From Musk’s Biography, to the Future of TikTok.

The Musk biography debate, the future of TikTok, selling dynamic pricing, the fall of the Lakers TV dynasty, gender bias in football media and sour memories of noughties culture all feature in the Trippant Takeaways, our weekly round-up of stories on communications trends across sport, entertainment and experience. 

The Drum on the X subscription plan

As X, the company whose name is crossed through Twitter, struggles to solve the twin problems of falling advertising revenues and a toxifying reputation, owner Elon Musk has let slip a prospective solution: a small mandatory subscription charge for all users.

Musk believes such a move could also counter an influx of bots on the platform but, following the difficult rollout of premium verification product Twitter Blue, how well could X land and communicate that change? The Drum collects the thoughts of social media and marketing experts. 

Elon Musk’s biographer is On With Kara Swisher

Meanwhile a landmark biography, simply titled ‘Elon Musk’, has been released by the celebrated biographer Walter Isaacson, whose other subjects have included Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, genetics pioneer Jennifer Doudna and Albert Einstein.

Isaacson’s book is a sure-fire bestseller but has earned mixed reviews, with praise for its high level of detail tempered by charges of awkward timing and a too-generous tone. The author confronts the debate head on in a conversation with veteran tech journalist and commentator Kara Swisher – who reviewed her own long association with Musk, and shared her thoughts on his changing behaviour and reputation, in another recent edition of her podcast.

Quartz and Fast Company on the future for TikTok

Across the social media landscape, TikTok is amping up its efforts to create a heavyweight shopping service within its US app. Its prospects of converting a highly engaged audience are good but it still has a complicated task ahead.  

At the same time, embattled TV companies are asking if TikTok might just be a home for their content, rather than a competitor for attention. Broadcasters have been trialling the idea of sharing vertical video chunks of their programming on the platform with some interesting results. 

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The FT on the rise and rise of surge pricing

Dynamic pricing has long been familiar for those booking flights and ride-share apps but as businesses deal with the after-effects of rising costs, it has found its way into new and surprising contexts: Amazon listings, concert ticket sales, and even pubs. 

It might prove an effective means of stimulating revenues but can it always be justified to consumers?

CNBC on Hollywood’s model struggles

US film and television writers and actors are still on strike, with few signs of a satisfactory end to their standoff with studios and streamers. But even when the talent goes back to work, the economic challenges look set to continue for Hollywood paymasters – leading some analysts to ask just how the Tinseltown business model can be reimagined for the 2020s. 

Vulture on the end of Winning Time

Despite securing a cult following and a very positive reception, NBA series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty has been cancelled after its second season. 

HBO’s highly polished comedy-drama about the 1980s LA Lakers looked like a possible template for scripted sports-based entertainment when it arrived in 2022; its departure carries lessons about the challenges for creators in the current media ecosystem.

The Guardian on football’s social swap 

For all that is understood about the abuse faced by female athletes on social media, it can still be shocking to see just how stark the problem remains. 

To provide a straightforward demonstration of gender bias in shared digital spaces, Heineken sponsored a campaign with AI-powered moderation tool Arwen in which former England internationals Jill Scott and Gary Neville secretly swapped Twitter accounts for five days last season. The depressingly inevitable result: Neville’s posts as Scott drew far more negative responses than the other way around.

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The BBC on Brand and the dark edge of noughties culture

British news headlines have been dominated for the past week by a series of allegations of rape and sexual assault against the comedian, actor and writer Russell Brand. 

Several of the reported incidents occurred at the height of Brand’s fame in the mid to late 2000s – a period in which the performer’s own content sometimes carried its own grimly misogynistic tone. For the UK media, it has been cause to reflect not just on how jarringly low the standards of the recent past can seem in retrospect, but also on the risks lurking in the culture of 2023. 

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