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‘Stranger Things’ addict? Here’s how Netflix sucked you in

One of Netflix[1]‘s highest aspirations is to get you binging on shows like Eleven wolfs down her Eggo waffles. Netflix, the world’s biggest subscription video service by members, tends to jealously guard its data. But ahead of the season 2 premiere Friday of supernatural thriller “Stranger Things[2],” the company lifted the curtain on some of the tricks it uses to entice its members into clicking play.

From tags to “taste communities,” Netflix tries to personalize its service, right down to the image you see splashed across your screen when you fire up the app. “If you look at someone else’s Netflix screen, not only will they have different titles featured,” said Todd Yellin, Netflix’s vice president of product, in a presentation to reporters last week. “Even the images around each of the titles is catered to each individual member.” It’s a rare look inside the machinations of the video service, which is aiming for global video domination one original show or movie at a time.

The stakes are high for Netflix, which said it will spend as much as £8 billion on programming next year[3]. That’s why shows like “Stranger Things” are so critical. It’s a worldwide hit, literally — the company found one person who watched the first season in Antarctica.

To help spread the word, Netflix starts by figuring out the nuances that define the show. Netflix hires taggers around the world who watch every piece of content and tag it for things like tone — tense, ominous, scary — and storyline — buddy story, missing person, family in crisis. (If you’re wondering how you could land one of these paid gigs, Netflix says they’re posted to its jobs website when they become available.)

More than one portal into the Upside Down

Netflix’s algorithm applies 12 tags to “Stranger Things” to capture nuances of how different people relate to it. That means that while some of you see “Stranger Things” in a row for TV mysteries, others find it in sci-fi thrillers.

To figure out clusters of shows and movies that seem to appeal to the same people, Netflix has identified 2,000 “taste communities.” “Stranger Things” is the most popular title in “a bunch” of those, Yellin said.

Netflix “taste communities” that rank “Stranger Things” as the most-watched title can have completely different shows rounding out their top six.

Netflix

While “Stranger Things” may top many taste communities, it doesn’t mean those lists are identical. One taste community with “Stranger Things” as No.

1 had horror items like “The Mist” and “Scream” in its top six, while another placed “Stranger Things” at the top of ahead of teen programming like “13 Reasons Why” and “Pretty Little Liars.”

Getting personal

Movie recommendations aren’t the only things Netflix personalizes. It tailors how your recommendations look, too, by specializing the image that accompanies them.

Different images worked best to draw in viewers with different TV tastes.

Netflix

Netflix found that people who like documentaries were more likely to watch “Stranger Things” if it had a picture of Chief Hopper in his uniform.

People who gravitate to action, horror and romance were more likely to click on the title with an image of Eleven staring intensely, while drama fans were most attracted to a picture of Eleven from far away. Picking the images is “a mixture of art and science,” Yellin said. The art comes from finding a diversity of strong images for the show.

Then, through an image comparison method called A/B testing, “within a day, we home in on ‘This kind of image is resonating with this kind of viewer,'” he said.

First-timers

The company also approaches promotion differently depending on whether you’ve watched a program or not. The debut of the second season, Netflix has found, is a good time to target people who haven’t watched the show at all. In the year since the first season of “Stranger Things” landed, Netflix has compiled data about people who it believes would like the show but haven’t watched yet. “Someone who hasn’t, we want them to start it at season one, episode one,” he said.

Video promotion is “the next frontier” for Netflix, Yellin said. If you watch Netflix on a TV, you’ve probably noticed it automatically playing a trailer, the opening credits or the show itself after a few seconds. But the next stage of video promotion will likely personalize the clip that unspools, much like title images are tailored today, Yellin said.

Something that sets “Stranger Things” apart from the average show on Netflix is the screen you watch it on. Generally, about two-thirds of Netflix viewing is on televisions[4] — but for “Stranger Things,” the proportion of big-screen viewing is higher. As of this month, Netflix has more than 1,200 hours of 4K content and more than 200 hours of content using an imaging technique called high dynamic range, and it says those high-quality image formats are growing in popularity.

Netflix expects viewing of “Stranger Things” season 2 to have four times as much 4K watching compared with the first season, Yellin said. All the better to capture every nook and cranny of that Eggo waffle. The Smartest Stuff[5]: Innovators are thinking up new ways to make you, and the things around you, smarter.

iHate[6]: CNET looks at how intolerance is taking over the internet.

References

  1. ^ Netflix (www.cnet.com)
  2. ^ Stranger Things (www.tvguide.com)
  3. ^ £8 billion on programming next year (www.cnet.com)
  4. ^ televisions (www.cnet.com)
  5. ^ The Smartest Stuff (www.cnet.com)
  6. ^ iHate (www.cnet.com)

Huawei may be releasing a foldable smartphone next year

Why it matters to you

Huawei maybe joining the ranks of Samsung and ZTE by offering a foldable smartphone next year. Edge-to-edge displays were the defining trend of smartphone design in 2017. First appearing on the Samsung Galaxy S8, the feature will be included on the iPhone X and numerous other smartphones.

As pretty as these screens look, it is possible that we’ll be seeing yet another trend emerge in 2018, and it’s one that could really shake things up: foldable smartphones. ZTE kicked things off with the Atom M, which featured two screens connected by a hinge. The device was certainly an interesting one[1], but we found it lacking in comparison to the more traditional, and much cheaper, Axon 7[2].

ZTE’s offering may not have been perfect, but it may have been a herald of things to come as CNet has reported[3] that Huawei is working on a foldable smartphone for next year. Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s consumer business group, said that the company already has a workable prototype, but stressed the need for better design and innovation. “We have two screens,” Yu said. “But we still have a small gap [between the screens].

That’s not good, and we should get rid of that gap.” Such new features are more than just a novelty for tech enthusiasts. It is one of the ways in which Huawei hopes to overtake its rivals and become the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer.

“We will overtake them definitely,” Yu said. “That’s our destiny. Maybe I’m not humble … but nobody can stop us.” Such boasting might seem like PR spin, but Huawei has the resources and market share to back it up.

The company might not be the household names that Samsung or Apple are, but it is the world’s third-largest smartphone manufacturer. In terms of foldable smartphones, Huawei isn’t the only company seeking to enter the market. Samsung is hoping to release a bendable smartphone next year[4].

Samsung’s device, which appears to feature a single flexible screen, is more in line with the rumors and patients regarding foldable phones.

As for Huawei, it remains to be seen whether their device will be closer to Samsung or ZTE’s.

Either way, 2018 is looking like it will be a very interesting year for smartphone enthusiasts.

Editor’s Recommendations

References

  1. ^ an interesting one (www.digitaltrends.com)
  2. ^ lacking in comparison to the more traditional, and much cheaper, Axon 7 (www.digitaltrends.com)
  3. ^ reported (www.cnet.com)
  4. ^ release a bendable smartphone next year (www.theverge.com)

Billboard Charts will weigh streaming services more heavily in 2017

Why it matters to you

Streaming services are changing the way we listen to music and Billboard Charts is finally catching up. In the world of entertainment, streaming services are increasingly becoming the norm among consumers. Traditional cable providers, along with now-defunct brick and mortar video rental stores, found themselves utterly unprepared for the rise of juggernauts like Netflix.

The music industry has faced a similar issue with streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify eating into album sales[1]. Another area in which the entertainment industry has failed to adjust is in rating the popularity of individual songs. There are signs that things are changing, however, as Billboard has announced[2] that it is adjusting its ranking systems to give “greater emphasis to paid subscription streams.”

“Beginning in 2018, plays occurring on paid subscription-based services (such as Amazon Music and Apple Music) or on the paid subscription tiers of hybrid paid/ad-supported platforms (such as SoundCloud and Spotify) will be given more weight in chart calculations than those plays on pure ad-supported services (such as YouTube) or on the non-paid tiers of hybrid paid/ad-supported services,” the company’s website reads. Billboard acknowledged that the music industry, particularly when it comes to how consumers obtain their music, has changed in recent years. In past decades, music fans really only had two options.

They could either listen to the radio or go to the store and purchase physical albums. Now they have access to a wide range of different options such as YouTube Music and various ad-supported and subscription-based services, in addition to the traditional methods that still cling on. Billboard says that its new methodology “is a reflection of how music is now being consumed on streaming services, migrating from a pure on-demand experience to a more diverse selection of listening preferences (including playlists and radio), and the various options in which a consumer can access music based on their subscription commitment.”

Measuring metrics aside, streaming services such as Spotify have become rather controversial among musicians in the industry.

While there are many who feel that they help artists reach a larger fan base, others argue that it doesn’t pay artists enough for their music.

Many artists, including Prince[3] and Taylor Shift[4], even pulled their catalogs from Spotify in protest of the low pay.

Editor’s Recommendations

References

  1. ^ Spotify eating into album sales (www.digitaltrends.com)
  2. ^ announced (www.billboard.com)
  3. ^ including Prince (www.digitaltrends.com)
  4. ^ Taylor Shift (www.businessinsider.com)

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