Terms of Service: Ownership Not Included

Quartz: “When you purchase an ebook you must agree to the Terms of Service (TOS) that tell you what you can do with it … An overwhelming majority of internet users agree to them without reading them. In one experiment 98% of users failed to notice a clause requiring them to give up their first-born as payment.”

“Using contracts to make an end-run around property law predates the web … Licensing contracts provided software businesses with a tool to control what the buyer did with their software, without the overhead of negotiating terms with each customer … Licensing agreements have been supplemented by far more pervasive TOS contracts, which extend similar protections to websites and other services. Consumer protections have, if anything, gotten weaker. People who were once owners have been transformed into mere users.”

“Despite tremendous erosion of property rights, most consumers transitioning to digital media have so far avoided the pain of losing anything they really cared about. Few have had a favorite ebook deleted or been embroiled in a legal argument over their digital inheritance. The attitudes of young adults make ownership seem positively passé. Rates of homeownership are down, the ‘sharing economy’ is up, and everything that can be streamed will be streamed … However, it may also be that most people simply haven’t yet realized that they’ve given anything up.”

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You Don’t Have to be Weird to be Weird

Slate: “About 15 years ago, an independent bookseller in Texas went to battle against the specter of mega-bookstore invasion. His weapon of choice was something a purveyor of books knew best: a word. And the word was weird … He printed 5,000 bumper stickers urging citizens to KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD … The stickers flew off the shelves. And the Borders bookstore was never built in downtown Austin.”

“Weird campaigns have spread to communities in more than a dozen states. What do they all have in common? The cities have fewer than 1 million people, but most are growing. Many are state capitals or county seats and most have a vibrant arts scene. They all seem to have a strong sense of what makes them unique, and a grassroots urge to stay that way.”

“Despite its countercultural bona fides, weird has economic power. From indie booksellers to microbrews and real estate, leveraging quirkiness is good for business. Weird isn’t just a way of being, it’s an economic strategy, one that has the rough-hewn, indie-rock air of an anti-strategy … Underneath it all, the affinity for weirdness harkens back to the oldest origins of wyrd, which conjured mastery over the fates.”

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Handle With Care: The Flatscreen Solution

The Verge: “Dutch bicycle manufacturer VanMoof found that it had a problem. As it shipped its products to customers, it found that they were arriving to customers damaged. The company came up with a genius solution: print a graphic of a flatscreen television on the side of the box.”

“By making its shippers think that they were transporting flatscreen televisions” damage to its bikes was reduced by “70-80 percent.” Bex Rad of VanMoof comments: “Your covetable products, your frictionless website, your killer brand — they all count for nothing when your delivery partner drops the ball.”

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Lucky Charms Finds ‘Natural’ Flavors Elusive

Business Insider: “General Mills scientists still haven’t figured out how to phase out artificial flavors and colors in Lucky Charms without ruining the iconic cereal.” Mills “already pulled it off with Trix, at least in part. In that case, they used mixtures of radish, carrot, blueberry, tumeric, and annatto seed to create red, yellow, orange, and purple corn puffs. Part of the challenge is that each of those natural colors brings in some flavor too. The team abandoned the green and blue puffs after deciding they couldn’t reach those hues without ruining the taste.”

“Lucky Charms, a cereal that includes with colorful marshmallows, has proven more difficult. First, it’s easier to distort the flavor of a marshmallow than a corn puff … Second, Lucky Charms already have a subtler flavor than bold, fruity Trix. It’s so subtle, consumers struggle to define it.”

“Lucky Charms also supposedly trigger powerful feelings of nostalgia … Steve Witherly, PhD writes in “Why Humans Love Junk Food” that the vanilla aroma of marshmallows is one of the few flavors that the brain doesn’t get bored of. Moreover, it ‘may be imprinted soon after birth’ since vanilla is the main flavor of breast milk and infant formula.”

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Chase Sapphire Reserve & Millennials

Quartz: By one estimate, 63% of millennials don’t have credit cards, so it’s curious they’re suddenly fawning over a new, perhaps viral, card on the market. The Chase Sapphire Reserve has been a hit since it was revealed in late August … The Sapphire Reserve, which is embedded with metal making it heavier than typical credit cards, proved so popular that Chase actually ran out, leading it to issue temporary plastic cards.”

“Banks have had a hard time courting millennials, but Chase believes it’s cracked the code by tapping into their wanderlust. The perks of the Chase Sapphire Reserve include lounge access at airports, a $300 annual travel credit, a $100 credit toward an application for TSA Global Entry or Pre-Check (both programs expedite airport screening), and three points for every dollar spent on travel and dining.”

“These perks were carefully calculated by the bank to lure millennials. At a conference held by Barclays this month, JP Morgan’s head of consumer banking, Gordon Smith, gave a presentation that said ‘millennials spend more of their wallet on experiences than other generations,’ according to a deck obtained by Quartz. It defines “experiences” as travel, entertainment, and dining.”

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The Death of The Dodge Dart

USA Today: “What went wrong with the Dodge Dart? … The Dart was supposed to signal a fresh start for Fiat Chrysler … Less than four and a half years later, the Dart is a footnote. Few people other than Dodge dealers are likely to notice when production ends this month … The Dart was the wrong car, at the wrong time, from the wrong brand. It launched into headwinds that would slow a great car, and the Dart was far from great … there was never a moment when the Dodge declared itself to be the best car in its class. It was not the clear leader in any area that drives customer demand.”

“Fiat Chrysler made it easy for customers to ignore the Dart, launching the car with ho-hum fuel economy and performance. Even in an era of low gasoline prices, claiming the best fuel economy generates headlines and gets buyers’ attention … Rather than delay the Dart, Fiat Chrysler hamstrung its new car with suboptimal gearboxes. For the first several months, the Dart was only available with a manual transmission — a disaster in the U.S., where automatics account for more than 90% of sales. When the automatics arrived, they were a Hyundai-built six-speed and a Fiat six-speed that used dual-clutch technology Americans generally dislike.”

“What does the Dart’s failure say about Fiat Chrysler’s future? Not much … Dropping the Dart frees Fiat Chrysler to concentrate on more popular and profitable vehicles … There’s no denying, though, that Fiat Chrysler committed the cardinal sin for an automaker: It began selling a car it knew, or should have known, was not ready.”

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Chevy Bolt: A GM Dream Come True

Farhad Manjoo: “A first affordable long-range electric car, which I drove last month and which blew my mind, is not a Tesla … The car is the Chevy Bolt EV, a squat, wedge-shaped compact hatchback … It demonstrates the seriousness with which automakers are taking the threat posed by start-ups that are promising to alter everything about the car business. Not only is the Bolt the first inexpensive long-range electric on the road, but it will also function as G.M.’s platform for testing new models for ride-sharing and autonomous driving.”

“The Bolt is also proof that, in the car industry, size matters — that even if they may be slow to come around to the latest tech, big automakers can alter the car business even more radically than Tesla has, purely as a function of their bigness … What is revolutionary about the Bolt is that it bridges category distinctions — it brings luxury car electric range at mass-market prices. In fact, it beats the luxuries. In their cheapest configurations, every Tesla gets a lower range than the Bolt.”

“Most of G.M.’s advantages come down to size and operational efficiency … At the company’s Orion Assembly plant outside of Detroit, I saw Bolts on the same line as gas-powered Chevy Sonics and Buick Veranos. Robots and workers seamlessly shifted between the Bolt and more traditional cars as if nothing was different.” Also: “Because the … Bolt helps the company stay under the federal government’s fuel-economy standards, it perversely allows G.M. to keep selling more profitable, gas-guzzling cars … As a result, G.M. could lose money on each Bolt and still find the overall project valuable to its bottom line.”

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The Newport Pleasure Lounge

The Wall Street Journal: “Workers for Newport, the nation’s No. 2 cigarette brand, spent the summer handing out coupons for cigarettes at a price of $1-a-pack. That is five cents a smoke … The coupon giveaways have been a boon to smokers like Jackie Hauri. The 23-year old expected to spend $14 on two packs of cigarettes during the three-day Rock USA festival in Oshkosh, Wis. Instead, she went to the Newport Pleasure Lounge, a mobile, air-conditioned trailer in the festival’s sponsor village, and bought 40 cigarettes for $2. She also got to play virtual darts and other games.”

“The Newport Pleasure Lounge has helped turbocharge the brand. Newport’s rate of market share growth has nearly doubled over the past year to approximately one half of a share point, and its U.S. market share has increased to 13.9% from 13.4% last June, according to Reynolds … Two 18-wheelers have taken Newport lounges to events popular with 21- to 30-year olds such as Las Vegas’ Electric Daisy Carnival, an electronic music festival for 400,000 people, and Rock on the Range, a Columbus, Ohio, music festival featuring Megadeth and Rob Zombie.”

“The lounges are open only to smokers over 21 years old. A brand representative, typically in a Newport-green shirt, checks IDs and turns away nonsmokers … A Reynolds spokesman said the company exclusively targets smokers because it believes no one should start smoking. Instead, it aims to increase its 35% share of 40 million American smokers with its brands like Camel and Pall Mall. Most people inside the lounge at Wisconsin events were in their 20s or 30s.”

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Ralph Lauren Turns NYC Street Into Runway

The Wall Street Journal: “In the can-you-top-this stakes of New York Fashion Week stunts, Ralph Lauren is nearly shutting down one block of Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side to host the label’s latest women’s runway show. The block, between 71st and 72nd streets, is home to Mr. Lauren’s flagship women’s store on the left, its men’s store on the right, and children’s store.”

“Models will emerge from the women’s store to sashay down Madison Avenue in a giant glass-enclosed tent. Immediately after, the women’s store will be open to guests and customers, who will be able to buy anything from the collection that was just shown. The move makes Ralph Lauren the largest American brand to make an entire runway collection immediately available to shoppers, part of a growing industry trend to close the monthslong gap between when clothes are shown and when they arrive in stores.”

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Howard Johnson’s & The American Roadway

The Atlantic: “Howard Johnson opened his first store in 1925. It was a generally unremarkable soda fountain with an orange roof in the Boston suburbs. After discovering that ice cream produced with high butterfat content was popular with his customers, he set up stands on beaches and roadsides, lending his name and trademark orange roof to evince a sense of familiarity and continuity.”

“The stores were clean, the parking lots were paved and well-landscaped, and eventually the designs were standardized, made to appear as symmetrical as possible. Hot dogs were rebranded to the more grandiose ‘frankforts’ and highfalutin chefs like Jacques Pépin and Pierre Franey were poached from the ritzy New York haunt Le Pavillion around 1960 to help build the menu.”

“Eventually, the competitors and imitators spawned by Howard Johnson’s success bested it as the franchise and its old-fashioned sensibility and formality … Howard Johnson’s may not be a staple of the American roadside anymore, but the visually similar franchises it helped popularize go on as far as the eye can see.”

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