The Hub Cool News


fameCelebrity is shrinking in tandem with media, reports Alex Williams in The New York Times (2/8/15). The trend is nothing new, however "as social media have splintered into ever tinier subcultures, the atomization of fame has only accelerated." What New York magazine termed "microfame" in 2008, as YouTube exploded with microcelebrities, is now nanocelebrity thanks to the proliferation of the likes of Vine, Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest, and stars specific to each platform. At this point, YouTube "basically qualifies as a legacy media outfit."

Those who built their fame on YouTube seem to be a different breed, as well. They tended "to be overtly careerist," working as they did in "longer-form media." They also "enjoyed a modicum of mainstream appeal. Nanofamers, by contrast, enjoy no staying power. They work in snippets of bite-size content (six-second Vines, say) and are confined to niche audiences (often teenagers) … Nanofamers may be idolized by their million-plus followers, but they are often unknown to those on the outside."

We’re certainly come a long way from a culture of "permanent fame." Leo Braudy, author of The Frenzy of Renown, notes that pharoahs once built stone statues as "their claim on posterity." As recently as 20th-century Hollywood, "being famous meant your name would live forever" with handprints in cement or a star on Hollywood Boulevard. The digital world changed all that. "The more transient the medium, the more transient the fame," says Leo. "When there are a lot of people making a public claim for their own importance, each gets a smaller bit."

Magzter Magazines

magzterWhat Netflix and Spotify did for movies and music, Magzter hopes to do for magazines, reports Joshua Brustein in Bloomberg Businessweek (1/19/15). So far, "the idea of paying a flat fee for unlimited access" to magazines "hasn’t caught on," however Next Issue Media has been attempting such a model since 2011, but to date has attracted only "hundreds of thousands" of subscribers willing to pay "$15 a month for access to about 140 magazines." Netflix, by comparison, has "50 million" subscribers and Spotify "12.5 million."

Magzter, meanwhile, is trying a different approach. Magzter’s plan is just $10 a month, and it "thinks it can gain traction where Next Issue hasn’t by offering a larger selection of more obscure titles and by selling subscriptions internationally." About 5,000 publishers are using Magzter to sell standalone issues, and 2,000 are participating in its "all-access subscription service." "It’s the last great white space in streaming media," says Magzter CEO Girish Ramdas. "Everyone else has made the jump."

The opportunity might seem ripe, especially since "drawing readers to single-title magazine apps that mimic the print experience" hasn’t caught on — "app subscribers make up less than 4 percent of overall magazine circulation." However, "it’s not clear that anyone but the most voracious readers will save money … If a Netflix for magazines ever does catch on, it would preserve one consistent aspect of the magazine industry: relying on readers to subscribe to far more material than they have time to read."

Changing Channels

jim-fielding-165Jim Fielding of AwesomenessTV on building a new brand experience for teens and tweens. (This is the first in a series highlighting presentations at the second annual HUB Brand-Experience Symposium, held Oct. 7-8, 2014 in New York City.) I’m here to take you on a quick trip to the future and tell you that the digital revolution is here — and I’m living it every day. My lofty title for this talk is "Building the Next Teen and Young Millennial Brands for the Digital Generation." We’re going to talk about harnessing the incredible energy of what we call "the creators" of YouTube, and Generation Connected, Generation Z.

If any of you have a teenager in your life — male or female — and you have a TV in their room, it’s probably dusty, and they’re probably storing books and clothes on top of it because they are consuming media through hand-held devices, laptops and the Internet. AwesomenessTV (ATV) started two-and-a-half years ago as a short-form digital content creator. We were funded initially through Google Ventures. In just two-and-a-half years, we’ve morphed into a next-generation digital-media company, now owned by DreamWorks. Read the Rest of Jim’s Talk.

Bundle of Ploy

cableThe unbundling of cable services might "lead to slightly higher prices for fewer channels," reports Neil Irwin in The New York Times (1/7/15). "It is possible for a market to become more economically efficient while becoming less pleasant for consumers," Neil writes, and cites the airline industry as an example. Time was, an airline ticket was a "bundle of goods … a seat with enough room to sit comfortably; a meal, a glass of wine or a cocktail; the right to check your bag; the right to trade in your ticket … if your plans changed."

Today, airlines have unbundled each of the above and attached prices — selling legroom, food, beverages, baggage check, ticket changes. Customers have more control and pay only for what they want, which is cheaper if they’re willing to endure the attendant discomfort or inconvenience. The result is "a grinding process in which a customer feels constantly assailed by upcharges and decisions that may not be stressful in isolation but make the experience unpleasant."

The unbundling of cable could similarly be better for "those who watch only a very small number of channels, none of them high-fee sports channels, with great regularity … But for many more people, the result will probably be little or no reduction in total fees, combined with the annoyance of making constant decisions about what channels you really want and which you don’t … You may not know how much you want" some of these channels "until after somebody makes you make the decision to pay."

Bargain Buzz

mockingjayLion’s Gate is recasting the marketing of blockbuster films on a smaller scale, reports Brooks Barnes in The New York Times (11/24/14). The studio’s "27-person marketing department … has become a model for Hollywood’s legacy studios: scrappy, thrifty, forward thinking." Its $50 million budget for the third Hunger Games film is about half that typically spent on a major film release. The model relies heavily on "low-cost media like YouTube," goes lightly on "expensive market research studies" and sometimes takes a do-it-yourself approach.

Lion’s Gate, founded in 1997 — some 75 years after Warner Bros. – can do this because it was "built differently from the ground up." Tim Palen, its chief marketing officer, is "empowered … to make instinctive snap decisions." "Typically at a studio, you sit in marketing meetings and there are 17 proposed versions of a poster and sheets of data about how various proposed materials have tested," says Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence. Tim not only can skip that step, but also "often personally photographs actors for promotional materials."

Tim and his team also created Capitol TV, their own Hunger Games YouTube channel, which is "presented as an official news source from the movie’s fictional government." The scripted videos, called District Voices, feature "a group of YouTube stars … in ‘Hunger Games’ costumes with props from the movie, blurring the line between reality and fiction." This was a "Hollywood first," according to Ben Malbon of Google, which collaborated on the series with Lion’s Gate. Ben says other studios are now talking about pursuing similar collaborations.

Social Pyramid

twitter-birdSocial media is a "giant pyramid scheme … where fake friends now command real money," writes Nick Bilton in The New York Times (11/20/14). Such friends are actually just "bots" generated by inexpensive software programs such as Twitter Supremacy that enable anyone to "fabricate an unlimited number of friends." These fake accounts can be programmed to "tweet, retweet and follow others automatically, as if they were living, breathing users." Some are making money from these bots, getting paid to use them to push their posts.

One such entrepreneur says "his clients include well-known celebrities and brands, along with everyday people who want a social-media ego boost … Numerous reports have found that celebrities, politicians and companies often buy fake followers to enhance their perceived importance online. The practice is so widespread that StatusPeople, a social media management company … has a web tool called Fake Follower Check that it says can tell how many fake followers a person has."

Facebook has acknowledged that it "finds 67 million to 137 million fake accounts on its service." Twitter puts the fakery at "around 24 million." "This all points to social media advertising being one giant bubble." says Tim Hwang, chief scientist at the Pacific Social Architecting Corporation. "Everyone is really happy to say, ‘Look at the numbers that we got, it must have been successful,’ even though the re-tweets and favs are inflated by bots." Some report that bot farming is so easy that teens are doing it to supplement their allowances.

Serial Podcasts

serial-podcastPodcasts are rising as an intimate medium of advertising, reports Steven Perlberg in The Wall Street Journal (11/7/14). It seems some "15 percent of Americans have listened to a podcast in the past month, up from nine percent in 2008," and even though the medium doesn’t have "the kind of big reach that, say, TV, can offer … listeners are attentive while they are listening to their favorite podcast shows. And a voice of authority can rub off on the ads, which are usually in the form of a plug directly from the host."

"With podcasts, what you may not be getting in raw numbers — scale — you’re going to make up for at least partially in how engaged the audience is," says Paul Verna of eMarketer. "It’s not like banner ads where you’re just putting them out there and hoping that 0.03 percent of your audience is going to click it." That kind of connection is not "exactly cheap," though. An ad on Serial, one of the most popular podcasts, costs $25 to $40 per thousand listeners. Serial centers on a real-life murder mystery and attracts a million people per episode.

Podcasts have come a long way since "the iPod burst onto the scene in the early 2000s." At the time, they didn’t really catch on as an advertising medium given "the rise of newer channels like Web video." However, these days, "thanks to smartphones and wif-fi," podcasts are "less like downloadable music and more like Internet radio — an increasingly attractive platform for advertisers." The appeal to listeners, says Yale Cohen of ZenithOptimedia, is that podcasts can now be streamed, and the experience is much more like Internet radio.

Mellow Ello

elloThe hottest new social network appeals to the highest common denominator, reports Lois Parshley in Bloomberg Businessweek (10/16/14). Ello, as the network is known, is an invitation-only network launched August 7th that by late September "was receiving 50,000 requests per hour to join." Ello describes itself as a "simple, beautiful, and ad-free social network created by a small group of artists and designers." Ello, as co-founder Todd Berger explains, involves "absolutely no advertisements, no data mining."

Positioned as the "anti-Facebook," Ello is also deliberately exclusive. "We don’t want every person in the world to be on it, so we don’t have to design for the lowest common denominator," says co-founder Lucian Fohr. To participate, "you have to be asked to join by one of its existing members or send in a request." If all else fails you can buy an invitation "on eBay for $100." Also unlike Facebook, you need not use your real name, and the site’s "content is divided into Friends (the people you follow) and Noise (everyone else)."

Ello originated at Budnitz Bicycles in Burlington, Vermont, as "a space where creative people could collaborate and share ideas without worrying about privacy," or becoming a "product that’s bought and sold" to advertisers. The network does hope to attract brands, though. "It’s an opportunity to find a new way to advertise," says Todd. Social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk remains skeptical, saying that "people don’t care that you’re selling their data. We want ads that are targeted, more than you think." Ello so far has raised $435,000 in venture capital.

Oculus News

oculusThe Des Moines Register hopes virtual reality will reinvent the news experience, reports Lukas I. Alpert in The Wall Street Journal (9/22/14). The newspaper is "incorporating the technology of Oculus VR, computerized game platforms and 360-degree cameras." In this way, a story about "how a sixth-generation Iowa farming family is struggling to maintain its traditions in an increasingly globalized world of agribusiness … takes a viewer into a computerized world of cows, soybeans and grain silos."

Basically, the reader gets a sense of "roaming around a farm in Page County, Iowa." This does require "strapping on Oculus’s virtual-reality headset," but it allows viewers to "walk up to the family’s machine shop and click on an icon that places them inside a 3-D video feature about maintaining high-tech farming equipment," for example. They "can view the information in any order," not unlike a videogame. If they don’t have an Oculus helmet, they can still interact in 2-D "on any computer."

Roy Peter Clark of Poynter Institute says it has limitations. "Although we call it multimedia, most of these stories are hybrids that use the visual elements to amplify the underlying narrative," he says. "You can take a virtual tour of a building where an event occurred, but that is a different thing than having characters who are fully explained." Other limitations are that the "virtual-reality technology" makes some people dizzy, and currently only 125,000 Oculus headsets are in circulation.


yoThe biggest thing since Twitter may be an app so simple that Apple initially rejected it, reports Christopher Mims in The Wall Street Journal (8/11/14). Called Yo, the app’s "sole function is for a user to send the word ‘Yo’ to any other friend using the app." Apple "rejected it on the grounds that it lacked substance," but then relented, and Yo has "since been downloaded two million times, and its 50,000 or so active users have sent more than four million Yos." The app also now has "$1.5 million in funding."

What makes Yo a potential blockbuster is that it is neither a messaging app nor a social network; it is "a communications protocol," not unlike "text messages, email and Twitter." This is because it "provides any person, business or Web service direct access to the notifications tray of your smartphone … these are the alerts we see on our lock screens, and they also interrupt us whenever we’re doing anything else on our phones." The value is inherent in "how often the average smartphone owner glances at his or her phone."

The opportunity is to use the protocol to send more than just a ‘Yo’ to friend. Future iterations "will let users send a link," too, and an RSS feed, which would enable "every blogger, website and media outlet … to send push notifications." Yo will also enable users to add profile pictures and individual or organizational names. A Yo-specific app store is in the works, and already it is possible to integrate the app with services, such as "one that will let you know whether there is a bike available at a designated Citibike-sharing station in Manhattan … Israelis can also get a Yo whenever rockets are incoming."

Zine Scene

zinesA collection of 13 zinesters find the subway a perfect place to write and illustrate their zines, reports Colin Moynihan in The New York Times (7/14/14). "We’re wobbling a little, so it’s hard to have a steady hand," says Madeline Steinberg. "But the train is an inspiring place to work. You go to so many places, you see so many people, and there are different sounds and images to get your ideas flowing." She was aboard the F Train, originating in Brooklyn and "riding for hours through three boroughs."

Madeline was part of a "two-day event, called the MTA Zine Residency … organized by a librarian and an archivist at the Barnard College library, which they said had the largest circulating collection of zines in an academic library." It is home to some 5,000 zines, and Lisa Norberg, the library’s dean, says the collection has great value. "Zines capture voices and opinions that are often marginalized, if not ignored — the same voices and opinions that rarely make it into libraries and archives."

Jenna Freedman, Barnard’s zine librarian, says the subway is an ideal place to work. "There really is a pleasure to writing while you’re in motion," she says, also noting the benefits of no phone or internet service. Zinester Erin Fae likes the combined sense of isolation and socialization. "You can have the introspective time to create," she says. "And also have camaraderies with the other people on the train." The group "put the finishing touches on their work" during a follow-up gathering on the Staten Island Ferry.

Chat Bots

kikAn old technology is enabling new conversations between brands and consumers, reports Christopher Mims in The Wall Street Journal (7/28/14). Back in "the mid-1960s, MIT professor Joseph Weizenbaum developed a computer program called ELIZA, which could engage in open-ended conversation with a real human being." Over the years, programmers have filled these "chat bots … with knowledge about the real world. They can also learn from their conversations," and can sound fairly intelligent.

The potential for brands is palpable. "If you could chat with a brand in the same way you chat with a friend, that’s powerful," says Ted Livingston, founder of Kik, a chat service. It is even more tantalizing given Ted’s assertion "that four in 10 US teens are active users of its service" and already "are having something like actual conversations with a half-dozen brands." For example, while touring Japan last fall, teen idol Paul McCartney used a Kik competitor called Line to "chat" with followers.

For perspective, Sir Paul has some 2 million Twitter followers, and 9.3 million Line followers. For the most part, the McCartney organization used the bot simply to send updates. Some brands remain skittish about the bots because they are still relatively primitive and if turned loose might say something wrong. However, some see chat bots as a possible customer-service tool, while others envision using them for new product launches, imbuing the brands with a distinctive voice and personality.

Sorted Food

sorted-foodSharing simple, quirky recipes is one of the hottest new concepts on YouTube, reports Georgi Kantchev in The New York Times (7/28/14). "Last year, YouTube’s top 20 cooking channels generated more than 370 million views and more than doubled their subscribers." A cooking channel called Sorted Food is enjoying particular success, generating "more than 11,000 hours of viewer traffic a day" and "more than 865,000 subscribers." Small numbers next to say, comedy or games, but still pretty impressive.

Sorted Food began on a lark, with Ben Ebbrell, a culinary arts major, "sharing cheap and easy recipes with his friends using the backs of beer coasters." Dishes included "simple mac-and-cheese and elaborate-looking iles flottantes — ‘floating islands’ — of soft meringues enveloped in a caramel cage." "At university we were all eating complete rubbish," says Jamie Spafford, a friend and now a partner in Sorted Food, explaining how the whole thing got started. First step was a self-published cookbook, and then the YouTube channel, launching in 2010.

The channel grew quickly. Its most popular video to date is "a three-minute segment, watched about 800,000 times, showing how to make a microwave cake in a coffee mug." (video) "Networked culture allows for little pockets of fascination to bubble up and YouTube allows us to marvel at the skills of others," says media scholar Joshua Green. Ben says he’s "now being approached by TV companies," but does not want to lose control over the channel’s content, or the relatively personal connection with his YouTube audience.


spamEmail is "the cockroach of the Internet" because it refuses to die, reports David Carr in The New York Times (6/30/14). Email newsletters, in particular, are showing resilience in the face of "social media, mobile apps and dynamic websites that practically stalk the reader." The reason is that "readers have grown tired of the endless stream of information on the Internet, and having something finite and recognizable show up in your inbox can impose order on all that chaos."

"An email newsletter," David writes, "generally shows up in your inbox because you asked for it and includes links to content you have deemed relevant. In other words, it’s important content you want in list form, which seems like a suddenly modern approach." He adds: "With an email, there is a presumption of connection, of something personal, that makes it a good platform for publishers." Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic comments: "I have an intimate and intense relationship with people who get my newsletter every day."

Yes, it’s true that younger folks "love to text, send instant messages and use Snapchat more than they like using email," and as Gideon Lichfield of Quartz says, "Email is dismissed as something old people use." However, as Kate Kiefer Lee, author of Nicely Said, says: "People get more excited about the newer technologies, but the nice thing about email is that it doesn’t go away. It sits in your inbox and you have to do something with it." Even if it is burrowed in your cockroach folder.


snailA plan to digitize snail mail seemed brilliant until the US Postal Service heard about it, reports Bari Weiss in The Wall Street Journal (6/26/14). Evan Baehr and Will Davis had a plan "to simplify — or eliminate — mailboxes across the country." Outbox, as they branded their $4.99-a-month service, "would collect your mail and scan it," unsubscribe you "from unwanted catalogs and shred junk mail," and forward wedding invitations or holiday cards to your physical address. Bills could be categorized and filed via an app.

Evan and Will managed to test the concept in collaboration with a pair of post offices in Austin, Texas. Letter carriers would "set aside their subscribers’ mail in a designated box in the post office," and then Outbox would scan and deliver it digitally. Among other things, this enabled them, as Will put it, to "test what we call the holy grail of advertising, which is intent, brand affinity, understanding what people like." It promised to give marketers data and insights into what consumers wanted, or not, by way of direct mail.

The duo also thought this would be a great thing for the US Postal Service. "In this new model we could save them money, increase customer engagement, and be better for the environment," says Evan. However, according to Evan, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe didn’t see it that way, essentially saying that consumers weren’t his customers: "My customers are several hundred volume mailers, and my product is guaranteed delivery of their mail onto the kitchen tables of Americans." Overnight, Outbox was out of business.

GoPro Experience

goproGoPro is successful not because of its camera, but rather the experience of using it, reports Issie Lapowsky in Wired (6/26/14). GoPro, as you’ve likely heard, is a small, high-definition, wearable video camera that people have used "to record their every sky-diving, drone-flying, shark-riding adventure." It raised $427 million in its IPO — unusual for a camera-maker because smartphones are not only cameras but also a GPS, video game console, stereo … "and, oh yeah, a telephone."

However, as Ben Arnold of NPD Group notes: "They don’t just sell a video camera, they sell the memory of the wave or the ski trip down the slope … I think we are entering the age where lifestyle in technology is becoming very important." The power is in devices that "say something about the people who wear them … when you see someone with one of those GoPro Hero 3 cameras strapped to her chest, it’s a signal to the world that she is about to do something awesome."

The result is that in "2013 alone, GoPro users have uploaded 2.8-years worth of video featuring GoPro in the title. In the first quarter of 2014, people watched over 50 million hours of videos with GoPro somewhere in the title, filename, tag or description … And so despite the fact that GoPro only sells cameras … it became better known as an adventure sports brand than as a camera manufacturer." Among other things, GoPro now plans "to launch a GoPro Channel on Xbox Live" and "turn itself into a media company."

Digital Figments

boom-smTony Horwitz’s story is "a cautionary farce about the new media … we’re so often told is the bright shining future." His tale, as he describes it in The New York Times (6/19/14), began when "a new online publication called The Global Mail" offered him a $15,000 advance and a $5,000 travel budget to write a digital tome about the Keystone XL pipeline. Seeing it as "the sort of long investigative journey" he used to write "before budgets and print space shrank," he jumped at the opportunity.

The Global Mail was "lavishly funded by a philanthropic entrepreneur in Australia" and the book, called Boom, was to be co-published by Byliner, "a classy digital outfit." Byliner projected selling "up to 75,000 copies" of the book, with "a lofty cut of the profits" shared with Tony. As fate would have it, the book was set for release just as the State Department issued "a much anticipated report on Keystone XL … right on top of the news." Then, unfortunately, the backer had a "financial setback" and "pulled the plug" on the book.

Byliner and Tony managed to agree on a scaled-back contract that didn’t include much in the way of marketing support. The good news is, Tony self-promoted Boom into Amazon’s top 25 — a "best seller"; the bad news is that this meant he had only sold "somewhere between 700 and 800 copies." It was all downhill from there, with Byliner itself going out of business and Boom disappearing, for a time, from Amazon. Tony says his next book will be in "hard copy, between covers," that he "can put on a shelf and look at forever, even if it doesn’t sell."

Rockaway Times

rockaway-times-smKevin Boyle has a "brash plan to start a print newspaper amid that medium’s rapid decline," reports Corey Kilgannon in The New York Times (6/18/14). In his previous careers, Kevin had "owned two bars in Brooklyn, taught college courses on media studies, written a book about the Rockaways and owned a Domino’s pizza restaurant." His decision to launch The Rockaway Times came after he tried and failed to buy part of The Wave, a local newspaper of which he was editor.

His vision is a lightly-staffed free newspaper, with a print run of 10,000 copies — same as The Wave, which sells for 50 cents. The plan is to deliver the paper to "houses, apartment buildings" and leave it at "busy storefronts and other hubs." The paper will also publish online. Kevin’s staff consists of "two salespeople and a young, full-time reporter." He has also recruited "local writers to write for no pay: a surf maven for a column on that topic, a bartender to write about bars and other experts on beach news and wellness."

The newsroom "is a former taxi depot" on a busy street, which, like much of the Rockaways, had been flooded by Hurricane Sandy. It’s still adorned by "an old green taxi sign." Furniture is a "card table and three folding chairs" and, says Kevin, probably "a refrigerator with one or two beers in it, for local color." He adds that he thinks the location "lends itself to community input." All in all, Kevin (who commutes to his new job on a bicycle) thinks he can "tell the weekly story of the Rockaways as well as anyone."

DigiTour Media

our2ndlife"As kids have changed their spending habits, there is now a huge budget available for experiences," says Meridith Valiando Rojas in a New York Times piece by Brooks Barnes (6/7/14). Meredith is co-founder, with her husband, Chris, of DigiTour Media, whose "experiences" center on those "who have created mass followings on YouTube, Instagram and Vine." "It’s all about bringing the Internet to life," says Meridith. "I’m constantly on the prowl for the creme de la meme."

Her realm includes Our2ndLife, "a group of guys who became famous by videotaping themselves trying to balance cotton balls on their heads and drinking anchovy and hot pepper smoothies." O2L, as they are also known, headlined at DigiFest NYC, a festival held in a Citi Field parking lot recently. Similar events sold a total of "18,000 tickets last year" and are expected "to sell 100,000 this year and 250,000 in 2015." Given the nature of the entertainment, performances average about 15 minutes each.

Teenage girls are the primary audience demographic, and the stars tend to be heartthrobs. "We had to build five to 10 minutes into the start of the show where we just let them scream and scream," says Connor Franta of O2L, who is best known for going shirtless. "I’m kind of shocked anyone wants to meet me," he says. "I like to say that we’re talented in that we have no talent." Ryan Seacrest is among DigiFest’s backers. He sees dollars within and says he plans to "scale this up and sprinkle in more established stars."

Madison & Vine

vineSocial media’s stars are making big bucks by turning their talents to brand advertising, reports Jenna Wortham in The New York Times (6/9/14). It is also reaping profits for the likes of Robby Ayala, who "dropped out of law school to pursue his career as a full-time video creator … on Vine, publishing several goofy six-second movies to his 2.6 million followers each day." He now makes "several thousand dollars" for each video he makes to promote products and services.

He has also joined Niche, the newfangled advertising agency that hired him to make the videos, to help "other Vine users polish their content and make videos for advertisers." Founded by Rob Fishman, "Niche says it has close to 3,000 social-media accounts, with a total reach of 500 million followers. The agency has worked with roughly 70 brands, including Home Depot, General Electric and Gap Kids." As one Niche client explains, the idea is to reach young consumers "in a way that’s really in their world."

Niche pays "a broad range of fees, from $500 to as much as $50,000, but the average payout for a Vine campaign ranges in the mid-four figures." Jethro Ames, a member of the Niche stable, "declined to say how much he earned, but said people posting advertisements on Vine can make six figures a year, and some as much as $300,000." Niche, meanwhile, "has generated more than $1.5 million in revenue since its inception last June and expects to bring in over $4 million by the end of the year."