The Legend of Nintendo

How can a perennial blockbuster like Nintendo fall down for more than a century, innovate continuously from that prone position, and rise up, as if on cue, to master the art of fairytale comebacks time and time again? Felix Gillette tries to crack the code behind the gaming giant’s success, which remains as mysterious and unlikely as lucking into a banana bunch in the depths of an abandoned mineshaft.

Published: Jun 21, 2018
Length: 13 minutes (3,349 words)

Big Tobacco Has Caught Startup Fever

“It’s not smoking. It’s platform-agnostic nicotine delivery solutions.”

Published: Mar 8, 2017
Length: 16 minutes (4,083 words)

tronc If You Want to Save Journalism

The baffling story of what happened to a newspaper empire after a businessman named Michael Ferro took over.

Published: Nov 2, 2016
Length: 16 minutes (4,000 words)

Reddit: A Nine-Year Case Study in Absentee Management

In 2006, Condé Nast bought a promising information-sharing and online-discussion startup called Reddit. Then they more or less ignored the site, letting it evolve into one of the least manageable media properties on the Internet.

Published: Aug 6, 2015
Length: 13 minutes (3,327 words)

The Billionaires at Burning Man

What happens when tech billionaires start bringing their private planes, chefs and staff to Burning Man? It’s not exactly class warfare, but it certainly raises larger questions about how a festival devoted to “radical inclusion” can adapt.

Source: Bloomberg
Published: Feb 5, 2015
Length: 11 minutes (2,879 words)

Branded for Life

What it’s like for an actor to become a TV commercial megastar—forever associated with a brand, for better and worse:

“On the day of the audition, roughly 30 actors showed up. When it was Olcott’s turn, he flashed his big, ecstatic smile. The director loved it, and Olcott got the job. In February, on a bare-bones budget of roughly $100,000, a first commercial was shot touting the herbal product Enzyte. It boiled down to 30 seconds of campy innuendo. Olcott was shown breezing through life flashing his blissed-out smile at breakfast, at work, and while waving happily to his neighbor, a guy holding a sagging hose. ‘This is Bob,’ went the voice-over. ‘Bob is doing well. Very well indeed. That’s because not long ago, with just a quick phone call, Bob realized that he could have something better in his life. And what did he get? Why, a big boost of confidence, a little more self-esteem, and a very happy Mrs. at home.’ Toward the end of the commercial, viewers were given a telephone number for Enzyte.

“A couple months later, Olcott got a phone call from the advertising team in Los Angeles. The commercial was a huge hit in the U.S. The phones at Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, the Cincinnati-based maker of Enzyte, were ringing like crazy. They wanted more ads, more Bob, more smiles. Spear rushed back to Vancouver. By the time they stopped shooting in 2005, Olcott had starred as Smiling Bob in 18 different Enzyte commercials. Ultimately, Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals spent more than $125 million on airtime, the company’s founder would later tell GQ. Smiling Bob was famous.”

Source: Businessweek
Published: Sep 27, 2012
Length: 15 minutes (3,957 words)

BuzzFeed, the Ad Model for the Facebook Era?

Inside the social media factory created by former Huffington Post cofounder Jonah Peretti—how they’ve cracked viral content, invested in original content, and made money:

“At around 5 p.m., Stopera published ’48 Pictures That Perfectly Capture the ’90s’ on BuzzFeed. ‘These pictures are all that and a bag of chips!’ he wrote at the top of the list. A BuzzFeed visitor with an appetite for ’90s nostalgia could scroll down, gawk at the 48 retro images, read the deadpan captions, recall Bob Saget, Tipper Gore, and Scottie Pippen, laugh at the crazy fashion, and resurface to the present day in a matter of minutes. It racked up 1.2 million page views.”

Source: Businessweek
Published: Mar 22, 2012
Length: 12 minutes (3,208 words)

The King of All Vegas Real Estate Scams

An FBI spokesperson says that for the time being the agency is not commenting on the case. But already the investigation has provided a window into yet another layer of corruption that took place amid the national housing boom and its subsequent hangover—a period that saw a surge in real estate malfeasance of every imaginable variety, including false loan applications, predatory lending schemes, illegal property flipping, equity skimming, and “air loans” (loans for property that doesn’t exist). According to FBI data, the number of suspicious activity reports related to real estate fraud filed by financial institutions jumped to 67,190 in 2009 from 6,936 in 2003.

To this history, Las Vegas has managed to add another florid chapter. So far, prosecutors have reached plea agreements with 10 co-conspirators. Many more are expected to appear in front of judges in the coming months. Says Murray: “We’re all going to be sitting in the front row, watching.”

Source: Businessweek
Published: Dec 8, 2011
Length: 18 minutes (4,639 words)

The Rise and Inglorious Fall of Myspace

In February 2009, with the threat of Facebook’s growing popularity looming over their company, Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, the co-founders of Myspace, appeared on The Charlie Rose Show. DeWolfe explained that Myspace was more than a social network; it was a portal where people discovered new friends and music and movies—it was practically where young people lived. “We have the largest music catalog in the world,” DeWolfe said. Anderson predicted that by 2015, Myspace would have up to 400 million users. DeWolfe said the site’s worth was “in the billions.” Rose mentioned how Murdoch had bought Myspace’s parent company, Intermix, for $580 million. “Are you happy you made the deal?” asked Rose. “Um …,” said DeWolfe.

Source: Businessweek
Published: Jun 22, 2011
Length: 16 minutes (4,119 words)

Byron Reese & Demand Media’s Planet of the Algorithms

Every week, Reese would come up with an idea for something new to peddle. They would draft a business plan, launch a website, and measure consumers’ subsequent interest in a product. Efforts to sell coins and watches failed. At one point, Reese tried manufacturing family portraiture using inexpensive subcontractor artists in places such as Russia. The concept wasn’t easy to expand. “A lot of people have ideas,” says Handsman. “Byron has the discipline to actually measure them. He was willing to come up with a ridiculous number of ideas, but he was also willing to abandon them if they were proven not to work.”

Source: Businessweek
Published: Jan 28, 2011
Length: 14 minutes (3,606 words)