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Saturday 14 December 2019

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week.

A drug to cure addiction of other drugs!
MindMed is a company that’s taking psychedelic drugs and turning them into medicine. This could save lives, cure depression, help alcoholism, get people off opioids. Its first drug has the potential to turn a person’s addictions—to cocaine, methamphetamine, morphine, sugar, alcohol—off like a light switch. It has a clear opportunity to help lower the nearly 70,000 annual drug overdose deaths that take place in the U.S. But the compound, 18-MC, has yet to undergo human efficacy trials.

Book stores and physical books are making a silent comeback
The industry is much better than it was — the last four to five years have been pretty healthy. The stores have survived the devastation the independent book business suffered after Amazon.com began selling books online and at lower prices in 1995.
statistics from the American Booksellers Association, a trade group for independent booksellers, show a recovery from the industry's darkest days. The ABA had 1,887 member companies as of May 15, up nearly 35% from 1,401 in 2009. The number of members' stores totalled 2,524 in May, up more than half from 1,651. Another sign of improving health: the number of books indies have sold. Book sales rose 5% in 2018 from 2017, and in 2017 they were up 2.6% from 2016.
Independent sellers are doing better even as Amazon continues to thrive online and to open its own stores, so far mostly in big metropolitan areas. The indies are also helped by the fact more people are reading printed books rather than electronic versions — sales of e-books fell 37% between 2014 and 2018

A new ad-model from Hulu binge watchers
Hulu knows many of its viewers watch show episodes back-to-back, and it's determined to bank on that with its advertising. Hulu is rolling out an ad system designed for binge watchers. The approach uses machine learning to predict when you're likely to marathon a show, and then sends "contextually relevant messaging" that acknowledge your viewing spree. When you reach the third episode, however, Hulu pulls out all the stops. It'll either give you an ad-free episode (with an ad beforehand, mind you) or a special offer from one of its sponsors.

Nestle sells ice-cream business to focus on core competency
For much of the last two years, Nestlé ​has been overhauling its portfolio to capture growth in the food space and shed underperforming or slow-growing businesses. Last year, Nestlé ​​sold its U.S. chocolate business, a deal that included more than 20 American candy brands like Butterfinger and Baby Ruth, to Ferrero for $2.8 billion.
Nestlé made a major bet on the future of plant-based foods with the 2017 purchase of Sweet Earth for an undisclosed sum. In the past few months, Nestlé expanded Sweet Earth into Awesome Burger and Awesome Grounds, the company's first foray into plant-based beef in the United States,. Last week, the company announced it would try the ingredient in its DiGiorno and Stouffer's brands.
It's also spending money to refresh its water business through the introduction of Poland Spring energy water and Nestlé Pure Life Plus, the brand's entrance into functional water.
Another focus has been the expansion of its coffee presence through the purchase of a stake in coffee shop chain Blue Bottle, the acquisition of Chameleon Cold-Brew and the dolling out $7.15 billion for the right to market Starbucks' beans, capsules and other products in stores.

The internet is forcing workaholism
A research team has found that hours worked since 1980 increased nearly 10 percent for Americans with bachelor’s and advanced degrees. Leamer told me that he believes this is because computing has shifted much of the economy from manufacturing to neurofacturing, Leamer’s term for intellectually intensive white-collar labor that is often connected to the internet, such as software programming, marketing, advertising, consulting, and publishing.
Neurofacturing jobs lend themselves to long hours for several reasons, Leamer said. They’re less physically arduous, as it’s easier to sit and type than to assemble engine parts. What’s more, the internet makes every hour of the day a potential working hour.
If the operating equipment of the 21st century is a portable device, this means the modern factory is not a place at all. It is the day itself. The computer age has liberated the tools of productivity from the office. Most knowledge workers, whose laptops and smartphones are portable all-purpose media-making machines, can theoretically be as productive at 2 p.m. in the main office as at 2 a.m. in a Tokyo WeWork or at midnight on the couch.

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