National / International News
For the second edition of From the Hills to the Valley - our series comparing Hollywood and Silicon Valley - we spoke to someone who belongs to both worlds. Issa Rae created and stars in Awkward Black Girl, an award-winning web series on YouTube, and she’s also working on a pilot for an HBO show. Last week, she released a memoir of sorts: The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.
Rae believes it was her success on YouTube that brought her the opportunity with HBO.
“HBO would never have heard of me or even seen any of my stuff had it not been for YouTube,” she says.
Why YouTube? Rae had pitched a few shows to networks, but she soon realized that they had a different perception of what the audience wanted to see on TV. She found that her ideas, especially those that involved “content of color,” were often met with reluctance or a lack of enthusiasm.
“I wanted to create a show about black people in college, and they were saying that’s too segmented,” she says. “When I wanted to make 'Awkward Black Girl,' I knew if they didn’t want to see a show about something as mainstream as black people in college, they would never go for 'Awkward Black Girl.' They would never believe they exist even.”
Rae thinks Silicon Valley companies, such as Netflix or Amazon, are good for creativity because they produce show they respect and believe audiences will like. And this, she says, will lead to more diverse programming, because online content is so closely tied to social media, which itself is very diverse.
But the biggest challenge to creating online content, Rae says, is the pressure to produce consistently.
“Had I been consistently releasing content on a weekly basis, I would have had a much bigger following,’ she says. “People will forget about you if you're not on their radar constantly. Audiences are just really fickle. There’s no formula online outside of being consistent.”
Vice President Joe Biden is expected to visit Baltimore Tuesday afternoon to talk about the troubling backlog of untested rape kits around the country. Hundreds of thousands of these kits, containing potential DNA evidence from sexual assaults, have been languishing in police storage units and crime labs. The White House has proposed $41 million in new funding to help clear that backlog.
“I think it would send an extremely powerful message to the law enforcement agencies that have allowed the kits to collect dust that this will no longer be accepted,” says Linda Fairstein, a former sex crimes prosecutor in Manhattan and part of the End the Backlog campaign.
Almost six years ago, more than 11,000 kits were found in a police storage facility in Detroit. Testing so far has led to 15 convictions. The Michigan Women’s Foundation has turned to private donors to help clear the remaining backlog.
It's no secret that African-Americans may face bias — either conscious or unconscious — when it comes to being hired and promoted.
But some worrying new research shows that bias may be exacerbated for job candidates who self-identify as 'black' rather than 'African-American.'
Click the media player above to hear more.
The Internet has made crafting a lucrative business — and it’s not just for selling goods. Lately, a growing number of crafters are willing to pay to learn new skills.
For help, they’re turning to companies like CreativeBug or the Denver-based company Craftsy.
Compared to many free YouTube videos shot with one camera, Craftsy tutorials look pretty slick with graphics and multiple camera angles. In one popular class called "Quilting Big Projects on a Small Machine," students pay about $35 for eight lessons.
Craftsy Founder and CEO John Levisay says this course has been a blockbuster.
“It’s a skill that scares people because they spend a lot of time making this beautiful quilt, and then when they go to sew it together, people are afraid they’re going to wreck it,” Levisay says.
Craftsy seeks out the best instructors across 16 categories like cooking and woodworking. Overall, classes range in price from $15 to $60. What makes the courses, Levisay says, are the social features Craftsy has built into its courses.
“While we wanted to capture the anytime anywhere nature of online learning, we also wanted people to be able to ask their instructor a question, ask fellow students questions, and to interact with others,” he says.
It’s paying off. In 2014, the company nearly doubled its revenue, bringing in $43 million. In November, the company raised more than $50 million in venture capital. IBISWorld Industry Analyst Zeeshan Haider says the appeal for investors is the company’s large potential customer base.
“For example, there are more than 21 million plus quilters that spend anywhere around $4 billion annually on quilting,” says Haider. “So there’s still a tremendous market for the company to tap.”
Right now, Craftsy has just 6 million registered users, and there’s room for growth. Many millennials are interested in Do-It-Yourself fashion — which Craftsy has also tapped into. On the company’s website you can learn how to make your own jeans, skirts, and shirts — even your very own undergarments.
After weeks of snow in the Northeast, several Southern states were hit. The storm was moving into the Mid-Atlantic states Tuesday, prompting the federal government to close Washington-area offices.
That's how much one West Coast customs broker says her customers are being charged for containers stuck at ports along the California coast, as reported by the WSJ. As the ongoing contract dispute between port workers and employers continues, businesses both large and small are beginning to feel the pinch.10 countries
That's how many countries in which Sony will sell its augmented reality smart glasses. As reported by the BBC, sales for the glasses will begin next month, with a single pair costing $840. However, some industry insiders are not optimistic—Google faced difficulty in normalizing the technology, and Sony's design is even larger and more obtrusive.$4 billion
That's how much the quilting industry pulls in annually. And lately, a growing number of crafters are willing to pay to learn new skills. Online craft tutorial site Craftsy, for example, brought in $43 million in 2014. The company is hoping to capitalize on millennial interest in the Do-It-Yourself industry.$25 billion
That's how much Alibaba pulled in its IPO in September. Yet its revenue results in the third quarter fell below estimates. As reported by Quartz, disappointing earnings are why CEO Jack Ma says he will not be giving out the customary red envelopes for Chinese New Year to employees.10 days
That's how many days are left before Athens' credit line expires—Talks between Greece and the euro zone broke down Monday night. As reported by Reuters, failure to reach a deal could result in Greece becoming the first country to leave the euro zone.