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John Oliver Destroys Sponsored Content, 4 Types of Vaccine Skeptics and Why Futurists Usually Fail | Non-Obvious Insights #271

Rohit Bhargava
Dear Newsletter,

What kind of person is still choosing not to get vaccinated when they have an opportunity? Can letting users hide the like counts on social media posts help reduce online anxiety or cyberbullying? Why are futurists so bad at actually realistic predictions? What happens in an economy where everyone is about to run low on everything? Dig into these questions and more stories in this week’s Non-Obvious Insights Newsletter!John Oliver Exposes the Dark Side of Sponsored ContentMarketers love sponsored content. The problem is, when that “content” happens to be biased propaganda to sell questionably effective miracle cures – the entire industry gets blamed. That’s effectively what happened last week as talk show host John Oliver exposed the near-fraudulent way that many marketers are using sponsored content to promote their products on local news broadcasts.

For anyone in marketing, the entire segment is painful to watch and hard to disagree with. I believe in the power of sponsored content, and I have seen it work. But when a media group cashes a check to let literally anything on the air with no standards at all, you end up with a lot of manipulative and believable bullshit getting air time.

What’s the solution? It seems pretty simple. TV stations (and most other forms of credible media) already have editors and producers on staff. Part of their job should be to establish minimum standards for truth and authenticity of any potential sponsored content. You can never silence the bullshit or remove it completely, but at least anyone accepting sponsored content could prevent themselves from giving it legitimacy so frequently and easily. What Does Apple’s Shift to Offer “Lossless Music” Really Mean?Last week Apple announced an expansion of Apple Music to include spatial audio and lossless music. Both represent a way to listen to compressed audio (like an MP3) without losing sound quality. This is something the industry and audiophiles have been anticipating for a long time, but what surprised many was that Apple decided to offer it at no additional cost for Apple Music subscribers. It’s certainly out of character for the brand to skip any chance to charge extra for something. For competing services planning to charge a premium for hi-fi audio, this was a shock that might shift the entire industry. It is also pretty clearly the latest move from a big player to try and develop a near monopoly in a growing space. This week many savvy observers identified a similar motive behind Amazon’s mega acquisition of the MGM studio library. In film and music, the biggest players are getting bigger … which will eventually leave little room for anyone else. Instagram and Facebook Will Let ALL Users Hide Like Counts On PostsIn a move designed to “give people control over their experience” – Facebook and Instagram are both officially letting users decide whether the “Like” count will be displayed visually or hidden. On Instagram this feature is already live and Facebook will launch it in a few weeks. Part of the reason for this was the research finding that the like count was often causing social anxiety among social media users. I loved this announcement and the rationale behind it. 

While I personally could see myself switching back and forth between using this feature and not, it is exactly the kind of idea that could make a meaningful impact in reducing cyberbullying and helping the mental wellbeing and self confidence of young people overall … two things that most social media platforms have historically done very poorly. Better late than never, I suppose. Welcome To An Economy About To Run Low On Everything …As the global economy starts to open up after months of lockdown, many companies are expecting demand for their products to increase dramatically. The problem is, everyone is competing for the same raw materials to make their products. That’s creating what BusinessWeek recently called FORO – the Fear of Running Out. It’s a fitting way to describe a situation where companies are hoarding supplies and panicking that those supplies won’t be available when they need them later. 

“Shortages, transportation bottlenecks and price spikes are nearing critical levels, raising concern that a supercharged global economy will stoke inflation.”

The net effect of this will be predictable from an economic point of view. Products will get more expensive, consumers will react by making faster decisions to buy and in the worst case, they will start panic-buying and hoarding. The bottom line is, our world may be on its way to the future normal, but it seems there’s definitely going to be some pain along the way. 
 Why Humans (and Futurists!) Are So Bad At Seeing The Future?In this month’s column for WIRED, writer Paul Ford turns his attention to the art of predictions and the future, but reconsidering the predictions published by a group of future thinkers back in 1980. He writes, “all the predictions are wrong … [but] when you aggregate hundreds of predictions, the result is a special, concentrated kind of wrong … they’re just saggy middle-aged predictions.” The predictions themselves revealed something fascinating about the mind of the predictor. Progress, writes Ford, is therefore “individual, personal and in the eye of the beholder.”

The piece, as you might expect, made me wonder whether my own predictions in Non-Obvious Megatrends may age poorly themselves when examined by a future reader. Yet his conclusion did give me hope: “What I took away from The Book of Predictions, forty years later, is to watch for the curious and interesting intersections between very large things.” The search for intersections is at the heart of Non-Obvious Megatrends and my predictions. Does this mean they will stand the test of time? I really don’t know. But by 2060, I’ll just consider myself lucky if I’m still around to read someone’s future critique of them. By then I’ll definitely be saggy and well beyond middle-aged anyway. Four Types of People Who Are Hesitant or Don’t Plan To Get VaccinatedMany people dismiss those who are hesitant or refuse to get the Covid vaccine as a single uninformed group, but the research shows there are actually four distinct profiles of people who are hesitant or refuse to get the vaccine. Dr. Sema Sgaier, co-founder of health nonprofit Surgo Ventures, calls them the: Watchful, Cost-Anxious, System Distrusters and Covid Skeptics. When I first read this segmentation, I immediately thought … if we focus on the Watchful and Cost-Anxious, we can probably ignore the other two categories. They are the hardest to convince anyway.

But the truth is, in certain states, those two groups might account for more than 50% of the local population so this really is a situation where we can’t leave anyone behind. The article offers some thoughtful tips for how each segment might actually be convinced. So if you’re an “Enthusiast” like me (the fifth and only non-hesitant segment the research identified), Dr. Sgaier has some useful lessons and advice on what it might take to get more of those people to get the shot. And if those techniques don’t work, you could always tell them how their vaccine card might win them free flights for a year from United or a million dollars in a Covid lottery.Even More Non-Obvious Stories …Every week I always curate more stories than I’m able to explore in detail. In case you’re looking for some more reading this week, here are a few other stories that captured my attention …Capitalism Doesn’t Have To Be This WayInfluencer Nyma Tang just became CVS’s first beauty inclusivity consultantAlbert Einstein Letter With Signature and e=mc2 Sells for $1.2MTwo Ways Intel Connects Deaf and Hearing CommunitiesHow are these stories curated?Every week I spend hours going through hundreds of stories in order to curate this email. Want to discuss how I could bring this thinking to your next event as a virtual speaker? Visit my speaking page to watch my new 2021 sizzle reel >>Be Part Of Our Community …Join our LinkedIn Group for the Non-Obvious Nation to read stories and see the world a little differently. Join Now >>

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