What in the World—Week of September 19

For the love of ice coffee, Starbucks plans overhaul 
Starbucks is planning a $450 million makeover of its stores across North America in response to changing consumer preferences and, apparently, low employee morale. “It’s clear that our physical stores have to change. Our physical stores were built for a different era,” said John Culver, Starbucks’ chief operating officer. While drive thru (50% of U.S. sales), mobile orders and delivery have all skyrocketed in recent years, customers are also ordering more food and cold drinks—accounting for 75% of U.S. beverage orders—which are relatively difficult to serve in stores designed for another era. Starbucks said its redesigned stores will make it easier, and less physically taxing for its employees to prepare and serve what today’s customers are asking for—like cooking breakfast sandwiches in batches and storing them in warmers. The company will also make it easier for mobile customers to tip. The changes come as Starbucks is facing growing efforts to unionize its stores in the U.S.

The new search tool: TikTok
While best known for its dance videos, TikTok is increasingly becoming the search engine of choice for Gen Z, says The New York Times. According to the Times, TikTok uses its powerful personalization algorithm to uncover information for users that is “uncannily catered to their tastes.” TikTok’s emergence as a discovery tool is part of what the Times describes as a broader transformation within digital search. While Google’s dominance is secure for now, the Times says that people are using Amazon to search for products, Instagram to stay abreast of current trends, and Snapchat’s Snap Maps to find local businesses. Speaking at a conference in June, a senior Google executive said that its studies show that almost 40% of Gen Z goes to TikTok or Instagram when seeking somewhere to go for lunch, rather than Google Maps or Search.

Subtitles are in vogue among younger viewers
Once largely restricted to foreign titles and anything Scottish (have you ever watched Trainspotting?), subtitles are suddenly in vogue among younger viewers, says The Wall Street JournalIn a May survey of 1,200 Americans by language-teaching app Preply, 70% of Gen Z respondents and 53% of millennial respondents said they watch shows with on-screen text most of the time. Just over a third of older respondents say they use on-screen captions. According to the WSJ, Netflix is providing more colourful play-by-play for content like the vampire film Day Shift and the hit show Stranger Things, which included subtitles like “tentacles squelching wetly.” According to Netflix, the number of people accessing captions and subtitles has more than doubled since 2017.

A royal makeover in the making
While much of the focus in the wake of the death of Queen Elizabeth II has focused on changes to the banknotes and coins that bear her likeness, a report from The New York Times outlines her pervasiveness across so many aspects of day-to-day life in Great Britain. According to the Times, the Queen’s death is likely to usher in a massive “royal makeover” that will see the name and visage of King Charles III gradually replace that of his mother across everything from 220 million stamps, to more than 70,000 mailboxes bearing the Queen’s initials, to 836 brands featuring royal warrants that range from Heinz to Burberry. Companies like Heinz, for example, have two years to use the current coat of arms on its products. After that, it must update all packaging that circulates in Britain.

Funeral ad blackout will cost media companies millions
Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on Monday will be one of the most-watched events in British history, yet an accompanying advertising blackout will cost the country’s media companies “millions and millions” of pounds in lost revenue, says The Guardian. All of ITV’s channels will provide ad-free coverage of the event, while the day of the funeral will mark the first time in Channel 4’s four-decade history that it has enacted a 24-hour ad block across its channels. While massive TV events are typically a cash cow for broadcasters, a protocol agreement with Buckingham Palace means that nearly every media company in the country will avoid running advertising on Monday. “It’s kind of like the mass media event that commercially never was,” said one media buyer.

David Brown