State of Play: 1/4

Bowling for eyeballs

TODAY’S TOP STORY: Spiking the Punchbowl


Politico is the political manifestation of The Thing, whereby it subsumes reporters, teaches them the way of pithy, “who’s winning” on-the-fly journalism, and eventually spits them out.

At the heart of Politico is its newsletter product, Playbook, which skims the world of political positioning to give you the guts of what they think matters*. Some Politico co-founders and editors took that ethos and brought it to Axios, which has expanded to local journalism and TV programs with HBO.

The latest mutation is Punchbowl News, helmed by long-time Politico Playbook editors Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer. A Facebook Newsfeed alum is the chief of operations to further make clear it is not your father’s political journal.

You could do worse than create a company with people who innately understand the core components of newsletters (as they are having a bit of a moment). But creating products that summarize the news for busy people has a finite # of participants (I am trying to find that out - subscribe today!), perhaps the time will soon come for a newsletter that summarizes all of the political news summarization newsletters. Launched by a Politico alum, of course.

They Seem to Think the Next Four Years Will Be Normal (NYT)


Gyms Aren’t Coming Back. Here’s How You’ll Work Out in the Future (Fast Company)

It turns out I wasn’t alone on this fitness journey. A survey of 3,500 Americans by The New Consumer and Coefficient Capital found that 76% of people have tried working out at home during the pandemic—and crucially, 66% prefer it. Among millennials, the number is even higher: 82% made the switch and 81% like it more.

TAKEAWAY: While I am forever dubious of any claim of anything definitively failing to come back post-vaccination (including my own predictions), the gym debate produces some fascinating arguments. It is hard to motivate oneself to get to it, and quarantine life had undoubtedly encouraged many to take their health into their hands. Gyms will continue to have to engage in some impeccable messaging to sway an audience that may have invested in-home equipment or online subscriptions that will be hard to treat as sunk costs to return to a monthly gym membership.

Whatsapp Set an All-time Record for Calls on New Year's Eve (engadget)

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many to have virtual New Year’s Eve get-togethers, and that’s very clearly reflected in WhatsApp’s numbers. Facebook’s chat app set a record as 2020 came to a close, with 1.4 billion video and voice calls placed on New Year’s Eve 2020 — the most ever in a single day on WhatsApp. It was a 50 percent spike over the event from a year earlier, and surpassed even the early days of the pandemic in March.

TAKEAWAY: WhatsApp remains the technology world’s great enigma or a kind of what a control group to what if Facebook waited longer to introduce clear commerce to its platform. It is the world’s most global and most powerful communications tool, seemingly rife with opportunity for marketing campaigns, and yet, it has kept true to its 1-to-1, organic roots. Will Facebook eventually succumb to the clear revenue opportunities? And will that dampen people’s enthusiasm for the service? I assume we start getting some answers in 2021.

Why Every Company Needs to Share Its Mission in 2021 (Fast Company)

If there is one thing 2020 revealed, it is humanity’s universal need for hope, and our distinctly human capacity to share it. Having a purpose, mission, calling, or whatever you prefer to call it is important. But sharing it—our hope for a better world and our selfless care for other people—is infinitely more rewarding.

TAKEAWAY: With all due respect to Jim Olson, who has a mountain of applicable communications experience informing this take, it does feel from the year 2014 than 2021. It is impossible to imagine a unifying message any company can produce that will unite an incredibly stratified country and sufficiently make everyone happy. I see no uniting force in the ensuing years, and companies will need to decide whether they focus on remaining as passive and neutral as possible, do what’s right, or do what will net them the devotion of the largest slice of the public - none of these are the same strategies.