Zoom U


  • Markets: The streak of remarkable volatility continues. Yesterday, we were on the right end of the seesaw thanks to a rising tide of government stimulus measures around the globe.
  • Economy: Retail sales fell 0.5% in February, their worst drop in a year. We will not enjoy reporting the March numbers in a month from now.

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The Trump administration might send $1,000 or more your way. Checks for a thousand smackeroos to some Americans could sneak into a $1.2 trillion stimulus package the president and his team are trying to push through Congress.

What they're up against (deep breath): Service and travel sectors are collapsing, a recession may already be underway, and we're in the middle of a historic stock market sell-off.

  • The stimulus bill reportedly includes ~$50 billion for the airline industry plus assistance for small businesses, among other measures.

The embrace of direct payments is a 180 for the administration

Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow scoffed at cash rebates as "helicopter money from the sky" earlier this month.

But we weren't writing this newsletter from our friend's cousin's La-Z-Boy earlier this month. As more and more workers get laid off (or furloughed or temporarily laid off), they need a lifeline.

  • Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said in a press release the payout would "help fill the gaps" between cushions like paid leave and unemployment insurance.

The idea has a supporter in Palo Alto. Mark Zuckerberg said yesterday that all 45,000 Facebook employees will get a onetime $1,000 bonus.

One notorious gang leader is feeling pretty smug

Businessman and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang. The chief policy proposal of his campaign was the "Freedom Dividend," a $1,000 monthly payment to every American.

  • Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin's rebate would be a one-time thing, and it wouldn't go to every American. "We don't need to send people who make $1 million a year checks," he said.

Plus, Yang's Freedom Dividend was about mitigating inequality, not a global health crisis. "I should have been talking about a pandemic," Yang quipped to The Atlantic.

Looking ahead...the administration hopes to have checks in the mail in the next two weeks.


Restaurants: Too Small to Fail

"I always knew that when the end came," NYT restaurant critic Pete Wells wrote, "New Yorkers would watch it from a bar."

Well, if the end is near, we can confirm we're nowhere near a bar. Of all the industries suckerpunched by coronavirus, restaurants might be in the worst shape.

  • Some of the largest U.S. states and cities have told restaurants to close or offer takeout/delivery only.
  • On Sunday, year-over-year OpenTable bookings were down 70% in Boston, 62% in Seattle, and 69% in New York City.

Zoom out: Americans now spend more at restaurants than they do at grocery stores. And there are roughly as many jobs in food service as in manufacturing, writes The Atlantic.

But all that's threatened when people can't go out to eat. Without a government bailout, the industry could collapse.

Momofuku's Dave Chang with the bottom line: "Remember in Avengers Infinity War when Thanos snapped his fingers and half of all life instantly disintegrated? That's what is gonna happen to the restaurant industry unless we get some help."


Eyes Up Here Please

We've got lots of new faces reading this, so first we want to say hi. Hi!

We're not alone: Media companies are experiencing big traffic bumps as people flock to coronavirus coverage.

Up to 15% of daily web traffic is going to content about coronavirus, per traffic analytics firm Parse.ly. That increase is led by stories about travel restrictions, social distancing, and #FlattenTheCurve, writes Axios. And last week, coronavirus coverage beat election coverage by 15x.

  • Consumers are also spending ~30% more time with that content over last year, per Chartbeat.

Media companies want to meet that demand, so they're launching new products, from coronavirus blogs to coronavirus podcasts (CNN's hit 1 million downloads a week after launch).

  • Outlets including Bloomberg, NYT, and Wired made coronavirus coverage free to access while others are un-paywalling "essential" content.

Every country, state, and city is facing unique outbreak conditions, which has reinforced the importance of local journalism following years of budget cuts, layoffs, and closures. Local papers on the front lines, like the Seattle Times, have also seen readership and subscriptions jump.


Zoom U

From handshakes to two-ply, we're all craving some normalcy. For the homebound and quarantined, Zoom is offering an unconventional return to socialization.

On Sunday, almost 600,000 people downloaded the video conferencing app, a record number. What began as an enterprise platform now houses concerts, church services, and even art exhibits.

  • Other apps like FaceTime, Skype, and Marco Polo are also doing double-time.
  • Cisco's Webex logged 5.5 billion meeting minutes the first 11 business days of March.

But Zoom's newfound popularity (and $30+ billion valuation) comes with special cultural cachet. Gen Zers have jokingly called themselves "Zoomers" for years, but in these socially distant times Zoom hosts their blind dates and birthday parties, the NYT reports. Zoom now has "hotter" brand association than incumbents like Hangouts, says D.A. Davidson analyst Rishi Jaluria.

Looking ahead...many universities have moved all instruction to Zoom, so in a few years when those students start working, the company should get another boost, Jaluria notes. But it'll still need to innovate to remain a mainstay of online life after the coronavirus crisis calms.


When the Going Gets Tough, ESPN Airs Chess Boxing

When Tom Brady said he was leaving the New England Patriots yesterday morning, we all let out a sigh of relief-not only because it's the end of a era, but also because it gives ESPN something to talk about.

The coronavirus pandemic has wiped out virtually all live sports around the world besides the Turkish Süper Lig, which we are currently watching out of desperation. Yesterday, ESPN's programming chief shared his vision for the next few months as the network confronts a gaping hole in its schedule.

  1. Continue reporting on coronavirus's impacts on the sports world.
  2. Dip into the archives to air classic games (but this isn't as easy as it sounds because of complicated rights agreements).
  3. Showcase "stunt events" and niche sports like it's done with its "ESPN8: The Ocho" project.
  4. Potentially move up the release date of original programming. Unfortunately, the Michael Jordan doc The Last Dance isn't ready yet.

Looking ahead...while this spring has basically been canceled, once we beat this thing the fall sports slate could be epic.


  • The IRS postponed the tax filing deadline for many Americans and businesses.
  • 18% of U.S. households are experiencing layoffs or a reduction in work hours because of the pandemic, according to a new poll.
  • Amazon is only accepting shipments of essential items at its warehouses in the next three weeks.
  • The United Auto Workers union has asked Ford, GM, and Fiat Chrysler to pause production for two weeks.
  • Uber and Lyft have suspended their shared ride options.
  • SoftBank is backing out of part of its WeWork bailout, reports the WSJ.


Which of the following underground sporting events was not a part of the "ESPN8: The Ocho" TV lineup last year?

  1. 2019 U.S. Pizza Team Trials
  2. Listerine Gurgling World Series
  3. 51st National Stone Skipping Competition
  4. 46th Annual Cherry Pit Spitting Championship
  5. Lawn Mower Racing
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    Listerine Gurgling World Series is not a thing. Sounds painful.

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