Laura Barnes

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On April 30, 2018, Laura Barnes commented on NBCUniversal: A Path to Going D2C :

Great post! I wanted to push back a little bit on the idea that a necessary competitive advantage will be using data. I think high quality, recent content is the key to a successful D2C product.

They should definitely move into D2C. The only advantage Netflix/Hulu really had to begin with was the fact that they were a first online mover, and they have a somewhat user-friendly interface. However, they advertised these great data, personalization algorithms as their secret sauce, but that’s not actually how consumers like to consume content. In reality, people go to Netflix to binge content that they can talk to their friends about. That’s part of why Netflix has invested so heavily in original (and attempt at high quality) content. People don’t actually want an algorithm to tell them about an obscure movie from the 1950s that has a great strong female lead I can identify with. That removes too much of what makes content enjoyable – people want the blockbuster hits they can talk to people about. People watch media partially to have common ground / common characters to talk about.

That being said, NBCU totally has high quality content they should leverage. If they crack the right business model, and throw their premium content into a streaming service, it should succeed. I don’t think Hulu and Netflix have anything they don’t already have or have the ability to build in house. It’s hard to create good content, but it’s easy to create a container.

On April 30, 2018, Laura Barnes commented on The App Store | Apple’s Move To Services :

Great post, Juan! I interned in Product with the App Store this summer, and agree with a lot of the challenges and opportunities you noted.

I wanted to touch on Peter’s idea that WeChat is going to come in as a competitor, and respectfully disagree. A big part of Apple’s customer promise is their legitimate commitment to your privacy. That’s a big part of what makes them different from Google or Facebook, and that’s a big unknown for WeChat, especially since it is a foreign company to American consumers who still make up a large part of the App Store’s purchasing base.

Google and Facebook’s business models stem from their ability to gather information on you, personalize their products to make it more applicable, and sell that information to advertisers. I imagine WeChat’s is similar. Apple’s business model centers around their App Store and iOS software making the hardware more valuable to the user. It’s the harmony of a user-friendly interface with the user-friendly device. The hardware element is HUGE, and privacy, I believe, is going to continue to be more important to people too. As an American consumer, I don’t have the same trust in WeChat as I do for Apple. I have a longstanding relationship with Apple (I’m on my… fifth iPhone? and my 3rd Mac computer?) so it would take a long time for me to trust another app/hardware brand. And, aside from that, it would be hard for me to trust any standalone app over a company that is controlling both my hardware and software.

On April 30, 2018, Laura Barnes commented on Digital Disney: Transforming the Happiest Place on Earth :

This is a great post! I’m actually starting at Disney as part of their Technology Management Rotation Program this summer, so I found this particularly interesting.

The YouTube –> premium content journey is something no one seems to have been able to crack. I know YouTube doesn’t actually make that much money off of ads. And, after interviewing people about Buzzfeed, Youtube, and a few other user generated platforms for a paper for a different class, I learned that the hope for many of these personalities was for them to become a pipeline of premium talent. However, unfortunately, someone who is a great vlogger on YouTube, doesn’t necessarily make for a great actor, so in some ways these talents are more limited by their current platform than one would think.

Is Disney slow to adopt? Yes; but it seems to me that they are at least trying to adopt new products and strategies, and not every one is going to pan out. I don’t blame their adoption process so much as it just not being the right fit for the brand. They are a premium content brand and are still one of the only brands that can charge $20 for a movie in any form (e.g. classics such as The Little Mermaid). I think that while this initiative didn’t pan out, it shows that they are trying to explore new ways and are open to new forms of content. In fact, if anything, I feel that Disney is in danger of diluting their brand by how widespread they are and on how many things they are focusing on. For this reason, I’m very excited about their restructuring, and wouldn’t mind if there were even a call to action to do something like what Apple did where they proclaimed they were going to discontinue some products in favor of bolstering efforts towards perfecting just a handful.

On April 9, 2018, Laura Barnes commented on Netflix: Your Data, Your Show, Your Experience :

Thanks for posting Sean! I have to say I am a little skeptical about the use of data for what I see as a very creative product. I know that data informed decisions can do things like greenlight Orange is the New Black, but I fear that if you use data to create a formulaic production, it won’t have the same heart.

And I also wonder if using data to see what’s gaining traction is really a new concept. There have always been ratings and ways to measure viewership. Of course the time something was showing played a factor, but it’s not like we were operating in a world without data that now has come to light. I just wonder how valuable it really is, and if you couldn’t make similar recommendations without all of this data jsut knowing basic demographics of your users. Realistically you don’t want it to be TOO personalized because you still want to allow for serendipity/discovery.

On April 9, 2018, Laura Barnes commented on Amsterdam Smart City (ASC) :

Love this, thanks! I think the point about timing and setting expectations is important. Hans mentioned the similarities to GE; I just want to add on the similarities I saw working in digital at The New York Times. We had to migrate the whole organization over to Google Analytics (the newsroom, advertising, marketing, etc.) and it was a slow and painful process. The idea was that it would make everyone more efficient if we were all looking at similar dashboards, and had access to the same information. And perhaps now in the time that I’ve been at school it has started to be effective, but for a very long time people were frustrated by the migration and unclear on how valuable it was since it wasn’t immediately. Cluing an organization into the idea that something has a long term vision can be a really important part of introducing new methods or technologies.

On April 9, 2018, Laura Barnes commented on Using Machine learning to protect wild animals :

I love this Ting! Thanks for sharing. I love the broader vision of being able to track the biodiversity/health of all populations, though it does seem a bit ambitious. To push this further, how would you actually track a population’s health beyond just living? Just because you are able to track that a certain population is decreasing, that doesn’t necessarily help you determine the why or fix it, and it seems that in some cases waiting for there to be a problem is waiting too long. However, there should be more hands on deck to determine the why a population is decreasing and how to fix it since there will be so much labor saved in data collection!

On March 26, 2018, Laura Barnes commented on YouTube’s Evolving Challenge :

Agreed with the comments above – YouTube Red is a dead end. The type of quality of content that YouTube produces just isn’t up to a level that people are willing to pay for… For a paper last semester in BSSE I interviewed a someone who thought they might be able to take YouTube stars and serve as a talent pipeline for bigger screens (TV and Movies), however, what they’re finding is that even with millions of followers on YouTube, those stars aren’t necessarily the same kind of talent who are able to act or perform in a non-video-blog setting, so they aren’t creating these personalities as assets that extend outside of YouTube. They do have power in the numbers of their viewership… I know that an ad model doesn’t sound very appealing, and that the deal they have with advertisers right now is that the advertiser doesn’t have to pay unless the viewer watches a certain number of seconds, but maybe they just need to crack down on the viewers, and stop allowing us to skip ads… (as much as that pains me to say!). Alternatively, they could require users to engage more with videos (e.g. leave comments) in order to get rid of ads (for the very ad adverse), so then they are at least increasing engagement before they figure out how to monetize those who would leave the platform if it becomes too ad heavy.

On March 26, 2018, Laura Barnes commented on Duolingo: Using the Wisdom of Crowds to Translate Language :

Love this post! I’m a huge fan of Duo Lingo. I feel that the post is a little harsh on them, though. I think they are doing a pretty great job! Currently the free version has ads that are annoying enough that I’m considering paying. I also paid $4 to keep my streak alive (just part of the game of it) because of 1) the gamification and 2) the wording that had around “supporting their mission”. I really hope they stick with the mission as it’s a huge part of why I stick with them and don’t seek out another similar language learning app. I personally think they could go farther with the gamification and give longer term rewards for keeping up with languages even if you’ve become fluent. For instance, right now you win “gems” when you keep a weeklong streak, but what about a month? Or what if I’ve just stuck with the app for a long period of time but not necessarily a streak? I think building on power of a long term commitment/investment with the app could be really smart and drive more monetary value (in ads or in direct payment) from users.

On March 5, 2018, Laura Barnes commented on UberEats, yet another food delivery app ? :

My problem with Uber Eats is that depending on the city, I think it can be difficult to coordinate the car and the restaurant at the most optimal moment. Thinking about this from an operations perspective, the beauty of a restaurant having its own car is that it can send the food out whenever its ready with their personal fleet waiting. They can coordinate the consolidation of multiple orders on its own based on factors including where the destinations are, how long the food takes to make, and thinking about how to ensure quality once it gets there (getting the food into the car when it will still be hot upon arrival). It’s hard for me to imagine that Uber has an advantage in this space (as of yet). Eventually I can see them developing a content management system that is coordinated with the kitchens so that they could one day. They certainly have the capital to make the investment, but I’m skeptical that it will be a superior competitive experience in the meantime. Currently there’s too much to coordinate between cars available, time food is ready, and the conservation of trips that Uber has yet to crack. For now, I stick with marketplace level of Seamless.

Great post. Something that always confused me was how they were going to retain members. They raised the price while I was living in New York and I had enough friends who were on the fence about their experience that they dropped their subscriptions when it happened. So much of getting users justifying their payment for the gym relies on their belief that it will be a lifestyle and well used purchase for them. With the disparate experiences of different gyms/workout environments I wondered how they could make this sticky once the novelty of trying new classes inevitably wore off. Ultimately, people seem to find one gym/studio they like throughout the process, and therefore, as you mentioned, disintermediation looms large. While the company builds on the rise of healthy lifestyles as a fad / desirable space to be in, it doesn’t seem to be providing enough benefit to either the user or the studios to have long term sustainability.

On March 5, 2018, Laura Barnes commented on ZocDoc: Finding a doctor when you need one! :

Great post! Something that I think is dangerous for ZocDoc, is that there isn’t really any quality assurance for the users. There’s the rating system, but for a doctor, a star rating system (a la Amazon) isn’t that assuring for something that is so personal. There also remains a lack of transparency around pricing of services.

From a user standpoint, I had a poor experience where I rated a dentist under 2 stars because of a painful experience, and ZocDoc’s system wouldn’t let me comment on my experience. It seemed I could only comment if I rated it 3 stars or above. The company is only allowing users to provide feedback for doctors/dentists they’ve had a positive experience with, which isn’t helping to highlight low quality doctors. Additionally having had one poor experience, I never used ZocDoc again. I think if proximity is the only thing you care about ZocDoc is a valuable proposition, but they haven’t nailed quality, and this has a negative impact on network effects too.