What’s In Your Netflix Queue?

The NYTimes have put up an interesting visualization of the Netflix rental patterns of 2009’s most rented films broken down into neighborhoods in a dozen US cities.  It’s fun to play around with and underscores a few things we probably already had inklings about:

  • Very few people care about “Mad Men” outside of NYC and other hipster-heavy cities like Minneapolis.
  • Despite our famous love of dogs, New Yorkers clearly have better things to watch than “Marley & Me.”
  • New Yorkers are unfamiliar with malls and therefore have no interest in renting “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.”
  • The popularity of Tyler Perry films is a surefire indication of the concentration of African-Americans in any given neighborhood.

Basically, relevance matters. People tend to want to watch characters demographically similar to themselves.  That’s why the film “Last Chance Harvey” about aging boomers finding love is significantly more popular in the demographically older suburbs, while “Obsessed,” a “Fatal Attraction” remake starring Beyoncé is popular only in the Bronx, Newark and parts of outer Brooklyn where many African-Americans live.  Might sound like an argument for how depressingly narrow-minded we are, but then again you have to consider that one of the most frequently rented films of last year was foreign (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and that the popularity of “Milk” was by no means limited to gay neighborhoods, to say nothing of the non-teens secretly renting “Twilight.”  So what have we learned?  There’s something for everyone.  A really great movie will sell regardless of ethnic/racial considerations.  Everyone loves vampires and anything Brangelina touches.

Twitter Not for Teens Says Lone Teen

Gotta laugh out loud over this article from the Guardian regarding Morgan Stanley’s decision to publicize a report by their 15 year-old intern.  Described as “one of the clearest and most thought-provoking insights we have seen,” by Morgan’s Edward Hill-Wood in a report by the Financial Times, the intern’s analysis includes a scathing criticism of Twitter as pointless for teens as they quickly realize nobody is reading their updates and they’d rather spend their cellphone credits texting their friends.  I’ve got my own reservations about Twitter as I’ve blogged about before, but regardless of whether I agree with this intern or not, it’s pretty ridiculous that his analysis is being held up as something worthy of influencing major investment decisions.  At the very least it must be acknowledged that a 15 year-old who has an internship at Morgan Stanley is hardly representative of average teens.

Nevertheless I admit I’m secretly a bit chuffed that these phantom ‘teens’ supposedly share my rather renegade opinion (well, renegade for someone working in marketing in NYC anyway!) that Twitter will soon be outed as being pointless for most people, and will become the sole domain of obsessive self-promoters, bored people stuck at home with pets and young children, and revolutionaries living in countries where traditional media outlets aren’t allowed.  I know, I know, don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!  But believe me I’ve done my research — interviewing my many intelligent and impressive Twittering friends about what drives them to ‘tweet’ (god, strike this horrid word out of our vocabulary, please!) all day and night, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it basically comes down to boredom, peer pressure, and the promise of fame.  Hmm…wait a minute, I’m contradicting myself.  If those are the main drivers, then I guess Twitter will be going strong for decades to come?  Oy!

kill twitter

Hua Hsu on Colbert

atlantic-white-america-cover1Shout out to the perpetually sleep-deprived Doc Hsu up in Pokip for getting his super symmetrical name up on Colbert the other night.  If you’re not able to go out and buy a copy of this month’s Atlantic, read Hua’s thought-provoking feature on race in America here.  I can’t even write about it here because it’s just too awesome.  Go read it for yourself!  V.v.V

Work-Reproduction Balance?

japanese-babyI’m sorry, but I can’t help but comment on this silly story today via CNN about how Canon employees in Japan are being sent home early from work twice a week as part of a national campaign to replenish the dwindling population.  With the country’s birthrate at an abysmal 1.34, the Japanese have been fretting about how to deal with their reverse-pyramid demographics for more than a minute now.  According to a company spokesman, “Canon has a very strong birth planning program.  Sending workers home early to be with their families is a part of it.”

First of all, full disclosure:  my dad has been working for Canon for almost 40 years.  I think they’re a great company and have consistently been innovative (as far as Japanese companies go) in how they manage their global workforce.  It’s pretty comical that CNN (and the other news outlets that have picked up this story) have focused on the “Check out what these weird Japanese are doing! Sending workers home to bonk!” aspect of the story–because if you bother to look beyond the misleading headline you’ll get to the real story in the final sentence: “(The 5:30pm lights out program) also has an added benefit: Amid the global economic downturn the company can slash overtime across the board twice a week.”  DUH.  If you ask me, that’s Corporate PR in its finest hour: taking a cost-cutting measure and spinning it into a CNN-worthy piece about companies doing its part to grow the population!

Also, anybody who has actually spent any significant amount of time in Japan can tell you that a few more hours at home every week is not going to solve its population problem.  The important questions about Japan’s unrealistic immigration policies have yet to be answered; and nobody is really asking if Japanese women would choose to “go forth and multiply” even if they had all the flex-time and apartment space in the world.  The fact is that more and more Japanese women today are delaying marriage or not getting marrried at all…and it’s not necessarily because they’re stuck at the office.  What needs to be acknowledged is that a growing number of people are discovering an alternative paradigm for personal happiness that doesn’t necessarily involve marriage and kids.  Instead of trying to bribe its citizens to procreate, the Japanese government should be opening up its borders to fill its growing labor shortage.  Elder-care robots are fun to read about and all that, but frankly, if it came down to it I’d rather have my grandmother looked after by a warm-blooded immigrant than a souped up Wall-E.