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Quibi hoped for 7.5 million subscribers in year one. An analyst says it’s at 72,000.

Sensor Tower says that only 8% of the people who signed up for free trials have stuck around when it comes time to pay.

Meg Whitman in front of a screen

There's a sense that Quibi missed its moment, launching a service optimized for on-the-go viewing during shelter-in-place.

Photo: Janko Roettgers/Protocol

Only 72,000 of Quibi's early subscribers have stuck around past their 90-day trial, according to new estimates from app analytics specialist Sensor Tower. The short-form video service's apps have been downloaded around 4.5 million times since Quibi's launch in early April, Sensor Tower estimated Wednesday. Among the consumers who downloaded the service within three days of its launch, only 8% converted to a paid subscription.

Consumers who signed up for Quibi on day one saw their 90-day trial expire earlier this week. Randy Nelson, Sensor Tower's head of mobile insights, conceded that the company is likely going to see additional customers switch to a paid plan in the coming days and weeks. "We're seeing some indication that the conversion rate may be improving slightly with time," Nelson told Protocol. "But if the upper bound of 8% we've calculated for those who adopted the app in its first 72 hours were to remain consistent, it would produce about 360,000 paid users from the current drop of 4.5 million installs."

A Quibi spokesperson disputed Sensor Tower's numbers, telling Protocol: "To date, over 5.6 million people have downloaded the Quibi app. Our conversion from download to trial is above mobile app benchmarks, and we are seeing excellent conversion to paid subscribers — both among our 90-day free trial sign-ups from April, as well as our 14-day free trial sign-ups from May and June."

An 8% conversion isn't great news for Quibi, but it's not completely out of the ordinary. Disney+ converted around 11% of its trial customers, according to Sensor Tower estimates. However, Disney's streaming service attracted many more consumers than Quibi to begin with, and the entertainment giant also benefited from a massive prelaunch campaign.

Quibi's original goal reportedly was to attract 7.5 million paying subscribers during year one. That goal seemed to slip out of reach early on. After an initial spike, the Quibi app performed poorly in app stores. There was a sense that Quibi missed its moment, launching a service optimized for on-the-go viewing during shelter-in-place.

Quibi President Jeffrey Katzenberg went as far as blaming all of Quibi's troubles on the pandemic. However, the service also seemingly underestimated the demand for key features, including the ability to share content on social media and to watch shows on TV screens. Quibi's product team, which is led by Snapchat and Pandora veteran Tom Conrad, has since addressed some of these issues with app updates that included the ability to cast content to compatible TV devices.

Updated at 4:27 p.m. to include a statement from Quibi.

Doxxing insurrectionists: Capitol riot divides online extremism researchers

The uprising has sparked a tense debate about the right way to stitch together the digital scraps of someone's life to publicly accuse them of committing a crime.

Rioters scale the U.S. Capitol walls during the insurrection.

Photo: Blink O'faneye/Flickr

Joan Donovan has a panic button in her office, just in case one of the online extremists she spends her days fighting tries to fight back.

"This is not baby shit," Donovan, who is research director of Harvard's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, said. "You do not fuck around with these people in public."

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Issie Lapowsky
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
Power

How Zoom won 2020 — and how 2020 changed Zoom forever

Zoom never imagined being the company the pandemic forced it to become. Now it has to grapple with what's next.

Zoom got so big in 2020 that even competitors like Facebook have embraced it.

Photo: Facebook

Zoom never wanted any of this. Coming into 2020, the company was in great shape: It was growing quickly, making money and becoming an essential tool for tech-forward businesses everywhere. It's not that nobody at Zoom had ever imagined being a home for happy hours, book clubs, yoga classes, elementary schools and doctor visits. It's just that Zoom had decided, fairly definitively, it never really wanted to be any of those things.

At the beginning of 2020, just before the pandemic upended the world and the rest of the year, Zoom Chief Product Officer Oded Gal told me that Zoom had no plans to become a consumer application. "We are still a business application," he said, "and we don't see ourselves moving away from that." There were some prosumers using Zoom outside of the 9-to-5, he said, and he certainly understood that there were compelling uses for consumer videochat. But he and Zoom were happy to leave those uses to FaceTime and Skype. "We don't want to be a consumer product," he said.

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David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

People

Why video might be the biggest thing since the internet

Phil Libin comes on the Source Code Podcast to explain why the future of video is much more than Zoom meetings.

Phil Libin created Mmhmm to give everyone John Oliver powers, but thinks it's also part of a big revolution in video.

Photo: Mmhmm/YouTube

Phil Libin knows his way around a platform shift. At Engine 5, he was one of the early founders betting that the internet was going to change the way people do everything. At Evernote, he led one of the first App Store success stories. Now, as the co-founder and CEO of Mmhmm, he's convinced we're at the beginning of a change that will be just as massive.

So far, most people's experience with online video starts and ends with Zoom meetings. But from fitness instructors teaching virtual classes to massive online conferences, practically everyone has had to figure out how to make their world work through a webcam. Libin thinks that's not going away, even when we're able to be in person again. Why? Because he thinks there are things that work better on video, that we might never want to do live even when we can. (He has a whole theory about not going to the doctor anymore, for one thing.) The future is a hybrid of digital and physical, live and on-demand, and it's going to create a massive industry unlike anything we've seen since the web.

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David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Power

Quibi’s failure is a bad omen for T-Mobile’s video plans

The mobile carrier once heralded Quibi as "the next big thing" — and hasn't had much luck with other video initiatives, either.

Better days: T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert joined Quibi CEO Meg Whitman on stage at CES this year.

Photo: Janko Roettgers/Protocol

Quibi's shutdown announcement this week has been widely panned as the inevitable end of a service that never made much sense to begin with, much less during the pandemic. However, the company's demise is also a notable failure for T-Mobile, which was one of Quibi's biggest boosters, and even footed the bill for some of its customers as part of a "Quibi on Us" promotion.

"Quibi has been a strong partner with a unique mobile-first vision, and we're sorry to hear they will be winding down operations," a spokesperson told Protocol on Thursday. "Obviously, we will continue to monitor and ensure our customers with Quibi on Us are supported during this period and through any next steps needed."

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Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

People

Adobe wants to use AI to make you a better dancer

The company's new tech demo could improve everyone's TikTok videos — and hints at the potential for AI to democratize video editing and visual effects.

The technology can also be used to take clips and adjust movements to a different song, or take multiple clips from different sources and adjust all of them to the piece of music.

Image: Adobe

Can't dance? You're not alone.

"Syncing up music and dancing can be hard," said Adobe Research Scientist Jimei Yang during a recent interview. Not only can holding the beat be challenging for some people, but using consumer-grade recording equipment can also introduce additional delays that make the result look off-beat. "It isn't that trivial," Yang said.

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Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

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