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Strange Ways Part II

This week the world witnessed the journey of a banana. We followed as major publications discussed its meaning, its extremely high selling price, its tragic demise, its popularity as a meme, its appearance in brand marketing and even its link to a conspiracy theory.

In addition to the headline-making Art Basel banana, trending Google searches this week included Ryan Reynold's spoofed
gin ad, Post Malone's Crocs, President Trump's Twitter reaction to the Time Person of the Year and all things NFL and college basketball

Meanwhile, world-shaping news stories that did not make the Google Trends list this week included Myanmar genocide
accusations, disinformation affecting the UK election, continued protests in France and Hong Kong, and Twitter's announcement to build an open standard for social media.
This disconnect between significant world events and the coverage people are actually paying attention to is striking, though not new. Last year, we looked at this phenomenon and its roots in news fatigue and rapid tech change. 

But 2019 has proved that things just keep getting
weirder, and we're paying attention to them for increasingly brief amounts of time. Each week reveals new bizarre realities and viral moments that are quickly pushed aside by the next list of strange headlines. 

While absurd stories can sometimes carry deeper significance and provide (often much-needed) comic relief, it becomes concerning when they consistently dominate coverage over major world events. Hyper-focus on banana-esque events in the wake of major global change indicates that we're on the verge of tuning out. But as we enter a new decade with so much of tech, politics and media in flux, it has never been more critical to solve for collective attention and action. 

Leaders and platforms who can facilitate this shift and help us make sense of the absurd will be essential as we enter an uncertain future. But for now, strange ways continue. 

Chris Perry 
As always, if you find this newsletter valuable we would be grateful if you encouraged others to sign up by directing them here.
What We're Reading
Media Forensics
Our Predictions About the Internet Are Probably Wrong
By Cullen Murphy, The Atlantic

Before Zuckerberg, there was Gutenberg. Looking at the invention of the printing press and centuries of unintended impact that followed, it’s easy to forget how unforeseeable (and never-ending) the “unforeseeable” really is. When it comes to those who make predictions about the internet, the judgment of history is unlikely to be: They got it right.

Platform Dominance
The Age of Instagram Face
By Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker

Ideals of female beauty that can only be met through painful processes of physical manipulation have always been with us, from tiny feet in imperial China to wasp waists in nineteenth-century Europe. But contemporary systems of continual visual self-broadcasting — reality TV, social media — have created new disciplines of continual visual self-improvement.

Synthetic Content
Fake ‘Likes’ Remain Just a Few Dollars Away, Researchers Say
By Davey Alba, The New York Times

Despite Big Tech’s attempts to combat manipulation, companies that sell clicks, likes and followers on social media are easy to find.

Artificial Intelligence
How Robots are Coming for Your Vote
By Frank Swain, BBC

Artificial intelligence increasingly plays a role not only in determining which political candidates the public are exposed to, but also what we don’t see. Matching voters to the candidates that most represent their views based on their past record and public statements could make elections more democratic, but could also amplify bias. 

Platform Dominance
Swiping Meant Dating this Decade, and it’s Time for a Change
By Ashley Carman, The Verge

The swipe sped dating up — people could take in as many humans as they wanted, as fast as they wanted. But as conversations around tech, mental health, and burnout reach a fever pitch, the swipe likely isn’t going to stick around forever. It might remain the gesture with which we make dating decisions, but it’ll require more than a hot-or-not choice.

Content Experience
TV Industry Suffers Steepest Drop in Ad Sales Since Recession
By Lucas Shaw, Bloomberg

Global TV advertising sales fell almost 4% in 2019, the steepest drop since the depths of the economic recession in 2009, in the latest sign that advertisers are following viewers to the internet.

Platform Dominance
The Influencer and the Hit Man
By Ian Frisch
, OneZero

How much is a domain name worth? Well, that depends. Though we live in the era of apps, desirable domains can still be worth tens of millions of dollars. One man's years-long quest to get a URL would eventually propel him down a violent path — a spiral that would end in a hit man, a shoot-out and a sentence of 14 years behind bars.

Emerging Technology
Snapchat Cameo Uses Deepfake Technology To Morph Your Face in Videos Or GIFs
By Adam Rosenberg, Mashable

There's been a lot of (understandable) hand-wringing around deepfakes, but consider this: What if you could swap your face onto your cat's body? Not so apocalyptic anymore, right?

Deep Take
Trusting the News Media in the Trump Era
By Pew Research
A new Pew Research Center exploration of more than 50 different surveys conducted by the Center — combined with an analysis of well over 100 questions measuring possible factors that could drive trust in the news media — confirms that in the Trump era nothing comes close to matching the impact of political party identification. 
Copyright © 2019 Weber Shandwick

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