Quartz at Work
Quartz at Work

Facebook vs YouTube, new basketball experience, soothing buzzes

Email sent: Jul 31, 2020 6:06am

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Good morning, Quartz readers! Big Tech had a (mostly) great quarter. A day after their CEOs testified in a landmark antitrust hearing before the US Congress, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Alphabet all beat earnings estimates. But Google’s parent als
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Here’s what you need to know
Big Tech had a (mostly) great quarter. A day after their CEOs testified in a landmark antitrust hearing before the US Congress, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Alphabet all beat earnings estimates. But Google’s parent also posted its first ever revenue decline as advertising spending fell sharply.
There may be some good news for the journalism industry. Australia is proposing to make Google and Facebook pay for using content from news publishers. The “mandatory code of conduct” also covers access to user data, algorithmic transparency, and content ranking.
Facebook is reportedly making a deal to show music videos. According to Bloomberg (paywall), a partnership with major record companies is set to be announced, in an attempt to break YouTube’s domination of a hugely popular—and lucrative—content stream.
Europe’s economy contracted by more than 12%. Right after the US announced a record 32.9% fall in the three months to June, the euro zone also showed a historic decline. Germany yesterday posted a 10% drop in its economy, while China’s recovery seems to be on track.
The owner of British Airways plans to raise $3.3 billion from shareholders. IAG desperately needs the funds to cover the expected long-term decline in travel because of the coronavirus pandemic, and lost $1.6 billion in the second quarter of 2020.
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Former Under Armour Execs are making the best jeans of 2020. How? by using a proprietary fabric consisting of Italian milled denim infused with the same stuff used in football uniforms and yoga pants. The kicker? By dealing directly with the customer you can get your hands on these jeans for a killer price. Try them for yourself.
Bouncing back from halftime
LeBron James
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
The NBA’s four-month break is over, as players return to an empty arena. WarnerMedia-owned TNT and Disney’s ESPN are tweaking the experience for viewers at home, in an attempt to make up for the lack of roaring crowds, by adding more cameras and microphones. If you can’t be there in person—and you can’t—perhaps closer glimpses of sweaty brow(s) and sharper squeaks on the hardwood will bridge the gap.
Cable TV has been hemorrhaging subscribers this year due to the Covid-induced sports drought. And while basketball, baseball, hockey, and eventually football will help service providers’ bottom lines in the short-term, cord-cutters are unlikely to resubscribe permanently.

Charting refugees entering the US
Beijing’s repressive actions towards Hong Kong have prompted the White House to move forward with sanctions against figures on the island who backed China’s tactics. But there’s another way to undermine the push against freedom and boost the US economy, too: Open American borders to political refugees from Hong Kong.
The White House has called for the US to reallocate the existing refugee quota towards Hong Kong—but president Donald Trump has already cut the number of refugees admitted to the US to about 8,000, the lowest level in nearly three decades. In Congress, legislation has been introduced to grant certain Hong Kongers refugee status separate from the annual ceiling.
Quartz announcement
Is your clock ticking simultaneously faster and slower these days? Time feels weird in quarantine. But, believe it or not, we’re already 50% through the year. To mark this mid-year milestone, we’re giving you 50% off a Quartz subscription. So no, you don’t need a new clock battery, you just need to subscribe to Quartz.
For members: Smart questions from Big Tech’s antitrust hearing
Asking four different tech bigwigs with four different business models questions about anti-competitive practices at their companies would be a daunting task for even the most knowledgeable interviewer. Past hearings—in particular Mark Zuckerberg’s 2018 appearance before Congress—didn’t inspire much confidence in politicians’ grasp of the modern tech firms, but on Wednesday, the US House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, for the most part, held its own.
  1. “You said that Amazon focuses on customers, so how would customers… benefit when the prices were driven up by the fact that you eliminated your main competitor?” —Rep. Mary Scanlon, D-PA to Jeff Bezos, Amazon
  2. “Mergers and acquisitions that buy off potential competitive threats violate the antitrust law. In your own words, you purchased Instagram to neutralize a competitive threat. If this was an illegal merger at the time of the transaction, why shouldn’t Instagram now be broken off into a separate company?” —Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-NY to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
  3. “Will you certify here today that your company does not use and will never use slave labor to manufacture your products or allow products to be sold on your platform that are manufactured using slave labor?” —Rep. Ken Buck, R-CO to all four CEOs
✦ Here’s a smart question. Do you want half off a Quartz membership? If you’re already a member, consider helping us improve by taking this 3-minute survey.

You asked about vaccine safety
How can we be sure any vaccine is safe in the long term, given the speed with which the vaccine is being developed and released?
Scientists are researching Covid-19 vaccines at an unprecedented pace, but they’re still going through the standard stages, and safety trials always come first. In fact, it’s easier to establish vaccine safety than efficacy: While it is difficult to determine whether a new drug can protect humans from coronavirus, testing vaccines on thousands of people provides strong signals about safety.
That said, every medical product comes with potential side effects. And rare safety issues can only be identified once a vaccine is used at scale. The father of modern vaccination, Maurice Hilleman, used to say, “I never breathe a sigh of relief until the first 3 million doses are out there.” These unknown potential dangers ultimately have to be balanced against the risk of coronavirus, which is why the first people likely to receive any approved vaccine will be the healthcare workers who are most regularly exposed.

Surprising discoveries
Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita is the top read among Russian prisoners. Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment came in second.
Scientists figured out how to edit squid genes. Biologists have injected cephalopod embryos with gene-altering materials that will finally allow the marine critters to be studied more easily.
Labyrinths are for relaxation… Demand for labyrinth designers is growing as people turn to walking on spiral paths to calm anxiety.
…or you can try bees. Slovenia has harnessed the power of buzzing to calm nerves—but it involves lying down in a room filled with thousands of caged bees.
The pitch for Tom Cruise’s space movie got the green light after a single Zoom meeting. According to Deadspin, Universal Pictures pledged $200 million, script unseen.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, light prison reading, and squid embryos to hi@qz.com. Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our app on iOS and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Hasit Shah, Susan Howson, Olivia Goldhill, Tim Fernholz, and Max Lockie.
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