There’s plenty of coverage about how soon-to-depart Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer weighed down the company by failing to think ahead and embrace new things. Today we’re pointing the way to a couple of tech execs who are doing the opposite.
• There’s Ted Sarandos, chief content officer of Netflix. He’s the guy the Los Angeles Times says “has the clout to lead the transformation of TV.” “House of Cards,” the Emmy-nominated original series starting Kevin Spacey, is so far the highest-profile example of what Sarandos is doing for the Los Gatos-based entertainment provider — trying to get current or future subscribers hooked on shows no one else has. The difference between Netflix’s approach and those of cable and TV networks: Netflix didn’t worry about ratings and other conventions. It is, after all, unconcerned with advertising. By making all episodes of a series available all at once, it’s not thinking small bites. It’s thinking of giving viewers the whole meal for when they feel like binging. The company didn’t screen shows to figure out whether they should be picked up; Sarandos studied data to predict what would lure viewers, according to the LAT and others.
Another Netflix original series, “Orange is the New Black,” also is getting a lot of buzz. It made its debut just last month, but there’s already chatter about spoilers for the next season, which is now filming. As we wrote when “House of Cards” scooped up Emmy nominations for top awards, there’s more where that came from. Sarandos has a $2 billion budget for licensing and creating shows and movies. And because “Ted doesn’t seem moved by fear,” as “Orange” creator Jenji Kohan told the LAT, the TV transformation seems to be right on track.
• Next up is Medium, the new blogging platform that aspires to be something more. It’s the effort launched last year by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, who also is famous for creating Blogger. At least when it comes to length, San Francisco-based Medium seems to be the anti-Twitter. It publishes more in-depth pieces and analysis, with the yet-to-be-fully realized goal of providing a way for the writers of those pieces to get paid.
But as Bloomberg Businessweek points out, recent pieces such as an entrepreneur’s rant about San Francisco or a programmer’s controversial idea to teach coding to a homeless person don’t quite rise to the site’s stated standards. But Williams told Businessweek that “we do not expect every piece of content published on Medium to be thoughtful. That is incongruent with being open and democratic, which is core to our philosophy.”
Issues of quality are bound to come up — by the way, Williams tells Businessweek that tech blogs are “utter crap” — but if Medium manages to solve the pesky problem of getting people to pay for good content, then hey, that would be the opposite of crap.
Photo: Taylor Schilling (in orange) and Laverne Cox star in “Orange is the New Black,” a Netflix original series. (Lionsgate Television)