1. A Start-Up Slump Is a Drag on the Economy. Big Business May Be to Blame. (NYT)

The most startling stat right now: entrepreneurship rates in America are half of what they were in 1977. The result: a greater percentage of American workers than ever are working inside big companies, as this New York Times story shows.

Here’s a striking chart from a related CNN story last year:

Startup death.jpg

I talk about these stats in my Resist and Thrive talk. With so many chains and monopolies there's no oxygen. We see this acutely in the formation of new businesses, and in radio...

2. Songs and movies staying on the charts longer (Marginal Revolution)

A letter to the economist Tyler Cowen's blog points out that radio is changing less. Quoting the writer:

"Shape of You by Ed Sheeran last week broke the record for most weeks in top 10, with 33 weeks. The song it beat, Closer by The Chainsmokers and Halsey, set the previous record less than a year ago...

"Meanwhile, the biggest country song in the nation right now, Body Like a Back Road by Sam Hunt, is currently in its record-extending 30th week at #1 on the Hot Country Songs chart."

Why bother changing the song when there’s nowhere else on the dial to turn? Radio, long under conglomerate rule through ClearChannel, has reached a new apex.

3. Casper went to war with a popular mattress reviews site — then financed its takeover (Recode)

A mattress review site was not a fan of the Casper product and recommended other mattresses instead. Those links included referral codes.

Casper sued the site alleging fraud for not revealing these referral codes. They forced a settlement, then loaned money to another mattress review site to acquire the site they sued. Surprise surprise the original site now has a positive review of Casper.

Things that stand out about this to me:

— The value of independent critical voices is apparently still very high. Otherwise why obsess? Could be a winner take all mindset gone wild, or it could be that these sites do exert a lot of control over consumer choice. 

— How many consumer review sites are secretly owned by someone who directly gains from information manipulation? All of them? Are affiliate codes a breach of ethics?

— What's the reputational cost for companies who take aggressive postures toward public space? Is this something that companies pay a price for, or can they just paper over it? We'll see whether Casper's brand starts to pick up some dirt after they've shown themselves to be so aggressive.

4. China-born New Zealand MP probed by spy agency (Financial Times)

This piece suggests that a senior member of parliament in New Zealand might actually be a Chinese spy. It has been discovered that he was a director of China's top espionage agencies before moving to New Zealand twenty years ago. The MP in question denies it and is up for re-election. The people of New Zealand will get to decide. 

This strikes me as a brilliant long-term move for China. It also strikes me that the West has certainly done the same if not worse to China over many years. Nobody's hands are clean.