Science & Technology

How Clinical Trials Work

Prescription medications undergo rigorous rounds of testing and approval before hitting the consumer market. The Onion breaks down the steps involved in this process

Scientists Develop New Extra-Sloppy Peach

DAVIS, CA—Explaining that the latest strain of the fruit was far softer and runnier than previous varieties, agricultural scientists at the University of California, Davis announced Thursday the successful development of a new extra-sloppy peach.

SpaceX’s Plan To Colonize Mars

SpaceX founder Elon Musk continues to lay the groundwork to attempt the human colonization of Mars. Here’s a step-by-step guide to his plan:

The Pros And Cons Of Self-Driving Cars

With Uber’s robot cars debuting this week in Pittsburgh, many wonder whether driverless technology will improve or endanger our lives. The Onion weighs the pros and cons of self-driving cars

How Animals Go Extinct

With an estimated 40 percent of species on earth now considered endangered, many wonder how it’s possible for these animals to be wiped out. The Onion provides a step-by-step breakdown of how species go extinct

Horrible Facebook Algorithm Accident Results In Exposure To New Ideas

MENLO PARK, CA—Assuring users that the company’s entire team of engineers was working hard to make sure a glitch like this never happens again, Facebook executives confirmed during a press conference Tuesday that a horrible accident last night involving the website’s algorithm had resulted in thousands of users being exposed to new concepts.

Team Of Vatican Geneticists Successfully Clone God

VATICAN CITY—Describing the groundbreaking work as a major step forward for theological research, a team of Vatican geneticists held a press conference Tuesday at the Apostolic Palace to announce they had successfully cloned God.

Dad Shares Photo Album Through Never-Before-Seen Website

SECAUCUS, NJ—Wondering aloud how the father of three even managed to find the online image-hosting service, family members of local dad Phil Yates told reporters Monday the 57-year-old had shared a photo album with them through a never-before-seen website.

NASA Discovers Distant Planet Located Outside Funding Capabilities

WASHINGTON—Noting that the celestial body lies within the habitable zone of its parent star and could potentially harbor liquid water, NASA officials announced at a press conference Thursday they have discovered an Earth-like planet located outside their funding capabilities.

‘DSM-5’ Updated To Accommodate Man Who Is Legitimately Being Ordered To Kill By The Moon

ARLINGTON, VA—Saying they were committed to ensuring the influential reference text accurately represented all known psychological conditions, leading members of the American Psychiatric Association announced Monday they would update the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition to accommodate a man who is legitimately being ordered by the moon to kill those around him.

NASA Launches First Cordless Satellite

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL—In what experts are calling a breakthrough achievement that is poised to revolutionize American space exploration and telecommunications, NASA announced Friday it has successfully launched its first cordless satellite into orbit.

What Is Pokémon Go?

Since its debut last Thursday, the augmented-reality smartphone app Pokémon Go has been downloaded millions of times and has grown publisher Nintendo’s stock by 25 percent. The Onion answers some common questions about the game and its unprecedented success.

Factory Robot Working On Some Of Its Own Designs After Hours

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC—Saying it had been mulling over the “fun little side project” for a while, an Electroimpact Quadbot reportedly put in some extra work after hours at the Boeing assembly plant Wednesday to try out a few of its own original designs.

Books Vs. E-Readers

Though e-readers have increasingly supplanted books in the digital age, many bibliophiles defend the importance of physical texts. Here is a side-by-side comparison of physical books and e-books
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We Made A Big Gamble On Americans Wanting To Sit Around And Mindlessly Watch TV For Hours Straight, But It Paid Off

Great entrepreneurs—those steam engines that drive our economy—aren’t the people who follow conventional wisdom. They’re the ones who take risks, the ones who dare to try what no one else has imagined. They don’t ask what’s possible; they ask what could be possible. That’s why last year, I approached my board of directors with an admittedly far-fetched idea: What if Americans wanted to sit around and mindlessly watch television for multiple hours in a row?

It’s crazy, right? Americans finishing a television program and then wanting to watch the next episode of that same program? I’m surprised I wasn’t immediately laughed out of the room.

I honestly don’t know why this idea occurred to me. I guess I just had this gut feeling, this random hunch, that maybe people would want to sit on their couches or prop themselves up in their beds for five hours at a time and watch TV shows. Sure, this hunch could backfire and we could look like fools, but I said, let’s give it a shot. So we took a huge leap of faith. We went all in on the notion that Americans would want to stay in their houses all day and watch not just one, but six, seven, or even eight consecutive hour-long episodes of TV.

I had the bold idea that perhaps Americans actually aren’t extremely patient people who enjoy waiting for a week to go by to watch the next episode of the show they like. Maybe they are in fact impatient, don’t want to properly digest an episode of TV, and actually want to blow through a season of television, paying just enough attention to know how major storylines ultimately resolve.

When we told our investors, they were skeptical. And I’ll be honest, I had my doubts too. It was hard to see why anyone—American people especially—would be attracted to the notion of getting home from work and completely zoning out in front of their television or laptop screens. I even thought, and I know this sounds nuts, that the same people might be inclined to eat their dinner while watching nonstop TV. You can imagine how much blowback that got me. People said, “Reed, you actually think U.S. citizens would rather watch TV during dinner instead of checking in with their families and talking about their days? That people would make TV a priority over the people they call mom, dad, son, and daughter?”

Ha! When I see it on paper in black and white like that, I honestly can’t believe I let myself go through with it.

I asked my colleagues to imagine a hypothetical customer: someone who doesn’t have an active social life, someone who doesn’t exercise very much—someone who would actually prefer to sit down in front of a screen and watch fictional characters interact as part of a compelling story for an entire evening. As I said it, I knew it sounded completely insane, but I also knew that if by some miracle this hypothetical customer turned out to exist, we had a chance to make a whole lot of money.

Everyone I talked to said the gamble wouldn’t pan out. They told me Americans already look at computer screens during work. There’s no way in hell they want to come home from that and stare at another computer screen for hours on end. Your average Joe just wants to take a leisurely stroll with his family, then maybe read a book for a while before getting a good night’s sleep. Good luck convincing anyone to watch more than 30 minutes of television a day, they said.

Did we know that it would work? No. Did we know that Americans had a hidden side to them that really enjoys watching television for hours at a time? No. Did we know that they could be both lazy and antisocial and pathetically want to connect with unreal characters in an effort to escape their own boring lives? No. Did we think they even had the ability to watch an entire season of television over the course of three weekdays or a single weekend? Of course not. But we figured it was worth it to at least ask these questions.

And the American people have resoundingly answered, “Yes. We like watching a lot of television.” Who knew?

Frankly, I’m still astonished at how wholeheartedly people have embraced the idea of lying in bed and watching original fiction-based programming—that Americans were actually willing to pay to lapse into extended trance-like stupors in front of their computer screens night after night and watch attractive actors and actresses.

Will this success last? It’s hard to say. But whatever happens, Netflix will adapt, keeping our eyes on the horizon, that thin line between insanity and genius, looking for the next great risk. Who knows? Maybe people will even want to sit down and watch movies.


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