Blackout Tuesday’s strange day

June 3, 2020
The Hustle

Here’s a cool story from our Trends community: After the pandemic tabled her plans to start a coworking space for women, Kirstyn Shaw turned her passion for baking into a business called The Very Best Cookie in the Whole Wide World. Since launching in April, she’s brought in almost $13k — and this week, she’s donating 100% of the sales of her bestselling Cookies for Equality to the Black Lives Matter movement.

For the other entrepreneurs out there: We’re writing stories about how black-owned businesses are getting by in such a tough moment. Every business is hurting lately, but black-owned companies have been hit especially hard. Fill out our survey to tell us about your black-owned business, or one near you.

Blackout Flameout

The music biz pressed pause for Blackout Tuesday, but it didn’t go smoothly

Notice a lot more black squares and a lot less beach on your Instagram feed yesterday? 

That’s because the music biz took part in an event that came to be known as Blackout Tuesday. The organizers wanted to hold the music biz accountable for its history of “profiting predominantly from Black art.”

Here’s where the trouble started

Brands everywhere posted black squares to their feeds — but many of them used the wrong hashtag.

By tagging their posts with #BlackLivesMatter (and not #BlackoutTuesday or #TheShowMustBePaused, tags more closely tied to yesterday’s event), critics said the brands actually drowned out important protest resources.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way

The recording execs Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas founded the campaign, citing the industry’s obligation to “protect and empower” black communities.

There’s no denying the effort was a hit: As of midday Tuesday, 14.6m Instagram posts used the #BlackoutTuesday hashtag.

Now for the more important question

What will music industry leaders, y’know, do? The responses were all over the dial:

  • Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube Music all got into the action, with social media freezes, donations, and radio show cancelations.
  • Universal Music Group canceled upcoming releases, pledged donations to bail funds and charities, and launched an “inclusion task force.”
  • One company took the long view: Every Juneteenth (June 19th), Bandcamp will donate 100% of its share of sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Others stayed vague. Columbia Records and Sony Music released statements calling for a day of reflection, but stopped short of sharing how and if they would contribute more concretely.

Some artists wanted more

Kehlani, Lil Nas X, and others said the Blackout Tuesday flurry wasn’t effective. The Weeknd called on major labels and streaming services to “go big and public” with donations.

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TLDR: 10 Quick Takes to Catch You Up

The first lawsuit over President Trump’s social media order arrives, Carole Baskin takes a round from the Tiger King, and the nation’s cartoonists will pay tribute to workers on the front lines.

1️⃣  The Center for Democracy & Technology, an advocacy group focused on tech policy, sued President Trump over his executive order on social media (remember, from the ancient history of 6 days ago?).

2️⃣  The US government is launching an investigation into taxes on ecommerce that have been adopted or are being considered in 9 countries and the EU.

3️⃣  Wells Fargo will stop accepting loan applications from most independent car dealers, over concerns about defaults.

4️⃣  Black workers lost their jobs at over twice the rate of white workers since the pandemic started, according to a Fortune poll.

5️⃣  Delivery apps are still taking orders during curfews in New York, Philadelphia, and DC even as they’ve paused night service in other cities.

6️⃣  Here’s a depressing sign of the times: Downloads of police-scanner apps are skyrocketing.

7️⃣  Wiping away those incriminating old pics from college just got easier, thanks to Facebook’s new bulk deletion tool.

8️⃣  Score one for Carole Baskin: A federal judge in Oklahoma awarded ownership of Joe Exotic’s zoo to Big Cat Rescue Corp.

9️⃣  A bright spot on the hellscape of modern media: Grist, a magazine focused on sustainability and social justice, acquired Pacific Standard, which shut down last year. Pacific Standard’s archives will stay up.

🔟  This Sunday’s paper might be worth the investment: Cartoonists will be honoring essential workers in their comic strips.

The Zoom Boom

Our pandemic pivot to Zoom Everything brought the company some big gains

The tectonic shift to remote work crowned Zoom as one of the pandemic era’s biggest winners. Come Tuesday, one of the only questions left for Zoom to answer (beyond those pesky security woes) was: Just how big of a winner are we talking about?

The company’s quarterly earnings report yesterday brought some answers. Here are a few highlights:

  • Q1 revenues grew by 169% over last year. They hit $328.2m, surpassing analysts’ estimates and even the company’s own outlook (it expected revenues of ~$200m).
  • The company doubled its full-year revenue forecast. Up to ~$1.8B, from ~$905m.
  • Also growing: Zoom’s costs. Its cost of revenue was up 330%, to $103.7m. The increase ate into its gross margin.

And there was another hiccup

Even Zoom’s CEO, Erin Yuan, has tech issues sometimes. From CNBC’s Jordan Novet:

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Moderation station

Facebook’s political speech headache has turned into a full-blown migraine

Turns out, there’s no statement more evergreen than this: Zuck had a bad day yesterday.

Facebook’s head honcho has been dodging internal criticism since he decided not to add a warning to a post by the president that said, in part, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter said the post glorifies violence.

On Tuesday, Zuck held a company town hall to explain his decision not to take action. Basically, Zuck said Facebook’s policies mandated it. It was a “tough decision,” he told staff, but he was “pretty thorough” in his process.

At one point, ~22k employees tuned in — almost half of the company’s 48k workers. The most up-voted employee question, according to CNN, asked that the company change its policies on political speech — but Zuck wouldn’t budge. 

Facebook’s long, long 24 hours

A lot has happened since Monday, when hundreds of employees staged a virtual walkout: 

  • Zuck’s Monday-night conversation with civil rights leaders got universal 1-star reviews: Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, said that the CEO “lives in a bubble” and doesn’t understand America’s history of racism.
  • A software engineer whose job involved cracking down on misinformation very publicly resigned, writing that the tech giant is “on the wrong side of history.”
  • A nonprofit group called Accountable Tech is hitting Zuck on his home turf: The org took out ads targeting Facebook workers that use the tech kingpin’s own words against him. One example: “We do have to take action if people are doing things that are going to promote violence.”
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The Hustle Says

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Get moving

Rents in San Francisco are a-tumblin’

San Francisco’s real estate market just took the Wayback Machine to  spring 2017.

After some Silicon Valley titans announced that working from anywhere will soon be a permanent option, a new rent survey offers a possible glimpse at the city’s future. 

In year-over-year terms — meaning rent in May 2020 compared to May 2019 — San Francisco’s median 1-bedroom rent fell 9.2%. That’s the biggest drop that the real estate platform Zumper has recorded and the city’s lowest average price since March 2017. (Granted, a 9.2% decrease still means, uh, $3,360 for a 1-bedroom.)

Teasing out an exact causation is tricky, but you can probably blame the downturn on tech. While 1-bedroom rents fell 0.5% nationally, other nearby tech hubs saw similar trends:

  • Around Apple’s playground, in Cupertino: -14.3% 
  • On Google’s home turf, in Mountain View: -15.9% 
  • Near YouTube HQ, in San Bruno: -14.9%

But wait before you pour one out for the real estate agents 

San Francisco rents didn’t bottom out overnight: After a mid-2019 peak, the city’s rent had been declining even before the pandemic.

Month to month — AKA May 2020 compared to April 2020 — the city’s fall was a little more graceful: -2.6%. 

So what about other big cities? 

  • New York’s May 2020 rents were down (-1%) compared to May 2019.
  • In Boston, year-over-year rents dropped ~2%. 
  • Seattle’s month-to-month rent actually went up (+0.6%), but they’re still down considerably (-4.3%) compared to May 2019.
  • While SF is floundering, people are still flocking to Oakland: That city’s month-to-month (+1.6%) and year-over-year (+4.9%) rents each saw a jump.
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🎶 How TikTok became a hub of political organizing. 

👃 The 7th sense: Even on the phone, you can probably tell when your friend is making hand gestures. 

🗺 Russians are pioneering the virtual rally — by dropping pins en masse across mapping software. 

💨 Meet the market leaders in the business of tear gas.

🚙 Lamborghini’s new strategy to sell to young people: Launch a video game. 

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