Who should profit from a meme?


June 27, 2019

Today, every portfolio seems to have Microsoft stock in it and Apple bought some autonomous cars at the last minute, but first…
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Inside the strange — and surprisingly successful — fight for social media rights

Online social media platforms — and the maelstrom of memes swirling across them — influence the real world more than ever before.

But, as Facebook fakers sway elections, celebrities with itchy Twitter fingers move markets, and comment-thread crusaders crush careers, some people are starting to ask: Who’s in charge here?

The answer isn’t always clear. 

But, people are beginning to fight for their social media rights — and those battles have been as strange as they’ve been successful. 

Here are some of the most bizarre battles sharpening the blurry boundaries of social media sovereignty:

Cartoonists vs. political parties

Comic cartoonist KC Green — the illustrator behind the viral “This is Fine Dog” meme — has successfully fought everyone from the Republican Party (who posted his Dog on Twitter in 2016) to The Daily Show (which posted the dog in 2018) for control of his intellectual property.

After 6 years of fighting, Green built a way to make money off the meme he made — avoiding the trap that other cartoonists (like Pepe the Frog’s creator Matt Furie) fell into when they lost control of their art online.

Models vs. paparazzi 

Model Gigi Hadid — who’s being sued for posting a paparazzo’s pic on her Instagram — is fighting for the right to post the copyright-protected picture on the basis that she “contributed” to it — by posing. 

Lawyers believe Hadid’s defense is flimsy, suggesting Instagram’s balance of power will rest with photographers, not their subjects.

Inmates vs. news publishers 

A judge ruled that Australian juvenile detainee Dylan Voller has the right to sue media companies for allowing readers to make defamatory — and untrue — comments about him on stories they posted on Facebook.

The ruling is a step in the direction of making media companies responsible not just for producing accurate stories — but also for moderating their comments. 

So what does it all mean?

These battles hinge on one question: How much control will creators — cartoonists, photographers, or news outlets — have over their social content?

Together, these episodes suggest creators are gaining more control: Cartoonists are finding ways to cash in on their intellectual property and photographers are protecting their copyrights.

But, by gaining more control over their content, they’re also assuming more responsibility for it: News outlets sharing content on social media may be on the hook for all of it — including the cantankerous comments.

Meme, myself, and I
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1 in 4 investment portfolios in the world contains Microsoft stock

For many investors, tech stocks are a staple of a well-balanced investment portfolio. But just how prevalent are some of the more established players?

The investment research platform eVestment recently analyzed long-only portfolio holdings from 6,053 active equity strategies in Q1 of 2019 and compiled a list of the most commonly owned stocks in the world (hat tip to Axios, where we came across this data).

Tech stocks make up 6 of the top 10 spots — and Microsoft, which tops the list, makes a showing in 24.1% of all portfolios.

A $1k investment in Microsoft stock when the company IPO’d in 1986 would be worth around $1.6m today. According to the data above, many investors seem to believe the company is a stable, reliable addition to portfolios.

Alphabet, which is a much younger company — and appears in 21.6% of all portfolios — doesn’t lag too far behind. It’s likely we’ll see a new leader here in the next few years.

MACROsoft seems more accurate
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Don’t get your Airpods in a knot — iCars won’t hit the road anytime soon

Earlier this week, Axios reported that Apple bought the self-driving car startup Drive.ai for an undisclosed amount of money, kicking off rumors about the Mac Makers’ plans to hit the roads.

Is it interesting that Apple is investing even more money in self-driving than it already has? Yes. Does it mean that iCars will hit the road anytime soon? Almost definitely no.

The Drive.ai acquisition was a fire sale

Drive.ai, which had been valued as high as $200m, was autonomously driving straight for the edge of a cliff before Apple volunteered to take the wheel.

The self-driving startup had already notified California regulators that it planned to lay off 90 employees and shut down operations at the end of June — which means Apple bought the floundering company days before it would have evaporated anyway.

Now what?

The acquisition was an opportunistic move for Apple, which likely paid less for the struggling Drive.ai than the $77m the startup had raised in funding.

Apple will hire dozens of Drive.ai’s self-driving engineers for its own secretive self-driving car program, “Project Titan,” which has been reported to have downsized in the past… but evidently still exists.

» Drive another day

Resold shoes are a $1 billion industry

Detroit-based StockX — a “stock market for shoes” — raised $110m at a $1B valuation, according to The New York Times

As one analyst told the NYT: “The internet and eBay made reselling into a cottage industry. Platforms like StockX made it into a business.” 

A tool for investors

StockX’s marketplace is a resale platform for rare shoes — many of which have never been worn — and other merchandise. 

Sneaker connoisseurs consider shoes as investments, and StockX is proving their point. 

The shoes — as well as other available items like streetwear and watches — are assigned stock tickers. Bidding customers see recent sale prices, volatility, and a 52-week high and low.

Legacy brands could get involved

StockX is one of several shoe marketplaces: Rival resale sites like GOAT Group, Stadium Goods and Bump have also received millions in funding. 

Insiders expect brands may eventually intervene to find a way for themselves to better benefit from resale. 

But for now, the marketplaces are cashing in. So are sneakerheads — some of whom make $250K annually (off $1 million in shoe sales) and even employ assistants.

» Sweet kicks
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