Commercials Coming to a Prime Video Near You (Unless You Pony Up)

OK, we’re lobsters and we’re boiled. Y’all sure fooled, us, Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Disney, etc. But now people are noticing more than ever that bills for streaming services are piling up while seeing lower quality shows and movies (imo), disappeared content, and now commercials. If you hadn’t already heard, Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service will start injecting commercials into what you watch starting Monday, January 29th unless you pay more to avoid them. Though it’s easy to say “commercials bad!” and threaten to cancel your Prime membership (but, admit it, you probably won’t because of that sweet fast shipping when you forget to order your kids’ friend’s birthday present at the last minute) I see the core problems a little differently.

Nothing New

The idea that streaming services were commercial free to this point is incorrect. Most already insert ads for their own offerings before what you clicked to watch. Some are easily skippable while others require a little scrubbing to get past. The idea of coming to their app and having a pure, immersive viewing experience the minute you sit down after a long day at work after the kids are in bed has been false for a while given their self-promotional preambles.

Anti-Scotty Expectations

There’s a trope from Star Trek that, anytime there’s an emergency on board the Enterprise, their chief engineer Scotty will report to the captain that some critical repair will take longer than the time they have before they explode and, upon the captain’s urging, that he’ll do what he can. Under promise; over deliver. 🙂

Streaming services have set all our expectations such that if we cut the cable TV cord and swear fealty to them we’d never see a commercial again. Had they never set this precedent this backlash might have been avoided. Over promise; under deliver. 🙁

Not a great look especially when trust and loyalty can make the difference when someone is choosing to make cuts among the various subscriptions they pay for.

Commercials not relevant

Ads are largely garbage. I don’t know how the money math works out for most of the online commercials I see on services like YouTube because nearly none are at all relevant to my interests, hobbies, family status, location, etc: Endless ads for drugs I won’t remember the name of for ailments I don’t have or for pet food for dogs even though I don’t have a dog or travel companies hawking cruises I’ll never take.

Many of us think Big Tech knows everything about us and can laser target an ad for a product to such a degree that they may as well already drop in our shopping cart because they’re so certain we’ll hit that “checkout” button. Well, that’s wrong. At least in practice it’s wrong. They may have all that data but the advertisers sure don’t seem to use or want to pay for it.

Most companies serving up ads are averse to simply asking what I might like to see. Give me a simple form or two that helps guide ads towards what I like and I a) won’t be nearly as quick to skip or mute them and b) won’t put on my tinfoil hat at parties and warm people of The Algorithm™ that knows things about us we don’t know about ourselves. I know this won’t happen because, having worked at Amazon 7+ years, everyone wants to try to make “smart” systems to figure this out automagically when I would always just suggest giving that agency to the customer. I’m guessing you can figure out it wasn’t my suggestion that ever won out… due to “scalability” or “legacy systems” or [insert acronym here] something something.

People do want to buy useful or fun things they’re interested in and companies are completely missing the mark currently. You know when I notice ad breaks getting longer and longer? When it’s filled with irrelevant garbage.

Show Me What I Want (what I really, really want)

The shape of streaming services will continue to evolve and the revenue they bring in will be a huge part of that. I expect a settling wherein some of the smaller services will shut down and resume licensing their work to other streamers. In the meantime, if ads play into the equation my only hope is that they’re actually something interesting. Otherwise, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and just look at something else on my phone while muted ads play to no eyes on my TV.

No Figma Merger with Adobe After All

Designers everywhere, rejoice! A Figma blog post today announced the news that the Figma / Adobe merger is no more. For many designers I know and work with this is good news. When the announcement of an intended merger broke over a year ago the overwhelming sentiment among my colleagues was something like, “Oh great, here comes lumbering Adobe slurping up a great and always-improving product.”

Like many in or near the design world, Adobe was where we cut our teeth pushing pixels and layering together UIs. Over time, however, their tools became bloated running slower and demanding more of our computers with each new version and “feature” we likely didn’t want or need. Likewise, each piece of Adobe software was being tightly entangled even if many didn’t need them to be. And then came the subscription…

I was never primarily a designer so used Photoshop a minority of the time I spent mostly coding for the web. Because of that, I would rock whatever version of Photoshop I purchased for years — I think I ran CS for 10+ years because I owned it. I had the CDs and all. But when Adobe demanded we all switch from buying exactly the software we want in favor of the “privilege” of a cable subscription bundle-style model I abandoned ship in search of alternative or open source tools. I didn’t need to pay a monthly or yearly fee for a dozen tools when I only needed the basic features of one or two.

So, in came apps like Gimp instead of Photoshop, Inkscape for vector work like Illustrator, iMovie for simple video edits, and then Sketch and now Figma for collaborating with designers at work (both nearby and remotely). And all was good in the non-Adobe hood.

I do, of course, hope Figma continues to thrive and innovate despite not being able to get paid Adobe bucks. And I hope this kicks Adobe in the pants towards more customer-friendly pricing models and succinct tools we actually want to pay for.

What’s Old is New Again

Man with goatee facial hair and glasses looking at a computer in 1999.

Ahhh, blogs. That thing people use to use to express themselves online that wasn’t a forum. I’ve kept this one going [mostly] since the late ’90s, actually. (it’s a bit broken and spooky but here’s a link anyway — and yes, that’s me from 1999) But social media sent most blogs out to pasture what with their short-form quipiness and fancy mobile apps. In 2008-ish when I made the transition primarily to the Twitter of old, I setup some scripts to automatically pull any of my posts and photos from there to here. Since I owned that content it should go somewhere I also owned. But then, in late 2022 and well after that API no longer functioned, I left the birdsite and this place went stagnant for the first time since I was a freshman in college.

Social media started as a great way to connect people and build communities but, under the control of a select few, that luster gave way to a tarnish that made the sites toxic wastelands of ads and nazis. Seemingly simultaneously, many streaming services (I’m getting to a point, jas) began feeling the weight of their own initial aspirations and spending only to contract and even shelve films and shows we thought surely, since I pay my $9.99/month, would never go away… right? Right? The almighty dollar started sinking heavily into both facets of online life leading back, for me, to this blog.

I’m re-taking control of my own content. Gone are the days of social posts with my musings, photos, and videos. Even as much as I enjoy decentralized social experiences like Mastodon (follow me!) my resolution, coming into 2024 and amidst a landscape of subscriptions and digital copies, is to write and post here and link back from the aforementioned tootsite, LinkedIn (follow me!), etc. I’ll use those sites for conversation and interaction. Here I plan to bring together many of my varied interests personal, professional, and community so they have one place to live that paints a picture of those sides of my life. I hope eventually to migrate things like videos here from YouTube (subscribe!) or to something like PeerTube and would also happily describe some of the other DIY efforts I’m undertaking like a home Plex server for streaming my own copies of films, TV, and music and Home Assistant to move to more local (e.g. non-cloud) control of the smart things around my house — but I’ll leave those to future posts.

Thanks for following along on this renewed journey and, can I just say, it’s so nice to use WordPress for this vs. rolling my own CMS. Gotta love technology! Now where’s that old under-construction.gif …?


~ Kevin