Supercreator AM: Britney’s small victory, post-pandemic automation and Meghan and Harry’s new Netflix project

Plus: Some perspective on Facebook’s $1 billion creator program.

Good morning and welcome to Supercreator AM. It’s ThursdayJuly 15. I’m Michael, writing to you from New York City. Here’s what you need to know as you start your day:

MOST JOBS AREN’T COMING BACK — Many businesses that laid off workers during the pandemic have no designs on bringing them back. Instead, they’re investing in automation and other anti-labor practices to emerge from the crisis with a permanently smaller workforce. [Lauren Weber / WSJ]

MEGHAN AND HARRY NOTCH ANOTHER NETFLIX PROJECT — Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are creating an animated show for Netflix that will follow a heroine “on a journey of self-discovery as she tries to overcome life’s daily challenges.” No release date has been set. [Bethy Squires / Vulture]

BRITNEY WINS A SMALL VICTORY — The judge overseeing Britney Spears’ conservatorship ruled that the icon could hire her own lawyer after Spears’ court-appointed attorney resigned. Her new lawyer, a Hollywood lawyer and former federal prosecutor, is expected to aggressively push for the end of the 13-year conservatorship. [Sara Whitten / CNBC]

◇ ALLOW ME TO EXPLAIN

FACEBOOK’S $1 BILLION CREATOR SCHEME — Yesterday, Facebook announced an Invite-only program to pay $1 billion through 2022 to creators for producing and posting original content to its apps. I wrote about the news last month when Facebook, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, teased it during its first-ever Creator Week. Now that Facebook has entrenched itself as one-third of a digital-ad triopoly with Google and Amazon, it’s coming for the so-called “creator economy” next.

I started The Supercreator in 2019 because I fundamentally believe our culture has historically given short shrift to the creative class short in terms of how it values creative work. My intention was to normalize the idea that people who make media, art or technology for the progress and pleasure of others should be able to live off this work on their terms. I’m happy to know that in less than two years, we’re closer to that vision than we were when I left magazine publishing a few years ago. And it follows a trend of Facebook attempting to buy itself into pole position for a market opportunity instead of innovating fresh products and services.

Don’t get me wrong: $1 billion is a lot of money. In fact, as Kaya Yurieff, wrote in yesterday’s issue of her stellar newsletter on the creator economy, the figure represents “one of the largest direct financial incentives offered by tech companies to creators.”

But let’s put it in perspective. Facebook earned more than $26 billion in the last quarter alone. With this context, their two-year contribution is just three percent of the revenue it reported in a three-month span. This is how corporations and philanthropists shape public opinion: Throw a seemingly big number out there without any context, watch busy reporters who are against too-tight deadlines broadcast the number with little to no scrutiny and reap the benefits of a few news cycles that herald you as the fixer of a problem you helped create.

This brings me to my next point: Facebook should have been a leader in this space, instead of playing catch up. Influencers spent years on Instagram asking it to support their creative ambitions. These requests went unanswered, which is why your timeline is often filled with random sponsored content coaxing you to buy an Away suitcase or whatever.

I’m unimpressed not just with Facebook, but the entire industry’s attempt to invest in a community it treats as commodities instead of as partners. Each of these programs requires the creator to use the company’s app in exchange for money. Creators still don’t own the work they post to the apps or the relationships with the fans who support it. Meanwhile, Facebook is likely to report another enormous quarter as earnings season picks back up again. Good for it.

◇ IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

TUCKER CARLSON IS WHO WE THINK HE IS — The Fox News firebrand is the subject of a profile in The Washington Post that reconstructs how he parlayed his childhood privilege into a role as the “preeminent voice of angry white America.”

Michael Kranish, the author of the piece, wrote of a 2003 trip that Carlson took to Ghana with a few prominent Black civil rights leaders and scholars. After the trip, Carlson wrote of the experience in Esquire. “It wasn’t obvious to me at the time,” he wrote as quoted in the Post. “The idea that I’d be responsible for the sins (or, for that matter, share in the glory of the accomplishments) of dead people who happened to share my skin tone has always confused me.” In my column in yesterday’s Supercreator PM, I wrote about why race is about more than skin tone:

“It’s common for white people to reduce race to just skin tone. But racism isn’t some afterthought that died when Carlson’s ancestors did. It’s a living, breathing inherent guardian of whiteness that bestows unearned — and often unchecked — economic, political and cultural power to people like him who come from a lineage of loved ones who failed him by passing down the myth that they got where they are with supreme ingenuity. The story of Carlson is as American as apple pie.

“Many white people consciously and subconsciously share Carlson’s view in public and private even if they loathe his politics and posture. When all you’re taught is the perception of equality, of course I sound like a victim for speaking of all the ways this country my antecedents helped build still oppresses me. America’s zero-sum sensibilities would rather me be content that [today] many Black people experience death by a million microaggressions rather than an inhumane lynching.”

◇ THE MORNING READ

— “The great American cool” by Safy-Hallan Farah at Vox: “Cool, once narrowly delineated and foisted upon us by marketing cherry-picked from hip kids, has been blown apart for the new generation. In a world where everyone, not just the most interesting youths, is under a kind of constant surveillance — where our individual information is more valuable than any short-lived idea of collective cool — demographics give way to data. Gen Z might willfully defy categorization, but each disparate bit of their bizarre taste stew can still be marketed to.”

◇ MICHAEL’S PICK

Madhappy Space Jam SS Raglan Crewneck ($145): I hope the movie sequel, which releases tomorrow and stars LeBron James, is as wavy as this sweatshirt.


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