Cold Takes

(Originally published on Cold Takes, my newsletter — more about it here.)

I’ll take this Friday to say thanks to all the folks who have provided feedback about this newsletter thus far. It’s extremely helpful as I think through what I want to do here long-term.

One concern that lingers in my head is that my writing here is taking away from my writing on 500ish. The reason is obvious: hard to find time to do both. On the flip side, I’m writing again (almost) every day. So who cares what the format is? That’s just what I’m weighing now. There are pluses and minuses to each, of course. Still love the direct and informal nature here. But also sometimes long for a bit more structure.

The obvious answer is to continue to do both. And I will. But the inhibiting factor, again, is time.

Anyway, happy Friday. And go Giants. And Indians.

5ish Links

Barack Obama in an op-ed for The Economist:

So it’s no wonder that so many are receptive to the argument that the game is rigged. But amid this understandable frustration, much of it fanned by politicians who would actually make the problem worse rather than better, it is important to remember that capitalism has been the greatest driver of prosperity and opportunity the world has ever known.

This won’t grab the headlines that the candidates covet, but the restraint and nuance in President Obama’s letter is no less important. Actually, far more so.

As he asks:

This paradox of progress and peril has been decades in the making. While I am proud of what my administration has accomplished these past eight years, I have always acknowledged that the work of perfecting our union would take far longer. The presidency is a relay race, requiring each of us to do our part to bring the country closer to its highest aspirations. So where does my successor go from here?

Good interview of CEO Kevin Systrom on the state of Instagram. The key part in my mind:

“I think companies that fail are typically companies that look at themselves as a set of features,” Systrom said of Instagram’s decision to get into video and move beyond its iconic square photo. “Companies that succeed look at themselves as mission-based companies. … So if Instagram’s mission is to make sure that everyone can capture and share the world’s moments, and use them to form stronger relationships with one another, how do you say to someone, ‘I’m sorry, you can’t post that photo unless you crop it into a square and fit everyone in’? That’s a ridiculous argument.”

It was never just about pictures. It was about ease, speed, communication. Looking back, it’s still crazy just how well this acquisition has gone. It’s a new textbook example of how to do a deal of this nature. And a huge part of that has undoubtedly been keeping Systrom (and co-founder Mike Krieger) not only around, but actively engaged. You know, the people who set out on the mission.

Also of note:

“The new logo aligns with our principles — simplicity, universality, understandability. It also aligns with our mission, which is not just to be a camera company, but to be a moments company. The logo is abstracted from the physical camera. It acknowledges that we are, in fact, about moments.”

“Not just to be a camera company” sure sounds like a direct shot at Snap(chat), no?

While I’m obviously rooting for the Giants — and holy shit, did you see Madison Bumgarner on Wednesday night?! — the Cubs are the story of this playoff race. And I also have a soft spot for them, even though I have no real tie to Chicago — undoubtedly because:

WGN, a division of the Tribune Company, which owned the Cubs at the time, was one of cable television’s first superstations, making its debut in 1978 on fledgling cable systems nationwide. Cubs games — including 81 played in the daytime at Wrigley, which did not have lights until 1988 — were beamed across the country, making the Cubs a kind of second home team for some.

In places without major league teams, the Cubs were adopted as the home team.

I had the Indians growing up in Cleveland (also looking great this year), but the WGN thing meant it was easy to watch Cubs games as well. Also, it’s hard to root against a team that hasn’t won in 108 years — did you know Wrigley Field opened six years after the Cubs last World Series title?! — especially a team seemingly doing things the right way.

Facebook has a mixed track record (at best) when it comes to spinning-out services from its main app. For the massive successes (Messenger) there are huge flops (basically everything else). But this one makes a lot of sense to me (and seems well done). Facebook is a quiet — as “quiet” as a service with over a billion active users can be — juggernaut when it comes to events. Anecdotally: for a handful of “classy” events, I get Paperless Post invites. For everything else these days, it’s Facebook.

Joe Flint:

Combined, ESPN, Fox, NBC and CBS are spending an average of $5 billion a year for football rights through 2021. The games not only score big ratings and ad sales, but are crucial platforms to promote other programming.

This season, network viewership is down about 10% from last season, according to Nielsen data, with steeper declines for prime-time games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday. The drop has caught advertisers and rights holders off guard and left them scrambling to find a cause.

They’re suggesting the election (and its subsequent coverage) may be at play. I’m not so sure this isn’t the start of a trend for the NFL. And, most troubling (for them), I don’t think you can chalk it up to just one thing. It’s the cord-cutters plus the cord-nevers plus the brain injuries plus the rise of other sports amongst young fans (including e-sports) and undoubtedly many other factors.

And notably, ESPN getting hit the hardest, it seems (down 24% among men aged 18 to 34 years old). Which is problematic for them, to say the least.

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Well, can it?

(Originally published on Cold Takes, my newsletter.)

Written by

General Partner @ GV (née Google Ventures). In past lives I wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon. A man of few words. Except when writing. 🍻

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