Platforms for Good

The first question we're often asked when talking about media change is a simple one — who's doing it right? Given its roots, Peloton is an unlikely example worth looking at.

In case you've missed their flood of recent ads, Peloton is a connected, indoor cycling bike that uses streaming technology to create an interactive spinning community in your own home. The brand has become a fitness phenomenon in the US, with its growing rider community reaching over 1 million last year and its revenue more than doubling since 2016.

I've had a Peloton bike for a few years now, giving me a first-hand sense of both its value as a user and the component parts that built the modern brand from the ground up. This includes rock solid product quality. A content-led, community-oriented business model. A completely personalized experience. And continuous collection of data that keeps users engaged and informs the overall brand experience.

To add to its end-to-end engagement model, Peloton is extremely well positioned given the trends it brings together — great content, social connectivity and an experience that fosters well-being

The third is becoming particularly important given a growing sense that too much tech is bad for us. The desire for experiences that contribute to physical and mental well-being has created a fitness tech revolution — allowing for the success of Peloton and wellness products like meditation apps, fitness mirrors and smart weights

Against the odds, Peloton managed to create a mass media company around a $3,000 stationary bike by hitting on modern product models and a culture shift that rewards those being a force for good. 

Chris Perry 

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What We're Reading
Media Forensics
A Brief Guide to the "2009 vs. 2019" Social Media Photo Craze
By Alex Schultz, GQ

The popular #10YearChallenge involves people posting side-by-side photos of how they look in 2019 versus what they looked like some number of years ago. Facebook's "Memories" feature is the likely culprit for inspiring the craze. But some speculate the meme was created as a way to train a facial recognition algorithms on age-related characteristics. 

Artificial Intelligence
How do you Fight an Algorithm you Cannot See? 
By Danny Crichton, Tech Crunch
When it comes to deep learning, it’s basically impossible to understand how an algorithm makes a decision, even if you have the data. This reality has led to a growing movement of theorists concerned about algorithmic accountability, of ensuring that we both understand how an algorithm makes a decision, and that the decision-making is legally non-discriminatory.
Media Forensics
A Brief History Of Viral Gymnastics Routines
By Dvora Meyers, DeadSpin

In the last few years, college gymnastics routines have begun to achieve viral fame. While people have long enjoyed watching athletes do incredible things with their bodies online, these floor routines feel almost algorithmically derived to achieve mass popularity.  

Content Experience
The Rise and Demise of RSS
By Sinclair Target, Motherboard

About a decade ago, the average internet user might well have heard of RSS. Really Simple Syndication, or Rich Site Summary—what the acronym stands for depends on who you ask—is a standard that websites and podcasts can use to offer a feed of content to their users, one easily understood by lots of different computer programs. Today, though RSS continues to power many applications on the web, it has become, for most people, an obscure technology.

Artificial Intelligence
Facial and Emotional Recognition; How One Man is Advancing Artificial Intelligence
By Scott Pelley, CBS News

Venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee is considered an oracle when it comes to artificial intelligence. He's funded 140 AI start-ups that have contributed to China's effort to dominate the AI field.

Media Forensics
All the President’s Memes
By Willy Staley, The New York Times

On the 12th day of the federal government shutdown, the 45th president of the United States of America posted a meme on his Instagram account. What began more than a decade ago as a fun way to imagine how cats might talk has evolved into a surprisingly fertile mode of political communication. 

Synthetic Content
More Investors are Betting on Virtual Influencers like Lil Miquela
By Jonathan Shieber, Tech Crunch

Brud, the company behind the virtual celebrity Lil Miquela, is now worth at least $125 million thanks to a new round of financing the company is currently closing. Meanwhile, similar companies that develop virtual characters are attracting serious venture dollars. The backing investors believe in the rise of a new kind of celebrity—one that’s independent of scandals and allows for brand control. 

Media Forensics
The Attention Economy Is a Malthusian Trap
By Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

Publicly traded companies that are classified as “tech” now trade at one of the smallest premiums in history, according to a recent JP Morgan analyst note. This has prompted some to believe that since tech is now everywhere, the age of tech is over. But perhaps it’s not the end of tech, or even the beginning of the end. It’s “the end of the beginning,” says Benedict Evans, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz.

Emerging Technology
A Robot Dog Has Learned to Run Faster with Machine Learning
By MIT Technology Review

Reinforcement learning has helped a four-legged bot move a bit like a real animal, without having to be taught how to make each step.

Deep Take
An Inside Look at the Peloton Bike
By Peloton
Peloton is reinventing the estimated $83 billion global fitness industry. The 6-year-old company’s business model is based on digital content and a growing rider community—1 million at last count (celebs like Michael Phelps and Neil Patrick Harris are fans)—connected through Wi-Fi and social media that does the heavy brand lifting.
Copyright © 2019 Weber Shandwick

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