Welcome to Bespoke Brunch Reads — a linkfest of the favorite things we read over the past week. The links are mostly market related, but there are some other interesting subjects covered as well. We hope you enjoy the food for thought as a supplement to the research we provide you during the week.

While you’re here, join Bespoke Premium for 3 months for just $95 with our 2019 Annual Outlook special offer.

Dark Underbellies

‘I’d Have These Extremely Graphic Dreams’: What It’s Like To Work On Ultra-Violent Games Like Mortal Kombat 11 by Joshua Rivera (Kotaku)

There’s a psychic toll for workers that are charged with sculpting the vivid, over-the-top violence of modern videogames, combining meticulous hyperrealism with obscene displays. [Link]

Young Real Estate Flippers Get Their First Taste of Losing by Prashant Gopal (Bloomberg)

After riding a wave of surging real estate prices that have rewarded rapid buying and selling of properties after superficial upgrades, younger flippers are running into softening demand in markets with extreme price levels and slowing volumes. [Link; soft paywall]

Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T Hit With Class Action Lawsuit Over Selling Customers’ Location Data by Joseph Cox (Vice)

Groups of consumers are filing suit with major telecoms operators, claiming that sales of their location data to bounty hunters violated their rights as customers. [Link]

New Frontiers

They Got Rich Off Uber and Lyft. Then They Moved to Low-Tax States. by Kate Conger (NYT)

Young employees of major tech unicorns have hit bids on their equity stakes and headed for other states with lower tax rates, property prices, and stress levels. [Link; soft paywall]

Nashville Wants to Be the Next Austin, But Tennessee Won’t Make It Easy by Erik Larson (Bloomberg)

The latest in a string of examples (others include Georgia’s recent abortion law or North Carolina’s fight over trans peoples’ access to bathrooms) that pit state-level attitudes towards social issues against cities eager to access business and consumer demand with different perspectives, opening up questions of state versus municipal rights. [Link]


From lab to table: Will cell-cultured meat win over Americans? by Laura Reiley (WaPo)

Following the IPO of one of the largest meat substitute companies, consumers are getting more and more access to meat substitutes, with lab-grown alternatives also on the horizon. [Link; soft paywall]

Why Every Company Needs to Think Like an Entertainment Company by Mark Purdy and Gene Reznik (Harvard Business Review)

As the attention economy builds steam, more and more companies are forced to think about their business as the provision of media to consumers, forcing them to compete with a different set of products than the ones they offer. [Link]

The End of App Stores Is Rapidly Approaching by Owen Williams (Medium)

Applications are using native browser frameworks to create the kind of experience an installed application offers, without forcing users to navigate through a gated portal like app stores. [Link]

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos’ bids to build US military rockets could reshape national security by Tim Fernholz (Quartz)

The three-way race to sell orbital launches to the US military (between SpaceX, Blue Origin, and the United Launch Alliance) is creating a unique expansion of capacity, reducing cost and also forcing the companies to push the envelope as they compete for both military and civilian customers. [Link]

In the Age of Analytics, Scouts Are Looking for Life After Baseball by Stephanie Apstein (Sports Illustrated)

With the sport increasingly reliant on analytics to identify talent, the old-fashioned qualitative judgment of baseball scouts is getting less and less respect. [Link]

Radical Desalination Approach May Disrupt the Water Industry by Holly Evarts (Columbia University School of Engineering)

A new approach for dealing with hypersalinated brines (water from industrial processes that are a growing environmental risk) may create new sources of fresh water. [Link]

An AI System Spontaneously Develops Baby-Like Ability to Gauge Big and Small by Dana G. Smith (Scientific American)

A neural network that wasn’t trained to count has been shown able to distinguish between numbers of things, a potential advance in “AI” techniques. [Link]

NBCU has announced the launch of shoppable ads on linear TV by Mariel Soto Reyes (Business Insider)

New ads on NBC channels will allow watchers to directly access the product for sale using QR codes displayed during the commercial. [Link]

Economic Research

Who Pays for the Minimum Wage? by Péter Harasztosi and Attila Lindner (AEA)

Minimum wage changes in Hungary present a chance to examine the effects of minimum wage increases. The authors estimate 75% of the increase is paid for by consumers, increasing substitution of labor for capital, and job-losses are concentrated in industries with higher price elasticity. [Link]

Second Chance: Life without Student Debt by Marco Di Maggio, Ankit Kalda, and Vincent Yao (NBER)

The largest private owner of student debt wasn’t able to prove chain of title on thousands of its loans. As a result, some borrowers that sued got debt relief. By comparing outcomes for borrowers who had their loan cancelled and borrowers who didn’t, the authors identify a perfect natural experiment which is unusual. The impact: higher geographical mobility and higher rates of job change, leading those who received debt relief to pursue better opportunities and see income increase by more than $4000 (~two months salary) over three years. [Link]


CBS Censors a ‘Good Fight’ Segment. Its Topic Was Chinese Censorship. by Julia Jacobs (NYT)

Producers for an American-aired CBS program cut a segment dealing with Chinese censorship, a sign of the increasing reach of Chinese interests around the global economy. [Link; soft paywall]

Revealed: new evidence of China’s mission to raze the mosques of Xinjiang by Lily Kuo (The Guardian)

As part of its effort to erase the identity of the Uighur in its Xinjiang province, China’s government is now destroying mosques and other holy sites that are sacred to the Islamic minority. [Link]

Fed up Canada tells U.S. to help with China crisis or forget about favors by David Ljunggren (Reuters)

Canada’s role in the ongoing dispute between the US and China (via extradition over a Huawei executive detained in Vancouver) is leading to fractures in the longstanding geopolitical alliance. [Link]


A Quirk of the Calendar Is Messing With Stocks by Jeff Sommer (NYT)

Recent long-term equity market return improvements (typically over a 10 year window) have been driven by huge losses from 2007 – 2009 falling out of the reference window. [Link]

BlackRock Strategist Says Yield Curve Is Losing Predictive Power by Esteban Duarte (Bloomberg)

“It’s different this time” are a famous quartet of words prognosticators tend to forget, but Blackrock strategist Gargi Chaudhuri is comfortable uttering them in response to concerns over the shape of the yield curve. [Link; soft paywall]

Investors pull billions from quant king AQR as performance slumps by Tom Teodurczuk (Financial News)

Giant quantitative hedge fund AQR has seen its assets slump thanks to significant underperformance across its numerous strategies. [Link]

Money Woes

Stop Wasting Money on Unnecessary Monthly Subscriptions by Joanna Stern (WSJ)

Subscription-based business models have proliferated, but customers are often stuck with a litany of monthly payments for services they don’t want or need. [Link; paywall]

Parents are going into debt over their kids’ extracurricular activities (NYP/Marketwatch)

With a need to fill children’s free time, a recent survey revealed that parents’ expectations children will earn money from an activity are willing to fund the cost of extracurriculars with debt. [Link]

Too Much of A Good Thing

It’s Time to Break Up Facebook by Chris Hughes (NYT)

One of the co-founders of Facebook is taking a page from the Progressive Era, calling for a breakup of the giant enterprise that he thinks is doing harm to society thanks to its scale. [Link; soft paywall]

How TED (And Its Copycats) Gutted the Market for Ideas by Nilofer Merchant (Barron’s)

Live speakers at conferences and events are increasingly being asked to forego fees for their time and effort, with hosts demanding that they accept the benefits of exposure instead. [Link; paywall]


A war is brewing over lithium mining at the edge of Death Valley by Louis Sahagun (LAT)

The massive volumes of lithium required to supply the modern battery industry has sparked a hunt for supplies of lithium, the relatively rare mineral found in salt deposits around the world. [Link; soft paywall]

Cardboard Re-Imagined

The hot new product Amazon and Target are obsessing over? Boxes by Mark Wilson (Fast Company)

How marketers at major e-commerce players are turning an item of expense into an opportunity using a bit of ink and some creativity. [Link]


Why is this interesting? – The Dog Edition by W. David Marx (Why is this interesting?)

A short history of how human beings have guided the development of dog breeds as a function of our own culture. [Link]

Read Bespoke’s most actionable market research by joining Bespoke Premium today!  Get started here.

Have a great weekend!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email