Unmissable Reads

Date: 21 July, 2020

Unmissable Reads

Darius Pasalar

By Darius Pasalar

Senior Strategist
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At the beginning of lockdown my neighbour gave me a small bag of sunflower seeds, which I potted inside and eventually moved outside. They’re now over six foot in height and flowering, which is just fab.

Why am I banging on about some sunflowers?

They’re opening up (with big yellow heads) as the country opens up as well. But while these plants may have a set cycle they go through, we don’t yet know how our economic cycle will play out. This week’s reading list looks to identify how we’re looking forward to what this economic future holds for all of us.

The Craic Economy

Economist David McWilliams has identified a softer economic marker in what he calls the Craic Economy. Simply put, it’s the economy of face to face interactions and fun, that places like bars and restaurants afford us. His ‘craic bail-out’ posits a way to support small businesses to help us all have the craic again.

The Craic Economy covers bars, restaurants, hotels, comedy clubs, the performing arts, theatre, conferences, festivals, gigs, nightclubs and so on. Income in the “craic economy” hasn’t just fallen - it has dropped to zero.

The Craic Economy is based on people - robots are no craic. It is people who make the Craic Economy dance, and unemployment in the Craic Economy has sky-rocketed. The Craic Economy is incredibly creative, and in terms of Ireland’s brand, it’s where we’re truly world- renowned. http://www.davidmcwilliams.ie/the-pandession-is-destroying-irelands-craic-economy/

A million people, one app

As we move into a life of living with Covid 19, this app may be with us for a very long time.

Although initial uptake was strong we're still to see how people will use the app, and also what they are giving away from a data perspective. Economically how will technology blend to ensure our safety and will it provide a key for consumers to engage with services in a different way?

It is far too early to call the COVID tracker app a success. It has had a successful launch, but some studies estimate that we need about 60% of the population to download and use the application for it to be effective in helping to stop the disease spreading. It remains to be seen how people will use it, and if the app will be an effective part of the overall contact and trace system. We should be provided with this usage information in a timely manner.


Covid and Cholera

This look back on the lessons from Cholera provides amazing insight on the ‘full system approach’ needed to tackle a pandemic. The economic relationship between the developed and developing world is stark, illustrating the importance of global co-operation.


We’re in this together

The European Economic Forecast offers a really in-depth analysis of the economic future of Europe. Although a dense read, it does offer a very comprehensive view of how our collective economy has been affected.

Data for the first quarter confirmed initial estimates of a sizeable economic impact despite confinement measures being introduced only around mid-March in most countries. GDP contracted by 3.6% in the Euro area, and by 3.2% in the EU as a whole. While economic disruptions have been broad, first quarter data also confirmed the highly asymmetrical nature of the impact across countries and industries. For the second quarter, all screened indicators suggest an acceleration of the contraction in economic activity with persisting differences across countries and industries.

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Unmissable Reads

Date: 7 July, 2020

Stuff we liked

Katie Cleary

By Katie Cleary

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With lockdown measures lifting and live events resuming, it’s a good time to reflect on all things sponsorship, from the ways it is expected to change to the value it offers brands. This week’s reading list looks at some industry predictions for sponsorship, how the pandemic is impacting influencer culture, a clever brand example, and last but certainly not least, the importance of advanced measurement.

1COVID-19’s impact on sponsorships

Our Covid-19 Emotion Tracker has given us insight into what consumers think about sponsorships but what do the industry experts think? A recent survey by SponsorshipX asked professionals across the world for their thoughts on the future of sponsorships. The report covers the return to normalcy, the impact on budgets and innovations to consider. One surprising finding from the research was that Esports is not being considered as a viable sponsorship: less than 5% of the experts were investing in it. The full report is available through a webinar. Watch it here.

2Sponsoring on streaming platforms

Speaking of sports sponsorships, a nice example of a brand who have previously innovated in this space comes from Corona – the Mexican beer, not the virus! The brand sponsored Club de Cuervos, a fictional football team at the centre of a successful Netflix series of the same name. Corona not only integrated itself into the series through branded jerseys and stadium signage, it also brought the sponsorship into reality by covering the football matches on its social media and by creating real-life jerseys and special edition cans. With the current pandemic driving people to stay at home and watch TV more, Corona shows a successful way forward for brands to contend with the rise of ad-free streaming services. Read more here.

3 #sponsored

The impact of Covid-19 is no doubt being felt sharply among one group in particular: online influencers. With cancelled events and travel bans, most of them are being forced to pivot their content and swap the beaches and brunches for the living room couch. In an article for The Guardian, Katie Bishop writes that there is an even more significant shift beyond the change in content:

“The marketing model that makes up most of an influencer’s income is falling apart, with brands pulling out of lucrative sponsorship deals and advertising revenue plummeting. As we face a new economic era, it is unclear whether the aspirational lifestyle lauded by influencers can emerge unscathed. Could Coronavirus provoke a reconfiguration of the influencer age?”

4Solving the mystery of sponsorship measurement

While we know sponsorship is a key activity in brand building, unfortunately we don’t always know how effective it is. According to the Association of National Advertisers, only 37% of marketers have a standardised approach to measurement and only one quarter of practitioners understand the business return of their sponsorships. In the February issue of Admap, Tom Goodchild argues that brands should evolve their measures beyond the usual aspects of media exposure and awareness and outlines three steps for brands to take when approaching sponsorship measurement. Read more here.

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Unmissable Reads

Date: 23 June, 2020

Stuff we liked

Darius Pasalar

By Darius Pasalar

Senior Strategist
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Want is a bit of a slippery fish. It’s sometimes hard to grasp and when you snare it, it’s not always what you expected. Unless it actually was a fish you wanted, and even still it’s just going to be cold, wet and slippery. As we move into being able to get back out into the world, the collective wants and how they’ve changed are becoming apparent. As Tamara has outlined in her article, the world is changing to accommodate and meet what we now want.

This week’s reading list looks to peek beyond the collective into communities and groups that have been radically affected by the pandemic, and whose wants need to be addressed.

1Isolation and loneliness for women

Lockdown has drawn into focus the gender divide in lots of different ways. Be it re-establishing gendered ideals around who looks after the home, to domestic violence. This piece focuses on the higher level of isolation and loneliness felt by women and some of the reasons behind it.

Of course this study isn’t indicative of every woman, but it shows us that for some women, they have vital needs that shouldn’t be ignored as we leave lockdown.

2Ireland’s LGBT+ youth coming out of lockdown

June is Pride month and last year marked 50 years since Stonewall, which makes it even more heartbreaking that 93% of young gay people across Ireland are suffering with depression due to the lockdown. 93% is a huge number and support through charities and organisations across Ireland has never been more important, especially as Pride will be heavily affected this year by the ban on mass gatherings. Read more here.

3Mad for those pets

Lockdown has led to an increase in pet ownership in Ireland, which is great. I myself very briefly fostered a Pitbull called Kevin. As this audience of pet owners grow and expand, I was struck by this example from India, showing a different way of loving a pet. For the small price of $40 a month, people are enjoying a virtual pet. What I love about this is that the need for companionship may be old, but this is a fresh solution.

4Getting out for the visually impaired and blind

Everyone has struggled with aspects of lockdown, but some people have specific needs which have been greatly challenged by social distancing and the lockdown. This report by NCBI outlines the effects this time has had on the visually impaired and blind. Here we are posed with a difficult challenge for a group of people with very specific needs. Finding solutions to how people can exercise are underway through the programme, but creativity and innovation are needed more than ever.

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Unmissable Reads

Date: 26 May, 2020

Stuff We Liked

Darius Pasalar

By Darius Pasalar

Senior Strategist
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That question mark is an important bit of punctuation. This week’s curated reading list has that question mark hanging around like a dinner party guest that just won’t get the hint, even though you’re in a bathrobe and the dishwasher is packed up for the evening.

Lockdowns are starting to be eased in countries around the world, but questions surrounding second waves also prevail. Questions are something I personally feel we should embrace. This experience has made us all ask the big questions that perhaps we should have spoken up about earlier. Like the level of investment in our health care systems, or wondering what the future of cities will look.

So, lets jump into some of those questions shall we?

1Feasting on Fantasy. Disney+: hero or villain?

The Guardian long read (or audio long listen, trust me it’s a good one for when you’re ironing) charts the monumental rise of Disney+. Who, let’s be honest from a timing’s point of view, lucked out. But there’s more to this story than animated wonder that’s sure to make many of you wonder about the new streaming platform. Read more here.

"Disney’s new streaming service arrived in the UK just as the Coronavirus lockdown kicked in. With so many hours to fill, it seemed like a sensible investment. Pretty soon, it was infiltrating my every waking hour."

2What will a post pandemic hotel look like?

UK architecture studio The Manser Practice has outlined how hotels will be adapted to allow social distancing when they reopen, and how future designs will be impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. How we’ll all interact with space is all up for grabs now, and it opens up a new world of experiences and touch points. Read more here.

3Taking testing into your own hands?

Mammoth has developed a home Covid-19 test that they’re claiming to have available to buy over the counter by the end of the year. By putting the knowledge of testing into consumer’s hands will they be empowered? Will the test hail a new relationship with home testing? Here’s one thing I do know: Mammoth are designing the tests in the same format as pregnancy tests - that’s just crying out for comical bathroom moments. Read more here.

“It’s the ultimate use case for CRISPR,” says Trevor Martin, the CEO of Mammoth. “Our vision is that it would be in the format of a pregnancy test.”

4Have we developed a new relationship with sports, diet and exercise?

The YouGov report charts not only the rise in exercise in the UK, but also the impact this has had on consumer spending. So even if the exercise doesn’t persist after post lockdown, at least they’ll have all the gear for wave two. Read more here.

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Unmissable Reads

Date: 12 May, 2020

Stuff we liked

Darius Pasalar

By Darius Pasalar

Senior Strategist

As the crisis moves and changes, a sense of resilience is creeping into publications. This week’s reading list looks at the different ways this resilience is manifesting around the world.

1. All dressed up and nowhere to go

We should never underestimate the importance of clothes in our lives. The crisis may have left more of us in leisure wear, but this article illustrates how the simplest act of getting dressed up can be a form a pushing back. It’s a great reminder of how good it feels to throw on the glad rags.

2. The word of recovery

Buzz words have shown their value time and time again. Remember when we hadn’t heard the word Brexit? Or how Obama successfully owned the word ‘hope’ through the iconic Shepard Fairey portrait? This piece by the United Nations posits that the buzzword for Covid-19 will be resilience. Which is something we can take comfort in.

“In the same way that austerity became the motif word post the financial crisis… I think the motif word of post-COVID is likely to be resilience. What does resilience imply? Shared burdens. Solidarity. Community over individual enrichment.”

3. Kantar’s six points to remember

This piece from Kantar is just a really simple checklist on how leadership brands can help ensure resilience. They’re very simplistic, but I want to hone in on one in particular – create magic moments. They’re referencing CX journeys. That struck me as a space that can deliver wonder, but in the most fleeting and domestic manner. It may be one second of someone’s day, but it’s still a space for magic.

4. In it together

Does a nation’s past inform its strength of resilience? This piece by the New York Times looks at how current resilience is influenced by the past. With VE day only last week, the article poses questions around the importance of the national psyche and demonstrating resilience.

“I was a kid, I remember playing soccer and seeing mortars falling out of the sky,” he said. He believes the disciplined, collected way in which Croats have responded to the pandemic harks back to wartime and the legacy of communism.”

Unmissable Reads

Date: 6 May, 2020

Stuff we liked

Katie Cleary

By Katie Cleary


Once you’ve found your voice amidst all this chaos, it’s important to remember that it’s not just about what you say, but how you say it. That’s why this week’s reading list focuses on tone. Below, you’ll find consumer attitudes to the topic and examples of tone from Irish art and the world of politics. There’s also a poem inspired by coronavirus marketing as well as a bonus article on female leadership – because if I’m going to be given a platform, then you best believe I’m going to sneak my feminist agenda in here!

P.S.:For anyone wondering, Darius will be back to his regular spot next week.

Happy reading!

1. Brands: it’s time to find your voice

Opinium Research surveyed 2,000 adults in the UK to find out what communication styles they would prefer brands to adopt during the crisis. At an overall level, people said they were seeking content that was informative (69%), serious (56%), educational (54%), and inspiring (49%), but not surprisingly, these answers differed greatly depending on the sector. The report also goes into detail as to why the response from big supermarkets like Sainsburys and Tesco have been so well received by the public.

2. Dear Ireland

If there’s a group of people who know the importance of crafting and delivering tone, it’s writers and actors. Luckily for us, a new project from the Abbey has taken the theatre online to ensure Ireland’s artistic voice is still being heard. It commissioned 50 writers to each write a postcard to Ireland in the form of a monologue that was then performed by 50 actors of their nomination. The stories range from hopeful and hilarious to downright angry, and just about every emotion in between. Dear Ireland was released live over four nights last week. But if you missed it, fear not. In true millennial fashion, I slid into the DMs of The Abbey on Insta and they assured me the recordings would be uploaded to their YouTube channel from Saturday and remain online for six months. I am writing this pre-weekend so hopefully they were true to their word and you can still enjoy the work at the link above.

3. What We Talk About When We Talk About Coronavirus

This article from Think Global Health offers a gendered and political analysis of how world leaders publicly spoke about the Covid-19 pandemic throughout March. It looks at the similarities and differences in the leaders’ statements in relation to content and proposed action, the level of emotion and familiarity, the use of war analogies (Trump likened the pandemic to a war in thirteen of the nineteen statements he gave that month!), and, of course, the tone:

(Speaking about Trump and Boris)

Both use short, clipped sentences, often expressing aggression or defensiveness. A more important characteristic of these nations’ responses can be seen in their leaders’ sudden shift in tone. Both men adopted a casual approach at the beginning of March—assuring their citizens that “this will pass” and that their countries were more than prepared. However, both leaders had a sharp change in tone as the pandemic developed in both countries.

In contrast to these male figures, female leaders such as Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern provide a consistent steadiness in their public statements throughout the month.

The final paragraph touches on an argument that has been explored more directly elsewhere over the past few weeks – are female leaders better at managing the coronavirus crisis? The best response I have come across is this thought-provoking piece from The Hill that features expert opinion from Kathleen Gersen, a professor of sociology at NYU. Gersen looks beyond the female leadership style to the nuances of culture that enable a female leader in the first place. She goes on to assert that any leader can be successful if they are able to demonstrate a balance of strength and compassion — qualities that are easier said than done due to societal expectations placed on both genders.

…A fully developed leader should be both strong and capable of feeling… if women can lead the way in showing that these are not competing and conflicting attributes, but in fact complementary and necessary for good leadership — I think not only will society benefit, but so will men. Maybe then we can begin to open up the scripts for roles that leaders play, regardless of whether it’s a woman or a man or anything else.

4. The first lines of emails I’ve received while quarantining

Last but not least, a poem by Jessica Salfia who is an English teacher and writer in West Virginia. As the title suggests, it is literally a poem constructed from emails she received during quarantine. The poem went viral in less than a day and it is a good reminder to us all to avoid using language that sounds opportunistic and clichéd in our communications.

Unmissable Reads

Date: 28 April, 2020

Stuff we liked

Darius Pasalar

By Darius Pasalar

Senior Strategist

When it comes to industry news, the communications and marketing industry is maybe one of the most interesting because of how many areas it spreads into. The current crisis has not only turned many businesses on their heads, but it’s also united them around one common focus point. Which is incredible when you think about it. Be they large scale shipping, FMCG, or the luxury sector, they’re all affected – but in so many different ways.

This week’s curated reading list will not only try and illustrate how different sectors have been affected, but also how flexible and adaptable marketing and communications have been in response.

Before we jump in here, it’s worth recognising that lessons come from the most unexpected areas. Fundamentally creative solutions come from knowing to be curious and open to any source.

1. It’s good to be nosy

The link above is a really good overview of how different industries are responding to the crisis. It’s really just a long list, but it feels very real-time and the case studies are short and snappy. Which, let’s be honest, is something we all appreciate.

Here’s a taste of how Heinz are responding:

Heinz will give $2,000 grants to diners based on fan votes.

Heinz for Diners is a new initiative meant to help independently-owned diners which are among the restaurants suffering right now. Heinz ketchup bottles have long been ubiquitous on diner tables, including in the brand’s Super Bowl spot. Heinz plans to send $2,000 checks to 500 diners, for a total support of $1 million, asking people to nominate their favorite local diners, up until May 31. “For decades, diners’ doors have been open to all of us,” Dalia Adler, brand-building lead at Kraft Heinz, said in statement. “At a time where every bit counts, we want to do what we can to help take care of these special places that are so much more to our families than just a restaurant.”

2. Reworking the classics for the times we’re in

This is a really interesting example of how an artist, Banksy, has revisited one of his larger murals. The street artist has always shown great reactivity to culture. Brands and organisations are far more tethered than artists, but there’s something telling about the power of revisiting work rather than reinventing it.

3. It’s all about impact

This is a great read from Accenture that’s focused on the impact of the crisis from a human and business point of view. The scale of the areas looked at gives us a great macro perspective from so many different angles.

The global Covid-19 pandemic has forever changed our experiences―as customers, employees, citizens, humans―and our attitudes and behaviors are changing as a result. Once the immediate threat of the virus has passed, what will have changed in the way we think and behave, and how will that affect the way we design, communicate, build and run the experiences that people need and want?


4. Ipsos – The creative fight back

Knowing our audiences and their expectations from brands and organisations is paramount. This Ipsos report is a really handy document couched in audience data. It poses that now is the time for brands to reconfigure their relationship with people and the role that creativity plays in that.

A closing note:

The role brands and organisations play in people’s lives is mirrored in how people shape brands and organisations. Marketing myopia at a time like this represents not just financial loss, but real damage to the path to recovery. So, although at times it’s difficult to see a future beyond the crisis, there is no bigger crisis than being blind to how we can all reach the world after Covid-19.

Unmissable Reads

Date: 21 April, 2020

Stuff we liked

Darius Pasalar

By Darius Pasalar

Senior Strategist

Tomorrow’s world is an interesting coupling of words that pre-Covid, had a real bang of science fiction off it. Now though, it’s a much more practical affair. We’re at a point of asking big questions that will affect us all. The selection of content this week looks to gather some of those big questions percolating out there about what our future may be.

1. Covid-19: A Look Back From 2025

Bret Stephens’ opinion piece in The New York Times is written from the perspective of a journalist in 2025 looking back on all that’s changed since 2020. It’s a sobering read in places, which brings to mind that great quote from Arthur C Clark; ‘Science fiction seldom attempts to predict the future. More often than not, it tries to prevent it.’

When Covid-19 first emerged as a health crisis in China five years ago, observers noted that authoritarian regimes — with their hostility toward whistle-blowers, their manipulation of data, their fear of the free flow of information — facilitate the spread of disease.

Within a few months, it became clear that the flip side of that proposition was also true: Disease facilitates the spread of authoritarianism.

2. You Gov tracking today to predict tomorrow

You Gov’s Covid tracker is a really strong piece of data collection with global reach and resonance. The material tracks how behaviour and opinion has changed since the break out. In looking at tomorrow’s world, the value of data has never been more important.

3. Tomorrow’s fine art

We’ve seen galleries all over the world providing virtual tours over the last few weeks. This is a democratising of the world’s antiquities, which throws up questions around what it means to view masterpieces. 

Or why bother going to a famous gallery when you can just recreate paintings at home which you can gift the world through Insta?

4. Everything will change forever after Coronavirus…won’t it?

With all of us so focused on all the change coming our way this piece poses an interesting counter-argument. Well worth the read.

Predictions of fundamental change after Covid-19 are driven by the biased perspectives of those making them – in reality, most things will go back to how they were.

5. Tomorrow’s world needs a comprehensive overview. 

The scale and breadth of the questions that are being asked on what the future holds, is vast. Never before will collaboration and a sharing of knowledge be so important. This piece by BOND is a really well detailed and considered piece that looks at the future from a myriad of perspectives. All of which lead to some big thought provoking questions.

1) Modernize and improve government / healthcare / education driving lower costs and more efficiency

2) Improve coordination between government and business for the good of citizens

3) Help people find jobs (and training) best suited to their skills and lifestyles

4) Promote more considered consumption

5) Get back to basics including staying closer to home

6) Bolster family connectedness / seriousness of purpose / community / faith?

How we will answer these questions, only time will tell, when we look back from tomorrow’s world.



Unmissable Reads

Date: 8 April, 2020

Stuff we liked

Darius Pasalar

By Darius Pasalar

Senior Strategist

We’re another week in, and these articles are looking at the way we’re living our lives in the day-to-day. Whether these new behaviours are coping mechanisms or just the natural flow of life will be something we’ll only know when we’re finally able to look back on this unusual time of isolation.

For me, there’s a comfort in seeing how people find ways to keep up their day-to-day in these difficult times. For example, my neighbour still keeps parking in front of my house instead of his own. Just because I don’t own a car doesn’t mean I’m running a parking lot, Number 7!

Such, such comfort.

1. Saints and Sinners in the UK

The Guardian’s Lockdown’s hottest viral trends: Raging at the neighbours and torching 5G towers gives an interesting overview of the different trends that have emerged in lockdown.

Joel Goldby’s rough divide of the saints and the sinners poses an interesting new angle on how UK is once more split on opinions and their corresponding behaviours.

There is a divide down the nation, now. First, the Virtuous Saints, who read the government guidelines like a Bible and live by them, and get really arsey with you when you walk slightly too close to them on the pavement even if the pavement is quite narrow and they are right in the damn middle of it…

Then we have the Sinners, people without gardens who go and lie down in a park on weekends when it’s sunny or think a bike ride (which the government still deems “acceptable”) is acceptable.


2. Mobility During Lockdown

Google has released the mobility figures across the globe, and the Irish one makes for a reassuring read. Not because it’s telling us anything we wouldn’t expect, but because it shows what we except to be true. People are staying at home. Thank God.

3. The Queen’s Speech

Before I get into this one, I need to state that I’m originally from the UK and the Queen’s speech is an annual Christmas ritual that I’ve never missed. That doesn’t make me a royalist by any stretch of the imagination – she’s more like a piece of family tradition that ends with ‘oh doesn’t she look for good for her age’ followed by a glass of plonk.

Her address is only the fourth time she’s spoken to the country outside of the Christmas broadcast. It’s a departure from the day-to-day, a mark in the history books of the pandemic, but also a national call to cope as a nation.

Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it.


4. Slow Down There, Cowboy

Niamh referenced this article in her piece on slowing down and I’ve shamelessly stolen it. The article is well worth the read, and allowed me personally to let out a sigh of relief for not trying to write the next Moby Dick or Snail and the Whale (two very different books that shouldn’t be confused when it comes to bedtime reading for kids).

Finding small pleasures helps, too. Mr. Bailey offered one suggestion: ‘Get yourself some Indian food and drink a bottle of wine with your spouse. We’re going through a lot and we all just need to take it easy.’


5. What Can We Learn From Zurich Balconies

Being in lockdown has made us all experts of our own homes. All of a sudden having an outdoor space is a luxury that we can all luxuriate in as the weather gets fine. Monocle’s little video in praise of balconies is a wonderful reminder of how good architecture and outside space makes our lives all the better. Be it coping or living, a slick balcony feels like a must.

Unmissable Reads

Date: 3 April, 2020

Stuff we liked

Darius Pasalar

By Darius Pasalar

Senior Strategist

It’s a funny thing to pull together a reading list on a virus that’s responsible for a global pandemic. It’s a bit like ranking your favourite dictators or most impressive natural disasters. But there’s no denying that we have all been consuming content and opinion on hyperdrive, trying to make sense of it all.

The following list represents the best of the thinking out there that has been helping to shape, provoke, and nurture our own.


1. Canvas8 – The insightful overview

This is a great overview document that maps how we as people are moving through the stages of the pandemic and the results that follow. I also love how tid-bits of info are peppered throughout.


2. Kantar – Covid-19 Barometer

Great hard-hitting statistics, reporting our changing / changed behaviour around media.


3. MIT Press – Science is great

This isn’t one read, it’s a daily update from some brilliant scientists. If you haven’t already signed up to it, do it now – you’ll thank me forever.


4. WARC – How we’ve changed

A great look at how people’s behaviours have radically shifted.


5. BBC Radio 5 live – Kermode and Mayo’s film review.

If you’re a member of the church of Wittertainment, you’d expect Mark and Simon’s iconic podcast, that charts weekly cinema releases, would be off the air. But they’re still going strong, and if you need a bit of a mental hug, this is the podcast for you.