When “Law & Order” ended its 20-year run in 2010, it had already cemented its place as one of the longest-running television dramas in history. Its success was a testament to the enduring popularity of a good mystery.
Mining that same well of a demand for whodunnits, a roughly one-year-old Los Angeles-based startup called Solve has raised $20 million in financing to update the genre for a new generation of media consumers.
Its eponymously titled social media programming, available on Instagram and Snap, has managed to nab roughly 30 million interactions over the year-and-a-half that it distributed its productions. Now the company is launching a true crime podcast on the iHeartMedia and Apple platforms to tap into another potentially high-growth market.
Solve began as a series developed within the mobile-focused entertainment studio, Vertical Networks. Helmed by Tom Wright and financed by Elisabeth Murdoch (through her Freelands Ventures fund, which Wright also managed) and Snap, the company was one of the early entrants to raise cash as a production studio for mobile content. But it was far from the only studio to see money in mobile-first entertainment. All of the major internet-age media companies had their own mobile strategies.
Murdoch eventually replaced Wright (so that he could work on spinning up Solve as an independent entity) and sold Vertical Networks two months ago to the online media startup, Whistle, for an undisclosed amount.
“I spent a year looking deep, deep, deep into audience behavioral data on Snap and Facebook,” Wright says. “The DNA of what I thought [audience] sensibilities was leading towards was this format.”
As Vertical Networks was winding down, Solve was spinning up with help from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Upfront Ventures and Advancit Capital.
“We’ve seen incredibly popular crime mystery shows across media, including podcasts like Serial and Dirty John, TV shows like Making a Murderer and Law & Order, and movies like The Usual Suspects and Gone Girl,” said Jeremy Liew, partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, in a statement. “Games have attained a first class status as media but we’ve yet to see a crime mystery format game achieve the same success, and Solve is going to right that wrong.”
The gamification element that’s made Solve’s episodes resonate with mobile audiences on social platforms will be a small part of the initial series, says Wright, with plans to expand the interactive elements going forward.
Produced in partnership with SALT audio, whose previous work includes “Blackout” and “Carrier” and iHeartMedia, the 10-episode series uses the same “ripped from the headlines” storytelling for its 30-minute broadcasts and offers listeners clues in leaked audio files, voicemails, courtroom testimony and other evidence to try to guess the killer.
For now, Solve is content to be a studio producing ad-supported media for platforms like Apple, Snap, Facebook, iHeartMedia and other distributors, according to Wright. It’s a different path than studios like Quibi, which is creating its own streaming service dedicated to mobile storytelling and backed by many of the major Hollywood studios.
The current pace of production means that Solve is making 18 original episodes per month. For the 40-year-old Wright, Solve represents a fourth foray into the world of startups. And while he’s not a fan of the crime or mystery genre himself, Wright said that the data around engagement was too compelling to not try to launch a business around it.
“The Internet has changed how we interact with the world from taxis to news to shopping. We believe that Solve can fundamentally change how we interact with narrative video storytelling,” said Mark Suster, managing partner, Upfront Ventures, in a statement. “When we heard Tom’s vision for short-form video that you not only watch but also must ‘solve‘, we knew that it had enormous potential.”
'We're the same as everyone else, just smaller': Local student promoting dwarfism awareness on social media – CTV News Kitchener
Isabella Lamanna is using the power of social media to raise awareness about dwarfism.
The first-year University of Guelph student was born with a form of dwarfism called diastrophic dysplasia.
“I’m trying to raise awareness and educate people who may not know about it,” said Lammana, who’s originally from Markham.
She joined TikTok at the start of the pandemic and began posting videos about what it’s like to live as a little person.
“There’s also the fun ones, the dancing ones, singing ones … the past year, I’ve gained almost a million followers, it’s pretty crazy,” said Lammana.
Lammana said her goal is to promote a better understanding of people with dwarfism.
“We prefer to be called our names … but if anything ‘little person,’ ‘dwarf’ is OK too as long as it’s not used in a harmful way,” she said. “But one word that is not tolerable in the community is the m-word.”
In some of her TikTok videos, Lammana debunks misconceptions like not being able to drive or have kids, hoping to remove barriers for others.
“We’re the same as everyone else, just smaller,” said Lammana.
Lammana’s work goes beyond the screen. She is a patient ambassador for Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto and a volunteer with Little People of Ontario, a non-profit advocacy group for those with dwarfism and their families.
The group’s president, Allan Redford, said Lammana is helping share their key message that “we’re not a character, we’re a real person. We would like to be treated the way you would like to be treated.”
Lamanna and Redford both said while there are still those who are ignorant, pointing and laughing or telling insensitive jokes about little people, they’re hopeful for more acceptance.
“With a little bit of accommodation, a little bit of help, a little bit of equitable treatment and kindness and inclusion … we can get there and that’s where we want to go,” said Redford.
National Dwarfism Awareness Day is Oct. 25, a day to wear green, the official colour of support.
Trump's Truth Social media platform is a perfect mess – MSNBC
Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced the launch of a media company and a social media platform designed, in his words, to “stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech.” And so far the platform, called Truth Social (of course!), has been as true to form as one could’ve imagined: a ramshackle, derivative project that expresses Trump’s desperate thirst for power and profit.
Trump isn’t trying to win over the market by creating a unique media experience.
The janky and rushed nature of Truth Social was immediately apparent. While in his announcement Trump said a beta version is meant to be available to invited guests in November and a national rollout is expected in early 2022, pranksters and curious journalists found what appeared to be an unreleased test version of the site within hours and proceeded to flood it.
Immediately people snatched up VIP handles like “donaldtrump” and “mikepence.” The person who grabbed “donaldjtrump” swiftly pinned a photo of a pig defecating on their profile. That site has been pulled offline, but at least one other test version has been circulating, as well, suggesting striking technical vulnerabilities.
As Washington Post tech reporter Drew Harwell notes in his analysis, the website is a crude, uncreative knockoff of Trump’s favorite social media platform — and it is also somehow already violating licensing codes:
The site looks almost entirely like a Twitter clone: A user can post Truths, which are like tweets, or Re-Truths, which are retweets. There’s also a news feed, called the Truth Feed, a notification system so users can know “who’s interacting with your TRUTH’s,” the social network’s App Store profile states.
The site’s code shows it runs a mostly unmodified version of Mastodon, the free, open-source software launched in 2016 that anyone can use to run a self-made social networking site.
Mastodon founder Eugen Rochko told The Post Thursday that Trump’s site may violate Mastodon’s licensing rules, which require developers to share any modifications and link to the original source code. Rochko said he has contacted the company’s legal counsel to make a determination.
Using a link to what appeared to be another test site that hasn’t been taken down, I was easily able to create a profile. Given its extreme similarity to Twitter (although with a strikingly drab color scheme) it wasn’t hard to navigate. But when you publish posts you don’t hit “Tweet” — you hit a button that says “TRUTH!”
Every post from every user is a “Truth,” not because of the substance of what someone is saying, but by virtue of where they are saying it.
In addition to the vapid design, it was easy to sense the next step in Trump’s project to lay waste to the idea of shared reality. Every post from every user is a “Truth,” not because of the substance of what someone is saying, but by virtue of where they are saying it: Trump’s social media space. This principle is key to Trump’s authoritarian paradigm, in which truth is not tethered to reality or reason, but instead to the will to power and tribalism — something is true because my tribe and I want it to be true.
The site’s technical woes and uninspired design might not deter new users, because Trump isn’t trying to win over the market by creating a unique media experience. Instead he’s looking to create a unique ideological space. Trump’s media group claims it wants to create a “non-cancellable global community,” by which it means a social media platform that is populated solely by people on the right, and establishes little to no regulation surrounding abuse, disinformation, calls to violence and bigotry.
The crux of the matter, however, is to create a forum where Trump has free rein to speak as he wishes to and be adulated for it. “We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favorite American President has been silenced,” he wrote in his announcement. “This is unacceptable.”
Trump’s new media venture ticks all the classic Trump boxes: money, power, ego. If it’s successful, it could be an asset in keeping his potential 2024 aspirations alive. But whether his base finds the site to be a tolerable experience remains an open question.
Media Advisory: Premier Furey to Provide Details on Period Products in Schools – News Releases – Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
The Honourable Andrew Furey, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador will join the Honourable Pam Parsons, Minister Responsible for the Office of Women and Gender Equality and the Honourable Tom Osborne, Minister of Education to provide an update on plans for providing free period products in K-12 schools.
The event will take place Monday, October 25 at 10:30 a.m. at Brother Rice Junior High, 75 Bonaventure Avenue, St. John’s.
Physical distancing and other public health guidelines will be in place.
– 30 –
Office of the Premier
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