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Snapchat joins the
movie revolution

Snapchat, the social app based on video messaging, has joined the original content revolution, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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It began ever so subtly, three years ago. Snapchat, the messaging app that dominates young users’ social media video viewing, launched a service called Shows. It comprised short videos made for mobile phones by news services like NBC and Condé Nast Entertainment. Stay Tuned, a daily news show from NBC, drew an audience of 5 million viewers aged from 13 to 24. Slowly, a new reality dawned at Snap Inc, the company that has built up a $16-billion dollar valuation on the back of its Snapchat property.

As Snapchat expanded its third party content offerings, with anything from National Geographic to sports and gossip, the seeds were sewn for its own original programming. It wasn’t exactly a bandwagon. Netflix launched its Originals back in 2013, and Amazon Prime followed a year later.

Snapchat entered the game six months ago, with a 12-episode reality show called Endless Summer. It follows the life of 19-yearold Summer Mckeen, a YouTube star since the age of 14, and proved a massive hit with Snapchat users.

However, it was just one of a dozen Snapchat Originals launched in October 2018. The slate included a fun supernatural series called Dead Girls Detective Agency, and a college comedy called Co-Ed. More than 40% of users who completed the first episode of The Dead Girls Detective Agency went on to watch the entire first season, and Endless Summer eventually reached more than 28 million unique viewers.

Snap announced last week that loth shows had been renewed for a second season later this year. But that was almost a side story to the bigger news: a massive new slate of Snap Originals, with both scripted shows and “docuseries”. At the same time, Snap announced a range of new augmented reality and camera features, as if to underline the sense of a business that is about to make a quantum leap into the future.

In response, analysts forecast share price increases of as much as 50% in the next 12 months, on top of the 100% growth it has shown this year. Now, the public will also see what the excitement is all about.

From May this year, the new Snap Originals will be available globally on Snapchat’s Discover page, which Snap hopes to turn into one of the industry’s leading made-for-mobile video platforms.

The shows will include serialised scripted dramas and comedies, character-driven docuseries, and unscripted social commentary in an attempt “to continue to define mobile storytelling”, it says.

Snap’s new slate includes:

  • Two Sides – (New Form) – A young couple navigates a breakup in this series told from both characters’ points of view at the same time. Scripted series launches May 2019.
  • Commanders – (Dakota Pictures) – In this comedy, two teenage outcasts discover a mysterious code within a retro computer that can alter real life. When they decide to use this newfound power to disrupt the cliché social structure, their high school will never be the same. Scripted series launches June 2019.
  • Untitled BuzzFeed Daily Show – (BuzzFeed) – BuzzFeed’s daily afternoon show brings viewers celebrity, entertainment, and OMG moments blowing up the internet. Launches shortly.
  • Sneakerheads – (Indigo Development and Entertainment Arts and EMJAG Productions) – A comedy that follows the misadventures of three college freshmen as they navigate the crazy, shady, mercurial world of Los Angeles sneaker culture. Scripted series launches June 2019.
  • While Black – (Indigo Development and Entertainment Arts and Main Event Media) – Author, filmmaker, recording artist, and educator MK Asante explores racially charged social issues through candid conversations. Unscripted social commentary launches mid 2019.
  • Can’t Talk Now – (New Form) – A teen soap that takes place inside the phones of a group of high school freshman BFFs as drama unfolds across group texts, video chats, and social media. Scripted series launches mid 2019.
  • Compton Dreams – (October Films) – The highs and lows of three up-and-coming artists from Compton as they strive to become the next big name in hip-hop. Docuseries launches mid 2019.
  • Denton’s Death Date – (Insurrection Media) – This comedy, set in a world where everyone knows the exact day they are going to die, centres on Denton Little, a high school junior whose death date is only a week away. Denton finally starts living his life to the fullest when a series of strange events unfold that may be the key to avoiding his fate. Based on the novel by Lance Rubin. Scripted series launches September 2019
  • tranded with Sam and Colby – (Bunim/Murray Productions) – A pair of influencers film from a haunted location and what starts as something fun quickly takes a terrifying turn. Docuseries launches in late 2019.
  • Dead of Night – (Bazelevs in association with Hooked) – Armed with only her phone, a teenage girl must escape a quarantined city full of zombies. Shot in ScreenLife, exclusively from the point of view of the smartphone screen. Based on a Hooked story. Produced by Bazelevs in association with Hooked. Scripted series launches October 2019.

There is one fundamental difference in all these movies, compared to Originals from the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Showmax: all are made specifically for viewing on a smartphone, meaning they are shot in vertical format, as opposed to the landscape mode of regular movies. It is no exaggeration, then, to say that movies will never be the same again.

Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee


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Now for hardware-as-a-service

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Integrated ICT and Infrastructure provider Vox has entered into an exclusive partnership with Go Rentals to introduce a Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) offering, which is aimed at providing local small and medium businesses (SMEs) with quick, affordable, and scalable access to a wide variety of IT infrastructure – as well as the management thereof.

“Despite an increasingly competitive business environment where every rand counts, many business owners are still buying technology-based equipment outright rather than renting it,” says Barry Kemp, Head of Managed IT at Vox. “The problem with this is that the modern device arena has grown in variety and complexity, making it more difficult to manage, and to reduce the overheads of controlling these devices.”

According to Kemp, there is a global trend being observed in businesses moving away from owning and managing IT infrastructure. This started with the move away from servers and toward cloud-based subscription services, and now organisations are looking to do the same with the remaining on-premise hardware – employees’ desktop systems.

The availability of HaaS changes the way in which local businesses consume IT, by allowing them to direct valuable capital expenditure toward the more efficient and competitive operation of their organisation, rather than spending on hardware products. 

“The rental costs are up to 50% lower than if they buy these products through traditional asset financing methods. Furthermore, using HaaS gives businesses the ability to scale up and down depending on their infrastructure requirements. Customers on a 12 month contract can return up to 10% of the devices rented, while those customers on 24 and 36 month contracts can return up to 20% of the devices – at any time during the contract,” adds Kemp.

More than just a rental

HaaS gives business access to repurposed Tier 1 hardware from vendors such as Dell, HP and Lenovo, equipped with the required specifications (processor, memory, and storage), and come installed with the latest Microsoft Windows operating system, unless an older version is specifically requested by the customer.

Kemp says: “Where HaaS is different from simply renting IT hardware is that businesses get full asset lifecycle management, such as having all company software pre-installed, flexible refresh cycles and upgrades, support and warranty management and transparent and predictable per user monthly fees.”

The ability to upgrade during the contract period means that businesses can keep pace with the latest in technology without needing to invest on depreciating equipment, while ensuring maximum productivity and efficiency for employees. Returned devices are put through a decommissioning process that ensures anonymity, certified data protection, and environmental compliance. 

Businesses further stand to benefit from Vox Care, which incorporates asset management and logistical services for customers. This includes initial delivery and setup in major centres, asset tagging of all rented items, creation, and the repair and/or replacement of faulty machines within three business days – again in the main metropolitan areas. 

Vox Care also assists in the design, testing and deployment of custom images, whereby HaaS clients can have the additional programmes they need (security, productivity tools, business software, etc) easily pre-installed along with the Windows operating system, on all their machines.

Kemp says HaaS customers can get further peace of mind by outsourcing the day to day management of their desktop environment to Vox Managed Services, as well as leverage the company’s knowledge and expertise to manage and host workstation backups to ensure business continuity.

Says Kemp: “Hardware-as-a-Service allows businesses to reduce the total cost of ownership of their hardware and ensure they only pay for what they use. Making the switch to a service model helps them take advantage of the global move in this direction, and to turn their business into a highly functional, flexible, low cost, change your mind whenever you want workplace.”

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Seedstars seeks tech to reverse land degradation in Africa

A new partnership is offering prizes to young entrepreneurs for coming up with innovations that tackle the loss of arable land in Africa.

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The DOEN Foundation has joined forces with Seedstars, an emerging market startup community, to launch the DOEN Land Restoration Prize, which showcases solutions to environmental, social and financial challenges that focus on land restoration activities in Africa. Stichting DOEN is a Dutch fund that supports green, socially-inclusive and creative initiatives that contribute to a better and cleaner world.

While land degradation and deforestation date back millennia, industrialization and a rising population have dramatically accelerated the process. Today we are seeing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.

Currently, nearly two-thirds of Africa’s land is degraded, which hinders sustainable economic development and resilience to climate change. As a result, Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent: more than 700 million hectares (1.7 billion acres) of degraded forest landscapes that can be restored. The potential benefits include improved food and water security, biodiversity protection, climate change resilience, and economic growth. Recognizing this opportunity, the African Union set an ambitious target to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.

Land restoration is an urgent response to the poor management of land. Forest and landscape restoration is the process of reversing the degradation of soils, agricultural areas, forests, and watersheds thereby regaining their ecological functionality. According to the World Resources Institute, for every $1 invested in land restoration it can yield $7-$30 in benefits, and now is the time to prove it.

The winner of the challenge will be awarded 9 months access to the Seedstars Investment Readiness Program, the hybrid program challenging traditional acceleration models by creating a unique mix to improve startup performance and get them ready to secure investment. They will also access a 10K USD grant.

“Our current economic system does not meet the growing need to improve our society ecologically and socially,” says Saskia Werther, Program Manager at the DOEN Foundation. “The problems arising from this can be tackled only if a different economic system is considered. DOEN sees opportunities to contribute to this necessary change. After all, the world is changing rapidly and the outlines of a new economy are becoming increasingly clear. This new economy is circular and regenerative. Landscape restoration is a vital part of this regenerative economy and social entrepreneurs play an important role to establish innovative business models to counter land degradation and deforestation. Through this challenge, DOEN wants to highlight the work of early-stage restoration enterprises and inspire other frontrunners to follow suit.”

Applications are open now and will be accepted until October 15th. Startups can apply here: http://seedsta.rs/doen

To enter the competition, startups should meet the following criteria:

  • Existing startups/young companies with less than 4 years of existence
  • Startups that can adapt their current solution to the land restoration space
  • The startup must have a demonstrable product or service (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
  • The startup needs to be scalable or have the potential to reach scalability in low resource areas.
  • The startup can show clear environmental impact (either by reducing a negative impact or creating a positive one)
  • The startup can show a clear social impact
  • Technology startups, tech-enabled startups and/or businesses that can show a clear innovation component (e.g. in their business model)

Also, a specific emphasis is laid, but not limited to: Finance the restoration of degraded land for production and/or conservation purposes; big data and technology to reverse land degradation; resource efficiency optimization technologies, ecosystems impacts reduction and lower carbon emissions; water-saving soil technologies; technologies focused on improving livelihoods and communities ; planning, management and education tools for land restoration; agriculture (with a focus on precision conservation) and agroforestry; clean Energy solutions that aid in the combat of land degradation; and responsible ecotourism that aids in the support of land restoration.

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