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White House Social Media Summit Doesn’t Do Enough to Engage the Public

White House Social Media Summit Doesn’t Do Enough to Engage the Public

Yesterday’s White House social media summit reinvigorated the online free speech debate. The debate, while very public between vocal proponents of free speech and reducing harmful speech, has done little to consider what the actual public wants.

Just two months ago, we surveyed 416 US Internet users about how they view the free speech debate. Do they want social platforms to do more to protect free speech or reduce harmful speech? Do they think platforms lean left or right?

Here’s a reminder of a few takeaways relevant to the summit.

Should we do more to protect free speech or limit harmful speech?

You cannot both protect free speech and limit harmful speech. One must give way to the other and it seems this issue is at the core of the debate about what should and shouldn’t be allowed on social media platforms. We asked Internet users which statement resonated the most:

  • More should be done to protect free speech
  • More should be done to limit harmful speech
  • I have no opinion on free speech

The majority of Internet users believe more should be done to protect free speech (51%), while 36.1% stated that more should be done to limit harmful speech. The remainder claimed no opinion (13%).

The lean toward more being done to protect free speech was true across political philosophy, gender, age, and income, although not always by a majority.

The public’s preference for free speech highlights the difficult position that social media companies are in. Facebook and Twitter have been seemingly deliberate about making decisions on what kinds of speech to ban from their platforms. The problem for the social companies is that any action to limit speech will be viewed unfavorably by those that prefer free speech, while inaction will be decried by a vocal minority that wants more done to limit harmful speech.

Conservatives, moderates, and liberals all prefer protecting free speech to limiting harmful speech
Conservatives were most likely to side with free speech (59.4%) vs doing more to limit harmful speech (28.7%). Moderates sided with free speech 47.3% to 38.7%, as did liberals at 48% vs 45%.

Note: an equal number of respondents to the survey identified themselves as conservative (101) and liberal (100). Moderates totaled 150 users, while 65 users preferred not to answer.

Do social media platforms lean left or right?

To directly address the question of social platforms protecting liberal vs conservative speech, most Internet users believe social media platforms protect political speech equally (50.7%). 34.4% of respondents believed that social media platforms protect more liberal-leaning speech while 14.9% believed they protect more conservative-leaning speech.

People follow party lines in their belief of social media policing
Conservatives were significantly more likely to believe that social media platforms protect liberal-leaning speech (57.4%) than liberals were to believe that platforms protect conservative-leaning speech (19%). Moderates, perhaps the fairest barometer, perceive more of a left-leaning bias (29.3%) than a right-leaning one (12%), although most felt the treatment was equal (58.7%).

Aldous Huxley wrote in Brave New World that, “Extremes meet for the good reason that they were made to meet.” Social media has enabled extremes to gather as tribes and fight persistently with no allowance for the consideration of alternative viewpoints. Now the social media platforms, politicians, users, and the public must deal with the fallout. The public has spoken, although it’s unlikely to be heard over the roar while the others debate.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest or may invest: virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics. From time to time, we may write about companies that are in our portfolio. As managers of the portfolio, we may earn carried interest, management fees or other compensation from such portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making any investment decisions and provided solely for informational purposes. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections and the content on this site should not be relied upon. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Themes
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Range Anxiety Is All Perception, but Still a Major Hurdle

Range Anxiety Is All Perception, but Still a Major Hurdle

The adoption of electric vehicles might seem to have major hurdles in front of it, but in reality, it is being stifled by a false premise. Range anxiety, the idea that electric vehicles don’t have enough charging points to adequately service their driver base is a major sticking point for the average consumer. We believe this doesn’t require a major technological advancement to solve, just a change in perception.

Taking a Note from History

When the Model T was arriving in the early 1900s, there weren’t 115,000 gas stations to refuel at like we have today. Instead, those original buyers had to fill their own containers at the local market and transport that to the vehicles themselves. Out of concern of safety, convenience, and general ease, that system transitioned to curbside pumps which ultimately turned into service stations opened by early oil giants like Texaco and Shell.

These companies were opening stations because they saw the transition and knew there was a need to be filled, even if the driver base was limited at the time. Although the current EV driver base is also limited, we see this transition as inevitable. Building out charging networks (to a limited extent) isn’t as big of a risk today and would be a boon to expanding the demand for EVs.

Perception Is Reality

With 6 in 10 consumers claiming the reason they haven’t bought an EV is because of a lack of charging points or the fear of running out of battery, range anxiety is a major issue for consumers (and, therefore, automakers). This perception fuels the argument that EVs are not yet a viable option. However, we see a few reasons why the perception of range anxiety will dissipate in the coming years:

  • A new generation of consumers will be more energized about purchasing EVs (63% of millennials consider an EV as their next vehicle vs. 38% of baby boomers).
  • Battery ranges will steadily increase at around 5% each year with the potential for larger jumps with new releases.
  • Networks will be expanded from both independent brands like Tesla and destination charging spots like ChargePoint.

Tesla’s Early Advantage

Tesla has been the only automaker to heavily invest in their own charging network, and we see a few reasons why this is a benefit. First is the fact that they have an extensive network of over 1,500 supercharger stations that can get you anywhere in the US. We think of this more as a prerequisite for demand or a marketing expense than a long-term competitive advantage, but the supercharger network has contributed massively to Tesla’s early lead. Second, Tesla has an advantage in both speed and options, with supercharger stations that can fill your battery to 80%  in a half hour and home chargers that can easily be installed and fully charge a car overnight. Lastly, the proprietary ability within a Tesla to map out a trip and have it optimize for where, when, and how long to stop and recharge is a unique advantage to having their own network.

When to Stop Building

Gas stations have swelled to massive numbers over the last century, but we don’t think EV charging networks should come close to that magnitude. This is due to the fact that most charging will be done at home. This is another issue of perception where people believe they are driving more than they really are when in reality the average commute for a US driver is 29 miles per day. Additionally, a study by MIT indicates that 87% of car usage on the road today could be replaced by an existing EV (2016 study so with increased range and charging locations that this is higher now).

We only see the necessity to build out around 20,000 fast charging stations to fulfill demand. Home charging will be accessible in most homes of EV owners, with workplace and residential hubs fulfilling the rest. Other stations should purely be to bridge longer-distance trips (which are few and far between).

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest or may invest: virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics. From time to time, we may write about companies that are in our portfolio. As managers of the portfolio, we may earn carried interest, management fees or other compensation from such portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making any investment decisions and provided solely for informational purposes. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections and the content on this site should not be relied upon. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Tesla
3 min. read Show less
Gamer Survey: Low Initial Interest in Cloud Gaming

Gamer Survey: Low Initial Interest in Cloud Gaming

Google Stadia and Microsoft’s xCloud gaming services are coming later this year. These are major events for how games will be distributed and played in the future. To get a better sense of consumer interest in game streaming, we surveyed 26 gamers about their gaming habits.

  • On average, gamers have spent $81 in the last three months, $167 in the last six months, and $367 over the last year. This includes money spent on gaming content, online services, in-game purchases, etc. (ex-hardware).
  • 77% of respondents are paying for at least one console online multiplayer service.
  • 31% of respondents are paying for Twitch Prime subscriptions. (It’s likely that some of these respondents are utilizing a Twitch Prime subscription included with Amazon Prime).
  • We did not have any survey respondents that are currently utilizing any game subscription services.
  • On average, respondents ranked their excitement about cloud gaming and game subscription services a 4 on a scale of 0-10.

We’re bullish on cloud gaming because it solves a core problem of high initial hardware costs. The upfront cost of a console or PC can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. That asset also depreciates in performance over time. Cloud gaming platforms eliminate the upfront cost in favor of a subscription to a service that will offer consistent performance regardless of the game. Given this cost dynamic, cloud gaming services make sense for two groups of gamers: those who need to upgrade old hardware and those who don’t have any hardware but want to play more games. We likely didn’t capture the latter segment in our survey.

Our guess is that the muted response to cloud gaming in our survey has to do with uncertainty around what kind of content gamers will have access to on streaming services. Some cloud gaming platforms, like Google Stadia, will offer libraries themselves, while game publishers are also launching access to their own libraries separately. This is the same model we’re seeing networks move to on the video streaming side.

Leading up to E3, Google Stadia announced launch pricing of $9.99 a month, which includes access to the service and a limited library of games. Ubisoft recently announced UPlay+, which gives users access to 100+ games for $14.99 month. Microsoft has its own game subscription service which they’re bundling with Xbox Live for $14.99 a month. Similar to UPlay+, Microsoft’s game subscription library offers over 100 titles but doesn’t include many of the latest releases. As Microsoft expands further into cloud gaming with its next-generation console, the company will likely increase the price for its bundled offering.

If a gamer wants to utilize Stadia and access UPlay+, they’re looking at roughly $25 a month, or around $300 per year, which is close to what gamers in our buzz survey are spending a year on content ($367). This may be a difficult early value proposition for gamers because those two services would only enable access to select libraries of titles and prior releases rather than buying new titles as they come out. Also, as gamers do this simple cost analysis for their own habits, they are likely not factoring in the savings they would have on the hardware side.

When Netflix launched streaming, its monthly fee of $7.99 was a small portion of what viewers were spending on content at the time (cable subscription, movie theater tickets, DVDs, rentals, etc). According to Centris, the average cable bill was $75 a month in 2010. $7.99 for Netflix seemed like a bargain. For cloud gaming, the cost may end up a much more significant part of a gamer’s budget. Additionally, access to the right games will be important for the streaming services given how social gaming has become, and many of these will be flagship popular titles.

Of the three largest entrants in the space (Microsoft, Google, Amazon), each brings their own unique position and perspective. Microsoft has the best portfolio of proprietary games, Google has strong infrastructure and history with mobile gaming, and Amazon’s Twitch investment is valuable for customer acquisition. Cloud gaming is an exciting evolution in how consumers will play games, but for providers, it’s worth remembering the old adage that content is king.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest or may invest: virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics. From time to time, we may write about companies that are in our portfolio. As managers of the portfolio, we may earn carried interest, management fees or other compensation from such portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making any investment decisions and provided solely for informational purposes. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections and the content on this site should not be relied upon. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Gaming, Google, Microsoft
3 min. read Show less