Spotify’s podcast deals, MacKenzie Scott’s billions and Hornby’s export woes

Planet Business: Striving once more for a personal best

A UK government advertisement tells businesses what they already know: that ‘time is running out’ to prepare for Brexit. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP

A UK government advertisement tells businesses what they already know: that ‘time is running out’ to prepare for Brexit. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP

 

Image of the week: Time up

“Time is running out,” announces the UK government’s Brexit information campaign on a Westminster bus stop, where there’s at least a slim possibility that someone in the British cabinet might have seen it and got their own message. With no trade deal at the time of writing and many “final deadlines” come and gone, the “check, change, go” pleas to businesses have understandably been met with groans, splutters and head-shaking. Time has already run out for some. The real-world consequences of the impossible Brexit project were neatly encapsulated this week by toy train set maker Hornby, which announced that it was pausing all non-UK orders from December 15th to January 4th. “Within Europe people are already asking us: ‘If I buy something, are those tariffs already included in your pricing?’ Because we don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s just a very difficult position,” said chief executive Lyndon Davies. This, coupled with port congestion, meant there was shipping “chaos”. Indeed, the UK’s political leaders were “shuffling the deck chairs as the Titanic is sinking”, said Davies. And there aren’t even any musicians left to play the violin.

In numbers: Scott’s donations

$4.2 billion

Sum that MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has donated to food banks, Covid-19 emergency relief funds and other charities over the past four months.

$60 billion

Scott’s wealth has soared past this mega-threshold in 2020, making her the 18th-richest person in the world, thanks to her 4 per cent stake in the ecommerce giant.

$23 billion

Growth in her fortune this year, as a result of Amazon’s surging stock value, pointing to more work ahead in her mission to give it all away.

Getting to know: Michael Horvath

Michael Horvath is the co-founder and chief executive of fitness app Strava, and the other day he ran five miles in about 94 minutes near Ocean Beach, San Francisco – information that is readily available on his Strava profile. The app, dubbed a “social network for athletes”, hit the headlines in 2018 when some US troops uploaded their GPS-tracked workouts, allowing Strava to publish a runners’ “heat map” and thereby inadvertently exposing the locations of military bases and patrol routes. This year, however, has been a rather more glorious one for Strava (the name comes from the Swedish “to strive”) and others in the digital fitness game. With an average of two million registering with its app every month, Strava’s user tally is now above 73 million, and Horvath – who set up Strava in 2009 with Harvard rowing friend Mark Gainey – has declared it “a privilege to connect athletes to what motivates them and help them find their personal best”. Soon everybody you know will be namedropping it in conversation as if it was part of their lives all along.

The list: Podcast inspiration

For the great and the good, the latest status symbol is not a Netflix deal, but a Spotify podcast one. Here are the news-making deals so far.

1. Harry and Meghan The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have signed an exclusive agreement with the Swedish audio platform, promising to produce “podcasts that will inspire”.

2. Bill Simmons Spotify signalled its podcast ambitions when it bought the Simmons-founded sports and culture podcast site The Ringer for about $200 million back in February.

3. Joe Rogan The audio land-grab escalated in May when Spotify paid a reported $100 million to make the controversial US celebrity’s podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, exclusive to its platform. Its guests have included far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, which was certainly an experience.

4. Kim Kardashian West The reality star’s forthcoming Spotify podcast will have a criminal justice theme, tying in with her association with wrongful conviction campaign group The Innocence Project. So there.

5. Michelle Obama The Michelle Obama Podcast can’t be faulted for its access to high-powered interviewees. The first guest when it launched this August was, oh, just some guy called Barack Obama.

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