Every mainstream entertainment hit – from Marvel to Call of Duty, to prestige TV – is at more risk of a rapid decline in popularity than ever. Fueled by the internet and on-demand media, alternative options are compelling and diversified. So when the audience sees a weak spot in their entertainment library, many bail to new possibilities, even across different forms of media, and don’t look back. Let’s call it Niche Consumption Theory (NCT).
NCT is an underrated contributor to The Marvels bombing. While many factors sunk the box office, from middling reviews to superhero fatigue, it’s exacerbated by having so many great leisure substitutes to swap in. TikTok, PS5, mobile gaming, Netflix reality TV, VR, and other alternatives can look very appealing against a mid-tier MCU film. They won’t match the spectacle of a $300 million movie, but they don’t have to.
Pare down to the essentials, and treat everything else with a temporary “jump in, jump out” mindset. It’s a straightforward approach to follow, and along the way, you’ll save money and improve your watching patterns by paring down to what matters most.
Start with an audit of your interests and viewing habits. While a few rare types skip across many subscriptions evenly, it’s more likely that only one or two services dominate your time. Many would pick Netflix, with its abundant back catalog, or Disney Plus for family viewing. I’m a huge foreign and indie movie fan, so Mubi or The Criterion Channel are my go-tos. Limit this list to just one or two services, and consider them essentials. Subscribe and don’t look back.
After almost two decades of avoiding Microsoft-based web products whenever possible, I’ve come full circle: the new Microsoft Edge is my browser of choice. It has excellent privacy options, a large extension community, and developer support that makes it a reliable option on macOS over Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
Admittedly, when I first started using the new Chromium-based Edge a few months ago, I was skeptical about its potential. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer left a bad taste in my mouth, thanks to the struggles I had developing against IE6 and IE7 in the early 2000s. But the more time I spent with this fresh iteration of Edge, the more I was left impressed.
Tot, a scratchpad app for macOS and iOS, has graduated from a side experiment to an essential part of my workflow in a matter of weeks. I highly recommend giving the app a try on Mac (it’s free), and if the design works for you, buy it on iOS.
Admittedly, when I first saw Tot pop up on social media and sites like MacStories, I was skeptical. There are already hundreds of note taking apps available on the App Store. Given several options like Bear and iA Writer nail the basics so thoroughly, with strong aesthetic design and years of iteration, it’s hard to see how any new competitor can stand out. But I’ve always had longstanding respect for The Iconfactory in terms of their attention to visual design. $20 later (more on that price in a bit), equipped with Tot’s iOS and Mac apps, I dove in to give it a try.
Two of the Macbook Pro’s most hyped improvements – the Touch Bar and more compact profile – have little benefit to many professionals. I’m worried Apple is increasingly hawking consumer level tech that’s missing the high end market.
At least half of the developers and designers I know work primarily with a Macbook Pro hooked to an external display and paired with an external keyboard and mouse. Ergonomics improve with both displays at similar height and distance. It’s more efficient to scan and drag content given the screens’ proximity. And by driving the setup through a laptop, you still get the flexibility of a portable device for meetings or work on the go.
Therein lies the rub with the Macbook Pro’s Touch Bar. With the aforementioned setup, the Macbook’s distance makes the Bar out of reach and hard to see. Ironically, a setup for serious work nullifies the Bar’s purported productivity benefits. And based on Apple’s pricing segmentation, we’re paying a premium for it as well.
During runs and lighter coding sessions, I love listening to podcasts. Deep, geeky chats on tech, film and gaming are fun and instructive. The best podcasts are addictive; with memorable hosts and segments, it’s like checking in with old friends. Yet as my days get busier, I’ve had to pare down to just a few strong choices.
Balance separates great from merely good podcasts. They cover a diverse set of opinions, either from a revolving set of guests or hosts from different backgrounds. Yet it can’t be too diverse or the chemistry breaks down.
I’ve written on my own blog for years with the same cadence. I share links with small bits of commentary a few times each week. Longer pieces take more effort; I spread them throughout the year as time and mood allow. Yet going forward, that balance between long and short form will change. Link posts will be rare, while I hope to write larger pieces more often. I’d rather provide more depth here and move quick impressions largely to other platforms.
This change was inevitable given the effect social media and mega-platforms are having on smaller sites. Web-based link blogs, with rare exceptions like Daring Fireball, are dead. Quick takes and snap judgements have moved to Twitter and other social media. It’s just a better fit; they’re new platforms optimized for sharing, speed, and connectivity.
Once Apple Music’s free trial ended, I deleted all my files and resubscribed to Spotify Premium. The turnaround was surprising; this is Apple we’re talking about here. From Macs, to an iPhone, an iPad, and an Apple TV, I’m a convert. But after several weeks of heavy Apple Music usage, I was done with the service.
I’m not alone on this turnaround. Though 11 million subscribers (in a free trial period) is a decent start, I’ve seen many across, tech and design migrate elsewhere. There’s several reasons why:
As I wrote weeks ago, Apple TV needed several key factors to challenge console and PC gaming. Based on the keynote and what we’ve learned since, they missed on all counts. Traditional console or PC gamers won’t be flocking to Apple TV. Yet some wildcards could upend the casual gaming market in the long run.
Apple TV’s problems start with the included remote. A touchpad and single available button won’t give the precision needed for most traditional games. And add-on controllers are unlikely to make headway. Apple didn’t release a first-party option, and developers can’t require external controllers for play.
Then there’s the issue of a fairly weak starting library. Granted, several games look entertaining. Yet it’s mostly small scale entertainment — diversions alongside other apps and streaming media.
Tomorrow Apple is expected to announce an updated Apple TV with a dedicated app store and more powerful hardware. That positions the device to compete directly with the existing PC and console gaming space. Yet it’s premature for console manufacturers and PC gamers to be worried. Nor is it a surefire success for casual gaming in the living room.
We’ve been down this road before. First, smartphone and tablet games were predicted to kill consoles. It didn’t turn out that way. PS4 and Xbox One sales have been strong, even better than the PS3 and Xbox 360 during its opening sale period. PC gaming is booming through eSports and on Steam. And while casual gaming is successful on mobile, it’s fallen flat elsewhere. The Ouya, Fire TV, and the existing Apple TV through AirPlay have all been gaming duds.
Granted, a revamped Apple TV is a step in the right direction. An Apple-based living room platform is bound to take some attention away from traditional PC and console gaming. And like most forms of tech, we can’t quantify Apple TV’s impact until months or years from now. Yet several early factors will telegraph the Apple TV’s success against the exiting games market.