Plus: A $500m smiley face business, why Spotify bought a game, and the cutest family neighborhood.
MSCHF, a Brooklyn-based art collective, launched an ice cream truck serving “Eat The Rich” popsicles featuring the faces of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg. At $10 apiece, it seems only the rich can eat the rich.
In today’s email:
Subway: Eat fresh. Wait, what’s in this?
Smiley faces: A $500m family business.
Heardle: Why Spotify acquired the music trivia game.
Around the Web: Hungry trees, so many Pac-Man mazes, better performance reviews, and more cool internet finds.
🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s quick podcast to hear Zack and Rob discuss their go-to Subway orders, the good and bad news of the dollar reaching parity with the Euro, Walmart’s EV splurge, and more.
The big idea
Why Subway’s tuna is headed to court
You may want to think twice before ordering that $5 footlong.
Subway, the global sandwich chain, is battling claims over the legitimacy of its tuna, and a federal judge just ruled the company can be sued for misleading customers about its ingredients, per Reuters.
Subway’s tuna trouble…
… started when a disgruntled customer enlisted a marine biologist to analyze 20 tuna samples from the chain. He found 19 of them had “no detectable tuna DNA sequences.”
The finding kicked off a series of events:
Subway released a statement, created a dedicated website, and ran commercials touting that it “serves 100% tuna.”
The sandwich chain argued that any presence of non-tuna DNA could be due to cross-contamination with other ingredients.
A US district judge didn’t rule out Subway’s explanation, but determined that some ingredients in the samples (e.g., chicken, pork, beef) are not what a “reasonable consumer would… expect to find in a tuna product.”
For now, Subway is standing firm — recent menu updates don’t show any tuna-related changes despite the ongoing lawsuit.
This isn’t Subway’s first run-in with sketchy food
Previous investigations happened in:
2017, when Canadian researchers found Subway’s chicken only contained ~50% chicken DNA
2020, when an Irish court ruled that Subway’s bread isn’t actually bread due to its high sugar content
The company also faced a class-action suit for selling footlong sandwiches that were shorter than a foot, but it was ultimately dismissed.
Subway’s not alone
Class-action lawsuits against food and beverage companies have been rising for years, and payouts can be lucrative.
That said, if your tuna isn’t tuna, your chicken isn’t chicken, and your bread isn’t really bread — there’s gotta be a better way.
Cord-cutting king: YouTube TV, priced at $64.99/mo., passed the 5m account mark, making it the fifth-largest US pay-TV offering. Hulu + Live TV had 4.1m subscribers as of April.
Complicat-ad: As it preps an ad-supported tier, Netflix is renegotiating contracts with studios — likely at a 15%-30% premium — since existing deals are designed for commercial-free streaming.
Walmart is buying 4.5k Canoos. No, not canoe the boat — the electric delivery vehicle called the LDV. Walmart has the option to buy up to 10k, and Canoo’s shares closed up over 53% on the news.
Meta Versace: Supermodel Karlie Kloss is launching a designer showcase in Roblox where digital fashion creators can show off their wares. Roblox has 54.1m daily active users — 48% of whom are under 13 years old.
Amazon’s studying cancer? The company is partnering with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to provide “scientific and machine learning expertise” on an FDA-approved clinical trial for breast and skin cancer vaccines.
Bad news: A glitch with Honda’s key fobs may allow hackers to remotely unlock cars. Security researchers say the vulnerability could apply to all currently existing Honda models.
Good news: NASA released a bunch of full-color images from its powerful new telescope, including one that reveals thousands of galaxies despite only covering a spot of sky the size of a grain of sand.
The $500m smiley face business
The Smiley Company office in London, England, is a wonder to behold.
Smiley paintings line the walls. Smiley pillows adorn the couches. There are smiley backpacks, smiley T-shirts, smiley exercise balls, smiley toys, smiley chocolates, and even smiley chicken nuggets.
The simple icon — a yellow circle, two dots, a smile — didn’t originate in a Forrest Gump scene.
But it has retained relevancy through 50 years of cultural movements, from free love to raves to the digital revolution. And in the process, it’s become a family-owned global licensing empire worth more than $500m per year.
Community building is a long game, much like gardening.
Especially in reaping what you sow, according to InvestHER co-founder Liz Faircloth. She spent six months deeply engaging her group of women real estate investors, steeping in their deepest pleas and passions.
And that paid dividends. On this episode of the Success Story podcast, host Scott D. Clary abridges his interview with Liz, detailing her perceptive approach to attracting the right people and growing someplace special.
Top community building tips, by Liz
Clarify your mission and niche. It helps to truly take the time and listen to those you want to serve.
Reflect on your greatest moments. And what made them memorable. And channel that energy.
Give it your all (for a little while). Set a hard time frame to go all-in. For best results, nix the ego.
Listen for more on breaking into the community building headspace.
Imitation is the highest form of flattery and, sometimes, it’s lucrative.
Spotify acquired Heardle, an online game that challenges players to guess a song in 16 seconds or less, for an unknown sum. The game will remain free and players can listen to each day’s full song on Spotify.
Spotify says it sees Heardle as a music discovery tool, and plans to incorporate more “interactive experiences” into its platform in the future.
And it’s probably a solid move
“Wrapped,” Spotify’s interactive year-in-review of each user’s most popular streams, boosted app downloads by 21% in December 2020.
And Heardle is popular, reaching a record 69m visitors in March, perTechCrunch.
But there’s no Heardle without Wordle
Heardle is an obvious derivative of Wordle, the word puzzle that The New York Timesacquired for a “low seven figures” in January.
In a company earnings call, NYT CEO Meredith Kopit Levien said, “Wordle brought an unprecedented tens of millions of new users to The Times” in a quarter that saw 387k new digital subs.
And for other companies seeking to draw users with games, there’s no shortage of Wordle copycats out there.
IMDb could acquire Framed, the game where you guess the movie in six stills or fewer. Maybe Airbnb could pick up the geography game Worldle. Perhaps Pornhub wants Lewdle (no explanation necessary).
Ten Google Sheets templates: for smooth content planning, marketing budgets, and more. Take our word for it — tidy spreadsheets help teams get sh*t done.
AROUND THE WEB
✊🏿 On this day: In 2013, Oakland, California, resident Alicia Garza was the first person to use the phrase “Black lives matter” following the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin.
🤓 How to: Only 20% of employees feel motivated by performance reviews. Here’s how to make them better.