this by admitting her privilege, she makes her achievement the main marketing point of Her First $100K. 

I did this and so can you!” the sentiment screams. Except most people can’t. And I think Ms. Dunlap knows that. 

Tori Dunlap Is Not Qualified To Give Anyone Financial Advice

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The only thing I trust Tori Dunlap to do is market and brand herself effectively. She’s cool, she’s hip, she can play along with the broader trends, she TikToks with the best of ‘em, and it all feels so desperately empty and deeply phony. 

I think Tori Dunlap has a keen eye for self-promotion that masquerades as “woke financial advice.” This would be fine if it wasn’t potentially f*cking with people’s money. There are people out there with some serious financial issues and concerns. If they trust Tori Dunlap, they could be misled because she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

I don’t mean she doesn’t know how to assert her value and practice financial discipline. I mean she doesn’t have the financial authority to be profiting off the advice she gives. It’s like getting medical advice from a sickly friend – they’ve got experience but no expertise. 

TikTok Advice Isn’t Real Advice

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If you take a look at Dunlap’s TikTok, it looks pretty much like every other TikToker out there. On her page, the financial advice is few and far between. It appears that TikTok is the space where she promotes her brand, podcast, and book – with a whole lot of cookie-cutter trends you will find on any account. 

When you finally do get to her financial advice, it’s no different than if you were to ask your fiscally savvy friend. For example, “know your worth and advocate for it” is a great bit of advice, it’s one I tell my peers at work – but it’s not expertise. It’s a good ol’ fashioned, “you can do it!” Which is nice, but it’s not practically helpful. What you’re getting from Dunlap are educated tips from someone who is being nice to you. 

When you present yourself as an authority figure you have a responsibility that comes with it. Telling people you are the savior from the patriarchy if you pay for her course doesn’t exactly scream “hero.” 

There’s nothing wrong with providing a service and charging for it. There is, however, something really gross about masquerading as a feminist hero when you’re actually an unqualified financial nobody with no serious credentials to speak of. 

Tori Dunlap is not qualified to be giving financial advice to anyone. She says so on her site: 

LEGAL STUFF: I am not a licensed financial advisor. I offer education, not prescriptive advice. The information that is found here are my opinions and the opinions of other readers/contributors and should be taken as such.” 

Legal stuff.” Cute, so relatable. 

All of Dunlap’s success stories are social media posts, texts, and emails. Hardly a case study. 

Dunlap claims to be “leading a movement of financial feminists,” but a quick Google search on female financial advisors yields no results for Ms. Dunlap. What exactly is she leading? You cannot be a leader when you don’t show up on the first 12 pages of Google. 

Here’s What An Actual Financial Expert Says

We spoke to Danetha Doe, an economist with over 10 years of experience in the financial industry. She has worked as an accountant and a CFO. She also created Money & Mimosas, a financial education resource for ambitious folks. 

In short, Ms. Doe knows her sh*t.

We asked Ms. Doe about how the average person could save up to $100K by the age of 25. 

I don’t think it’s reasonable to believe the average person can save $100K by 25. 

“In order to do that, they would either need to be born into wealth, have zero student loans, work for a startup that goes public or gets acquired, or start a business that is financially successful. 

“All of those scenarios do not apply to the average person.

“The median salary for an individual is under $40,000. Therefore, the average person earns about $40,000. In order to reach $100K in savings on an average salary could take decades in the United States.

Ms. Doe has a lot of excellent financial advice without being patronizing or weaponizing oppression for profit. She has a professional and personal background that makes her an effective authority when it comes to fiscal responsibility.

My two grandmothers [are the financial experts I admire most]. 

“They came to the United States as immigrants and became real estate investors during a time when Black women were systematically shut out of wealth-building opportunities in this country. 

“Their lasting legacy guides my financial decisions.

If you want to learn finance tips from someone who can relate to or understand your experience fully, Danetha Doe is the way to go

Besides, who doesn’t love a mimosa? 

What In The Hell Is ‘Feminist Financial Advice?’

What is it about financial advice that needs to be tailored specifically for women? Let’s take a super casual and lazy glance at successful women, shall we? 

Suze Orman is a trusted financial authority and has been around for a minute

Madonna has built herself an entertainment empire by being unapologetically female

Rihanna became a billionaire through her music and some super-savvy business moves. 

Laverne Cox bulldozed expectations and helped establish a foundation for trans artists. 

Sheryl Sandburg is the most powerful woman in Big Tech – did you see what happened when she resigned from Meta?

There is no shortage of female financial advisors. What kind of niche does Dunlap think she’s tapping into? Dunlap says on her site

I watched female friends get paid less than they were worth. I read stories about women being denied career opportunities because they were seen as ‘less.’ 

“Male colleagues said sexist, negative comments to me at work. I learned that women hold the majority of debt in America and that they invest less of their money than men, yet live for seven years longer. 

“So I knew that I had to fight back.

Sure, Jan. 

Fighting Sexism By Leaning Into Sexism

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I don’t think anybody disagrees (save for a few members of the Republican Party) that women have a tougher go of it than men. To be honest, it’s a bit of a stretch to connect general sexism with financial education. I learned how to budget from my mother, a woman who has had to fight her own battles with sexism and misogyny as the only female partner at her law firm. 

Frankly, I think the assumption that women need help from an unlicensed non-expert in order to learn fiscal responsibility is teetering on sexism. At the very least, it’s grossly condescending and certainly inauthentic. 

If you’re in a position where you need financial advice, you want it from someone who is a serious advisor, not a trending influencer with no qualifications. With inflation at a 40-year high and an underpaid workforce fighting for its value, we cannot afford to take financial advice from someone clearly more interested in self-promotion and branding. 

Dunlap appears to be less focused on offering genuine financial advice and far more focused on hitting woke buzzwords in an effort to patronize marginalized communities for profit. If you want to find a female-focused financial authority, try Ellevest instead. 

Tori Dunlap’s Communications Lead declined to comment.

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Vince McMahon Stepped Down From WWE. Or Did He?

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The news rang out around the world on Friday. 

Vince McMahon, father and face of the modern WWE, is voluntarily stepping down from his CEO position. The news came amid allegations of misconduct, affairs, and hush money.

And then, the strangest thing happened. Moments later, WWE announced that McMahon would make an appearance during Smackdown. Many speculated that McMahon would take the opportunity to admit remorse, address the new path, or prepare a last goodbye for fans.

Instead, he did this.

“It is a privilege, as always, to stand before you here tonight, the WWE Universe. Especially a privilege to stand here in this ring in Minnesota.

I’m here simply to remind you of the four words we just saw in what we call the WWE signature. Those four words are then, now, forever, and the most important word is together.

Welcome to SmackDown!”

“Bizarre spectacle” is a phrase that could appear under the dictionary definition for World Wrestling Entertainment.. But even fans were left scratching their heads by this appearance, with one caught on camera appearing to ask “That’s it?”

What really happened to Vince McMahon

Image credit: CNN

If you didn’t read past headlines about stepping down amid misconduct allegations, you might be stunned that McMahon would appear on TV at all. The truth, as is often the case, is a bit more complicated.

Per The Wall Street Journal, an inquiry began in April concerning a secret payout of $3 million that a WWE paralegal received in January. McMahon allegedly had an affair with the employee. The investigation opened up other, older NDAs relating to sexual misconduct by McMahon and talent relations chair John Laurinaitis.

The misconception at hand comes from WWE’s announcement. While it’s true that McMahon is stepping down from his chief position while the investigation continues, that’s not the whole picture.

McMahon is maintaining creative control of the WWE. For an entertainment company, the creative aspect is a pretty massive slice of the pie. As evidenced by Friday’s appearance—and another appearance on Monday—he’s not stepping down from the public eye either.

Image credit: WWE

McMahon’s WWE character, “Mr. McMahon,” it seems, is not under the same scrutiny as his actor. There are no signs that his exaggerated persona will cease making appearances on SmackDown and at other WWE events.

In a way, it’s a delicate PR chess move. The headline, “Vince McMahon Steps Down Amidst Investigation,” reads like a victory. The sticky truth, that he’s not really exiting at all, will have little impact on the general public.

Wrestling fans, on the other hand, are seeing both sides play out, and it’s leaving some confused. It’s an interesting twist on “kayfabe,” the suspension of disbelief at the root of the WWE community. In reality, Vince has stepped down, but in kayfabe, Mr. McMahon hasn’t gone anywhere.

This bizarre in-and-out response might reflect the inherent flaws in wrestling’s mesh of fantasy and reality. In pursuit of kayfabe, what happens if McMahon is fully ousted? Will an attachment to his fictional persona keep justice from being served? At this point, it’s hard to say.

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