The meme account that became a media empire


August 19, 2020

Plus: Therapy apps could be messing with your data.
August 19, 2020
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Meet our new favorite art project. It’s called @stoxart, and it’s run by a designer who makes 2020’s batsh*t market trends easier on the eyes.

Disney’s year looks prettier as a landscape, doesn’t it?

The Big Idea

Is this the biggest meme account buyout ever?

Warner Music Group just ponied up ~$85m for one of the internet’s most successful meme factories. 

The deal was technically for IMGN Media, a network of popular esports, comedy, and ASMR accounts. But the biggest IMGN prize is Daquan, an Instagram account followed by Drake, The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, and 15m+ others. 

An anonymous high schooler started it in 2014 — then built it into a media empire. 

Why would a record label want in on memes? 

The suits want to know what’s trending with teens.  

Instead of paying influencers, Warner is cutting out the middleman. A look at Daquan’s data could explain how to catapult new singles into viral hits. 

One proof of concept: Create Music Group bought the musical.ly account Flighthouse for “mid-five figures” in 2017, when the account had just 1m followers. 

Now Flighthouse is one of the main forces behind TikTok’s biggest songs.

The label love of memes goes way back

“Falling” by Trevor Daniel has been all over the streaming charts this year, and you can trace its popularity back to a “Simpsons” meme.

A bigwig at Alamo Records told Complex that a well-placed meme can shoot streaming numbers up between 122% and 600%.

Memes aren’t just for music

Some companies, like Doing Things Media, are buying dog and fitness accounts with millions of followers — then selling partnerships to marketing bigwigs.

Reid Hailey, Doing Things’ CEO, told us the Daquan deal shows “how valuable meme accounts can be to drive awareness.”

Another big name who’s getting into the game: Mark Cuban co-owns @NBAMemes (3.7m followers) with fantasy sports company PlayLine.

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The secrets of acquiring giant Instagram accounts

The latest Trends lecture features the team that owns the extremely popular @NBAmemes account. 

UFC Champ Michael Bisping and Aaron Avruskin — who recently formed a joint venture with Mark Cuban — explained how a network of meme accounts grows their sports-gaming platform, PlayLine.

Here are some takeaways

  • Meme accounts keep costs low: Customer acquisition costs in sports gaming typically reach into the triple digits. With highly engaged sports fans following their social accounts, Playline’s current CAC is an industry-low $25.
  • Engagement + revenue > follower count: When looking at accounts you could acquire, follower metrics can mislead. Focus on engagement (comments and likes) and the track record of previous sponsorship deals. 
  • New ownership, same voice: The PlayLine team has kept the content teams in place for the handles they’ve taken over, to keep “what made the account great.”
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Snippets

5 stories to catch you up quick

1️⃣ A sign that Big Tech may not be done with offices after all: Amazon is planning to add 3.5k corporate jobs across 6 major US cities.

2️⃣ Uber is ramping up its war against California: The company released its $24.99-per-month subscription service, available in… every state but one. 

3️⃣ Shopify is rolling out its first TV show, an 8-part reality series called “I Quit.”

4️⃣ And here we are double-checking our $25 Venmo payments: Citibank is suing a hedge fund after it accidentally wired $176m

5️⃣ That huge Twitter hack last month? More scammers are suddenly using the same tactic, called “phone spear phishing.”

And 5 more to delight you 

1️⃣ A great story from the Inc. archive: Ken Hendricks once built a huge roofing business by shooting straight and helping blue-collar workers improve their lives.

2️⃣ Ever wish you were invisible? Now you (almost) can be.

3️⃣ AI photo editing still has a ways to go: One photographer says Gigapixel AI confused a blurry spot in a photo with Ryan Gosling’s face

4️⃣ An anonymous man dressed in a Batman costume is giving food to people reeling from the pandemic in Santiago, Chile. 

5️⃣ Work from home doesn’t mean an end to perks: Companies are teaching employees how to build ukuleles, make snazzy cocktails, and roast marshmallows from their houses.

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Serious Eavesdropping

What are therapy apps doing with your data?

You thought a therapist with a pen and paper was scary? 

A New York Times investigation into Talkspace, the teletherapy app that’s snagged $100m+ in investment cash, found it was doing much more than jotting down notes.

Employees apparently read over anonymous therapy transcripts to evaluate psychologists. (Talkspace said this only happened if an algorithm flagged a session.) 

Surprised? That’s par for the course

One study found that 81% of the top-rated mental health apps shared your data with 3rd parties — but only a little over half of them admitted it. 

Some of the sharing is about advertising, but there’s a bigger concern: If you get tagged as having a mental illness, algorithms could discriminate against you.

Facebook was once accused of using similar demographic data to limit which users see housing ads.

For some apps, therapy is just a side hustle

Take Crisis Text Line, which is pretty open about reading your texts. The company looks for key phrases that signal when someone is in crisis. 

It gives that info to its sister brand, Loris.ai, a company that sells risk-assessment software that can flag when a customer or an employee needs help.

One more thing you should know

According to the FDA, these apps aren’t medical devices.

Most are listed as “wellness” apps, which means they have a lot more freedom to share your deets.

Jezebel found that Better Help was alerting Facebook every time you open the app — even though it pitched itself as “100% private.”

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Infographic of the day

Many people still aren’t driving to work — but they are still getting everything delivered.

That trend is reshaping the workforce in a big way. July was the first time on record when more Americans worked in delivery jobs (as couriers and messengers) than at gas stations:

(Source: Quartz)

Gimme the beat

The huge business behind those background bops

Ever find yourself tapping your toes to the latest tunes… at McDonald’s?

Startups like Soundtrack Your Brand could be the reason why. The company just inked a deal with Universal Music Group to help corporate clients build streaming-safe playlists.

Licensing deals are music to artists’ ears

Musicians are supposed to get paid each time their music plays in public. But the industry loses an estimated $2.65B/year when businesses blast the manager’s personal Pandora stations.

Companies pay Soundtrack Your Brand $30-$40/month for music. Its revenues for 2018 were ~$3.5m.

The background biz has playlists down to a science

The psychology of music is powerful — and companies like Music Concierge are all about taking advantage of it.

According to Ambie, another music consultant, consumers are 24% more likely to buy a product when they dig the tunes they hear.

A few more things music can do, according to science:

  • Traditional French music might make wine shoppers choose a French Sauternes over a German Gewurztraminer. 
  • Bright bops in the AM and down-tempo sounds in the PM can get a restaurant’s morning rush out the door, or lull dinner guests into staying for dessert.
  • It can tame savage beasts — err, shoppers — so they’re less cranky to salespeople.
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This Day In Business History

(Gottscho-Schleisner, 1950, via Library of Congress

On August 19, 1950, ABC debuted a pair of Saturday morning shows for kids — among the earliest TV series aimed at the 10-and-under crowd.

Before Elmo took over the tube, kids watched the circus-themed “Acrobat Ranch,” plus “Animal Clinic,” which featured a cast of live animals.

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2 Truths and a Lie

One of these storylines isn’t real. Can you spot the fake? Click to find out.

  1. The US will finally decide just how long a foot is.
  2. For those who miss the office, Panasonic now sells home cubicles. 
  3. Zoom Pro introduces AI-powered filters to help you look stylish.
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Today’s email was brought to you by Michael Waters, Caroline Dohack, Trung Phan, and Bobby Durben.
Editing by: Nick “Meme Man” DeSantis, Mia Culpa (Self Esteem Coach).

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