Of all the startups that launched last year, Fuzz is certainly one of the most intriguing and the most overlooked. Describing itself as a “people-powered radio” that is completely “robot-free,” Fuzz bucks the trend toward ever greater reliance on algorithms in discovering new music. Fuzz celebrates the role played by human DJs—regular users who are invited to upload their own music to the site in order to create and share their own “radio stations.”
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“Can the auteur survive in an age when computer algorithms are the ultimate focus group?” asked Leonard. He wondered how the massive amounts of data that Netflix has gathered while users were streaming the first season of the series [House of Cards] —how many times did they click the pause button?—would affect future episodes.
Many other industries are facing similar questions. For example, Amazon, through its Kindle e-reader, collects vast troves of information about reading habits of its users: what books they finish and what books they don’t; what sections they tend to skip and which they read most diligently; how often they look up certain words in the dictionary and underline passages. (Amazon is hardly alone here: Other e-book players are as guilty.)
Based on all these data, Amazon can predict the ingredients that will make you keep clicking to the very end of the book. Perhaps Amazon could even give you alternate endings—just to make you happier. As a recent paper on the future of entertainment puts it, ours is a world where “stories can become adaptive algorithms, creating a more engaging and interactive future.”
Just as Netflix has figured out that, given all their data, it would be stupid not to enter the filmmaking business, so has Amazon discovered that it would be stupid not to enter the publishing business. Amazon’s knowledge, however, goes deeper than Netflix’s: Since it also runs a site where we buy books, it knows everything that there’s to know about our buying behavior and the prices that we are willing to pay. Today Amazon runs half a dozen publishing imprints and plans to add more.
Link to the rest at Slate and thanks to Susan for the tip.