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Illustration: Davide Barco for LEVEL

Over the past few months, the popularity of Clubhouse, the invite-only, live-audio app, has reached a fever pitch, exploding to 2 million users and reaching a $1 billion valuation in January. The social media platform has proven to be a thriving microcosm for a certain set of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and celebrity influencers, like Elon Musk.

But long before Musk arrived on the scene, as writes in LEVEL, Black power and influence was at work and held an outsized role in getting Clubhouse off the ground. …


A well-meaning Twitter thread goes off the rails

Photo: Ali Balikci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Oh, Burger King, you can’t “Have it your way,” when it comes to Twitter etiquette.

By now you’ve likely seen Burger King U.K.’s tweet (it’s since been removed) that said, “Women belong in the kitchen.” On any normal day, this tweet would’ve been considered a huge miss. On International Women’s Day, well, you can imagine the reaction.

But wait. Hold up. Burger King U.K. had a plan, one their marketing team must’ve thought was brilliant.

The tweet was a setup for two more tweets that would explain the scarcity of female chefs and that Burger King U.K. …


The only thing in hotter demand than a Clubhouse invite is a coronavirus vaccination

In this photo illustration, the message “Hey we’re still opening up but anyone can join with an invite from an existing user!” for Clubhouse’s waitlist is seen displayed on a smartphone screen
In this photo illustration, the message “Hey we’re still opening up but anyone can join with an invite from an existing user!” for Clubhouse’s waitlist is seen displayed on a smartphone screen
Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

If you’re prone to FOMO — that’s the Fear of Missing Out — there’s a new horror show in town.

The exclusive, invite-only social media app Clubhouse lets people gather in virtual rooms to talk in real time with real people about pretty much any subject you can think of — provided it’s on an iPhone. Launched less than a year ago, it was humming along mostly under the radar until the last month, when a couple of high-profile users hosted a couple of highly attended talks: for instance, Elon Musk chatting with Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev on February 1…


The Tesla CEO has a better command of social media — and online culture in general — than the head of any social media company

Elon Musk on the red carpet of the Axel Springer Award 2020 on December 1, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Photo: Britta Pedersen/Pool/Getty Images

“Underestimating Elon is not a good idea,” Bill Gates said on Kara Swisher’s podcast the other day. But really, at this point, who is underestimating Elon Musk? The man is everywhere, influencing everything (or trying to). In addition to hyping his own companies, he’s chiming in on cryptocurrency and “Gamestonk,” interrogating the CEO of Robinhood (and putting Clubhouse on the map in the process), separately inviting both Kanye West and Vladimir Putin for another Clubhouse appearance, and even slamming the operator of Texas’ power grid. And that’s just the past couple of weeks.

It’s tempting to believe that we have…


No Mercy No Malice

The social media giant’s toxicity and subpar financial results are one and the same problem

Every day, 187 million people open Twitter for news, entertainment, and a social connection. It is the real-time global communications network that sci-fi novelists envisioned. It is also a catalyst for conspiracy theories, a forum for hate speech, and a surprisingly lousy business.

In last week’s issue of New York magazine (February 1, 2021), I make the case that Twitter’s toxicity and subpar financial results are one and the same problem, amenable to one and the same solution. Fixing Twitter starts at the top — replacing an absentee CEO — and from there, changing the company’s business model. …


‘Following his Instagram is like taking a master class in launching business ventures’

Dwayne Johnson attends the premiere of Sony Pictures’ “Jumanji: The Next Level” on December 9, 2019.
Dwayne Johnson attends the premiere of Sony Pictures’ “Jumanji: The Next Level” on December 9, 2019.
Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/FilmMagic/Getty Images

So much for Dry January. The new year began inauspiciously with the Slack outage on the first Monday back at work, and the chaos escalated rapidly from there with the storming of Capitol Hill, the second impeachment of President Trump, and fears over whether there would be a peaceful transition of power. Yes, 2021 has been so stressful that people everywhere quickly ditched their 31-day wellness and detox plans, reaching, instead, for their preferred alcoholic beverage of choice to numb their 2020 PTSD.

In other words, 2021 hasn’t been what the general public had hoped for. But growing consumer…


Number Crunch

Because who has the attention span for both?

$1 million/day: How much Snapchat has been distributing to creators through its new Spotlight program
$1 million/day: How much Snapchat has been distributing to creators through its new Spotlight program

$1 million per day: That’s how much Snapchat has been distributing to creators on its platform through a program called Spotlight that the app debuted in November, Snapchat told the New York Times.

The Times also reports that under this program, some individual creators on Snapchat have earned up to $3 million for content that goes viral on the platform. Snapchat’s lavish payouts are a direct attempt to lure Gen-Z creators and eyeballs away from TikTok, which announced its own $200 million fund to pay creators last summer.

Snapchat has a head start over TikTok in North America, boasting 90…


Fixation

From Dilbert through the ’90s to The Office in the early 2000s and Silicon Valley in the 2010s, white-collar office satire has long served as a coping mechanism to process the frustration (and, occasionally, existential dread) that accompanies accepting your role in late capitalism. Pandemic work memes — the latest genre of white-collar satire to proliferate popular media — are no exception. Right alongside the influencers and foodies of Instagram, you can also scroll through satirical accounts like Litquidity, linkdinflex, MBA-ish, and consultingcomedy — proof that not even a global pandemic, the shuttering of nonessential offices, and the near cleaving…


Number of the Day

Everyone seems to want season’s greetings from actor Brian Baumgartner

$1 million — The Office actor Brian Baumgartner’s earnings this year from the app Cameo. Source: The New York Times
$1 million — The Office actor Brian Baumgartner’s earnings this year from the app Cameo. Source: The New York Times
Photo illustration, source: Matt Winkelmeyer/SBIFF/Getty Images

$1 million: That’s at least how much money The Office actor Brian Baumgartner will make from the app Cameo this year, making him the platform’s top earner in 2020, the Cameo CEO said on The New York Times podcast Sway.

It may be more than seven years since the hit NBC sitcom The Office went off the air, but the show has thrived in its second life on streaming services, and it is currently the second-most popular show on Netflix. …


What geopolitics couldn’t kill, runaway success just might

General view of the TikTok headquarters on October 13, 2020 in Culver City, California.
General view of the TikTok headquarters on October 13, 2020 in Culver City, California.
Photo: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Image/Getty Images

Perhaps no company better exemplifies the dualism of yin and yang than TikTok and its year of seesawing successes and headaches. Amid geopolitical strife and leadership turnover, TikTok’s platform community and corporate strategists continued to hit new milestones: The social video network has overtaken Facebook to become the top app downloaded worldwide as of December 2020. It’s also plowing forward with strategic decisions to bolster its viability as a business by launching multiple revenue streams.

This past fall, it struck a partnership with Shopify by debuting its ad platform, TikTok for Business, which makes it easier for Shopify merchants to…

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