- There’s a strong theme of WTF in this week’s newsletter. Exhibit A: McKinsey is opening its own retail store at America's largest shopping mall, selling goods including cosmetics and underwear. There is method in the madness, though: it's less about making money and more about testing new technology and gaining insight on shopper behaviour.
- Exhibit B: if you thought influencer marketing couldn’t be shallower or more fake, consider the rise of computer-generated virtual influencers. “CGI influencers will always look immaculate. There is no need for them to succumb to perpetual dieting, gruelling beauty regimes or cosmetic surgery. They do not age or fluctuate between dress size, and they’ll always turn up for photoshoots on time.”
- Exhibit C: record labels no longer need to let a little thing like death get in the way of live events—a US promoter is putting on a series of concerts featuring a holographic version of the late Whitney Houston. Like CGI influencers, holographic artists are less susceptible to sex, drugs and rock and roll than their human equivalents. Presumably the only limit to touring dead artists is whether the audience will always love them.
- On more sensible ground, this piece looks at the twenty most successful business transformations of the last decade: there are some obvious examples, but the less intuitive cases are just as interesting.
- WeWork has now abandoned its IPO, and public listings by Uber, Lyft and most recently Peloton have underwhelmed. Airbnb is not the only unicorn considering a different approach. Against this backdrop, the most epic subtweet of the year came from the New York Stock Exchange.
- There is excellent practical advice in this piece on how businesses can get users to trust their product, particularly in terms of the metrics and channels that matter.
- More than a quarter of U.S. adults haven’t read a book in any format and in whole or part in the past year.
- In that context, a recent experiment by the New York Public Library is a fascinating attempt to reach potential readers through new channels: the library published the text of classic novels via its Instagram page, achieving over 300,000 readers.
- Useful research here from BBC Global News on podcast engagement, and in particular the fact that active, multitasking podcast listeners showed greater engagement and recall.
- Finally, if you're interested in media and not watching Succession, you really need to question your life choices. (The fan account No Context Succession is one of the best things on Twitter right now.)