Memo: On New Mutualism And Media


There’s an awe-inspiring scene in Master and Commander, the film set in the Napoleonic War based on the series of novels about fictional Commander Jack Aubrey written by Patrick O’Brian, that establishes the climax. Aubrey is portrayed as a leader, mathematician, astronomer, and musician. His appreciation for deep generalism plays a role in the film’s conclusion.

In the penultimate scene, the British frigate’s physician Stephen Maturin (portrayed by Paul Bettany) is also a deep generalist. Maturin, an accomplished cellist, is an avid naturalist and life scientist. While shored on the Galapagos Islands for a short time, the character treks out with a small contingent to find and document new wild life. Unable to find the “flightless bird”, he stumbles on a walking stick insect (phasmid) and he brings it to the ship. As the story goes, Aubrey marvels at the insect’s abilities. As the story progresses, he applies the discovery to his own circumstances.

Captain Aubrey’s ship, the HMS Surprise, is inferior to France’s HMS Acheron in size, speed, and durability. After observing how well the phasmid deceived him, Captain Aubrey (Russell Crowe) has an idea to disguise his ship as a civilian whaler. It allows the Surprise to appear harmless; the Acheron pulls in close enough for the HMS Surprise’s cannons to finally damage the hull of the much stronger ship. Ultimately, the Surprise defeats the Acheron. It’s a moment in which biology serves as an applied science. In one of O’Brian’s final novels (The Hundred Days), the author summarizes a running theme throughout the twenty-part series.

Wit is the unexpected copulation of ideas.

I began thinking about other biological concepts and applied sciences. I landed on symbiosis and its role in evolving ecosystems. Symbiosis is a biological concept that defines a partnership between two organisms. It’s allowed wildlife to defend from agitants, it’s produced energy from sunlight, and it has provided food. We are all engaged in symbioses of some sort. A form of symbiosis is called mutualism.

Mutualism is the association of two organisms of unrelated species that provides benefits between the two organisms. None of the examples that I found were more critical than the relationship between humans and plants. Humans use the oxygen that plants provide, exhaling the carbon dioxide. Plants use the carbon dioxide to create the oxygen needed by humans.

Bees and The Flowers: Media and Commerce

For a number of years, media and commerce operated in a mutualistic manner. For a time, sites like Amazon, Target, and Walmart needed product demand and digital publishers would provide that demand for a percentage of each sale made. It was a win / win. Media could monetize its traffic in new ways and brands could advertise without upfront costs. Affiliate commerce has been around for nearly 30 years; Amazon launched Amazon Associates in 1996. Hundreds of publishers depend on Amazon for revenue today, including BuzzFeed, Vice, and Vox Media. On the about us page of Skimlinks, a leading provider of affiliate commerce technology, it makes note of the how ingrained affiliate marketing has become in the media industry.

The leading publishers in the market have developed to such a place that in the last few years they’ve now spun off commerce content into its own dedicated brand. Publishers like New York Magazine are so successful they can dedicate entire editorial teams and brands to creating commerce content that helps them earn up to 25% of their revenue from affiliates.

As the ecosystem changed, publishers changed with it, from banner advertising during web 1.0, to programmatic ads, from the “pivot to video”, to native advertising and branded content, and to today’s content-pumping commerce teams. But no change has occurred more suddenly than COVID-19. And the juxtaposition is noteworthy. When else has physical biology required renewed wit? An actual virus has altered the symbiosis of media and commerce.

Seemingly overnight, COVID-19 altered the symbiosis between publishers and the brands and marketplaces that need its demand generation. In some cases, the symbiosis was ended altogether. In a recent report by The Information, Jessica Toonkel explains:

BuzzFeed is more exposed than other digital media firms: It got about 20% of its revenue last year from the business, with half of that coming from Amazon and Walmart, the people say. […] With some deals, including ones with BuzzFeed, the retailers guarantee a minimum level of payment regardless of the traffic generated by the posts on the websites. That could explain why Amazon and Walmart have suspended the payments now. [1]

Like a virus, itself, Amazon’s decision to change and / or withhold payment structures had industry-wide implications. A number of the top marketplaces followed suit.

Walmart’s rationale for cutting its affiliate marketing program is not clear from the information available. It could be a cost-cutting measure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it could also be a way to reign in a channel with a reputation for being a free-for-all prone to high levels of fraud.

Yet, Walmart isn’t alone in cutting affiliate programs, per the Business Insider report, which notes that retailers Macy’s, Patagonia and Victoria’s Secret have taken similar steps. These moves are likely to impact the ability of influencers and other creators to generate revenue. [2]

Across the board, online retail penetration has skyrocketed, spurred by social distancing mandates and demand for essential goods. Amazon has accounted for this by advertising the hire of 100,000 warehouse workers and delivery drivers, a clear sign that this demand may become a new normal. Couple this with retail’s retraction in advertising spend and the calculus is altogether different than it had been in December 2019.

These changes are affecting the most diversified and well-positioned of media brands. Consider Highsnobiety’s layoff of 50% of its workforce, setting off a far-reaching effect on retailers, influencers and public relations firms.

Highsnobiety was one of a few publishers who invested in product creation for its commerce business, rather than just peppering its site with affiliate links. The problem is that, in times of economic downturn, restricted movement, rapid changes in consumer demand and a knock-on effect on all elements of the supply chain, the latter is much more flexible and risk-averse. While affiliate models present challenges like stock shortages for publishers during the spread of Coronavirus, those relying on brands for their supply chain and co-creation will be left exposed. [3]

Highsnobiety has been a success story. This makes the news even harder to fathom. Founded 15 years ago by David Fischer, the early shoe blog evolved into a multi-faceted media operation. Snobiety employed workers on multiple continents and continued to follow the tides of media’s evolution. Though young, its online store was reportedly successful, selling out of limited runs of aspirational goods. When Fischer finalized the $8.5 million round from Felix Capital in 2019, TechCrunch editorialized its success:

The company claims that for the past three consecutive years, it’s grown 100% year-over-year, and its employee base grew from 15 to over 100 across its offices in New York, London and Berlin. [3]

But a former employee’s recent post facto clearly describes the cracks in today’s form of modern luxury, new luxury, and leanluxe™ ecosystems.

What happened at Highsnobiety on Monday is not an isolated incident. It’s an indication of how quickly the ground is shifting for new media companies, especially those heavily invested in brand-sponsored, hype-based journalism. A business model laser-focused on shilling a lifestyle of “new luxury” via designer goods and overpriced apparel, it seems, is only as good as the economy health of its global readership. [4]

We’re observing how delicate the ecosystem has become for retailers and media sources alike: the bees and the flowers. This has compounded matters. For the vast majority of direct-to-consumer brands who’ve grown dependent on earned media, affiliate commerce was that engine. As such, many brands are drowned out by COVID-19 coverage. Meanwhile, retail media sites like Gear Patrol are marketing designer masks with some of its most precious real estate, and Goop is explaining how to decontaminate the home above its fold. And in a fit of irony, Highsnobiety is advertising a series called “Quarantine Home Entertainment.” When the dust settles, there will be a few short-term takeaways with long-term implications (Nos. 1-5):

No. 1. Amazon doesn’t need publishers for demand generation any longer.

It took less than 30 days for Amazon and other top marketplace retailers to punish its media partners. In A Familiar Strategy, I discussed this:

Unlike Facebook, Amazon will have their own products, a proven sales funnel, and consumer demand to rely upon. Amazon’s ad partners are fueling an unparalleled shopper acquisition machine. [5]

With historic levels of organic demand, there is a diminished need for media-driven traffic. Though this will likely subside, Highsnobiety’s layoffs are an indication that a number of less-suited media brands may not be around for the v-shaped recovery.

No. 2. Streetwear culture isn’t as critical as we once believed.

The streetwear movement (and the modern luxury culture that it spurred) is at risk without a digital media industry to support it. With a decrease in discretionary spending and a shift away from non-essential goods, there’s been a redefinition of luxury.

No. 3. We only care about the lives of others when ours are safe.

The influencer economy is at risk and so is the appeal of proximity to aspiration. In a recent report by Vanity Fair, this vignette illustrates the divide between the fortunate and the

Now authenticity is colliding terribly with a lack of self-awareness in the face of crisis. The most flagrant version made the rounds on Tuesday due to a Twitter thread. A few weeks ago, [Arielle] Charnas took up a doctor friend’s offer for a coronavirus test; tests were especially hard to come by then, and still are. She broadcast it to her 1.3 million followers. This did not go over well in her comments section and on other internet forums. [6]

No. 4. It’s increasingly difficult for brands to earn media.

It’s often the case that the mechanics of a brand requires earned media. A growing number of them are reporting on the compounding effects of a loss of revenue due to decreased affiliate sales and a loss of opportunity due to insufficient earned media. Product releases, hires, partnerships, endorsements, collaborations, and other brand developments are not covered through traditional public relations channels. This will force more brands to redirect resources to other forms of creative marketing. Even so, a number of retailers have still found ways to generate media attention.

In a conversation with Jack Carlson, the founder of Rowing Blazers explained how he’s navigated this over recent weeks:

The truth is that I think the way we do things is a lot more work than pumping money into digital ads or buying up big media partnerships. The way we do things requires constant newness; it requires producing limited runs of product and sometimes, even to my chagrin, selling out right away; it requires our products to have a robust sense of story and meaning behind them; it requires thoughtful copy and rich, meaningful projects and collaborations (collaborations that you do for the right reasons); and it requires a little bit of luck or whatever magic dust has help us to start establishing a cult following of highly loyal customers who actually want to read about our latest projects. These ingredients are all fundamental parts of our business model anyway, but this way of doing business is almost the exact opposite of how most DTC brands function.

No. 5. Publishers must create new, profitable partnership formats.

Advertising spend is down, non-essential affiliate marketing is on life support, subscription strategies are nascent, and direct-to-consumer commerce is a rarity. Media is being forced to evolve, once more. And so are brands.

The climax of one the great war movies isn’t about war at all. Rather, a moment of inspiration led to an improbable outcome. “Natural symbioses occur between the most unlikely of partners,” writes Rafe Sagarin in an HBR report on limitations in professional settings. Like the symbiosis of bees and flowers, digital publishing and retail are a form of mutualism under siege. The relationship has faced a costly disruption, damaging untold numbers of businesses. What new relationships will take its place? For either industry to identify steps to regain equilibrium, some measures will be reinvented. If weeks turn into months, this will require even greater thoughtfulness and swifter action. Wit is the unexpected copulation of ideas.

By Web Smith | Edited by Hilary Milnes | About 2PM

A Memo: On Optimism and Big Ideas


By now, your company has been impacted by an historic period of health risk and economic uncertainty.  It’s for this very reason that I hope that you take a moment to unfurl yourself from the anxiety of it. This is a memo on making time for optimism, connectivity, and opportunity. It’s also about the power of ideas. Like many other 2PM reports: it’s one part practicality, one part historical context, and two parts analyses.

The first 2PM letter published four years ago, this week. You’ll notice a few things when you look back at it. If by chance 2PM gives off the impression of amateurism today, we didn’t stand a chance in March of 2016. But objectively speaking, you’ll see that the publication, its depth, and the polish have come a long way.

The majority of the operation rests on my shoulders and even so, there is a tremendous amount of work left to be done on a weekly basis. Four brilliant associates join me in refining the 2PM product. Andrew Johnson, Andrew Haynes, Hilary Milnes, and Vincenzo Landino help to professionalize a product that competes with venture-backed publishers and well-run media companies that employ dozens. And Tracey Wallace has been pivotal to its maturation.

Each week, I focus on a number of tasks to keep costs sustainable: I publish two longer-form essays (4,000+ words / week), maintain twelve databases, manually curate and publish three newsletters, direct creative, research and build new databases, and I manage 2PM’s Polymathic community. Additionally, I work with a number of companies in which 2PM is connected. In the past year, those relationships included: Alibaba, Verizon Media Group, The Chernin Group, #Paid, and BigCommerce. And lastly, on any given week, I answer 200-350 emails from founders, executives, and other operators. This model works because Executive Members invest in the future of the company. That said, the past week was one of the hardest that I’ve experienced in the company’s four years. Not only did growth come to a halt, attrition spiked.

What I’ve learned from our current circumstances isn’t so different than what I learned in 2009 after the downturn came after the best professional shot that I had. Losing that job meant that any hope for normality for my then-family of three was on pause. For a time, it felt like it would always be that way. It was my first job out of school. And only had that job for 19 months and with a two-year old in tow. The weight of it all would push us to our cognitive and spiritual limits. Anyone who experienced The Great Recession understands this; it was horrible time. To power through professionally, I would lean on five important lessons.

  • No. 1: Optimism is a talent.
  • No. 2: Dynamism is required because inaction is failure.
  • No. 3: Calmness is a valuable tool.
  • No. 4: The job is to seek out opportunity in everything.
  • No. 5: Deep generalism provides clarity.

This is a time for optimism, connectivity, opportunity, and the power of ideas. Though we don’t know how long these circumstances will last, we can be certain that history has minted winners in previous periods of adversity. There are a number of examples that you can research. Begin with: The Great Wars, 1918’s Pandemic, The Great Depression, and The Great Recession.

Web Smith on Twitter

A fascinating look at recession-era entrepreneurship from a 2009 Kaufman study. 51% of Fortune’s 500 started in recessionary periods. It is 57% if you consider that the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) didn’t begin tracking until 1855. ~ 40 of the 500 are pre-1855.

There is something that rewires us for the better during these times. At least that’s the optimistic take. When things went awry in 2008 and on, a former schoolmate forwarded a Kaufman Foundation study. It’s lengthy but this one part stood out.

There are good reasons to expect recessions and bear markets to be fertile periods for new firms and, possibly, their subsequent success. Although many new firms don’t rely on external financing in their early stages, a suppressed financial climate may be less immediately relevant to a person’s propensity to found a new company versus the person’s later ability to grow the company.

Rising unemployment, because it is often concentrated among large or established companies, can free up pools of human capital in two ways. An unemployed individual, with some measure of experience (and, in some cases, a vested pension), may perceive a competitive opportunity to start a new company, and feel there’s nothing to lose.Entrepreneurs may also target the unemployed as a potential pool of employees. The matter of longer-term success is a bit murkier—although there is some evidence that recession-era companies may end up slightly more successful, it remains an open question. [1]

I had little desire to read an academic paper at that time but I am glad that I did. History anchors you in ways that modern commentary cannot. It instills an optimism, calm, and – for certain people – a pursuit of dynamism [2]. In the majority of recession-era venture narratives that I read, I found the aforementioned traits in each of their founders. At the time, generalism was a foreign concept to me. Like a “General Studies” degree, it was something that left a negative mark on your career. But studying generalists changed that.

No. 5: On Deep Generalism

To identify and capitalize on an opportunity, it helps to have a wide and deep knowledge of industries and how they interact. Everything changes, new rules are formed, new coalitions are forge, and new boundaries are set. Deep generalists have the advantage. They’re more open to understanding new fields, new developments, new combinations of information, growth in one field, and contractions in others. David Epstein wrote it best:

The more varied your training is, the better able you’ll be to apply your skills flexibly to situations you haven’t seen.

Epstein’s Range wasn’t around before Great Recession of 2008 but I found myself wishing that it was. The book succinctly summarizes the tactical advantages owned by a majority of entrepreneurs during that time. Here are a few of the advantages to generalism that I compiled. Deep generalists:

  • are able to make knowledgeable connections
  • are sufficient in the art of information synthesis, not just analysis
  • are effective conversationalists
  • are effective at putting talents, products, services in the context of a potential partner’s goals and strategies.

It’s with the above advantages and the aforementioned lessons that give me confidence that we’ll do more than recover from our recent adversities.

On Optimism and Big Ideas

It was at the peak of the Great Depression in Winter Haven, Florida. George Jenkins left one of the few remaining grocery jobs in his region to launch his own version of a grocery shopping experience. He would do so by mastering a number of separate, professional disciplines before eventually reaching the scale to delegate each role. What I’ve found most interesting about this story is that he chose to address a relatively big idea during a period of great consequence. Florida’s shoppers responded positively.

A “food palace” of marble, glass and stucco, this store included innovations such as air conditioning, fluorescent lighting, electric eye doors and terrazzo floors. In 1945, he acquired a warehouse and 19 All American stores from the Lakeland Grocery Company. He began replacing these small stores with larger supermarkets. [3]

And today, the late George Jenkin’s company employs over 120,000 Floridians. That company is Publix and if you know anything about the Southeastern United States, it’s a revered institution.

Publix Super Markets Inc. on Friday announced it wants to hire thousands of people by the end of the month to work in its 1,243 stores and nine distribution centers in seven Southeastern states. [4]

As uplifting as this story is, it isn’t unique. Optimism and big ideas go hand in hand. There are a number of big thinkers with the leverage to forge new partnerships and I’d invite you to consider those ideas for consideration by submitting a reply to your Weekly Letters or Executive Member Briefs. The most meaningful responses will be added. Below, you will find a few examples of my own:

No. 1: Amazon and DTC Brand Inventory

Amazon is in position to make a short-term investment with long-term implications. For decades, consumer packaged goods (CPG) were bought and sold through wholesale operators like Target, Walmart, Costco, and the like. While each of those companies will remain in great shape during this downturn, Amazon is in unique position to attract future brand advertisers by gaining their loyalties in the coming months. Amazon should commit to purchase orders. An example of this would be an agreement to purchase $5 billion (GMV) worth of direct-to-consumer (DTC) retail over the next two years.

Of all of the retail sectors to see growth, online marketplaces will see the most of it (read here). According to agency directors and holding company executives, many of these brands are facing a two-fold challenge: sluggish ad performance and the deafening noise of the moment. Amazon can provide stimulus to a number of retailers reliant on Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento.

By providing visibility and cash flow to DTC brands, Amazon will position themselves as a wholesale partner to a consumer segment that tends to shun Amazon’s olive branch. If effective, Amazon will open a new door to a thriving segment of modern brands that have thus far ignored the online retailer’s search engine marketing (SEM) and display offerings. It’s a win/win for Jeff Bezos and a win/win for Shopify merchants.

No. 2: A Partnership between Faire Wholesale and DoorDash

Katie Carer’s tremendous document deserves wide praise. Shopify’s Senior Product Lead built an enormously effective document called How To Build a “Buy Online, Pick Up Curbside” Store. It’s one of those big ideas that comes about in times like these. It was also a wonderful advertisement for her platform.

Independent retailers are struggling to find a solution to halting physical mobility. And within two days of writing her 56 slide technical document for mom and pop stores, many American cities were ordered to shelter in place. Needless to say, this hinders the curbside pick up model for non-essential businesses.

A hedge against the stay at home order is last mile delivery. And here, Postmates and DoorDash are best positioned to succeed (though Google has a solution of its own). Of the two, I’d choose DoorDash. It is better capitalized, better run (according to mutual investors), and more widely used. A partnership with Faire Wholesale would equip the mobile platform with data that it can’t access on its own. Faire, a tremendous company in its own right, powers thousands of retailer’s wholesale purchasing catalogues. This means that Faire has an intimate understanding of thousands of retailers’ inventories.

What used to be done by .json web calls and manual inventory updates, could be accomplished with an API call for real-time inventory. This would supply an altogether new business for DoorDash and a unique user experience for Main St. retailers. This would allow the last-mile service to feature and fulfill the orders from thousands of urban stores. Many of these have little to no digital retail presences.

If history is any indication, these lessons and principles will separate those who succumb to the uncertainties from those who outwit them. For 2PM and the readers that have invested in its future, I’ve chosen to pursue the latter. Each of the recessionary periods in U.S. history saw two things: (1) great innovations spurred by the pursuit of big ideas (2) and a recovery accomplished by outlasting negative market forces.

Recovery is typically a collective outcome with more variables that can be covered in 2,000 word essay. But within that recovery is an untold number of big ideas executed by entrepreneurial thinkers. In each of those instances, you’d find: intellectual curiosity, dynamism, calm, and an eye for opportunity. But before the big ideas or the execution, there was optimism.

By Web Smith | About 2PM

No. 351: On WFH and Community


On working from home, fitness, and community. The first weekday after the major disruptions began and on Twitter, a small group of venture capitalists were organizing times to meet at the preferred gym of the moment. Over thirty minutes of replies and excitement, a small group of forty-year-olds organized around a Monday morning Peloton ride. Within hours of this exchange, California’s Bay Area issued a shelter in place order. What was an optional gathering may become the norm. As more cities prohibit recreational travel, free flow to gyms, restaurants, and social gatherings have all but ended.

There are no atheists in foxholes. According to historians, World War II was the first time that the aphorism was heard. For one, it’s a dated phrase. But given the mass closure of businesses, the shuttering of travel, government mandated self-quarantine, the closures of borders, the calls for shared sacrifice, the tumbling markets, and the fear of impacted welfare – this is the closest that many of us have come to the second-order effects of global disruptions. For many, if not for all, wellness is no longer a luxury. As the stress of the isolation continues to mount, community is more of a priority.

Regardless of the aphorism’s original intent, the phrase means something different in this day and age. A number of Americans have begun to shun organized religion altogether. In its place: sports, diets, politics, professional communities, and brands. If atheism is a lack of belief, we rarely see it these days. For secular institutions, we are avid believers. They are our religions. In Imagined Communities, I wrote:

In this way, America has not become non-religious. Rather, America spent the last several decades forging new communities. These types of communities don’t show up in Thompson’s polls. America believes in brands.

Add the belief of fitness to the above list. COVID-19 arrived at a pivotal time for The Related Companies (TRC) and their subsidiaries: Equinox, SoulCycle, and Pure Media. The retail real estate sector is suffering from wide disruption – a result of government mandate. With stores, bars, restaurants, and gyms closed, Stephen Ross’ portfolio is being impacted in ways that few would have foreseen a month ago. Then, two of the first recorded cases of COVID-19 transmission in private gyms occurred within two separate Equinox facilities: New York and Bethesda, Maryland. The company has thus far resisted nationwide closures. March 2020 was ripe for TRC’s first attempt at a direct-to-consumer fitness strategy. But to add insult to injury, the launch of SoulCycle’s DTC product was thwarted when SXSW was cancelled.

Customers will have to exercise patience: Shipments roll out later this spring to select cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Austin, where the bike was scheduled for a splashy SXSW debut before COVID-19 concerns spurred the festival’s cancellation. [1]

Shipments will not begin until late Spring, giving direct competitors like Peloton, Mirror, and Tonal the runway to market to as many former gym goers as their marketing budgets will allow. As premium fitness companies like Equinox face growing criticism for acting too slowly in the face of a deepening public health crisis, we are certain to experience a boom in direct-to-consumer fitness. 

Peloton is “just a bike with a tablet attached” according to a number of critics. Former Google marketer Adam Singer recently quipped:

My wife is going to win her battle of buying one of those Peloton things isn’t she?Maybe I can find a clunker exercise bike and glue a tablet to it to save some money. I can’t win. This timeline is against me at every macro and micro level possible.

A timely article that touched on critics like Singer. The New York Times also covered the botched SXSW rollout at length in “Maybe You’ll Stop Mocking Peloton.”

A company within the Equinox Group’s portfolio, Equinox Media, also chose this week to introduce Variis, an app featuring content for home workouts from Equinox, SoulCycle and Precision Run, among others. (The company said it had intended to release Variis at South by Southwest, the festival in Austin, Texas, before it was canceled.) [2]

It would seem that community is at the center of this conversation, not the equipment itself. To that end, that trench war aphorism means something different today. As a growing number of entrepreneurs and technology workers adopt a new distributed work lifestyle, there will be new appreciation for connectivity – even if purely digital. With the increased threat of traditional connectivity being disrupted, digital methods of fitness community no longer seem novel.

For many, fitness is a form of organized religion. When New York’s Rumble decided to close, its faithful revolted over social channels. The same can be said for Barry’s Bootcamp, OrangeTheory, and a number of other organizations with “cult” followings. There are providers that are well-positioned to benefit from this shift from premium gyms and group fitness classes to in-home fitness. 2PM published this in September 2018:

By building systems that allow community to be gained outside of physical retail outlets, these tools are aiming to become the new medium for instruction and training.  These internet-enabled equipment manufacturers aren’t just selling plastic and metal, they’re selling virtual community. With the advent of polished functional fitness gyms like Orangetheory, SoulCycle, and CycleBar, fitness consumers have grown to value the ability to: a) train with a group b) and track progress over time, with the use of a provided IoT device. [2]

While SoulCycle’s late-Spring launch lands outside of the arbitrage window: Mirror, Tonal, and Peloton are clear beneficiaries. Premium, community-driven providers like Equinox will certainly lose customers to these digital solutions. Especially if these community restrictions continue through the summer. Digital communities like Whoop also have an opportunity to bridge the gap between outdoor activities and in-home fitness. And if real-time connectivity is not a primary need, traditional fitness brands like Rogue will surely benefit from an impending shift to in-home fitness. A recent Instagram post suggests: “It doesn’t need to be fancy to be effective.” A clear nod to the company’s growing number of connected fitness competitors.

Joe Vennare on Twitter

At-home and connected fitness is seeing a bump in sales and usage. @Hydrow_by_CREW sales increased 3X in recent weeks. Home usage is up more than 40%. @tonal Weekly sales up 36%, weekend sales up 82% WOW. This weekend saw the highest usage in company’s history.

As more Americans track the news, panic and disarray will set-in. A lack of community may exacerbate the symptoms of exacerbation as consumers are told to avoid professional settings, social events, and now health and fitness communities. For many of us, the idea of war was as foreign as the lands that they’re fought on. And shared sacrifice is something that many of us ready in history books. In this way, community is more crucial than ever.

In 2017, The Atlantic’s Zan Romanoff wrote: Gyms provide ritual and community, serving as a sort of religion. They also promote values American culture already worships—capitalism and overwork. If fitness is the new religion, community is its driver. And what many consumers felt was a luxury may now be more of a necessity. In this way, this pandemic is as close to a proverbial foxhole as many will ever know – a sudden lifestyle change with immediate consequences.

Consumers with means will do whatever they can to mitigate isolation. This means that it’s likely that DTC fitness critics will reluctantly adopt digital community fitness. In the long-term, digital communities may not replace premium gym experiences. There will always be a need for them. But in the interim, these DTC products will be good enough. Some semblance of community and camaraderie is better than none at all. Because there are no atheists in foxholes. We all want to believe in something.

Peloton’s stock is up 12+% at the time of publishing, a rare positive in a down market.

Report by Web Smith | About 2PM

Update: (5:39 PM) Equinox has now closed all locations.