The economics of cool

February 9th, 2024

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We’re in the Age of Soloculture. Rob Engelsman and Alexa Beck, the founders of the strategy shop Quick Study, have coined this brilliant term to describe “the unique worldview a person holds based on how they consume, manipulate, and contribute to the transmission of information.” While Soloculture is as unique to an individual as a fingerprint, it can be shared as a way of helping people understand each other better, especially since so many today feel like they’re living in their own bubbles more than in years past 🙋‍♀️. The latest Study Guide is focused on sports (in honor of Super Bowl Sunday) and why sports are the last true monoculture and how Solocultures made that happen. You don’t wanna skip this read.

In other news… OpenAI is developing AI agents to take over your work, audiences love throwback series, and constant innovation is at the core of what brands are considered “cool.”

Top Trends

YouTube → Knuckles

Google → Kobe Bryant

Reddit → Christian Bale

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“Let me handle this.” // Illustration by Kait Cunniff with Midjourney

OpenAI preps a robot takeover… of our devices

The Future. OpenAI wants to take over your work with the development of two AI agents — one for tasks localized to your devices and another for completing web-based assignments. When rolled out, the agents could radically displace human clerical workers as everything becomes automated — possibly making chatbot managers the hot new job on the market.

Personal autopilot
OpenAI is working on AI agents that take over your mouse and keyboard, performing the tasks in real time.

  • One would complete complex tasks on your device like creating a spreadsheet from a document of information or filling out your tax forms.

  • The second agent would take on web-based tasks like curating data from different sites (similar to Perplexity or Arc Browser), booking flights and hotels, or even building travel itineraries.

Both agents would require express permission from users to perform the tasks, would likely have to be given access to all of a user’s relevant data, and would need to be stored on the user’s device locally. ChatGPT, on the other hand, currently does its computation in the cloud.

These technologies are still in development and have no release date. But, when they do release, they’ll take OpenAI one step closer to creating what CEO Sam Altman called a “supersmart personal assistant for work.”

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Courtesy of USA Network

Streaming audiences crave character commitment

The Future. In 2023, audiences rewarded popular, long-running, throwback shows (Suits, Friends, NCIS) with outsized viewership, turning older series into fresh hits. Partly a consequence of strike delays, a push for committed comfort viewing, and the “Netflix effect,” streamers could start to invest in longer-running series (but fewer overall shows) as a way to both boost engagement and cut costs.

  • According to Nielsen’s rankings, the top 10 most-watched shows in 2023 were all series acquired from networks or cable brands —  this includes the big winner of the year, Suits, at a sky-high 52 billion minutes viewed.

  • The Top 10 shows logged a cumulative 339.5 billion minutes of streaming — the biggest total in four years (when Nielsen started releasing end-of-year totals).

  • This makes it the first time that no streaming originals cracked the Top 10 in four years, even though overall streaming viewership grew by 21%.

Last year’s Top 10 shows were so popular that they accounted for a total of 3% of all streaming in 2023.

It clearly pays off to have hit syndication… but having 100+ episodes ain’t as easy as it sounds.

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Nike Mags from Back to the Future 2 // Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Young consumers love brands that are cool

The Future. YPulse, which tracks and measures “coolness” across 1,200 top brands, released its annual report, detailing the brands Gen Zers and millennials consider to be… well… the coolest. Since constantly innovating is at the core of what’s considered cool, brands that make sure they’re on the cutting-edge of emerging trends (even when they never fully take off) may keep getting the cool points.

The economics of cool
YPulse defines “coolness” as “unique and stands out from their competitors.” Which brands fit the bill?

  • For 13 to 17-year-old consumers, the top brands are TikTok, Nike, and YouTube. 

  • For 18 to 24-year-olds, they’re Nike, Fenty Beauty, and Jordan. 

  • For 25 to 39-year-olds, they’re Nike, Savage x Fenty, and YouTube.

If you’re thinking, “that’s a lot of Nike, Fenty, and YouTube,” you’re right… and that’s purposeful. YPulse chief content officer MaryLeigh Bliss told Axios that each of those brands constantly innovate, keep up with trends, are inclusive and diverse, and have either major celebrity founders, partners, or endorsers — all the hallmarks of what makes a brand cool.

Is being cool important to a company’s bottom line? It would seem so — 69% of 13 to 39-year-olds report that they’re more likely to purchase from a brand that’s considered cool.

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The best curated daily stories from around the web

Media, Music, & Entertainment

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Tech, Web3, & AI

In partnership with Shortform

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Creator Economy

  • Instagram is apparently working on a feature that would allow users to let AI respond to their DMs. Read More → theverge

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  • X became the top-downloaded app yesterday after nude images of Drake went viral on the platform. Read More → theverge

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Today’s email was written by David Vendrell.
Edited by Boye Akolade. Copy edited by Kait Cunniff.
Published by Darline Salazar.

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