April 27, 2020

Can anyone catch up to Zoom?

April 27, 2020
The Hustle
TOGETHER WITH
Conga

Running out of ways to use that homemade bread? Try this: Make homemade jam. It’s dead simple:

  • Heat a wide saucepan over medium.
  • In go a pound of your favorite berries, ½ cup of sugar, the juice + zest of half a lemon, and a pinch of salt. (If you’ve got one, add the secret weapon: a bay leaf. Trust us.)
  • Bring it all to a steady boil while stirring for ~20 minutes. Until it looks… y’know, jammy. Take out the bay leaf — that’s not for eating.

Cool it, and keep it in your fridge when you’re not smearing it on everything. It’s Monday, but look how much better your quarantined week just got.

Work From Home Wars

Everybody’s coming after Zoom now

First they love you, then they hate you, then they want to be you.

That’s been the story of the last 2 months for Zoom, which went from a bit player in our work lives to a starring actor in the world’s leading docu-drama, “Quarantine: The Neverending Story.” (We do NOT want to see the sequel.)

Zoom’s got some new competition

The software’s eye-popping rise would make any Silicon Valley investor green with envy, even in spite of its security woes and the fact that Zoom Exhaustion is practically an official medical diagnosis.

In December, Zoom had just 10m users. The company said last week that it recently surpassed 300m. Its stock price has jumped 130% this year, and the company is valued at $47B — more than Slack and Pinterest, according to The New York Times.

CEOs at other big tech companies are scrambling to play catch up, by gobbling up competitors or launching their own Zoom clones:

  • On Friday, Facebook said it was crashing the meeting. Its new Messenger Rooms service will let users video conference with 50 people at a time.
  • Verizon recently bought BlueJeans, a Zoom competitor, for less than $500m.
  • Google’s been beefing up Meet, its own video call service, launching a grid-style view, noise cancellation, and other in-demand features.

Alas, they may be too late: the Times reported on an extremely cringe-y moment when Google’s chief business officer held a Meet-ing with thousands of employees — only for his son to burst into the background to ask whether he was using Zoom. And to say how much he liked it.

Welcome to the Zoom Industrial Complex

Here’s another sign that Zoom is the hottest thing on the market: Other startups are piggybacking on its success (if that’s not the ultimate compliment, what is?).

Protocol reported on Zoom-based startups like Grain and Fireflies, which let users capture important meeting moments, and Stream, which lets musicians, fitness instructors, and other content creators stage paid Zoom events.

Just when we thought we’d seen them all, The Guardian reported on one of the most unusual Zoom hacks yet: the Silent Zoom.

The idea? Recreate the no-fooling-around feeling of a library. There’s nothing better than a roomful of muted strangers to hold you accountable to your work goals.

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Small Wins

Indie shops are stealing a sliver of Amazon’s bookselling revenue

Score one for the Davids in the eternal slingshot war against the OG ecommerce Goliath.

The Washington Post reports that a start-up marketplace called Bookshop.org is going bonkers in the Bad Times, allowing small bookstores to commandeer a page of Amazon’s bookselling revenue.

They don’t even need a whole page — just a corner!

Amazon dominates the literary market, thanks to its bookish history and the way it kindled a revolution in how people read.

According to eMarketer data, 55% of books are sold online, and ⅔ of those are sales made by the Great Library of Bezos. Even grabbing a few lines of Amazon revenue would be a boon to the little guys.

Bookshop.org is helping them do that. When the pandemic set in, indies signed up at the Bookshop in droves. Shops that set up a storefront there receive a 30% cut of sales.

Total sales today are ~$4.5m, with $870k going to stores.

But make no mistake: This chapter might not have a happy ending

Indie bookstores are still hurting bigtime. Many weren’t ecommerce experts in the Better Times. Like so many other businesses, they had to spin up virtual sales and creative alternatives fast.

Just one example of the industry’s struggles: The Strand, the famed indie bookseller in NYC, has a dozen people left on the payroll after temporarily letting almost 200 workers go. 

It spun up a web book club — called The Stranded, of course.

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Sponsored

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What’s a knowledge bomb? It’s when a company goes out of their way to pull together important insights from tech-forward business leaders in order to help you prepare for the future. 

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And that’s what Conga has done with this report:

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Reading it will equip you with the knowledge needed to plan a path forward for your business and embrace a fully digital future — one where you work faster, make fewer mistakes, and waste less time. 

Wow… we love the way that sounds.

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Press Play

Oldies are golden and pop stars lose their luster: our quarantine listening habits

What’s on your pandemic playlist?

According to The Wall Street Journal, it may not be pop music: From mid-March to mid-April, Spotify streams of the top 200 US songs fell by 28%, to a low point for 2020 so far.

The trend is fueling a decline in music consumption that started around March 12, when states began issuing shelter-in-place orders. Some of the world’s biggest stars are canceling or postponing tours and pushing back releases because of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, kids’ tunes are on the rise…

…because parents are searching for anything to keep them occupied. 

Quartz published a list of the artists whose streams saw the biggest fluctuations from early March to early April, and Kidz Bop was up the most (+9.5%).

Older artists are playing a redemption song

Streams of Bob Marley’s catalog jumped 23% over the 3 weeks leading up to April 2, compared to the previous month. Also seeing revivals: Bob Dylan, Hank Williams Jr., and country stars like Kenny Chesney.

PSA for anyone who needs something new to spin: The Rolling Stones’ “Living in a Ghost Town” is our new quarantine anthem. 

The rock legends tweaked the song to reflect life in lockdown before releasing it by surprise last week. It was their first original material since 2012, and it just hit No. 1 on iTunes in 20+ countries.

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The Hustle Says

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DVD FTW

For Netflix’s DVD-by-mail service, it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady streams

A decade ago, getting the mail was exciting

In addition to letters and trashy magazines addressed to your neighbor, the day’s delivery often included Netflix’s signature red DVD envelopes.

These days, streaming has supplanted the DVD-by-mail model. But the disc ain’t dead yet. Netflix is still shipping out envelopes through its DVD.com service.

Sure, we’re all about the binge

Competition between streaming services has changed the way we watch TV. 

The big bucks are in creating broadly appealing new shows. A must-see series like “Little Fires Everywhere” or “Stranger Things” doesn’t just pull in subscribers. 

Product placement deals can bring in $50k to $500k per episode, and owning original content means streaming services don’t have to negotiate for expensive distribution rights.

This makes it harder for a service to justify keeping movies in the lineup — especially rare films and classic cinema, which can be pricey to acquire and keep. 

The number of movie titles available via streaming has sunk 40% since 2014, from ~6.5k to ~3.8k.

But there’s still a place for DVDs by mail

In addition to keeping film buffs happy, DVD.com also is a resource for people in areas with poor broadband access. And it’s surprisingly profitable.

  • With 2m users, it made $37.3m in profits in the 4th quarter of 2019, which breaks down to $17.34/user.
  • Netflix’s streaming service sees a return of $13.09/US subscriber. 

There’s a concern that if DVD catalogs disappear, we will lose some titles forever. 

Netflix isn’t as invested in pumping resources into DVDs as its streaming offerings, but some industry experts think that there might eventually be value in mining back catalogs to create new services centered on hard-to-find content.

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Snippets

🍞 Whoa: An ancient mill that shut down industrial operations in 1970 is back to producing flour thanks to spiking demand.

💌 Match started a hotline for questions about dating in the time of quarantine. Here’s what people are asking.

🥃 More proof that cyberattacks touch practically everything: An auction of rare whiskeys was postponed after being attacked by cybercriminals.

✍️ After a sentence, 1 space or 2? Microsoft may have ended the great space debate.

Want snippets like these in your browser? Download our Chrome extension here.

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