YouTube’s tipping point

Also in today's edition: Twitter tests dislike button, China threatens Japan, Byju's shopping spree

Good morning! Amazon isn’t going to start the weekend well. Remember when Amazon objected to Reliance buying Future Retail and got a stay on the acquisition? Finally an update. According to Reuters, India’s antitrust body has accused Amazon of lying to it and hiding important details of the $192 million Future gift voucher unit deal. This one is going to run and run.

Anyway, on to the day’s stories:

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Drugmakers Come Off Opioids’ High

Four drugmakers, including Johnson & Johnson (J&J), will pay $26 billion to settle claims that they have contributed to opioid addiction in the US. J&J alone must shell out $5 billion over the next five years.

National crisis:  The opioid crisis is not limited to illegal drugs since prescription pills like painkillers also contain traces of them. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that misuse of prescription drugs costs $78.5 billion a year.  Nearly half a million people have died from overdoses in the country between 2009-2019.

J&J has been accused of downplaying the risk of addiction in its marketing content while McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen are being taken to task for ignoring the illegal diversion of drugs.


Unicorns Enter The Horse Race

Last week, Zomato’s $1.25 billion IPO took over our newsfeeds. The next big name is already lined up — Paytm, with its $2.2 billion offering, India’s biggest ever. They join Rakesh Jhunjhunwala-backed Nazara and the most subscribed (200x) IPO of the year, MTAR, to catch the market in high spirits.

Clean Science recently debuted on the market at nearly twice its offer price, while the Tatva Chintan IPO is the second most subscribed (180x) of the year. Anupam Rasayan and Laxmi Organic also received a vigorous reaction from the markets.

PolicyBazaar, CarTrade, Nykaa, and Mobikwik are also queued up. Indian companies have thus far raised over $8 billion via IPOs in what’s set to be a record year. With LIC too headed that way, it could be a record that will take some beating. Easy money in developed economies has helped foreign capital flows into Indian stocks. So have record profits of local firms and rising incomes of rich Indians. Net inflows into equity mutual funds swelled to a 14-month high of $1.24 billion in May before falling in June.


YouTube Enlists ARMY To Battle TikTok

YouTube has decided to get on the only people who can break the internet--BTS. The Korean pop group launched a new trend exclusively on YouTube Shorts. This trend has predictably gone viral. But Google also quietly slipped a new product feature into the mix — Super Thanks. What is it? It’s a tip. You like what a creator is doing, you reward them for their job.

Sounds familiar? It is because YouTube launched Super Chat in 2017. It was designed so viewers could get shout outs from their favourite creators, in exchange for a little cash. But this was restricted to live video now it can be done on recorded video too. This is now YouTube’s fourth creator monetisation feature, which includes channel subscription and Super Stickers, which is the same as Super Chat but as, erm, stickers.

Tipping as a feature:Everyone wants you to tip their creators. Be it TikTok, Twitter or Twitch. The reason to do this is to build creator loyalty. Typically, platforms such as TikTok paid their creators to stay exclusive to it, but in the longer term this strategy is not sustainable. The money has to come from the user.

The Signal

With Shorts, YouTube is directly competing with TikTok and Instagram. The latter has evolved from a photo sharing app to a short video platform in the past one year. YouTube not to be left behind in the race. Getting BTS on and finding ways to monetise its creator base is all bricks to build the next large revenue stream.


The Umami Is Faux

Are you health- or climate-conscious? Then maybe it's time for you to jump onto the “smart” protein bandwagon. The world is abuzz with alternative meat options. From faux fish to lab-grown foie gras, mock meat is no longer simply soy- or pea-based. Even the world’s favourite meat, bacon, has a plant-based alternative. 

High demand: In Paris, a startup called Gourmey that cultivates foie gras in a lab raised $10 million from US and European investors. The retail sales of plant-based food in the US ballooned by 27% in 2020, with the market now at ~$7 billion and growing almost twice as fast as the general retail market. Closer to home, GoodDot and EVO Food are creating quite the stir in Indian markets.

The future of meat: Growing concerns surrounding health, animal cruelty, and ecological factors are pushing consumers to make more informed food decisions. In fact, according to Barclays, the alternative meat market could burgeon to $140 billion by the end of the decade, i.e. ~10% of the global meat industry.



Tragic hero: Through all the countless tales of triumphs and tragedy of Olympic history, few have left a lasting impact of pain and victory as Japanese marathon runner Kokichi Tsuburaya. 53 years after his death, the country’s marathon team stood at his grave and swore to win medals in the tournament. Read the life and death of the athlete with The New York Times.

Mask up: This pandemic has shaped creativity within us. The way we identify and see people around us with their masks on has often been misleading, and sometimes we even fail to identify persons we have been seeing for months around us. 

Fishy affair: Bengalis are happy as their favorite Hilsa returns to the Ganga after three decades. The fish is high-priced, mainly because of its low availability.  Realizing the importance of the conservation of Hilsa in the river, the National Mission for Clean Ganga changed the river barrages to help the fish swim upstream.

AI takes your game: We have been hearing that AI will soon replace humans in many fields. It’s already happening in video games, as Sony along with PlayStation developers is creating characters to mimic humans. The flip side is the AI algorithms might also internalise the racial and gender biases of an industry dominated by men.

Not an option: Remember the Starbucks cup that showed up in a Game of Thrones episode? It might have been a mistake, but not every instance of your favourite character munching from a Doritos pack is unintentional. Streaming services such as Netflix may have taken ads out of the equation with audiences, but they haven’t quite taken brands away from movies and shows. Digital marketers are finding new ways to target you, even though you might be watching the same scene as millions of others.

Who are we? Who is The Signal? What do we do? What is our aim? Who is our audience? We did a long thread on Twitter answering these questions. We were also on The Indian Dream podcast to discuss your newsletter and Zomato’s IPO. We would love to hear what you think. Write to us here.


What Else Made The Signal? 

Nuclear scare: Communist Party of China threatened Japan with nuclear war if it doesn’t stand down on defending Taiwan. The video has gone viral on social media.

Epic buy: Byju’s has acquired Epic, a US-based reading platform, for $500 million, in a bid to expand its roots beyond India and traditional educational categories.

Oil spill: Cyber hackers leaked some files of Saudi Aramco after demanding a ransom of $50 million from the company.

Money on the run: Tata Consultancy Services has set aside $320 million to sponsor marathons over the next eight years, making it one of the biggest spenders on running events.

Invisible thumbs-down: Twitter is testing a dislike button, where users can upvote and downvote tweets. However, the dislikes will only be visible to the person posting the tweet while upvotes will be for public viewing.   

Million-dollar take-off: Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space company, has already soldtickets worth ~$100 million to commercial passenger flights to space in the future.

Data centers coming home: Microsoft may set up one of its largest data centers in Telangana for an investment of over $2 billion.

That's it from us this week. Have a great weekend.

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