Things of Internet: Airbnb ups the ante on craziness
Readers of this newsletter will by now know that I’m a big fan of Airbnb (the brand, anyway - they’re not exactly spotless!). I wrote a paean to them before their 2020 IPO, and thought they had the best brand “campaign” of 2021. I think CEO Brian Chesky’s 11-star experience funda should be mandatory listening for anyone working in the service industry. And this week, they announced something crazy, to up the rachet on their “unique experiences” offering…
The $10M OMG! Fund
The long and short of it: Airbnb will select 100 people with wild ideas and give them $100k each to develop their crazy idea into an Airbnb. Read about it here, and a Fast Company analysis here.
I think this is great way to connect with the kind of creative brains Airbnb would want to be associated with. It also makes for great marketing - now and when the projects are completed - "if you're looking for unique, maybe even weird places to stay, you come to us". You could say they're paying creators to make things unique to their platform (ok, I made that kinda sound like what Netflix does. Or Tiktok).
Alright, a lot's been happening in the world of digital this week - here's a quick catch-me-up...
The updates section
Google agrees to pay Wikipedia for content it scrapes and shows on searches. This is significant!
Twitter introduces Notes, a way to write longer on the platform. All the thread gyaan now coming in a different form.
SpaceX fires employees who wrote a critical open letter to Elon Musk. Ladies and gentlemen, the man who wants to stand up for free speech.
Probably the most entertaining to happen at the Cannes Advertising festival was a former-winner-now-activist gatecrashing the stage to protest work for fossil fuel companies, and those troublemakers from Greenpeace storming the WPP beach with "This is fine" signs. This despite a WPP agency winning a Lion for its work for... Greenpeace. Next client-agency meet should be fun.
But for more serious Cannes updates, the Unfiltered Tour won big - here's more details of that on The Hard Copy, and here's me writing about the campaign 6 months ago on this newsletter.
In a reflection of the growing labour movement inside tech companies, employees in a Mayland (US) Apple Store unionize, in a company first. (If you think I'm a commie for supporting this, well - I'm from Kerala)
Meta will sell clothes for $2.99-$8.99. Virtually, of course.
Speaking of NFTs, the person who used to handle them for auction house Christie's is leaving to join the company that makes Cyberpunks.
"Digital only banks? LOL" - RBI.
Nykaa is (maybe) acquiring LBB.
Shazam integrates concert dates.
Hey, look, you can use the metaverse to watch the first episodes of some shows thanks to Airtel Multiplex (not kidding) and I'm really not sure if this solves anything.
A Chennai court ordered TCS to reinstate with back wages, a employee who was "wrongly terminated" 7 years ago. This is significant because it might be a reference point as layoffs are happening in tech right now.
Now Japan's fining Big Tech because why not, it's the flavour of the decade!
Canada compels digital content platforms (Tiktok, Netflix, Instagram etc) to promote local content. This is not a new approach by the country - they've often prioritized local rock bands, for example, on radio.
Dukaan is taking the fight to Shopify. You might have seen that aggressive Twitter thread by its founder. Well, this should be fun to watch.
Influencers need to pay 10% TDS on freebies from July 1.
Tech companies (TCS, Cisco, etc) can set up captive 5G networks in India, in a big blow for already beleaguered telcos. Terrific explainer by Finshots.
Meanwhile, China's using all its brainpower and expertise in AI to... Develop a helmet that detects if the wearer is watching porn.
Mini editorial / observation
After 6 years, The Ken experiments with advertising - as first seen in their popular Saturday newsletter, Nutgraf. Here's CEO Rohin's explanation as to why which seems fair to me - becoming financially viable in the media business is hard. There's been a lot of Twitter chatter about this move. With both Netflix and The Ken experimenting with ads, it makes me wonder about the viability of subscription-only businesses - after all, even NYT shows plenty of ads to paying subscribers. I am not sure if we can expect an analysis of this on The Ken itself. BTW - don't worry, no advertising coming to this newsletter (unless someone wants to make me an offer!)
AI did this
You've probably seen loads of images created by DALL-E, the AI that will turn your text command into an image. In another first, this happened...
The cover story is a pretty good one, on how the image came about and what DALL-E means more broadly for creatives, ethics and art.
Some music for the weekend
Porcupine Tree is the best (or at least, most spoken-about) modern prog-rock band there is. PT retains some aspects of the genre - long songs, unorthodox song structures - but spares us much of the instruwankery (like Dream Theater), and adds in several aspects of melody. If you like Pink Floyd and don't mind the occasional dash of heavy, you will love these guys. So here's a playlist I made with my favourites. A new album dropped on Friday, so this will get updated over the weekend.
Porcupine Tree: Chuck's favourites: Spotify | YouTube
The reads section
Brilliant long-read about how Nike came to dominate culture - from sport to hip-hop. Possible signupwall.
Spotify bet everyone would forget about the Joe Rogan controversy—and it paid off.
Superb analysis on what Reliance, er, Viacom18's bet on the IPL means for consumers. And Reliance.
This new gaming device shows that open platforms rather than walled gardens can succeed.
Is Google Search really dying? A great piece by Charlie Warzel that stitches together multiple perspectives.
A good read about Booktok, the Tiktok phenomenon that's driving GenZ to reading.
MIT Tech Review on the delivery apps trying to reshape India's retail landscape and whether they can succeed.
Rory Sutherland talking about behavioral science is something anyone working in marketing should spend 20 minutes on. (Video from Ogilvy Nudgestock, 7:08 onwards)
Things of Things of Internet
Kritika, a Things of Internet subscriber (and someone I've freelance collab-ed with), runs a design agency called Studio Ping Pong. Recently they turned one and to celebrate, they made an outstanding website. And I mean out-fucking-standing. Check it out here and if you need a good design agency, check their site out (which itself is a masterclass in great UX - don't miss the easter egg in your browser when you navigate away).
BTW - we (Rough Paper) love working with design studios. Focused projects, no BS, driven by logic . If you're part of one and need someone to help with strat / writing, reply to this mail and let's get talkin' :)
I've mentioned before in this newsletter that Alphabet, Amazon and Meta get 70% of all US digital advertising spends. Here's something more astonishing: Five platforms (the above + Alibaba + Bytedance) rake in half of ALL advertising, digital or otherwise, globally. Phew.
And in 2009 people I pitched to said digital would not amount to anything. Hope your cave is nice and comfortable!
See you next week!
With more things from the internet.
This is Chuck signing off, possibly listening to Porcupine Tree while you're reading this.
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