🎥 The Case Against Hollywood

Plus, The Internet and America are Broken. Yay!

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Insights & Opportunities: The Case Against Hollywood

With this week’s launch of Disney+, a new era of immersive entertainment has begun, but with only eight conglomerates (Disney, Comcast, AT&T, ViacomCBS, Apple, Google, Amazon, Netflix) controlling the global entertainment media landscape what does that mean for independent storytellers and creative communities? Using original research and data as well as insight from leading entertainment strategy experts, we make the case that Hollywood’s focus on global audiences and desire to be everything to everybody is bad for society and bad for business.

Of course, none of this is news, so we lay out several opportunities this shift has opened up for independent storytellers (including production companies, studios and agencies) and creative local communities (using Southern California as an example) to take advantage of the backlash against monoculture, desire for new diverse voices and the perennial desire for content and experiences that connect people to their local communities and environment that’s been ignored in the rush to consolidate. Could a network that’s part YouTube, part Next Door, part Hulu usher in a new era of local, independent storytelling?

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📕 Read This

Everyone agrees the Internet is broken, but what can we do about it?

I’ve been saying it all year (and it’s the reason I’m doing this weird thing now instead of what I was doing last year), but now you can believe me, because The New York Times Magazine just dedicated a whole issue to the terrible state of the Internet, which was “supposed to be utopia” but you know the rest.

The whole package is a beast, but you’ll hear a pretty good case for why the future of social media is paid subscription like the Wonder Valley Catalog, VSCO and others. The story points out that this has the potential to divide us even more into haves and have nots, which is one of the reasons I’m trying to build a social network model that’s local and that materially supports the communities it’s focused on.

China may have the answer—

If there’s one must-read from the Times package, it’s the story that looks at social in China. I’m a big believer that platform innovation is really what social media is all about and for years, I’ve pointed to China’s Weibo as a model of what social will look like in the coming years. Unlike Silicon Valley-based social ad platforms that rely on gambling mechanics and a UX that rewards the loudest and most performative voices, China’s social apps are more focused on enabling real-world social experiences. Retail is the obvious thing, but because Chinese platforms allow developers to create new products, games and apps within them, the possibilities are endless.

Also, America is totally broken too. Coincidence?

Meanwhile over at the newly redesigned Atlantic, December’s issue is focused on “How to Stop a Civil War.” While they don’t go so far as to say a new civil war in America is imminent, the case is made that our shared identity as Americans has fractured and that you can hold social media accountable for polarizing and radicalizing the country. As someone who has worked in social my whole career, I agree with the symptoms, but not the diagnosis. While “demetrication” (removing likes and followers from accounts) is something Instagram is experimenting with and verifying accounts is important, our current crop of top social platforms depend on ad dollars and your private data to make money. This combination is toxic, but also fundamental to their business model — which is why if you work in marketing you absolutely should stop giving money to Facebook and Instagram. Facebook and Instagram could simply offer up a paid subscription with no ads and an algorithm that’s set to amplify what you want to see, not what advertisers pay you to see, but they won’t because they’ve built a multi-billion dollar business around ads. Of course, it was only a decade ago that MySpace was the ubiquitous giant and with platform development costs lower than ever, this opens up an opportunity for more fun and fair social network platform to offer up an alternative.

What does any of this have to do with Wonder Valley?

You’ve asked for more information about Wonder Valley last week and I’m looking forward to telling the story of it's past, present and future in coming weeks and months, but here are a few great reads about America’s Last Resort:

  • “The homestead lots are advertised as potential Airbnbable investments. The process of buying and selling Wonder Valley, like the experience of listening to music, has been algorithmized.” — Sarah Goodyear listens to Graham Parsons during a trip to Wonder Valley and like many, sees is as a place that’s both deeply fragile and under threat and also inspiringly and brutally eternal

  • “As urban a desert as the Mojave is, it's still not forgiving to humans, or to other animals. Joanne Anderson still takes trips out to Wonder Valley, now with her own grandchildren. But along with many of her old neighbors, those desert tortoises have disappeared.” — Citylab has a great roundup on the history of the valley, how it was developed as a homestead getaway for Southern California in the 50s through a post-war land rush and “cabin kits” and how even today, it remains one of our regions most at-risk communities

  • “As more visitors fill Joshua Tree National Park, some of the tourists drive further east, to a less-traveled destination, to Wonder Valley. There, some locals have refurbished cabins and turned them into short-term rental properties, which can be lucrative in a place with few jobs. But tourism begets more tourism. And as word of the serene desert getaway spreads, the increasing presence of transient desert-life voyeurs threatens to erase the rustic allure.” — The Desert Sun does a great job, through a series of interviews with local residents, of describing the current state of Wonder Valley’s community — a mixture of artists (many who moved out during the economic crash), isolationists and people who simply have come to the desert for its affordability.