October 22nd – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Spotify is the last hope for consumer tech startups, Trump's rope a dope, and why we need more English majors.

The music industry’s bottom line had been getting squelched by a series of internet models (including the one that let us steal music for a few years) until Spotify came along like a jukebox hero to rescue the music business from the hard knock life and give it hope of being back in black. There’s no question that Spotify’s model has revolutionized music. The question is whether or not that will ultimately be enough for Spotify to survive. Mega tech companies like Apple and Amazon are now in the same business, and they have advantages such as massive device-owning userbases and the ability to operate their music channels as loss leaders. It’s the same old song being heard across the consumer tech market as big tech companies use their platforms as petri dishes to decide what features to launch next. Spotify v the giants is a classic David and Goliath story, except in this case, David has a valuation of about $20 billion. And if that’s not enough for Spotify, what does that mean for the rest of the consumer startup space? Fortune: Spotify Saved the Music Industry. Now What?


Rope a Dope

“Whenever he has his back up against the wall, he throws a racial bomb. He knew exactly what he was saying. He knew exactly how it would come across.” Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass gets it exactly right on President Trump’s disgusting description of the impeachment proceedings as a “lynching.” Meanwhile, another key witness is testifying today. Here’s the latest on the impeachment.

+ While many on both sides of the aisle are expressing disgust with the language, Lindsay Graham supported it: “This is a lynching in every sense. This is un-American.” Graham also now says he’s “impressed” with Trump’s Syria strategy that he ripped last week. (Whatever they have on Graham must be pretty damn bad.)

+ Want to understand just how tight Fox News is with the president? Check out this wild story: Graham and Fox News expert showed Trump a map to change his mind about Syria withdrawal.


Vlad World

“His jets patrol Syrian skies. His military is expanding operations at the main naval base in Syria. He is forging closer ties to Turkey. He and his Syrian allies are moving into territory being vacated by the United States. And on Tuesday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia played host to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, for talks on how they and other regional players will divide control of Syria.” NYT: With Syria on the Table, Erdogan Pays Court to Putin.

+ “There is no question that ISIS is one of the big winners in what is happening in Syria.” NYT: ISIS Reaps Gains of U.S. Pullout From Syria.

+ And a little insight into what it’s like running military operations when US policy can turn on a dime (or on a tweet). Pentagon draws up plans for quick Afghanistan withdrawal in case Trump blindsides military.


WeWork Load

A few weeks ago, WeWork was being solicited to the public at a $47 billion valuation. When investors balked at that price, the house of tarot cards began to crumble. Today, WeWork’s biggest backer, Softbank, is bailing the company out. The deal Softbank is giving themselves values the company at about $8 billion. Funny how what was supposed to be worth $47 billion to you is worth a sixth of that to them. But don’t worry about ousted founder Adam Neumann, he’s “selling about $1 billion of stock and getting a $185 million consulting fee” which, as Bloomberg suggests, is “a remarkable return from a business that has never made a profit and seen its initial public offering spurned by skeptical investors.” (What’s he consulting on? How to make money via fraud?)

+ In related news, “a smart home startup from Santa Barbara called Shine Bathroom has raised $750,000 in seed funding to help build and distribute its first product: an accessory you attach to an existing toilet to make it a ‘smart toilet.'” (Might be a good place to put that WeWork S-1.)


Trudeau Eyed

“His narrow victory means he will lead a minority government that will be forced to depend on other parties to govern.” The controversy-saddled Justin Trudeau won narrow victory to earn a second term as Canada’s prime minister. (At last, a rare victory for attractive people…)


It’s Just Locker Room Stalk

“The new school surveillance technology doesn’t turn off when the school day is over: anything students type in official school email accounts, chats or documents is monitored 24 hours a day, whether students are in their classrooms or their bedrooms. Tech companies are also working with schools to monitor students’ web searches and internet usage, and, in some cases, to track what they are writing on public social media accounts.” The Guardian: Under digital surveillance: how American schools spy on millions of kids. (Some days, I can’t tell if we’re on a slippery slope or we’re in freefall.)


Dis Charge

“Sometimes, utilities have used revenue from surcharges to pay for things other than infrastructure, many of which customers might expect are already included in their rates: tree trimming (Kansas), smart meters (Colorado) and pension costs (Massachusetts).” ProPublica: The Obscure Charges That Utility Companies Add to Your Bills.


Teen Titans

“According to Scarlet, the result was practically a picture-perfect Hollywood ending: The girl’s classmates, many of whom were in tears, rushed over to hug her. The kids started talking about mental health. And the girl ended up starting a support group to help other teens.” The Atlantic: The Therapeutic Potential of Stanning. “Superhero therapy encourages people to think like their favorite movie characters. It seems to work.” (Thinking like your favorite villain probably works just as well…)


Finishing School

“The three new categories are part of the most in-depth look yet at a reported method that helps Netflix decide whether a show should be canceled.” Netflix tracks shows by measuring starters, watchers, and completers.” (Same with p*rnhub.)


Bottom of the News

“As humanities majors slump to the lowest level in decades, calls are coming from surprising places for a revival. Some prominent economists are making the case for why it still makes a lot of sense to major (or at least take classes) in humanities alongside more technical fields.” (I thought my puns already made that case…) WaPo: The world’s top economists just made the case for why we still need English majors. “Contrary to popular belief, English majors ages 25 to 29 had a lower unemployment rate in 2017 than math and computer science majors.” (That’s because most computer science majors are retired by 25…)

+ BBC: Danish Rubjerg lighthouse moved inland on skates. (We might need to do this for entire cities one day…)

+ These photos from a muddy 49ers-Skins game are good.

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