What in the World—Week of September 18

All Swift and Queen B, all the time
Last Tuesday, USA Today and Nashville newspaper The Tennessean posted a job for a full-time Taylor Swift reporter, followed the next day by a posting for a Beyoncé reporter.

The jobs will pay between $21.63 and $50.87 per hour, and stories could appear across the 200 local news outlets that are part of Gannett’s USA Today Network. While the listings upset some journalists at Gannett, who feel the company is underinvesting in more important coverage, Gannett insisted the coverage will not be fluff and the reporters will be—without bias—examining the impact both women have on culture and business.

“As Beyoncé and Taylor continue to influence multiple industries and our culture, they are shaping a generation,” Gannett chief communications officer Lark-Marie Anton told Yahoo. “Our role at the USA Today Network is to cover the newsmakers who impact lives across the nation in the communities we serve and provide our audience the content they crave.”

Carrefour reacts to ‘shrinkflation’
French grocery chain Carrefour is pushing back against food makers like Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever that have been reducing the size of their products in response to high inflationary pressures, a practice often referred to as “shrinkflation.”

Carrefour started putting stickers on its shelves that read: “This product has seen its volume/weight fall and the effective price charged by the supplier rise.” According to the BBC, a bottle of PepsiCo’s sugar-free peach-flavoured Lipton Ice Tea shrank to 1.25 litres from 1.5 litres, while the Unilever brand Viennetta shrunk from 350g to 320g.

“Obviously, the aim in stigmatizing these products is to be able to tell manufacturers to rethink their pricing policy,” said Stefen Bompais, director of client communications at Carrefour.

TikTok to track employee whereabouts
TikTok employees in the U.S. are reportedly unhappy over the company’s decision to introduce a tool to track office attendance as part of its post-covid, return-to-office mandates.

Employees were told recently about the introduction of the new app, which is built into existing systems and “monitors badge swipes and asks employees to explain ‘deviations’—absences on days they are meant to be in the office,” according to a New York Times report. “A dashboard with the data is visible to employees, their supervisors and human resource staff members.”

Citing research from Stanford, the Times reported that more than 25% of workdays are still being done from home, while workplace security firm Kastle says offices across the U.S. remain at under 50% occupancy.

The surge in surge pricing
Surge pricing is on tap at the U.K. pub company Stonegate. The business has started charging an extra 20p per pint at peak times of evenings and weekends at about 800 of its 4,000 locations.

“Dynamic” pricing, as it’s often called, has been around some industries for a long time, and anyone ordering an Uber has seen the impact when trying to get a car at rush hour. But according to the Financial Times, we can expect the practice to become more common.

“[P]owered by algorithms and artificial intelligence, it is being introduced at a rapid pace by a growing number of consumer industries,” it reported in its coverage of the Stonegate decision. “Amazon changes the price of its products on average every 10 minutes, using millions of real-time data points to benchmark against competitors and track demand surges.”

Meta not ready for WhatsApp ads
Meta is denying reports that it is considering introducing advertising to WhatsApp. On Friday, the Financial Times said Meta had looked at showing ads in the lists of conversations on the WhatsApp home screen.

There has long been speculation that Meta would eventually bring some advertising to WhatsApp as a way to monetize the messaging app. “But Meta has so far resisted the idea of showing ads on the WhatsApp app, instead relying on making money via WhatsApp Business, an offering aimed at merchants that requires them to pay for certain services,” reported TechCrunch. “WhatsApp Business has amassed over 200 million monthly active users.”

But Meta’s head of WhatsApp, Will Cathcart, denied the FT story later on Friday. “This @FT story is false. We aren’t doing this,” he tweeted.

David Brown