Wednesday, June 27, 2018

If you have Netflix's PR budget, your own journalistic genre is just one of the things you can buy.

The following showed up in the "Recommended by Pocket" links in my Firefox browser. To be perfectly honest, I only clicked on it because I was looking for a jumping off point from which to discuss the extraordinary PR efforts of Netflix. For that purpose, the article was even better than I had hoped.

First, a few points about what the film Evolution isn't.

It isn't new. It came out in 2015 and was widely and generally positively reviewed. If you're into this kind of art-house horror film, there's a good chance you've already seen it and a very good chance you've already heard about it.

It isn't a Netflix original.

It isn't even exclusive to Netflix. In addition to the DVD, you can buy it online for $3.99 from iTunes or Amazon or a number of other vendors.

 Given all of this, why is the availability of this film on Netflix newsworthy? The short answer is that it's not. Basically it's an ad for Netflix disguised as a piece of news. Probably unpaid for and unintentional, but still an ad. What's more, it's actually part of a series of ads for Netflix running at GQ.

We have all gotten so accustomed to the what's-on-Netflix genre that the strangeness no longer registers. There is tons of great (and I mean that without hyperbole) content out there. There is no good journalistic reason why being on Netflix is any more newsworthy than being on or Film Struck or or the Internet Archive or even MeTV (I would actually make the case that Neil Simon's work under Nat Hiken on the Phil Silvers Show was more noteworthy than most of the Netflix films GQ chose to write).

To be hammer-blunt, what's-on-Netflix is a genre because the company has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on PR hacks who have spent countless hours planting and pushing these stories. It was a tremendous amount of money, but it was well spent. Netflix is now worth more than Disney because it has been more successful than any of its competitors at generating hype. The editors at GQ deserve a small part of the credit for this and, should the company implode leaving a pile of badly burned investors, they also might deserve a comparable share of the blame.

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