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Scientists finally estimated the total number of ants on Earth. The count comes out to some 20 quadrillion, or 2.5m ants per person.

In today’s email:

  • Publishers: Hollywood’s pipeline.
  • Nachos: A wild family business.
  • Video games: Can they prevent dementia?
  • Around the Web: The history of the emoji, a squeaky coyote, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s podcast to hear Zack and Rob discuss the love affair between publishers and Hollywood, Peloton’s long-awaited rower, Spotify’s audiobook play, Amazon’s big bet on football, and more.

The big idea
Jim Carrey typing

Publishers and Hollywood are a perfect match

Back in the day, publishers had two revenue streams: advertising and subscriptions.

Enter Google and Facebook, which have snatched away advertising dollars and ushered in an era of unprecedented media consolidation.

  • Case in point: In 1983, media in the US was controlled by 50 companies — today, 90% is controlled by five.

To survive, publishers have had to find new revenue streams, and an increasingly popular option is selling their backlog to Hollywood, per Axios.

Hollywood licensing…

… has been embraced by massive imprints like The New York Times and The Washington Post, but it’s also become popular with smaller publications:

  • The Atlantic recently announced that its first two film and television projects will soon be released on Peacock.
  • Texas Monthly pulled in ~$1m last year after making 20+ licensing deals between 2020 and 2021.

Texas Monthly president Scott Brown says a credit in the main titles can drive viewers back to the magazine’s properties, making the deals a lucrative marketing play in addition to licensing revenue.

Hollywood could use help, too

While the 2022 box office started off hot, it’s since cooled off, and recent data suggests superhero fatigue is setting in.

Publisher archives can be a great source for non-Marvel fare and can lead to massive hits — a Texas Monthly story was the source for “Tiger King,” which took over Netflix in 2020.

Perhaps a marriage between these two struggling industries could be the love story we never knew we needed.

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eyeball wearing a hat

Huh? Beyond Meat’s COO was reportedly arrested for biting off part of someone’s nose — not vegan, btw.


Spotify launched audiobooks, putting 300k titles up for individual purchase — a new model for the subscription streaming platform.

Peloton Row, the company’s long, long, long-awaited rowing machine, is up for preorder starting at $3,195. It’s eight feet long but can be stored vertically.

Slack announced “canvas,” a feature that lets users create and edit live documents without leaving Slack.

What now, TikTok? Starting in 2023, YouTube Shorts will give certain creators a 45% share of ad revenue.

The NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” debut on Amazon reportedly triggered record Prime sign-ups for a three-hour period.

FTCizzle: Amazon’s $1.7B proposed acquisition of Roomba maker iRobot is under FTC investigation.

Deep tissue: Theragun maker Therabody raised $165m to fund new digital content, acquisitions, and product lines.

Iron Man fans may be happy to learn that Marvel and EA’s Motive Studio are working on a new single-player game based on the franchise.

Hertz struck a deal with GM to buy 175k EVs over the next five years, with plans to electrify a quarter of its 500k-car fleet by the end of 2024.

Selling phone calls? Contractors inside the $657B home services industry are willing to pay for leads or clients. Our Trends report explains how you can nail down a niche.


The family that built a ballpark nachos monopoly

At a Texas Rangers baseball game, the voice of a concession stand employee cuts through the din of the upper deck concourse.

“Another ballpark nacho,” she yells.

The treat arrives in all its gooey glory: crunchy tortilla chips, drizzled in golden-orange cheese sauce — jalapeño slices to top it off.

  • At Rangers games alone, 600k orders were sold last year, or one for every 3.5 fans. For all of Major League Baseball, that would translate to ~13m orders.

If you’ve purchased nachos at a sporting event or a movie theater, odds are you’ve bought chips, cheese sauce, or jalapeños from the Liberto family’s longtime business.

And for every order, there’s one key figure to thank: San Antonio businessman Frank Liberto.

Read the full story →
Free Resource

Four ways to milk market research

Before you build anything at all, you gotta sit down and do the damn homework.

Knowing exactly what your people want, solving their pressing problems — that’s how you guarantee a win. You see the field, then write the blueprint.

Here’s how the big dogs at HubSpot do it. Watch them break down four ways to nail market research.

Market research like the pros:

  1. Unpacking your ideal customer
  2. Pinpointing the research objective
  3. Hitting with research questions
  4. Summarizing your findings

If you’d rather skip the tutorial and take the market research kit, grab that here. Otherwise…

Watch the video →
Brain Games
gaming on a phone

Can games protect our brains?

As a kid, it was, “Stop playing video games and go outside!” Now we’re supposed to play games again?

Researchers say “brain training” games may prevent or delay dementia, per The Wall Street Journal. Dementia currently affects 55m+ people worldwide, with ~10m new cases each year.

Studies have been so promising that the National Institute on Aging is funding 21 clinical trials.

What are brain training games like?

These aren’t sprawling fantasy RPGs or first-person shooters. They require speedily observing, processing, and recalling info, and get harder as they progress.

For example, a pair of objects appear, then quickly vanish. You must recall what and where they were.

Curious? You don’t have to be in a study to play:

  • CogniFit offers a suite of games to train cognitive skills like memory and perception. Limited games are free; a subscription starts at ~$20/mo.
  • BrainHQ’s $14/mo. subscription allows access to exercises including Double Decision, a game used in studies (you can demo it in the WSJ article).
  • BrainGymmer offers both free and paid access to various brain browser games.
  • Luminosity is a daily brain game app with both free and paid versions.

Want more? Here are 10 quick exercises.

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🤔 On this day: In 1915, Cecil Chubb bought Stonehenge for $7.5k (~$219.9k today) as a gift for his wife, who didn’t want it. Three years later, he gifted it to the public.

🙂 That’s interesting: The history of the emoji, born in 1982 when computer science professor Scott Fahlman made a face out of a colon, hyphen, and parenthesis.

🤝 How to: Help people affected by Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico.

🎧 Podcast: Ever dream of running a B&B? California Association of Boutique and Breakfast Inns (CABBI) founders Don Martine and Cassandra Hazen explain how on this episode of Finding Founders.

🐾 Aww: And now, a coyote with a squeaky toy.

Spotify meme

Radio next. (Source:

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Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen, Juliet Bennett Rylah, and Rob Litterst.
Editing by: Jennifer “Nacho fan” Wang.

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