Verizon's Sad Attempt To Woo Millennials Falls Flat On Its Face

from the hipster-grandpa dept

We’ve noted repeatedly how Verizon really wants to pivot from stodgy, old protectionist telco to Millennial-focused media and advertising juggernaut as it makes a broader push for a greater slice of online advertising markets. Company executives apparently believe this is accomplished by ceasing network fiber upgrades, attacking popular consumer protections, repeatedly violating consumer privacy, and gobbling up failed 90’s internet brands like Yahoo and AOL.

Except Verizon’s hip new brand revolution hasn’t been much to write home about.

It technically began with the launch of a doomed “news” website named Sugarstring that imploded after writers revealed they couldn’t talk about net neutrality or mass surveillance. The company’s acquisition of Yahoo was also plagued with issues, from Yahoo’s mammoth, undisclosed hacking scandal to revelations of the company’s wholesale spying on user e-mail accounts for the government (not that this latter issue bothered Verizon much).

At the heart of the effort was Verizon’s Go90 streaming video service. Launched in 2015 alongside mountains of hype, the Millennial-focused effort avoided using Verizon’s brand name for obvious reasons. Unfortunately for Verizon, the service was quickly and repeatedly derided as “a dud” by Verizon’s own media partners. In just a few years the effort saw repeated layoffs, and despite several efforts to bring in top talent and relaunch the service, the company this week finally acknowledged that the service will be headed out to pasture:

“Following the creation of Oath, go90 will be discontinued,? a company spokeswoman said in an email. ?Verizon will focus on building its digital-first brands at scale in sports, finance, news and entertainment for today?s mobile consumers and tomorrow?s 5G applications.?

Representatives of go90 have begun informing content providers about plans to end both the go90 brand and the video streaming app by July 31, online magazine Digiday reported earlier on Thursday citing four sources familiar with the situation. It said go90 will return shows and content rights back to its production partners. Verizon has spent about $1.2 billion on Go90 since its 2015 launch, Digiday reported, citing two sources.

That $1.2 billion would have gone a long way in upgrading those aging, taxpayer-subsidized DSL lines Verizon refuses to upgrade across numerous states. Meanwhile, Verizon’s other video efforts have hit some roadblocks as well. The company recently quietly backed away from plans to launch its own live streaming platform, hinting it would likely now be partnering with an existing, unnamed industry player instead of trying to actually be creative, innovative and disruptive itself. This whole actual competition thing is hard.

Needless to say, a generation of being a government-pampered telecom monopoly left Verizon ill-prepared for its marketing and media gambit, and the company’s own incompetence and lack of innovative DNA have made for rough sledding early on. The company’s history is now littered with failed efforts to actually be innovative and disruptive, including the Verizon app store, its video joint venture with RedBox, and numerous other “me too” initiatives under the discontinued VCAST brand.

Verizon’s struggles with head to head competition explains why the company consistently feels the need to tilt the playing field unfairly in its favor, as the company’s decade-long attack on net neutrality makes painfully clear.

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Companies: verizon

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Comments on “Verizon's Sad Attempt To Woo Millennials Falls Flat On Its Face”

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54 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Part of, if not the core focus of any business model is/should be ‘does anyone actually want this?’ It doesn’t matter how awesome you think your service/product is if no-one else agrees with you, so finding out what your customers actually want is kinda important, whatever the execs might think.

Of course this is lessened somewhat if you happen to be in a position of offering something that people need and can only get from you, which might have something to do with their indifference.

Sharur says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

To be fair, isn’t arguably that what Apple did?

Not necessarily the “develop sub-standard crap” part, but the “convince customers they actually want it” part.

We had portable music players before 2001, e.g. the Sony Walkman. Before 2001, I never needed or wanted a portable music player: now I don’t go a day without using one. They are every where (although that may be due to bundling them with a very popular phone system…)

stderric (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Yeah, my comment came out a little negative along the lines of ‘all marketing is evil’; there are plenty of cases where advertising has been used to help innovative products get a foothold and change how we live (while I hate their closed-systems approach to tech, Apple does provide a lot of examples).

I probably should have used the word ‘tell’ instead of ‘convince’, because it feels like more of the behemoths of today have shifted to the "don’t fix the product, fix the customers’ expectations" approach.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

We had portable music players before 2001, e.g. the Sony Walkman. Before 2001, I never needed or wanted a portable music player:

Sony faced the same problem when the introduced the Walkman. And they had to convince people it was OK to wear headphones in public (some people pushed back against it, just as people would later complain about telephone conversations in public). Some things don’t change.

The ideas of listening to music and communicating were not new, so they were just moving existing behaviour to a new setting. Similarly, I might have used "go90" branded video had they been involved with any popular show. The only time I ever heard of it was in news stories about how they’re pouring money into it, to (unsuccessfully) appeal to millenials.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Which is how Verizon is probably using them, if they use them at all. No better way to shore up a corporate philosophy than to show your board of directors that your customers agree, whether it is true or not.

There, of course, is the correct way to use them, and actually learn something about your target audience, then shape your corporate philosophy around that.

Bamboo Harvester says:

Re: Pipes

THANK YOU.

That’s been my argument for years. I do NOT want any “special services”, I want a damned dumb pipe. Younger people just don’t seem to get that – I ran a BBS in the late 80’s up to the mid 90’s, over copper, and it cost exactly the same as making a phone call.

No add-ons required – call waiting, forwarding, CID, etc.

I know where I want to go on the net when I pick up the keyboard, I don’t need my ISP “helping” me. OR spying on me.

Why couldn’t there be a market for high speed dumb pipes? After all, that’s what people WANT.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Pipes

Of course, separating ISP service from content providers is just crazy talk.

You hinted at it, but it’s worth restating: ISPs should be separated from local loop providers too.

If we do that, there’s not a lot of room for competion at the local-loop level. You’d choose your speed, like you choose 100-amp or 200-amp electrical service. Other than that? A local loop is usually dumb, and there’s a good chance only your ISP would deal with their service department.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Pipes -- Why shouldn't Google be a "dumb pipe" too, then?

Verizon’s greatest fear is that they will be a dumb pipe.

You are criticizing Verizon’s efforts when Google SPIES on everyone so much as possible, TRACKS all over the net, KEEPS that forever, and gives NSA "direct access" according to Snowden?

Try to be consistently against ALL corporations, not just the few that Techdirt is against — which all turn out to somehow bother / compete with Google.

We need to make Google a "dumb pipe", rather than allow it unlimited access to our privacy.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Pipes -- Why shouldn't Google be a "dumb pipe" too, then?

He can’t address the facts in the article or the OP so has to engage in a bunch of whataboutism to deflect focus.

A shame really, since there’s at least a couple of things to question in Gary’s original comment (e.g., it most certainly is possible to brand and differentiate a “dumb pipe”), but our local obsessive loon can’t let a chance to mention Google slide, no matter how irrelevant is actually is.

Gary (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Pipes -- Why shouldn't Google be a "dumb pipe" too, then?

I do think that there are ways to brand dumb pipes – but Verizon doesn’t want to roll that way.
A dumb pipe gives users equal access to everything the internet has to offer. It’s easier for Verizon to choke that access off and sell it back.
Competing on speed and price is a race to the bottom. Whether you agree with that or not, it seems to be how Verizon seems it.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Pipes -- Why shouldn't Google be a "dumb pipe" too, then?

“I do think that there are ways to brand dumb pipes – but Verizon doesn’t want to roll that way. “

Indeed, but so what? The way it should work is that the market dictates what they do, not that they get to pick and choose what they fancy doing at the expense of their customers.

“It’s easier for Verizon to choke that access off and sell it back. “

Yes it is. It’s also called fraud and illegal in countries with effective regulation.

“Competing on speed and price is a race to the bottom”

It certainly can be. Which would be why it’s a good thing that there are many other ways in which they can compete, most of which benefit the end consumer rather nicely.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Pipes -- Why shouldn't Google be a "dumb pipe" too, then?

“Which would be why it’s a good thing that there are many other ways in which they can compete, most of which benefit the end consumer rather nicely.”

You can differentiate by offering cheaper pricing for capped connections at peak times so you can shove more people in the same network. Offer guaranteed up time for a premium (or use higher up times as a way to differentiate). Offer advanced connectivity capabilities like DNSSEC, added security in the ISP side (ie, a firewall with advanced capabilities), parental control with IP filtering for inbound and outbound connections. There’s plenty you can offer that will instantly differentiate you from your average ISP. And once you establish your brand it’s difficult for others to take your post. See Comcast. When you think shit you think Comcast even if Verizon is just as bad.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Pipes -- Why shouldn't Google be a "dumb pipe" too, then?

Total bullshit. There may be other problems in the world apart from whatever topic is being discussed but every topic should be discussed on its own merits, not watered down with childish whataboutism. Doing so is no admission of hypocrisy but rather responsible debate.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Exactly. Whatever Google may or may not be doing is neither relevant to this article, nor is it an excuse for Verizon’s actions. You can be critical of both, but immediately trying to point to an unrelated issue every time is a pointless exercise.

It’s another symptom of the idiocy that is partisan politics. You can be critical of, say, Burger King’s food quality without meaning that you’re giving a free pass to McDonalds. But, it’s disingenuous and dishonest to start complaining about the way a Big Mac’s made or that nobody’s talking about McNuggets when the subject at hand is the Whopper.

Richard M says:

Re: Re: Pipes -- Why shouldn't Google be a "dumb pipe" too, then?

Except that you can avoid Google if you put in a little effort.

Do not use gmail or other Google services Check
Do not use Google search Check
Do not use Chrome Check
Install tracking blockers on your browser Check

Doing the above is not really that hard and will do a good job of blocking Google from tracking you as you wander around the internet.

Now compare that to the situation where Verizon (or Comcast/ATT etc) is your only choice of getting connected to the internet because of a Government enforced monopoly. In this case you do not have the choice to use a different service as the Govt has taken that away from you.

But yes they are the same….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Pipes -- Why shouldn't Google be a "dumb pipe" too, then?

When I connect to the internet on my home PC using my Charter connection, I can browse to my heart’s content and Google doesn’t know a thing about what I do or where I go unless I actually go to or use a Google service. Nor can Google control or interfere with the content I access online.

Contrast that to the fact that Charter knows exactly where I go, when, how long I’m there and if it wanted to it could block, deny, or throttle my access to it.

Please explain to me again how Google is identical to my ISP? I’m waiting.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Pipes -- Why shouldn't Google be a "dumb pipe" too, then?

To be fair, Google does operate its own pipes in a few cities. In those outlier cases yeah, Google can be just as evil as any other ISP.

But this jackwagon needs to just get off the internet and stay off. Clearly technology is way over his head.

ysth (profile) says:

This article confused me

I kept looking for new news; thought the article was just going through background first, but then it ended.

Was there something new here or was this just a summary of the state of Verizon innovation?

Maybe I was confused by the “Sad Attempt” in the title, that lead me to infer some particular attempt would be talked about?

Anonymous Coward says:

Verizon is the company that sued and won to eliminate soft net-neutrality.

There will never be opportunity to pass a version of it not rendered unrecognizable. What goes in for negotiation by legislators comes out stuck repeatedly by personal pet projects and handouts riding along with it.

For that, Verizon will always go down as the company that singlehandedly ended soft net-neutrality. And I’d happily pay three times the price for service from any other company.

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