May 27, 2020

Small steps on the road to recovery

May 27, 2020
The Hustle
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Forget NASA teaming up with SpaceX. The real crossover event of the season has arrived: Nike x Ben & Jerry’s. Jerry’s new kicks hit select stores over the weekend — and a raffle on the SNKRS app crushed the hearts and minds of its many losers. 

The shoes were dubbed “Chunky Dunky” — yes, after the banana-and-fudge Chunky Monkey ice cream — and they’re impossible to find. On resale sites, the price is harder to swallow than a Vermonster Sundae: 

The cheapest pair will cost you $1.7k.

Digging Out

As the country reopens, frozen industries show signs of thawing

If we had to summarize the economic story of the quarantine era in a single symbol, it’d be hard to resist “scary red arrow pointing straight down.”

But some of the industries that have been hit hardest by the pandemic are slowly coming back to life. 

It’ll probably be a long time before any of them return to normal (whatever that means). And the picture is still bleak. But if you squint, you can see green shoots reemerging on the vast horrorscape of our deserted economy.

Here’s what the trends look like

💪 Consumer confidence is stabilizing. The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index rose unexpectedly in May, following what the board called 2 months of “rapid decline.” It beat economists’ expectations, too — and stocks rallied Tuesday on the heels of the better-than-expected news.

🍽 We’re starting to go back to restaurants. Consumer spending at drinking and dining establishments fell to $32.4B in April — less than half of what it had been 2 months earlier, and the lowest level since October 1984 when adjusted for inflation. But restaurant traffic is recovering. One example, from Alabama: On May 7, OpenTable data showed restaurant traffic down 100% compared with last year. On Monday, it was down ~51%.

✈️ Hotels and airlines are seeing more travelers. The Wall Street Journal reported that air and hotel bookings are up. Last Thursday and Friday, 318k+ and 348k+ passengers passed through US security checkpoints — the first time since March 23 that air passengers topped 300k, according to TSA figures.

🌲The rings of the lumber industry tell a story, too. New home sales actually edged upward in April — by ~1% compared with March. That may not sound like a reason to pop the champagne, but they were expected to fall by 22%. The Journal said home-building trends (and strong sales at home-improvement chains like Home Depot and Lowe’s) have the dead-tree market blooming once again.

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TLDR: 10 Quick Takes to Catch You Up

Today, HBO Max enters a crowded field, Facebook execs kneecapped efforts to make the platform less divisive, and JK Rowling wants to make one thing very clear about her new book.

1️⃣ HBO Max launches today — the $15/month streaming service will take on Netflix with offerings like “Game of Thrones” and “Friends.”

2️⃣ Facebook executives shelved research on ways the platform polarizes users and weakened attempts to apply its conclusions, according to an investigation by The Wall Street Journal.

3️⃣ Uber and Lyft drivers sued New York State, saying the government didn’t provide them with unemployment benefits in a timely way.

4️⃣ Google is planning to reopen offices on July 6, starting at up to 10% of building capacity and ramping up to ~30% by September.

5️⃣ Warner Music forged ahead with plans for an IPO, saying it will raise as much as $1.8B for shareholders.

6️⃣ LATAM filed for bankruptcy protection — the Latin American air carrier is the world’s largest airline to be driven to bankruptcy over the pandemic.

7️⃣ Canada enlisted General Motors to manufacture 10m masks, providing essential protective equipment and giving the struggling auto industry a boost.

8️⃣ Spotify lifted the 10k-song cap on users’ libraries — so you can add as many Carly Rae Jepsen bangers as your emotions desire.

9️⃣ Audi suspended Daniel Abt, a Formula E driver, for cheating in an esports race (?!) by getting a pro gamer to take his place.

🔟 J.K. Rowling published the first chapters of The Ickabog, a free online book for children that she said is “NOT A HARRY POTTER SPIN-OFF.”

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“Stocks always go down faster than they go up, but they always go up more than they go down.” – David Gardner (AKA Financial Confucius)

In the last down market in 2008, Gardner suggested four stocks. Here’s how those stocks are doing today:

That’s a lotta green. But what’s the secret behind it all? Two words: Timing and patience.

Much like cricket, investing is a long-term game

That’s why smart investors don’t get spooked by dips and losses. Instead, they take advantage of timing and use these drops in the market as opportunities to get potentially high-performing stocks on the low. 

Then, they wait… and slowly but surely, that little chart heads up and to the right. 

Now, we’re experiencing another opportunity for smart investors — and this report from Gardner & Co. has tabbed 5 companies that are a smart buy this recession.  

Who knows, they might just be the next Apple… *crosses fingers hard*

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Want a refund for your concert ticket? Good luck with that

Anyone who has tried to recoup their money on that delayed Billie Eilish concert knows that “postpone” is a loaded word. 

Right now, artists have 3 options: cancel, postpone, or reschedule their tours. And while those last 2 might sound similar, they could make the difference between a $200 refund and a very long wait. 

Here’s Ticketmaster’s official definition: Rescheduled concerts have gotten new dates, while postponed ones will get moved… but are stuck in limbo right now. 

In general, according to Ticketmaster, you’ll only get your money back if the concert is canceled or rescheduled, and those decisions might be left to the organizers.

That has created an impasse: Artists don’t want to cancel or reschedule their tours until they know when this pandemic will end. But you probably won’t get a refund until they do.

Concert tickets are a high-stakes game

If you’ve ever hit up a Rihanna show, you know that securing concert tickets is Southwest check-in on steroids: You have to hunt down presale codes, leave open tabs, set meticulous alarms. 

Giving up those seats is not easy. Even when refund offers do come around for postponed concerts, it can be hard to decide: How do you know if you can make the new date when it hasn’t even been announced?

Meanwhile, some ticket marketplaces are getting stingy. StubHub, for one, won’t be giving out cold hard cash. Mass refunds would make for a huge financial hit, so the company is offering a 120% credit instead.

Big Concert is out of options

The mayors of NY and LA are already proclaiming that it’s “difficult to imagine” their cities hosting concerts for the rest of 2020 — a turn of events that will probably cost the live music world billions of dollars.

With a future that bleak, Live Nation — which owns Ticketmaster — is staking its business on drive-in concerts. After seeing Keith Urban and D-Nice dabble with the setup, the company is planning to host drive-in concerts outside of its 40 amphitheaters. 

And sure, you can’t exactly mosh in a drive-in, but for $200 tickets, you can… uh, flash your headlights and wildly blare your horns? 

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Now streaming

MOOCs are getting the last laugh

In case you need more proof that COVID-19 has set the clock back: The hottest trend in higher ed right now is… MOOC learning.

Sound familiar? Back in the day, MOOCs — short for Massive Open Online Courses — were supposed to democratize education. They attracted splashy investments and buy-in from Ivy League universities, but the reality didn’t live up to the dizzying hype.

Now, years after experts declared the model dead, quarantiners can’t get enough. MOOC companies like Coursera have signed up 10m new users since mid-March, and edX and Udacity have seen similar upticks. 

Moo… come again? 

Let’s rewind to 2012: A new disruptor had just parachuted into higher ed, and the Yales of the world were quivering in fear. The New York Times called it the “year of the MOOC.” 

In theory, MOOCs were going to bring quality education right to your home. Most had a mix of free and paid courses, and the results were unwieldy: Some classes featured 160k students from around the globe. (Just imagine the group projects in that one.) 

The problem was, most people signed up for free — then never finished their classes. Course completion rates hovered around 10%. Paid courses had better outcomes, but few people bought in.

MOOCs never actually died

When the hype cycle abandoned them, the most successful companies pivoted to teaching skills. They started offering 4 to 6-month “nanodegrees” — 10 hours a week, about $1.2k per course per student — in Python, TensorFlow, and other programs.  

Turns out, that model is perfect for a moment when people a) have far too much free time and b) need new work opportunities. 

We’re already seeing a resurgence of early 2010s nostalgia, so why not revive MOOCs, too? Just one request: If we collectively resurrect 2013, let’s bring the doge with us.

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It’s not 1999 anymore

Look, we all want to be ranking higher on Google.

But gone are the days when you could just keyword stuff in your articles and bubble up to the top. 

Now, with hundreds (maybe thousands?!) of factors that drive Google’s ever-changing algorithm… and with everyone and their mom trying to game the very same system…  it’s becoming harder to keep up. We get it. 

That’s why we’re bringing in SEO expert, Nat Eliason, to talk about “SEO Strategies from Billion Dollar Brands”. He’s no stranger to the algorithm — he founded Growth Machine, an agency that has its content read by 3M people every single month. 

Want to learn SEO strategies that actually work in 2020? Join us on Thursday 5/28, at 3pm ET (12pm PT).

Grab your spot →
Tech for Good

Tech’s bigwigs team up to coordinate plasma donations from COVID-19 survivors

Don’t tell Congress, but not everyone has an issue with working together. 

A coalition of medical and research institutions, pharma companies, blood banks, and tech giants like Microsoft have joined forces to collect plasma donations from COVID-19 survivors. Their precious plasma contains antibodies that have been shown to fight off the disease.

Teamwork makes the dream work 

The coalition, called “The Fight Is In Us,” recently launched a website to screen potential plasma donors and direct them to their nearest donation center. 

With plasma in such high demand, the group is trying to pool its resources instead of feuding over the lifesaving supply. The Red Cross, which did not sign on to the effort, has collected plasma from 4k recovered patients through a website of its own.

There are currently 2 different approaches to using plasma to fight COVID-19. The first is giving direct transfusions to critically ill patients. 

  • Nearly 15k people have received direct transfusions so far, under an emergency program administered by the Mayo Clinic and the FDA. 
  • The 2nd is more experimental – using the plasma in clinical trials to determine what antibodies are most effective. 

The gang’s all here

Microsoft is providing tech support for the new website, while the Gates Foundation is advising the effort. Even Uber is getting in on the action, pledging 25k free rides to donation centers.

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Snippets

🔊 Noise complaint? No problem. A condo building across from the Washington Nationals’ ballpark is drawing DC residents who want to “revel in the roar of the crowd.”

💦 In re-opened Japan, get ready for low-sweat gyms.

😳 You’ve heard of murder hornets. Now read about the long-running fight against flesh-eating worms.

🚆Jon Snow, put on your conductor cap: A Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin is part of a group buying a railroad that’s near his home in Santa Fe.

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Today’s email was brought to you by Candace B. Sirius (Art Critic), Nick “Chunky Flunky” DeSantis, Michael Waters, Belle Long, and Bobby Durben.

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