🇬🇧 Top of the morning! Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,189 words ... < 5 minutes!
- Was this email forwarded to you? Get your own! Sign up here.
1 big thing: Monetizing celebrity
Savvy celebrities are having more financial success in retail than they ever did in Hollywood, Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon writes:
- Rihanna, having already launched a lingerie line and a hugely successful makeup brand, has now joined LVMH, where Fenty has become a fully fledged international fashion house.
- Its products, including $460 antisocial sunglasses, are available only online.
- Kylie Jenner is reportedly a billionaire, as is Jay-Z.
- Other monetizing celebrities include Gwyneth Paltrow (Goop), Kate Hudson (Fabletics) and Jessica Alba (Honest).
- Shopify, a platform that makes it easy for influencers and celebrities to sell goods directly from Instagram, has doubled its share price in 2019 so far. It is now worth more than $30 billion.
What we're seeing: Established retailers like Nordstrom have teamed up with influencers like Gal Meets Glam's Julia Engel to drive traffic and sales.
- Abercrombie & Fitch is closing flagship stores because they do a dreadful job of driving online sales.
- Meanwhile, the reverse syndrome — online influencers driving in-store sales — is only getting started. After you add in direct sales from Instagram, being famous has never been more lucrative.
2. Scoop: Trump to hit Biden as globalist
Watch for Trump allies to begin framing Joe Biden as a free-trading globalist who would undo the president's trade agenda, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports.
- Expect them to begin asking questions like: What specifically will Biden do with China? Will he lift President Trump's tariffs? How does Biden defend his past advocacy for NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Why it matters: Trump will try to direct the conversation with his megaphone, and invite attacks on Biden from the left.
- Trump allies say that when 2020 candidates to Biden’s left inevitably start hitting him on his free-trade past, Republicans will piggyback to try to undermine him ahead of a potential general election fight in the Rust Belt.
- This could be months away, but it's already a hot topic in Trumpworld.
The backdrop: Team Trump is worried about the former vice president.
- Internal Trump polls have Biden substantially ahead in the Rust Belt.
The other side: "Trump’s trade war could hit his base of voters most." (CNBC)
3. D.C. antitrust fight takes tech by surprise
Tech executives and Wall Street analysts were generally surprised by the sudden antitrust squeeze planned by both the administration and House Democrats, Axios' Kim Hart reports.
- Why it matters: Going into 2020, neither party wants to be seen as being asleep at the wheel when it comes to holding Big Tech accountable.
Conventional wisdom in both Washington and on Wall Street had pegged regulatory action around privacy, First Amendment issues and advertising rules.
- A Republican administration wasn't expected to take a hard line against the "bigness" of successful American icons.
- After hearings focused on social media's impact on elections, Facebook and Twitter looked more vulnerable to D.C. action than Amazon, Apple and Google — which are included in new investigations by DOJ and the FTC.
The bottom line: Meaningful privacy legislation looks less likely than it did just six months ago, so regulators are looking at other approaches.
4. Pic du jour
For more than 900 miles, through four states, Lake Michigan was at my side. Completing a long held dream, I just finished circling the entire Lake on a bicycle.
I saw awesome sunsets from Michigan and breathtaking sunrises from Wisconsin. I rode the new Chicago bike trail and the old rail lines of Indiana. I saw ... the crumbling smokestacks of old industry and the glimmering solar panels of the new. ...
When I shared the photos with the family, my brother Zeke teased, calling me "Rahmsel Adams."
5. What Axios knows about you
As part of our series on what companies know about you, we turn the lens on ourselves ...
If you read Axios, either through our website or newsletters, we've collected some information about you, Axios' Kim Hart writes.
- Why it matters: We've written extensively about the data collection practices of Big Tech platforms. Media companies make money from free, ad-supported content and, in some cases, reader subscriptions — both of which require some level of data collection.
How Axios gets information: Axios makes money primarily through advertisements on its website and newsletters.
- Axios uses "cookies" and other technology to track how you interact with Axios content. This information does not reveal who you are, but it is used to help tailor ads that are displayed while you are on the site.
How Axios uses data: Your data is primarily used to deliver Axios services you've signed up for, like newsletters.
- Axios removes personally identifiable information, like your name, to make anonymous information for statistics.
- Using anonymized data, Axios shares ad performance data back to advertisers. This may include how many people viewed or clicked on an ad.
What Axios doesn't do: Axios does not track your location, or track your activity on sites that are not owned by Axios.
6. Missed chance to prevent Alzheimer's?
"A team of researchers inside Pfizer made a startling find in 2015: The company’s blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis therapy Enbrel ... appeared to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 64 percent," the WashPost's Christopher Rowland reports.
- But Pfizer "opted against further investigation and chose not to make the data public."
- Why it matters: "Despite billions spent on research, Alzheimer’s remains a stubbornly prevalent disease with no effective prevention or treatment."
"The company ... decided during ... three years of internal reviews that Enbrel did not show promise for Alzheimer’s prevention because the drug does not directly reach brain tissue."
- "Some outside scientists disagree."
7. McAuliffe is running ... for gov
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who was popular when he left office last year, is hinting to Democrats that he may run for governor again in 2021.
- Why it matters: McAuliffe, who bowed out of the 2020 presidential race, could help his party recover from the chain of scandals that began with the racist yearbook photo of McAuliffe's successor, current Gov. Ralph Northam (D).
- A quirk of Virginia law lets a governor serve only one term in a row, but non-consecutive terms are allowed. So McAuliffe is free to run again.
McAuliffe, 62, a former DNC chair, told me that Democrats should focus on this November, when all 140 of the Old Dominion's legislative seats are on the ballot, and control of both chambers is up for grabs: "It's all about '19."
- But he certainly didn't rule out another run: "I love being governor. There is not a better job in the world. Really, you can get out of bed and help people every single day."
U.Va.'s Larry Sabato told me McAuliffe has "told or hinted his second-term plans to anyone who’d listen."
- "Rank-and-file Democrats seem to be welcoming the idea."
8. 1 💰 thing
An Upper East Side property fetched the highest price ever paid for a residential townhouse in New York, per The Wall Street Journal (subscription):
- "Former hedge-fund manager Philip Falcone has sold [a 30,000 square foot] townhouse for close to $80 million."
It's on E. 67th, between Fifth and Madison. (N.Y. Post)
- The previous record "was set in 2006, when financier J. Christopher Flowers paid $53 million for the Harkness mansion on East 75th Street." (WSJ)