Lavin Weekly #47: Leibovich, Heffernan, Wood, & Stephens
1. Under the RNC Big Top with Mark Leibovich
Writing from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, NYT Magazine’s chief national correspondent Mark Leibovich has produced two new articles. In the first, he admires Ted Cruz’s refusal to endorse Donald Trump during his speech last night—a bold and relatively unprecedented gesture wherein Cruz “proved himself to be the only one among the defeated who is truly playing Trump’s game.” And in the second, he revisits Reince Priebus, the put-upon RNC chairman whom he profiled extensively last month. In a backstage interview, Priebus doubles down on loyalty to his candidate and his party, despite the convention’s circuslike goings-on. Leibovich, author of the #1 NYT bestseller This Town, is one of Washington’s sharpest political journalists and has been providing ongoing coverage of the 2016 election—check out his feature on travelling with Trump, or his appearance on CBS This Morning, embedded below.
2. Virginia Heffernan & Molly Wood: In Defense of Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go, Nintendo’s mobile, augmented-reality juggernaut is the toast of the gaming world. Trainers everywhere are jockeying for position in parks, public spaces, and their neighbours’ backyards for a chance to catch ’em all. In the Los Angeles Times, Magic and Loss author Virginia Heffernan disagrees with those who view the game as a social experiment, seeing it more as “a startlingly lovely and ambitious work of software art” that “reveals an uncanny new landscape, grafting our digital fantasies onto the old, sweet and tired planet Earth.” And writing for Marketplace, senior tech correspondent Molly Wood says we shouldn’t feel bad about questing after virtual monsters “while the world is burning.” “We need a break from the unrelenting sadness,” she says. “If strangers meet and engage and laugh and play together in a park at night instead of shouting and shooting and screaming at each other, I call that a tiny victory against the forces of hate, division, and sorrow.” Train on.
3. Ask and You Shall Receive: Douglas Stephens on “Conversational Commerce”
Retail speaker Douglas Stephens joined CBC Radio One for a discussion on “conversational commerce,” an emerging trend that may well be the future of online shopping. In lieu of entering a search query or downloading an app, consumers will simply talk to the technology to get the desired product. In other words, voice will supplant text. If you’ve called in to your cellphone provider’s helpline, Stephens says, you’ve experienced conversational commerce, albeit in a rudimentary form. Companies like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are already throwing their financial weight behind early forms of this technology in an effort to improve it. One example is Amazon’s Echo, an in-home digital assistant that listens constantly for user inquiries and commands—anything from “Who are the Jays playing tomorrow?” to “Buy me the latest iPhone”—and does its best to deliver. Stephens, the founder of Retail Prophet (one of Vend’s Top 50 global Retail Influencers), is always ahead of the curve when it comes to demographic, economic, and technological mega-trends—the ones that are constantly disrupting and reinventing your industry.