What in the World—Week of October 24

Bono reflects on ill-fated Apple stunt
U2 frontman Bono has addressed the band’s infamous decision to install copies of its 2014 album Songs of Innocence on the devices of 500 million iTunes subscribers without their consent, (yup, still there in my Music app), a marketing stunt that led to accusations of big tech infringing on people’s privacy.

“You might call it vaunting ambition. Or vaulting. Critics might accuse me of overreach. It is,” writes Bono in an excerpt from his new memoir, Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story that appears in The Guardian. He remembers thinking that in a worst-case scenario, the album would be regarded as nothing more bothersome than junk mail, like taking a bottle of milk and leaving it on the doorstep of every house in the neighbourhood.

“On 9 September 2014, we didn’t just put our bottle of milk at the door but in every fridge in every house in town,” he writes. “In some cases we poured it on to the good people’s cornflakes. And some people like to pour their own milk. And others are lactose intolerant.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook, he says, was sanguine about the whole thing, saying that U2 talked the tech giant into an experiment. “We ran with it,” Bono quotes him as saying. “It may not have worked, but we have to experiment, because the music business in its present form is not working for everyone.”

One-quarter of Americans under 30 regularly use TikTok for news
TikTok has become a regular news source for more than one quarter (26%) of U.S. adults under the age of 30, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center. And while its use is not as pervasive among the general adult population, about 10% of people aged 30-49 and 4% of those 50 to 64 say they regularly use the video-sharing platform as a news source.

The findings are based on a survey of 12,147 U.S. adults conducted between July 18 and Aug. 21. Fewer adults say they are using established social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook as a regular news source, with Twitter falling from 59% in 2020 to 53% in this year’s study, and Facebook plunging 10 percentage points, from 54% in 2020 to 44% this year.

Adidas has a Kanye problem
On Saturday, Adidas debuted a new colourway for its Kanye West sneakers, Yeezy Boost. The shoes appeared on the same day a hate group hung a “Kanye is right” banner over an L.A. highway and Nazi-saluted passing cars.

The banners referenced increasingly hostile actions and comments from West, now known as Ye, that saw him suspended from both Twitter and Instagram.

Despite Ye’s disturbing behaviour, the clear endorsement from literal Nazis, and growing calls to cut ties with the artist, Adidas has only said that its 10-year partnership with West is “under review.”

However, one of West’s other brand partners, Balenciaga, took action late last week, confirming to Women’s Wear Daily that it was done with Ye. “Balenciaga has no longer any relationship nor any plans for future projects related to this artist,” parent company Kering said in a response to a query from WWD.

Kroger-Albertsons merger could create ‘retail media juggernaut’
A rumoured merger between U.S. supermarket giants Kroger and Albertsons could create one of the largest operators in the fast-growing retail media sector, says The Wall Street Journal.

Retail brands including Walmart, Amazon and Uber use the vast amounts of consumer data at their disposal to sell highly targeted advertising to clients, with the retail ad market poised to hit US$40.81 billion this year, according to market research firm Insider Intelligence.

Kroger and Albertsons entered the retail media space in 2015 and 2021 respectively, using their rich customer data to power advertising running across their websites, apps, and outside properties.

While neither company breaks out advertising revenue, the WSJ quoted Insider Intelligence’s principal analyst Andrew Lipsman as saying the potential exists for the merger to create a “retail media juggernaut.” Walmart, Amazon and Instacart currently control 25.5%, 22% and 20.6% of the market respectively, with Lipsman predicting that a Kroger-Albertsons entity would control more than 13%.

RNC sues Google, alleging discrimination
The Republican National Committee is suing Google, claiming the search giant is deliberately diverting fundraising emails to recipients’ spam folders, says Reuters.

In the lawsuit filed in federal district court in California on Friday, the RNC accused Google of “unlawfully discriminating” against it by throttling its email messages because of its political affiliation and views. According to Variety, the RNC said that Google has caused at least $75,000 in lost donations, and says it faces long-term losses that could total “in the millions of dollars.”

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop Google filtering its messages as spam, as well as monetary damages. In the lawsuit, the RNC says that Google diverted “millions” of RNC emails to the spam folders of potential donors and supporters during a key fundraising period. A Google spokesperson said the company doesn’t filter emails based on political affiliations, and Gmail’s spam filers reflect a user’s actions.

Photo by Alexander Shatov on Unsplash

Chris Powell