S1: Hello and welcome to the side gig episode of Slate Money, your guide to the business and finance news of the week I am Felix Salmon of Axios. My side gig is hosting this here shows slate money. I’m here with Stacy-Marie Ishmael of Bloomberg, whose side gig is also hosting state money and indeed also Emily Peck a fundraise. I’m just going to say you have another side gig hosting state money.
S2: I have so many side gigs, Felix like can’t even list them all take too long.
S1: Do you have a Fortune column?
S2: I do. I have a Fortune column. It’s called worksheet, and you can sign up. Very good.
S1: We love save gigs here at Slate Money. We are going to talk about people with side gigs. We’re going to talk about Jack Dorsey, who this CEO of Block F-k Square, who also had a side gig running a company you might have heard of, called Twitter. He know he just gave up that side gig. We’re going to talk about the employees at BuzzFeed News who are being barred under their union contract from having any kind of side gigs at all. We are going to talk about the jobs report and what that says about employment. We are going to have a Slate Plus segment on Twitter and whether it should charge for subscriptions, which is a pretty jam packed show, which I have to say is the most amazing testament to how generous the producer who managed to overcome technical difficulties. Who would have floored anyone else. Thank you, Shayna. And enjoy her amazing cut of slate money coming up. I want to start by talking about stocks, I know that we have, you know, important stuff to talk about Omicron and Tapering and jobs reports and Jack Dorsey and well, he’s more important, but we’ll talk about Jack Dorsey. But I want to talk about stocks because I think this is this Buzzfeed story is actually kind of important and interesting and marks an important new stage of the SPAC story that has been going on for the past. What year or so? So, Stacy, hello? That’s the former Buzzfeed employee. You can you can tell us the news hook here. Buzzfeed is now a listed company on the stock exchange. How did that happen?
S3: They went full back, I think, as as often happens. So they are merging with a SPAC called 890 Fifth Avenue Partners, which, if I remember my Buzzfeed history correctly, is Buzzfeed guards dressed in order to, you know, attempt to give some liquidity to its venture and various other investors who have been jumping up and down about when are you going to go public for a long, long time? But that is not going quite according to plan.
S1: I want to say that Buzzfeed has never been anywhere near 890 Fifth Avenue, and it’s named after a fictional address and in a Marvel movie.
S3: Is it easy to a Marvel movie? I really should know that. So but what happened in the past couple
S1: of, yeah, I think it was. I think it was Howard Stark’s telling.
S3: This makes it worse. If three things happened this week that have made this a little bit more complicated. One is the 60 members of the Buzzfeed news union walked out on the job to protest what they see as lack of progress in conversations about getting a salary floor and various other conditions of work agreed with management. And Dow Jones reported yesterday that investors have been withdrawing a bunch of the money that was held by the SPAC ahead of their trading debut, which is scheduled for Monday morning.
S1: So the SPAC withdrawal thing is the thing that really I wanted to zoom in on here because I think it’s very important. As as you say, the way you become a public company these days, you can either just go public in an IPO, in which case you sell shares to the public. In those shares, start trading on the stock exchange with a certain valuation and the amount of money you get, the amount of money that the public spends on those shares, his money that goes straight into your Treasury. The alternative is you do a SPAC where the public has already bought shares in this listed vehicle, which is just like a blank check company that’s listed on the stock exchange doesn’t really own anything except for money. And then you merge with that vehicle that owns money, and then the money goes to your Treasury and then you wind up with listed shares either way. And then basically two different ways of getting to the same place and. One of the things that people said when the SPAC boom started about a year ago was that the SPAC offers much more certainty that with IPOs, you never really know how much money you’re going to raise until like the day of the IPO, the pricing is uncertain. You never know how much demand there’s going to be. People call off their IPOs at the last minute. They’re expensive, blah blah blah, blah blah. Whereas with a SPAC, you do this deal, the price is set. You know how much money you’re getting and you get your listed stock price. And there are pros and cons to both. But the narrative that the SPAC route is more predictable and certain has been completely exploded by this Buzzfeed deal and by other SPAC deals that are happening right now. Because when you buy your shares in the SPAC and the Blank Check Company at $10 each, you reserve the right to withdraw them at $10 each and just take your money out instead of merging with the company. And this is a very, very simple, purely arithmetic decision that investors make. Like one of the things that bothered me a little bit about the Dow Jones story was they were making it sound like investors weren’t really into the idea of owning Buzzfeed. And so they were withdrawing their money because they didn’t like the Buzzfeed business model or whatever. No, it had nothing to do with the Buzzfeed business model. The only question they care about is, are those shares trading at above $10 or below $10. Turns out, the shares are trading at like nine point ninety six, and so they are they have a choice. Basically, they can get $10 for their shares by withdrawing that $10, or they can get nine point ninety six for their shares by allowing them to go public on the stock exchange if you want to own Buzzfeed stock. It makes sense to withdraw your money at $10 and then buy it 996, right? You make money that way. So there’s no reason for anyone to hold on to the equity that they have in the SPAC, and that’s why almost no one did it. The equity in the SPAC was like well over $200 million. In fact, 270 million something like that, and almost all of it got withdrawn. And this is really bad for Buzzfeed because Buzzfeed was counting on getting $250 million or whatever you know for itself that it could then use for acquisitions it could use to pay its, you know, news journalists more money. It could do all manner of wonderful things with $250 million. And now that $250 million isn’t there, it has a stock market listing. But you know that and 2.75 will get you on the subway. What they wanted was money and they didn’t get money. And this is a real problem with the entire model going public by a SPAC.
S2: Can I ask? But when they debut on Monday as Buzzfeed, whatever that ticker symbol is going to be, the 996 is out the window and it could be anything. Right? I mean, because
S1: it’ll be close to 990. I mean, who knows? Who knows what’ll happen? But the everyone knows right on the stock market exactly what that stock is going to own come Monday. So the way it’s trading today is presumptively where it’s going to be trading on Monday as well. Nothing really changes. The merger is priced in 1996 996.
S2: I guess I get that Buzzfeed didn’t get the money it wanted from doing this work around to go public, but at the end of the day, it still goes public. So that’s fine, right? Like, it still has that end goal and they’ll have a share price and maybe it goes up. Maybe it goes down. It’s 2021, and I feel like anything is possible.
S1: Sure, absolutely. The stock can go down, the stock can go up like that is 100 percent possible. But breaking into the main money? Yeah, but the main reason that the CEOs want to go public is that it’s a way of raising equity capital, and that is not something that they have successfully been able to do with this particular deal.
S2: But maybe they will. And am I being crazy like that? It’s a long road ahead.
S1: So now if they want to raise equity capital, they’re going to have to do that in the secondary stock market offering. And they’re going to have to say like, we’re going to issue new stock. This is going to dilute you sit by by a certain amount, you know, and and the presumption always is that when you do a secondary offering that that weakens your share price because it increases the number of shares outstanding.
S2: I just want to add in terms of what Buzzfeed is giving its union. It’s incredibly insulting. They’re offering a one percent raise to reporters at their company, which at a time of high inflation
S3: and the salary. Or $50000?
S2: And most of their reporters are in high cost cities. Just seems so insulting. So it’s hard to feel. I don’t know anything for these people.
S1: This is this is another thing which is fascinating. Is this negotiation, at least if you listen to the union and the company isn’t really talking, but the union is saying, look, that they’re really cracking down on us in terms of like we can’t even do social media stuff. It looks like the Buzzfeed management offer is quite draconian in terms of what it allows employees to do. And and Stacey, I’m interested in what you think about this. Is this something that kind of makes sense from a new media company that they want that that they see the value of like social media activity and they want all that value to accrue to themselves,
S3: not just social media activity. It’s any activity that is potentially competitive to, you know, the long arm of the Buzzfeed empire, which because of that empire is so big and so complex, includes everything from comedy to unsolved mysteries to news stories to cooking or makeup tutorials or beauty. Right. And this is not particularly unusual, I think, in the context of how I’m seeing like media companies that are trying to be big, multi-platform that want the ability to be like, we might be doing a TV show that this could be competitive with, we might be doing a podcast this could be competitive with. Well, what is interesting about it is the valuation is so low from in terms of the lock in for the quote unquote talent. Right? Like, you are guaranteed $50000 to lose the right to do any kind of outside work. And that is
S1: or even to put like a makeup tutorial on TikTok.
S3: Exactly. So it’s both like outside freelance work, but anything like any outside non Buzzfeed creative pursuits. And I think that flaw in this particular environment feels very low to the kinds of people who have the talent to do those sorts of things, right? Like we one of the there’s a joke that I’ve been making with various of the members of the Buzzfeed alumni that, you know, like the Buzzfeed to Netflix pipeline is very aggressive. Like they’ve got they’ve got folks and writers rooms. They have folks working on sets. They have folks who were like engineering and product popping up in all sorts of various and interesting places because the kinds of skills and experience and expertise both on the news side, certainly, but also in entertainment that that, you know, people who have kind of been through the Buzzfeed machine have are extremely in demand right now. And I think the Buzzfeed, like many other media organizations, feels threatened by, you know, the Substack effects. Although I think the Substack effect is tapering out as various of those more high profile people go right back into traditional media. And it is certainly unusual. You know, there’s a one Buzzfeed named Casey and Toplis who had a thread about she’s now the longest tenured person in news at Buzzfeed, and one of the ways that she was hired initially is because of writing that she was doing on the internet that Felix at Buzzfeed saw and were like, You’re really interesting. And that’s that’s so true in media, right? Like, your currency isn’t only the things that you are publishing under your official byline for your official employer right now, it’s always been who you are in all these other forums because the way our industry has worked for so long, it’s like, Oh yeah, I was reading this thing or was listening to this thing or I saw this thing, you should talk to that person. Right? And that’s a hard reality to confront both from the side of the employees and also the side of management. Management is going to want to lock in for sure. It is in their interest to make sure that they have the monopoly on that or indeed the monopoly buyer of that talent, as we’ve talked about in other contexts. But it’s not in the interest of the employee on the other end to kind of give up that right for $50000 in places like New York and San Francisco.
S1: And this explains why so many media organizations have unionized over the past couple of years.
S3: It’s certainly one of the reasons I wouldn’t say it’s the only one Emily. Well, if you care to comment, I mean,
S2: I think media organizations have unionized because it’s in workers’ best interest to unionize and a lot of the the workers inside. Media companies know that very well. I don’t know, and they’ve been able to do it. I don’t know that the best argument for unions is unions are good for workers, and I know management doesn’t want you to think that. But like at the HuffPost Union, they they negotiated for a three percent raise every year and higher salary floor.
S3: And of course, Buzzfeed and his folks are now the same. But there are two different unions, right? There’s the union, there’s Buzzfeed Union as a person in management and as a person who’s been in management for such a long time, I completely understand. Why is media company management or like you work for us? Do your best work for us and don’t compete with us on other platforms. I also completely understand is the person who’s been on the other side of that negotiation, why being told you have to lock up your talents for 50 K is a difficult pill to swallow
S2: to change the subject a little. There was a piece in Axios this week or last week that said the Buzzfeed SPAC is going to be like a test case for all media companies going forward. We’re saying here today that it is a disaster and a mess, and Buzzfeed has lost. What does this mean for other media companies? Do we need to worry?
S1: I’m going to push back on those Axios people, so I don’t know this news organization where off you speak, but like. The fact is, as I say, this is just an arithmetic thing, right? If the share price of the SPAC was ten point forty seven instead of nine point ninety six, then no one would pull out their money. And it would be a success, right? It’s a very small difference. It’s a kind of like Buzzfeed got very unlucky here. And so if you price this back correctly, if you price your deal in a way that people aren’t going to withdraw their money, then you should be fine. I think what we’re seeing here is a slightly overoptimistic valuation on Buzzfeed, which caused people to just say, like, I don’t think it’s worth $10 a share and you really want when you’re constructing a SPAC, you want to construct a SPAC that people are like. I don’t know how much it’s worth by. No, it’s worth more than $10. In this case, people said, I don’t know how much it’s worth. I think there’s a very good chance it’s worth less than $10, and that’s the last thing you want people to say on the day of the actual SPAC merger. So, so long as you get the the valuation less wrong, then Buzzfeed did or 890 Fifth Avenue did, then I think you should be OK. Just to get to this question of unions, Stacey, what’s the sort of hypothetical alternative, right? If Buzzfeed news didn’t have a union, if they hadn’t unionized, how strict would Buzzfeed management be about people putting makeup tutorials on Tik Tok is is the fact that everything has to be written down in the in a massive contract. Does that encourage management to wind up like taking a maximalist stance in the way that they maybe wouldn’t necessarily do if everyone was just an at will employee? And there was no union
S3: as somebody who worked there in the days before the union was a union. I can see that there has always, always, always been a tension between the fact that Buzzfeed attracted some of the most interesting, creative, accomplished people. I think like Heaven and Tracy and another round, I think of Matt, Bill, Ossai, and you know, well, I with the name of his shows like Whine about It, which I know about it. I think of the fact that, you know, millions of people watched a bloody watermelon explode on Facebook Live. There was it’s a place that, like many other media organizations, it’s all media organizations are built on people. Buzzfeed was a place that built on people that fundamentally understood the internet and the potential of digital in a way that it was, I think, had like the highest concentration of those people working in media at any one time in any one building. And it was an incredible thing to see. And even then, folks were trying to figure out, Hey, I started as an intern or I started as a fellow on an intern or a fellowship salary. I’ve now been here three years. I am single handedly responsible for X gigantic amount of your audience or viewership or attraction or readership or whatever the metrics were, and not feeling that they were able to make any headway in having those skills be perceived as valuable to a level that they thought kind of commensurate with what they were adding to the company, which is, you know, again, the oldest story in media and in any industry. All of us are like, Pay me more. I’m amazing. But for me, you know, a market’s perspective, various of those folks left because they were like, I can make more money working somewhere else. I can make more money going independent. I can make more money going to work for Netflix, you know? So that talent was real and has always been real. And this is this is, I think, a public explosion of a conversation that folks have Buzzfeed have been having also very publicly for for a long, long time. Because if you, you know, if you Google like Buzzfeed Union or you search it on Twitter, it’s like the the employee culture has always been. We’re going to talk in great detail to everyone that will listen about what’s happening here, because that was the ethos of the place.
S2: It’s also worth pointing out that Jonah Peretti should know that side gigs matter because Buzzfeed was his side gig when he was. Yes, indeed. So maybe that’s the reason he’s so strict about it. I saw some quotes somewhere where Jonah Peretti said something like you. You have your best creative thoughts in the shower, and we want to own the shower thoughts,
S3: the shower thoughts quote. Was it was that? No, that that did happen. No, I didn’t have a shower.
S2: Thought you’re in here.
S3: But I mean,
S2: like, I don’t know, company owned technology to produce my shower thoughts and their holy
S3: mind. I mean, fundamentally, this is a question about, you know, alienation of labor rights and like and like what and what is the what is the status of the worker under capitalism? But I think saying these things out loud still makes a lot of people uncomfortable. There is always going to be a tension between the people who are on the hook for making the thing and the people who manage the thing and direct the thing and capture X share a value for the thing. And that tension is like, how is that value distributed back to the people who are making the thing versus the people who are directing the
S1: thing just to come full circle on this? Now, the Buzzfeed is not raising anything like the amount of money that it had been budgeting for in this spec. Is that just going to make this labor negotiation much more fraught and tense?
S3: I mean, I don’t know any labor negotiation that’s not frozen, tense, like going on a deal and everything’s going amazingly. But I do think the economics here are challenging, right? It’s it’s the argument that, hey, you have made a bunch of money for a long time. Well, which is sort of mixed because they have not always made a bunch of money or for a long time. But you are the the economics from a management perspective of we had a financial plan based on these expectations. We’re not currently seeing that these expectations are being met. That’s going to compromise the financial plan. Like there’s no. That doesn’t ultimately trickle back down to a conversation about here’s why these demands are even less reasonable from the perspective of the people who would have to spend the money to make it happen.
S1: I just realized actually, it’s not just Jonah who had a sidekick going, it’s also the editor in chief of BuzzFeed News. Mark Shoots is also a professor at USC.
S3: That is indeed true.
S2: Well, there you go.
S3: I had forgotten about that.
S2: I mean, yeah, if you pay people too little to live, they need side gigs. That’s just the bottom line. You can’t ask them to devote their lives to you and not pay them enough. Come on.
S3: I mean, the the the logical. Well, you could argue about whether you think this is logical, but the a natural extension of that conversation, as always. If you don’t think you’re making enough money work,
S1: that’s why that’s why the quit rate is so high right now. Everyone’s like, Well, I don’t think I’m making enough money that I’m going to work.
S3: So we’re back. We’re back to the idea of quits and the great resignation. But people say that that’s kind of a threat, and that’s unfair. You know, especially if you’re an at will employee, especially if you don’t have union protections like that’s just the risk that you are facing all the time. And I think all three of us come from different generations and media. The thing that was unite that united us is you were constantly like texting people who are like, Oh, so sorry, I just saw the news about the layoffs. Also, sorry, I just saw the news about the layoffs. Is there? Is there a drinks fund that I can contribute to? You know, there was a period every couple of years when getting to about now and everybody was looking at their books for the following year. It would just be like, Well, we’re letting go 10 percent of its newsroom or, you know, we’re putting 15 percent of people on furlough or whatever those things might be. It’s a grind. There are a lot of people in media for whom that’s been the reality for a very long time, and they don’t necessarily want to have to keep jumping from place to place feeling increasingly precarious. But they feel in a lot of cases like that’s their only choice,
S1: which is a perfect segue way to talk about the jobs report that came out on Friday, which made no sense, because I guess we have to know a little bit
S3: confused by the jobs report.
S1: The thing, the thing that people refer to when they say the jobs report, Cingular is actually two different surveys. There’s something called the household survey where they go along to households and they’re like, Did you get a job this month in the household? Yes. And one point one three million people said, yes, I got a job this month. And then there’s something called the establishment survey where they go around to employers. And they said, Did you hire anyone new this month? And the employers go, yes. And if you count up the number of people who got employed, it was about 210000 people, which is like less than a fifth. So we have two different surveys coming out with two radically different numbers. One survey, which does the unemployment rate, shows the unemployment rate dropping to 4.2 percent, which is crazy low. It’s basically we’re at full employment now. The other survey, I think the general consensus being like, people don’t really believe it. But what’s your takeaway? Emily.
S2: I feel like let’s we’ve seen revisions to the employer survey, I believe, like for the past several months.
S1: So they’ve been huge
S2: and they’ve been really big. So today, they said 210000 jobs were created in November, but there’s no reason I’m going to just lay on some double negatives. There’s no reason not to think that that number is going to get revised upward and become more in line with the 1.1 million line. And it just kind of I don’t I guess I don’t believe it. Just anecdotally looking at the job market’s now looking at the quits rate, it doesn’t seem right. I know that’s not very scientific, but it just doesn’t seem right. It’s it’s it.
S1: It’s like, this is it’s it’s actually extremely scientific. It’s it’s good old fashioned Bayesian reasoning. You’re like, I have a bunch of priors. There’s a bunch of things which I know about the strength of the job market, about the quit rate, about how hard it is to hire, about wage inflation and all the rest of it. And that has given me a baseline against which to judge any new piece of information and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and the idea that the economy only created 200000 jobs in November is a pretty extraordinary claim. And we know that this number is open to revision, and we also know that in the pandemic, the quality of these statistics declines. And so for all of these reasons, we can take a we can take that number with a relatively large grain of salt.
S2: Yeah. And I don’t think it’ll change anything like the Federal Reserve. Jerome Powell testified this week that he’s going to do the legendary tapering and stop buying so much, so many assets because we don’t need to anymore because the economy is getting back to where it needs to be. I don’t think this jobs report changes the taper plan
S1: and which which brings up the the dog that didn’t bark or. Possibly did bark, and we’re all to death to hear it, which is Omicron, you know, is it the Omicron al-Muqrin?
S2: I’ve heard it on Macron,
S3: the variant,
S1: the variant. There was a bunch of like weird mini panic in the stock market this week about Omicron towards the end of last week. We all seem to have gotten over that pretty quickly. The consensus again here seems to be this is possibly nothing to worry about, to the point of which it might actually be a good thing. It’s like a less deadly version of COVID. And if everyone winds up getting the less deadly version rather than the more deadly version, then isn’t that good and we should embrace the new variant? You know, it’s still very early days, and
S3: I sort of hate the idea of embracing a variant just like just like
S1: you, England is like is is better than Delta. Then like, it’s it’s an improvement.
S3: Right? So if it outcompete Delta,
S1: it does seem to be much better at infecting vaccinated people. But those vaccinated people, once they’re infected, don’t seem to suffer too badly.
S3: I think the big issue and this is where I put on my very large hat that says I am not an epidemiologist or a virologist or a scientist. I cannot wrap my head around risk assessment right now, and I feel like I’ve spent the past, however many months of the pandemic it’s been trying to figure out is it worse to get a milder variant while infected, but risk infecting other people for whom even a milder variant is totally disastrous? Is, you know, do I just like go back into lockdown again if I ever want to see, you know, I have various friends and family having their there, they’re like having kids. Like, if I ever want to see them in the future, I need to sort of adjust my own risk profile because even if I will be fine, they might not be. And there’s just no good answers to these questions. I will read every Twitter thread from people who are actually scientists being like, Well, if you look at T cells, I’m like, I don’t even I barely understand what a T-cell is. I didn’t, you know, and it’s just I feel like the cognitive load of this kind of life and death. Maths is really getting to me.
S2: It’s been it’s been almost two years of this. And I think there’s just an element of how much how much more can we be expected to do? Like two years is like 20 percent of my daughter’s life at this point. Like, we got to this,
S1: there’s long COVID and then there’s COVID fatigue, and now we’re just having COVID fatigue. But people do
S3: like long COVID is a thing that’s also happening, and we don’t know because it’s so early in the life of this variant, whether actually the thing that’s going to suck about it is, you know, people are more likely to experience long COVID after just no idea.
S2: It’s just I don’t know anything about epidemiology, but I would say, like with regards to the markets and the economy, the fact that there’s a new variant I feel like probably won’t matter, given the past 18 months of the economy just kind of chugging along just fine. But maybe that’s because you would argue what the Fed is doing because of fiscal policy, blah blah blah.
S1: But it’s not the Fed. It’s not fiscal policy. It’s the vaccines like, it’s overwhelmingly the vaccines that, like new variants, are terrifying when you when you don’t have a vaccine. New variants, even if they are better at circumventing the vaccines than the old variants, are just so much less worrying when you have a largely vaccinated population. And I think the the new variant is going to have effects at the margin in terms of international travel, and we’re going to see much more of this countries basically wanting to be seen to be doing something. And the first thing that they like to do when they want to be seen to be doing something is to say, you know, is to put in new travel restrictions and specifically, this is the one that just drives me up the wall. Specifically, travel restrictions from the one country that did this right and sequenced all sequenced all of the tests so that they could see this new variant really growing, which is South Africa. The reason why it was found in South Africa is not because it started there. The reason it was found in South Africa is because they’re the only country that doesn’t enough sequencing to be able to notice this kind of thing in real time. Everyone should be thanking South Africa for doing it right, and instead they punish South Africa and say, You can’t come into our country, come on, people.
S3: And then when it was found inevitably in Europe, there, like, that’s still fine.
S2: And everyone, I feel like a lot of people, even Biden doing the travel banning is like, this really won’t do anything. And it’s like, But what? What? Why that? I mean, no one actually thinks that it works. It just gets done for this window dressing element. Right, I mean,
S1: there’s no there’s no evidence that travel bans work. And, you know, if you look at I remember reading some research about how fast viruses spread across the world even before the age of jet travel, right before the age of aeroplanes. Viruses would spread across the world in like a week or two. It’s these things are just blazingly fast and you stop people coming in on their airplanes, you know, at the margin, it pushes back the date of Omicron expanding in your country, perhaps by like a few days. It makes no real difference at all. It’s it’s theater. And I don’t understand why it’s become so socially acceptable and everyone that thinks it’s a good idea.
S2: People love the theater of these kinds of things. I mean, think about like going through the metal detector and taking your shoes off at the airport, or the fact that still at all these restaurants and stores they go to, they have those plexiglass barriers up, even though everyone knows they don’t do anything. People like that reassure. Theater is reassuring
S3: to a security theater for years and years of taking off your shoes and TSA lines. Yeah, yeah. I think there used to be a thing before the
S2: psychological or something. Yeah. One guy with a shoe bomb and now one guy. I have to see people’s toes every time I.
S1: So, so like just to wrap this up in terms of monetary policy, why not? Basically, nothing here in terms of either viruses or drugs reports to persuade the Fed that it’s doing anything wrong and the Fed is going to keep on doing what it’s doing, which is is tapering, which means it’s going to like stop having its foot hard on the gas and it’s going to take its foot off the gas a little bit, although it’s still a little ways off from starting to raise rates, which will probably be happening, who knows in the middle of next year sometime today?
S2: There you go. Felix is forecast.
S1: That’s not my forecast. That’s just the consensus market forecast. Let’s talk about blockheads. I want to ask you if you want to see a photograph of Jack Dorsey and Larry Summers in with their heads in the shape of a cube. Stacey, where should you go? You should
S3: go to block Dot X Y Z, or
S1: which is the new home page for the company formerly
S3: known as Square. And they have an absolutely. Incredible. I think I’m going to use the word experience because this is this is
S1: it’s an experiential rebrand
S3: where on their leadership and you know, like investors and executive side, they have instead of your boring headshots instead of your illustrated headshots instead of your pixelated headshots, they have people’s faces photographs of people’s faces superimposed onto blocks.
S2: And you can now someone built a tool where anyone can put their face on a block almost to
S3: leading up could be a block that
S2: conversation, I was like, I’m going to put Felix is based on a block. Then I went down some internet rabbit hole and didn’t do it. But this is a tool available to you.
S1: This is the first big move by Jack Dorsey, who’s the CEO of Log since he quit his his side hustle
S3: side hustle like three days ago. This is an accelerated timeline that we’re talking about here.
S1: Barry, he’s quit. Twitter, like Jack Dorsey, no longer runs Twitter. He is now laser focused on look, and because Stacy is here and she’s the crypto queen. You can explain what the hell is going on. First of all, it was Facebook. The site deciding to change its name to Metta because Metta is metaverse and metaverse is Web3, and Web3 is crypto. And so it’s like jumping onto this crypto bandwagon. Now it’s square changing its name to block because block is blockchain and blockchain. This crypto, you know, this is just like in the 1990s when everyone put dot com on the end of their names, but people. But the company is doing that when, you know, a hundred billion dollar companies. Now it’s these massive companies which are doing that.
S3: Yeah, I am professionally and personally obsessed with this because I think that surprise surprise. I think that one of the most interesting things that is happening here is cultural rather than economic. And I saw a thread that I should have bookmarked, but I did not where someone was saying, If you are a social media CEO right now, your life sucks, right? Like you, you wake up every day, you’ve got to testify to Congress. You have a bunch of people emailing you about genocides of Myanmar, and then you look over there and you see all these crypto people with their like, fun apes, avatars and optimism about the world waking up every day and telling everybody, good morning and raising a bunch of money to try to buy the Constitution. And it just seems like so much more fun. And it seems like even if you have regulators potentially breathing down your neck, you haven’t yet been accused of facilitating mass murder or making teenage girls depressed or, you know, succumbing to influence operations out of various other parts of the world. And there is a kind of optimism and interesting ness, a novelty that is very attractive to a lot of folks who’ve spent the past several years kind of grinding.
S1: Right. And so the idea is that we have the two most high profile social media CEOs in the world, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, both making this decision to basically try to pivot as best they can from social media to crypto. Zuckerberg did it in a really dumb way just by changing the name of his company. Dorsey did it by quitting social media entirely and just moving over to a different company, which you decided was going to be a crypto company in terms of the square reboot rebrand. Obviously, like from a Dorsey point of view, you can see what’s happening here from that square point of view. Do you think, Stacey, this makes sense. Like if you are a board member, I love to say this. Larry Summers is a board member of Square. And so late one day he gets a phone call from Jack Dorsey saying, I’m I’m thinking of changing the name of this company from square to block. If you are Larry Summers, what do you say?
S3: I am never going to pretend to have any idea what Larry Summers is thinking about anything at any time, but the they’re changing their corporate name to block in the same way that, you know, the Google Alphabet Facebook
S1: Message Square still exists where Facebook still exists?
S3: Exactly. And Square is the consumer facing you. Swipe your card in a coffee shop and hopefully tip your barista well, that that brand is still going to be square. And I think that is probably the right move, because the universe of people who are ever going to care about blockheads on our websites is like the people who listen to this podcast and then a bunch of us on Twitter. But you want to, you know, I think from a consumer facing perspective, the less confusion you introduce into the market, the better.
S1: Well, from a consumer facing perspective, the other big brand is Cash App, right? So and Titan,
S3: which I did not know somehow I had completely missed. Yeah, they
S1: bought tidal somewhere along the way.
S2: I was just going to step in and point out that social media is not only a not a fun business to be in anymore for Marc or Jack or even Jonah. Right? I mean, Buzzfeed is inherently a social media company square like if I’m Jack Dorsey and I got two jobs at square and at Twitter, and I look at the fundamentals of each company. Square has been. Jamming, it’s doing well, its stock price is up into the right. No problem. And Twitter is just kind of like gone nowhere since founding, like it’s just like kind of flatlined. It’s not an interesting growing business, and he hasn’t run it that way. In contrast to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, they’re all about growth, all about like, whatever it takes. And we see, like what happens there. Democracy falls, blah blah blah. People get murdered. Genocide. La la la Twitter decides not to grow, but then doesn’t grow. I guess it makes sense to me that a that Jack Dorsey left Twitter to go to the business that’s actually succeeding. And B, for some reason, it doesn’t bother me. That Square has become block because it’s just like a three dimensional transfer of of the name, right? It’s just the flat
S3: square becomes a three dimensional cube,
S2: and I feel like that’s fine. It’s fine. It’s not like meta, which was just embarrassing.
S1: Does that mean that in five years, time Block is going to rebrand as Tesseract?
S2: Yes, it does. That is what or
S3: who is going to be the board like the off the ultimate
S1: block. Larry Summers still still.
S2: That’s the really. He always comes out on top of the of the block.
S1: That’s where I want to continue this conversation a little bit in slate class by raising the question of should Twitter become a subscription service?
S3: Isn’t it already
S1: like as in something you have to pay money to use? We’re going to talk about that in Slate less because I’ve seen some interesting arguments to that effect. But I think at this point, we should probably have a numbers round and I’m going to start with you, Emily. What’s your number?
S2: I’m going to go with a number that I’m sure Felix will be really into. It’s one thousand twenty four. That’s the number of potential topping combinations on Burger King’s signature burger, the Whopper
S2: which is turning sixty four years old, apparently, and Burger King is promoting that by charging only 34 cents for a whopper. This week’s deal because the original price. This is a common tactic from some companies like McDonald’s, I think did 63 percent Egg McMuffins recently like retro prices, and I just want to encourage all companies to do a retro price here and there for all of us retro rants. Let’s let’s get into it. I think it’s a good strategy and now I want a burger. So that’s my number.
S3: I’m not sure I’ve ever had a whopper. Here we are. I think
S2: they’re good. I don’t know. I haven’t had one since I was like a teenager, but I should. We talk about them a lot in the Peck household, but then we like chicken out and just make burgers at home.
S3: That’s probably the way to do it.
S1: May not. My number is a little bit old, but I just found it this week, so that’s why I’m doing it. This week is 19 percent, which is the proportion of employees at the Oregon Department of Corrections who have managed to get a religious exemption against getting vaccinated. Apparently, they’ve all discovered this religious conviction that they don’t want to take the vaccine. The Oregon Department of Corrections, unlike many other states, other states have just been like, No, what are you talking about? What religion are you? That religion doesn’t say, you can’t take the vaccine, you know, whatever. Oregon, on the other hand, seems to say religion is a deeply personal thing. If you have decided that you belong to a religion of one that says you don’t need to take the vaccine, then that’s fine. It’s amazing how much variation there is between states and even between different state institutions within a single state. And I will add that even the Christian scientist, which is the one religion that seems to be most adamant about, like, do not do anything medical, even they have not said that their members shouldn’t take the vaccine. They’re agnostic on that one.
S2: So are there any religious groups that are saying that?
S1: Not that I’ve found.
S2: So people just make it up against my me, my religion. But exactly. And that’s OK. They just got it, OK. That’s the Buzzfeed union negotiating tactic should be OK. The raises are against my no.
S3: Yes. What is my number? My number is fifty four million five hundred and fifty six thousand nine hundred and seventy five, and that is part of the name of the company, formerly known as Squares Crypto Division, and the full name is TBD. Five four five six six nine seven five, which is a name that, according to law, they chose based on a numerology report, which they have in fact posted to Twitter. That’s like, Oh yeah, this name gives you a dynamic destiny, entitling the holder to a high position power, money and recognition in society. Briefly, meet the unexpected, and you will be happy to discover that you have become a prosperous and prominent figure in the society.
S1: OK, so to be clear, Locke has a number of different subsidiaries. Square, which we know there’s Cash App, which we also know and seems to be the main locus or historically has been the main locus. The Jags like crypto dreams. It’s like you can use it to buy a bet. You can buy bitcoin on Cash App. There is Tidal, which was the music streaming service that never really took off and then got sold for pennies to square for reasons that no one entirely understands. And then there is this last subsidiary, which with Help me out here, Stacey, what does it do?
S3: Bitcoin? Let’s just say if you go to TVD five four five six, it just seems to be advisable to put down the all the bio says is bitcoin.
S1: So and was it acquired or is it like a little skunkworks within the company?
S3: It seems skunkworks. So if you look at some of the actual things that they have written about it, it’s kind of like R&D for various things.
S2: This Twitter account is wild. There’s 2500 followers, and the account itself follows only one person and his name is Greg. Yeah.
S3: No, it’s truly incredible. Who’s strong? Strong. Recommend checking
S1: this out. OK. We will talk a little bit about wild Twitter accounts in Slate Plus, but otherwise. Thanks for listening. We will be back on Monday with I’m just going to come out and say the best slate money succession yet. It’s the awesomely amazing one. Watch the show on Sunday. Listen to the recap on Monday. We have Rachel Syme from The New Yorker talking all about succession and then back the following Saturday with another regular late money. We we have like very religious corrections officers and law courts.
S3: What is happening today? Oh, go on.
S1: All right. And is it too early to start drinking? OK. OK, so sleepless, this is the thing I wanted to talk about. A lot of people were talking about the Twitter share price, which is basically gone sideways for the entire tenure of Jack Dorsey as CEO. And they were saying, Well, here’s an idea if you want the share price to go up, why don’t you try making more money? And so then they were like, Yeah, OK, so if we’re going to make more money and like various sort of like, you know, tech, you think affluence is like Ben Thompson and Scott Galloway and stuff have been sort of going down this route. They’ve been saying, if you want to make more money, why don’t you like given the people and brands get enormous value out of Twitter? Why don’t you charge them for it? And the idea is that if you have more than 100000 follow up, even if you have more than a thousand followers, you start having to pay to keep on being able to tweet. So, yeah, at that point, when you’re that invested in the platform, you really have no choice but to pay and that Twitter has astonishing degrees of pricing power here, and it’s priced at Service Zero for its entire history. But just because it’s always been zero, should it always be zero and if it wants to make money, shouldn’t it start charging?
S3: It’s a good idea. Felix Do you pay for Twitter Blue?
S1: No, because there’s nothing on Twitter Blue that I want or need.
S3: Well, you want to edit your tweets.
S2: They come out perfectly forms
S1: every time my tweets a perfect Stacy-Marie.
S3: I’m sure you think so. I understand the merits of this argument from a, you know, we’re going to make you perspective that’s always very effective. And Netflix is like, by the way, here’s I mean more expensive subscription every like fine.
S1: If Twitter came along to you and said, like it now cost $5 a month, you would pay it.
S3: I would, because it’s a professional like I’m handcuffed to the fact that for work, basically, I have to know what’s going on and what I occasionally have to say things which I resent every time, and it’s occasionally fun, less and less. But but but it would also
S1: it would also make it less of a hell site, right? Because sometimes there would be less.
S3: This is, I know, crappy trolling. Oh no, no, no. I have never been of the belief that there are no trolls without money. Like, come on.
S1: No, no. But there were a few like the number. This is me raising my random random eggs that will jump into your mentions will decrease.
S3: The number of people who are engaging in highly coordinated, incentive driven behavior will not. One of the very first communities I ever moderated in my professional life was the comment section of an exceptionally well known financial media organization that catered exclusively to people with money. And I can tell you from having been the de facto and first community manager for those people and the kinds of comments that they were super comfortable leaving from there at Goldman Sachs email address. There is no correlation between ability to pay and will be chill about things.
S2: But I mean, I do think it makes sense for Twitter to charge people who have a lot of followers like Felix said those people would pay the money and then Twitter could make money like it has a product that is valuable to people. And not just because it’s like not just as a social network, but for news organizations. I mean, new sites monitor Twitter to figure out what the news is. It’s an actual real service and it is useful. So it is kind of crazy that they don’t they don’t charge for that, that that’s all free and we’re all out there producing content for this website for free. And it can’t figure out how to make money.
S3: They can’t figure out how to make money, but they’re also not giving any money back to all the people who are producing all that content for them. You know, the once again, and this was also a again very publicly criticism laid at the feet of places like BuzzFeed and Huffington Post, etc that, you know, so much of the stuff that was viral was like, here is an aggregation of the funniest things that we saw other people doing on Twitter at the time. Tumblr, R.I.P.. And news organizations now also play the really important role of holding social platforms accountable and saying things like, Hey, we tracked down the four people who are behind all of the Meghan Markle harassment on your platform. Or we figured out before you did the way that banned advertisers are and running your rules. And whenever there’s a major blockbuster news story of that kind, two days later, there’s like a little small update on somebody’s corporate blog post being like we have taken down the offending accounts, and news organizations don’t get any kind of benefit, financial or otherwise from doing that work, which is very important to the overall ecosystem.
S2: But I mean, that’s their job to hold it. Is it to hold companies accountable, to hold platforms accountable? So you know, that’s.
S3: It’s definitely their job to hold platforms accountable, but to also then be in a war of because they’re doing that, they’re getting their API access restricted or their accounts closed down and their attempts to do that. Newsgathering is also kind of tricky. Mm-Hmm.
S1: I just love the idea of like reworking the game so that instead of like it’s all gamified so that people want to increase their fellow account, it starts becoming gamified so that people want to decrease, right?
S2: As you approach 100000, you’re like, Oh no,
S1: what if I should? I should start, like you said, talking everyone to get, you know, get them to unfollow me. I remember in
S3: the early days of Twitter, I used to try to do kind of a quiz I Dunbar number where I was like, I can’t follow more than X number of people at a time. And so every time I wanted to follow a new person, I’d have to nuke somebody. I should go back to that philosophy.
S2: Like, we live in a subscription world now. It’s crazy that that the Twitter doesn’t. I mean, people spend a lot of time on Twitter, and the fact that no one’s paying a subscription fee is wild. Like you can subscribe to so many things that cost so much money these days. Like like, there’s this weight loss app. Noom costs like $40 a month and you can get the same stuff free anywhere. There’s I mean, people pay monthly subscriber fees for wild things now. Substack $5 a month for one person’s newsletter Wild like why wouldn’t Twitter charge five bucks to everyone? It doesn’t make sense, I guess, for scale. Maybe I don’t know. I don’t get it.
S3: I’m fully on. Well, they have a new CEO, so
S1: maybe Parag will do that if
S3: he listens to slate money. You know, think about it.
S1: Does it takes a to sleep this by.