Borkowski Weekly Media Trends 04-06-21

Osaka's US Open Troubles | Influencer Boxing | Etsy buys Depop | Long Way Down for Sky Pool Stunt

Welcome back to Borkowski Trends!

Over at his side of the newsletter, the head honcho wrote about Naomi Osaka and the trouble with press conferences. Mark writes:

“In part, this is due to the way these stories circulate in social media—social media volatilises any circumstance like this, and journalists are always looking for a way to take stories off the sports pages onto the front page. In the world of today’s cultural factionalism, every thing is about everything else, Osaka has become both totem and taboo in one fell swoop.”

Check out the full post here!

And in other trends…

Are influencer match-ups in boxing damaging the integrity of the sport?

We've covered high-profile novelty boxing matches before, namely KSI vs. Logan Paul I – a fight watched by over 2.25 million live viewers – largely criticised by the boxing community, who argued that the fight was detrimental to the sport’s integrity. However, most fans didn’t think much of it, casting it off as a one-time event that was introducing potential young fans to the sport.

On the eve of this Floyd Mayweather vs. Logan Paul bout, there’s more of a circus feel underpinned by bemusement that such a fight is actually happening. Controversial influencer Logan Paul, who lost to fellow YouTuber KSI is set to fight one of the greatest boxers ever in one of the greatest professional mismatches boxing has ever seen.

The legacy of previous YouTuber fights and even McGregor vs. Mayweather is at rock bottom. It’s clear that money is the sole driver in setting up these bouts. Whilst the others had a whiff of competition, the boxing talent gap is about as wide as it can get in a professional arena. On this occasion, it will be too ridiculous to stomach and may even kill off this dying trend.

It was already in steep decline when KSI & Logan Paul rematched, according to the PPV numbers. Ultimately, whilst this is terrible for the sport, it’s a step too far and we are looking at the death of YouTuber’s fighting in front of a global audience.


The retail revolution continues…

…and this week Etsy has announced that it has bought Gen-Z’s favourite clothes re-selling app, Depop, which owes much of its success to its super-scrollable, Instagram-like user experience.

It’s an exciting moment for the re-sale industry. Depop’s meteoric rise only accelerated during lockdown, with $650 million worth of items being sold last year alone (Depop took a $70m cut). The app hosts 2 million active sellers, of which 90% are under 26 years, and has given rise to a wave of young entrepreneurs make a living from their Depop-based enterprises. Now, as Depop sellers begin to diversify, selling their own handmade goods from reworked waste materials, the app begins to look more and more like a new gen Etsy – which is a marketplace for ‘Vintage’ and, most famously, ‘Handmade’ items.

Etsy was an important precursor to Depop, but it has been unable to innovate sufficiently to attract a new generation of shoppers and sellers. Not that it has really tried: It’s whole aesthetic and user experience is decidedly analogue, with a chintzy feel that compliments the kind of homespun wares it sells. And, with a loyal user-base of Millennial and Gen X creatives and small business owners, that hasn’t been a problem so far. Instead, it seems Etsy has chosen to embrace what it knows to be the future, whilst preserving its own integrity. It’s refusing to compete where it knows it can’t is a perfect example of ‘if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em’. For that, Etsy deserves applauding. Let’s hope, for Gen Z’s sake, they let Depop continue doing what they’re doing best.

And finally…

It’s a Long Way Down for Sky Pool Stunsters

A few months ago a high-end property development in London, Nine Elms, literally built a publicity stunt into a block of luxury flats; an all-fibreglass ‘Sky Pool’ suspended between two high-rises.

The pool is now, according to rules that sound like they were written by JG Ballard, open exclusively to the building’s very richest inhabitants, and helicopter footage of them enjoying the sunny weather of the past week has made international headlines and viral waves (not literal waves because they would have swept the paddlers to their deaths, but more on that later).

Per those in-the-know, the pool wasn’t practical to build - hence the earlier description of it as a publicity stunt- so its purpose must rather have been to show off its developers’ architectural ambition, propensity for the unique, and commitment to their customers’ penchant for luxury.

And there must have been a point, when the drones and news helicopters descended out of the sunshine like Daedalus on the Aegean that they thought they’d built an unqualified success story. But in building the pool they did more than set up a fabulous photo opportunity; they created a symbol, and these days any symbol that enters the realm of public discourse has meaning attached to it by iconoclastic forces beyond its creators’ control - in this case Twitter and the media.

And so the stunt created a backlash.

Firstly, and unsubtly, many commentators noted that the pool looks like an absolute death trap. However brilliantly engineered and ultimately safe it is, it is hard for a lot of people to look at it without imagining their own splattery death - and it’s unlikely that was part of the corporate messaging underpinning the decision to build it.

Secondly, it unwittingly symbolises a number of London’s most polarising social problems; inequality, flashy elitism, a laissez-faire approach to development. A fact not helped by the involvement of developer Ballymore, who have been criticised for using the same flammable cladding that caused the Grenfell tragedy a couple of miles down the road.

A blistering op-ed by FT architecture critic Edwin Heatcoate sums it up very well:

“the visual cipher for everything that is wrong with London’s property boom, its local politics, its architecture and its has become such a perfect symbol of a disdain for the urban fabric and an attitude of internalised, privatised luxury, which does nothing for the city except look down on it.”

Ultimately it’s a reminder that not all publicity is good publicity. Or, more accurately, even good publicity in 2021, comes with many strings attached.