Out of Scope Issue 73: Elon Musk vs. Twitter, cont.
Examining corporate paradigm shifts
This week, we dive into Uber’s latest attempt to mitigate its past wrongdoings, trends across sports fanbases, the return of Limewire, and more.
💡ON OUR MINDS
More Elon Musk news
Following Elon Musk’s decision not to buy Twitter, he unleashed an onslaught of posts and memes via, you guessed it, Twitter. On Monday, Musk tweeted four laughing images of himself writing, “They said I couldn't buy Twitter. Then they wouldn't disclose bot information. Now they want to force me to buy Twitter in court. Now they have to disclose bot information in court.”
For context, the result of Musk’s decision to back out of this $44 billion deal has found him in the midst of a lawsuit. Twitter clapped back by suing Musk in an effort to complete the acquisition. Musk’s legal team argues that Twitter breached “multiple provisions” of the deal, while Twitter responded by saying that Musk was the one who breached the terms.
There aren’t many winners of this he-said-she-said mud fight between the two parties, but there are several losers. For Musk, the best-case scenario would be not having to buy Twitter or shelling out a settlement of far less than the purchase price, a $1 billion breakup fee. Worst case, he buys Twitter. The situation is not so forgiving for Twitter. Twitter employees are awkwardly waiting to see if their bosses sell their company to the guy who said he doesn’t want to be their boss. And for the Twitter board, they either don’t receive the money they were promised or hand over the company to the man they are suing. Ouch.
Are Musk’s tweets a reputation liability or indicative of a distinct brand image? Depends on how you define success. To some, Musk’s memes, staunch criticism, and commentary on social media may come off as a bit of a personal rampage. But his company Tesla still accounted for 21.6% of all luxury cars in Q2.
🏆 BRAND FAIL OF THE WEEK: Uber (7 years ago)
Skeletons overflowed from Uber’s closet this week when leaked emails and text messages revealed some ugly strategies from Travis Kalanick’s boardroom. Under his stewardship, Uber deliberately withheld information from police investigations, inappropriately lobbied world leaders, and put the safety of their riders and drivers at risk.
The list of improper behavior is too long to cover here, but the most incendiary incident took place during taxi drivers’ anti-Uber protests in France in January 2016. The protests were becoming violent, but Uber did little to protect its contracted employees on the frontlines. While drivers were being engulfed in chaos, Kalanick texted Emmanuel Macron, then France’s economy minister, to push the French government for support. In one particularly disturbing exchange with staff, Kalanick wrote, “Violence guarantees success.”
Uber issued a statement acknowledging its past wrongdoing and what the company has done to change. “We have not and will not make excuses for past behavior that is clearly not in line with our present values,” they said. “Instead, we ask the public to judge us by what we’ve done over the last five years and what we will do in the years to come.” A perfectly adequate response, perhaps, but not one any business ever wants to be forced to offer.
📡 ON OUR RADAR
There’s a paradigm shift underway at Netflix. In a collaborative piece from Vox’s New York Magazine and The Verge, Zoe Schiffer reports on how the streaming giant’s culture is changing in the wake of David Chappelle’s controversial (and now Emmy-nominated) comedy special. Once, Netflix prided itself on its transparency. Reed Hastings would respond to difficult questions in a Google doc viewable by the entire company. Now Netflix is running a much tighter approach to employee communications. The streamer has always taken a notable approach to stakeholder management (remember the Keeper Test?). Their new internal comms strategy may be a bellwether for the entire tech industry.
The golf world is divided. Following the PGA’s suspension of players signing with the Saudi-backed golf league LIV Golf, the DOJ opened an investigation on whether the PGA tour violated antitrust regulations. Saudi Arabia has pumped billions of dollars into LIV Golf funded by the country’s sovereign wealth fund. Big-name players like Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson have jumped ship from the PGA to play for LIV, both of which were offered hundreds of millions of dollars for just signing with the new league. Golfers playing for LIV have their eyes set on the unprecedented purse winnings for tournaments. The PGA Tour has tried to compete by raising its purse winnings for tournaments and suspending golfers who sign with LIV. Only time will tell if the PGA can stand up to LIV in the eyes of the law. For players, they must choose either money with LIV or the longstanding prestige of the PGA.
One of the hottest books-turned-movies of the summer isn’t scandal free - Delia Owens, author of Where the Crawdads Sing, is still tangled up in a 1990s killing in Zambia, The Atlantic reports.
Sports viewership may be down for Gen Z (only 23% of Gen Zers describe themselves as passionate sports fans), but according to McKinsey, they’re splurging on other things like sports apparel and esports, influenced by social media. Teams and leagues must meet their audiences online and find non-traditional ways to keep the traditional love of sports alive.
Speaking of, baseball has been one of the last sports to innovate in trying to cater to Gen Z. Now MLB's new CMO is swinging for the fences with new strategies to bring in more "rookie" fans, starting with the All-Star game this month. In even more sports news, the Las Vegas Raiders have hired the NFL’s first-ever black female team president, Sandra Douglass Morgan.
The housing market in the US may have reached “Hunger Games” level intensity. With mortgages rising with inflation and the rental market in major cities driving actual bidding wars, the market has never felt more competitive. Social media, notably TikTok, has become a new channel through which housing is listed and predictably, a place for renters and buyers to publicly lick their battle wounds.
Research from MIT Sloan has shown that experts are actually worse at communicating in their field than non-experts. Too often, SMEs get bogged down in the details or fly over people’s heads. It can help to have an outsider explain things to a lay audience. Perhaps you’re having trouble with this? We might know someone who could help.
The flavor of the week these days may actually be “bad taste.” Some people on this internet this week have suggested that rather than following a clear theme, our cultural aesthetic right now is deliberately directionless, with little regard for taste and cohesion. Time periods’ cultural and fashion aesthetics are typically organized by clear, overarching trends or themes, but in our current moment, it's hard to identify a cross-cutting aesthetic for the times. The 2020s have already seen think pieces galore raving about the return of 2014 grunge, Y2K gaudiness, and 90’s nostalgia. With a new trend appearing seemingly every week, it may be hard to identify what the major trend is right now– Hirsch Leatherwood thinks the current trend might be… well, trends.
Subway’s tuna sandwich continues to wade in controversial waters. After the initial buzz about the content of the tuna itself (studies found 0% tuna DNA, though Subway denies the claim and shared their own lab report), the courts have ruled that Subway *can* be sued for misrepresenting its ingredients. An important reminder that you can never have too much tuna on a tuna sandwich, when the alternative is none.
In case you missed these stories this week.
Are we all saying bye-bye to the business lunch?
Quinta Brunson, the lead actress in the hit comedy show “Abbott Elementary”, just made Emmy history by being the first Black woman to earn three nominations in the comedy categories in the same year.
Did you hear Spotify is acquiring Heardle? No worries, the game will remain the same.
Speaking of music streaming… Limewire is back – but as a music NFT company? The verdict is still out on if they can overcome their early 2000s reputation that’s synonymous with computer viruses.
Trend hopping goes awry in the jarring trailer for Netflix’s Persuasion.
Attracting top talent gets tricker as managers join the Great Resignation.
The White House and GLAAD prepared a briefing on Wednesday for their latest line of defense against monkeypox – LGBTQ influencers.
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
The fine print: This week’s newsletter is brought to you in solidarity with the inflation-driven hunger-striking penguins at Japan’s Hakone-en Aquarium.