For Authors: How NETFLIX Tested Images So You’ll Binge Watch More

Via Fast Company by way of Kboards:

The human brain can process an image in just a few milliseconds, so the right picture can spark someone’s interest and convince a viewer it’s worth exploring a new show in a single glance. Which is why, in 2014, Netflix began gathering consumer research specifically about the images on its service.

The research indicated that looking at images not only prompted users to watch content, but accounted for a whopping 82% of their time spent browsing (as opposed to, say, reading movie titles or descriptions). In other words, the images mattered almost four times more than the text describing the storyline. Members also spent only 1.8 seconds considering each title. “We know that if you don’t capture a member’s attention within 90 seconds, he or she will likely lose interest and move on to another activity,” says Nick Nelson, Netflix’s global manager for creative services. “Images become the most efficient and compelling way to help them discover the perfect title as quickly as possible.”


Netflix’s data reveals some interesting takeaways about why people watch one thing over another, but more broadly, may be applicable to anyone looking to hook readers, viewers, or buyers with compelling imagery.

Netflix’s takeaways are pretty interesting:

  • Depict Three Characters or Less: “One of Netflix’s earliest findings was that interest tended to drop off when an image touting a show or movie contained more than three people. It seems that users find it hard to focus when there are too many people, and may not be able to absorb cues about the storyline.”
  • Complex Emotions Make Us Stop & Linger: Scientists have known for a long time that humans are hardwired to respond to faces: Studies have found that infants process faces long before they are able to recognize other objects. However, one interesting thing that Netflix discovered is that people tend to focus more on images of people displaying complicated expressions over stoic or benign ones. These highly emotive images are able to quickly and effectively convey subtle details about the show or movie, drawing users into the storyline and prompting them to watch it.
  • Polarizing Villains Demand Atention: Just like complex emotions are more likely to capture our attention, images of polarizing characters also tend to grab our attention. Netflix found that members responded better to recognizable villainous characters over pictures of the hero. They found this to be true in the kids’ genre, as well as for action shows and movies.

The fourth takeaway noted in the article isn’t so notable to me. If you’re interested what #4 is, click here to find out.

The art of the thumbnail image in today’s age is here to stay!

Popular Ebook Subscription Service, Oyster, Shuts Down

Oyster is shutting down and most of its staff’s leaving to join Google Play Books:

Via Publishers Weekly:

According to a report on the tech news site Re/Code, most of the Oyster staff, including CEO Eric Stromberg and Oyster cofounders Andrew Brown and Willem Van Lancker, are leaving the company to join Google Play Books. Re/Code called the deal an “acqhire,” noting that while Google has agreed to pay Oyster investors for the right to hire away most of the Oyster staff, it is unclear whether Google is actually buying the company.

While it is also unclear whether Google Books plans its own e-book subscription service, this wouldn’t be the first time the tech giant acquired a startup venture in order to turn it into a Google business. Re/Code pointed to Google’s July acquisition of Homejoy, a service to connect consumers with professional cleaners, which is in the process of being relaunched as a similar service under Google.

Oyster touted a Netflix-style subscription service for ebooks, offering unlimited access to a million titles for $9.95 a month.

Publishers Weekly’s calls to Oyster for comment “have yet to be returned” at this time.

Aside from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service… Scribd is now the one remaining standalone e-book service, according to Publishers Weekly. Kindle Unlimited is unlikely to go anywhere soon given its parent company.

The closure of Oyster is very unfortunate news for readers and authors… and, self-published authors, too, because it was another avenue to get your works seen. Self-pub authors could get their releases into Oyster through aggregation services like Smashwords and Bookbaby. Scribd is similar to Oyster because it lets authors make their books available there through aggregation services.

If you’re a self-published author, make sure to stay informed and read Kboards’ thread discussing this news.

Bryan Cohen On How To Write Your Book Sales Description

On one of my favorite self-publishing podcasts, The Creative Penn Podcast, host Joanna Penn interviews Bryan Cohen, who runs the copywriting service for authors called Best Page Forward and is the co-host of the self-publishing podcast  the Sell More Books Show with Jim Kukral (also one of my favorites!).

Bryan Cohen is running a giveaway called The $1,000 Copywriting for Authors Giveaway, which, on Kboards, Cohen described the giveaway’s grand prize as, “One lucky winner will get $1,000 worth of saleswriting services from yours truly. I’ll write your emails, your descriptions, your bio, and more.”

Crafting a book sales description is tricky. I was already considering Bryan’s service after hearing about it on the Sell More Books Show, so when I saw the thread about this on Kboards, I knew I had to enter and give it a go!

Make sure to check out Joanna Penn’s fantastic interview with Bryan and enter his giveaway if you’re in need of book sales description assistance!

If you enter Bryan’s giveaway, you can get 5 more entries for every friend you refer, so here’s my tweet declaring my entry into the contest!