January 13, 2023

🤞 It's Friday the 13th! Smart Brevity™ count: 1,484 words ... 5½ minutes. Edited by Noah Bressner.

👀 Two new bylines to watch for in Axios AM: Alex Thompson, White House correspondent for Politico, and Eugene Scott, Washington Post national political reporter, are joining Axios to deepen our D.C. coverage.

1 big thing: New video revolution

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new era of short-form video is sweeping the internet, forcing every kind of creator — from podcasters to photographers and publishers — to pivot their media strategies, Axios media trends expert Sara Fischer writes.

  • 🚨 Almost all user growth among teens online is in short-form video — TikTok and Instagram Reels.

Why it matters: There have never been so many opportunities to create content online. But business incentives are driving all kinds of creative individuals and enterprises to chase the same viral trends.

For creators, that means a broad move into quick, cheap behind-the-scenes videos.

  • TV journalists, eager to build new audiences as linear TV fades, are leaning into "get ready with me" videos that show their morning-rush routines.
  • Photographers are posting videos of their photo shoots and dramatic before-and-after photo edits.
  • Podcasters are posting videos of themselves interviewing guests in their recording studios, hoping to lure users to their shows on Spotify or Apple.

💡 How we got here: The explosive rise of TikTok during the pandemic, and growing concerns around user data privacy, pushed nearly every major social media company to fundamentally shift their strategy for distributing content.

  • Meta said in July it would emphasize recommending Facebook content to users based on what's going viral over boosting content based on social connections —just like TikTok.

📷 National Geographic, the publisher with the largest following on social media, is facing that pressure. "Our incredible social reach is largely based on our strength on Instagram, which is based on our strength in photography," National Geographic's new editor-in-chief, Nathan Lump, told Axios last month.

  • "But obviously, we know that video is driving a lot of engagement in social, and that's where a lot of growth is in terms of engagement and users and social platforms. And so we need to put a lot more emphasis there."

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2. Teachers battle chatbot

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

ChatGPT, the new chatbot that can write remarkably cogent essays based on simple prompts, is sparking a new race among educators to sniff out plagiarists, Jennifer A. Kingson writes for Axios What's Next.

  • Why it matters: Some teachers foresee "a flood of cheating," while others envision a big opportunity to improve — and modernize — how writing is taught.

Several school districts have already blocked the chatbot from their systems. But critics say such bans are shortsighted and ineffective.

  • "Kids will always find ways to take shortcuts around hard work," says Philip Vinogradov, director of innovation at Merion Mercy Academy, a private high school near Philadelphia.
  • From calculators and CliffsNotes to Photomath, teachers have always fought to stay a step ahead.

🥊 Reality check: The writing produced by ChatGPT is formulaic, and the content is often inaccurate.

What's happening: Teachers are holding meetings and comparing notes about the tool's ramifications and possible responses.

  • 🤦 Suggestions have included requiring students to handwrite their essays.

💡 State of the art: Some teachers are experimenting with ways to use ChatGPT in the classroom, either to explore the nature of "good" writing or to create linguistic scaffolding that students can build on.

  • Brett Vogelsinger, who teaches 9th grade English in Doylestown, Pa., invited his students to use ChatGPT as an aid — not a substitute — for writing an essay about "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Only four took him up on it. Two dropped out, saying ChatGPT's responses weren't long enough or deep enough or interesting enough.

3. Biden's border rebrand

President Biden walks with U.S. Border Patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso last Sunday. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

President Biden has found new support from border Democrats by taking a tougher tack on immigration, Axios' Stef Kight writes.

Biden announced new restrictions last week and visited the U.S.-Mexico border last weekend, as Republicans ready for investigations into the administration's handling of immigration enforcement.

  • "I think on this issue, he is shifting to where a lot of us have been wanting him to go — he has shifted to the center," Rep. Henry Cuellar, a moderate border Democrat from Texas, told Axios following his trip to the El Paso border with Biden.

What's happening: New policies that would offer new temporary, legal pathways but crack down on illegal border crossings and potentially make it harder for some migrants to access asylum have driven complaints from some Democrats and advocates.

🔎 Between the lines: Democrats have tended to avoid the touchy subject beyond hammering Trump policies, including family separation.

  • Republicans have been more than happy to keep attention on immigration, most notably through efforts by some governors to bus migrants from border states to Democratic enclaves.

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4. 🕶️ Inflation reprieve

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chart: Axios Visuals

The ultra-hot inflation readings that defined much of 2022 appear to be firmly in the rearview mirror, Neil Irwin and Courtenay Brown write in our midday financial newsletter, Axios Macro.

  • Why it matters: That's the key takeaway from the December Consumer Price Index released yesterday, which confirmed notably cooler inflation at year's end.
Year-over-year change in Consumer Price Index
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chart: Axios Visuals

The bottom line: America's inflation problem isn't over. But inflation is slowing while the job market is still healthy — an enviable combination.

5. 🇮🇳 India to pass China as most populous nation

College students perform during a flash mob as a tribute to the cultural diversity of India, at the Mumbai Central rail station in September. Photo: Niharika Kulkarni/Reuters

India is set to pass China this year as the world's most populous country, Axios' Han Chen writes from a U.N. projection.

  • Why it matters: The milestone will have major economic and societal implications for both countries — and will eventually influence trade flows and upend the global balance of power.

🧮 By the numbers: India was home to 1.417 billion people as of last year, compared to China's 1.426 billion, per U.N. figures.

  • As India's population continues to grow, China's population is expected to decline — to 1.313 billion by 2050, according to the most recent U.N. projection.

What's happening: China, where population growth has slowed considerably in recent years, faces a grim economic outlook, as it emerges from three years of zero-COVID policies that dampened market activities and consumer confidence.

  • That, combined with India's growing population and a shift away from China due to geopolitical reasons, may help the South Asian country chip away at China's dominance as the world's factory.

Reality check: Some experts have cautioned that it will take decades for India to compete with China's manufacturing power because of bureaucracy and protectionism.

6. D.C. turns out for Ash Carter

President Biden at yesterday's service, with Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Cabinet Secretary Evan Ryan. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

President Biden honored the late Ash Carter, the former defense secretary who opened the way for women to fight in combat and for transgender personnel to serve, as a "force of nature" at a memorial service at Washington National Cathedral, AP reports.

  • "His genius was evident," Biden said. "His integrity unfailing. And his commitment to service before self was literally inspiring."

Carter — an innovator among traditionalists — was 68 when he died of a heart attack in October. He served under President Obama from 2015 to January 2017, while Biden was vice president. In 2019, Carter published a memoir, "Inside the Five-Sided Box."

  • Carter pushed through the speedy design and production of a new up-armored vehicle to better protect troops against roadside bombs. 24,000+ Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) were manufactured and shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The service lasted nearly three hours.

7. 🎤 Remembering Lisa Marie Presley

Lisa Marie Presley performs during her Storm & Grace tour, in 2012 at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago. Photo: Barry Brecheisen/Invision/AP

Lisa Marie Presley, the only child of Elvis whose life made tabloid headlines but was a singer-songwriter herself, died yesterday at 54.

  • She was one of the last connections to one of the world's most celebrated musicians.

As a musician, she released three albums — including two that debuted in the top 10 of the Billboard 200.

  • But her "father's tremendous legacy was a constant part of her life," Rolling Stone's Charisma Madarang writes.

In a 2003 interview with the magazine, she recalled a moment when Elvis caught her singing and dancing in front of a mirror:

  • "I'm sure he got a kick out of it. He'd put me up on the coffee table in front of everybody and make me sing."
Photo: Perry Aycock/AP

Above: Lisa Marie Presley was four days old when posed in Memphis for her first photo — with her mother, Priscilla Presley, and her father, Elvis.

8. 👢 1 fun thing: City slickers dress "Yellowstone"

Photo: In "Yellowstone," Kevin Costner as John Dutton, owner of the Dutton Ranch, is surrounded by his ranch team. Photo: Paramount Network

Big hats are on the rise, catering to a set of suburbanites who are adopting a surprising dress code — that of a rough-and-tumble cowboy, The Wall Street Journal writes in an A-hed (subscription).

  • The trend was inspired by "Yellowstone," which follows a family of ranchers as they protect their land and has become the most-watched scripted show on TV.

157-year-old hatmaker Stetson is struggling to keep up with demand.

  • "We're in this massive western moment" and the show "helped shine a light on something that's been there all along," vice president of marketing Tyler Thoreson told the paper.

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