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Merger, they wrote: Stephen King takes the stand in publishing case as Batgirl is shelved


Image of the week: Antitrust misery

It’s not every competition case that attracts autograph-hunters, but then it’s not every competition case that has Stephen King as a witness. The novelist appeared on behalf of the government this week in the US federal antitrust lawsuit against the proposed merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, his long-time publisher. The US justice department argues that the merger would thwart competition and damage authors’ careers, and the “king of horror” agrees. When his breakthrough novel, Carrie, hit bookshops in 1974, there were dozens of publishers in New York. Now a Big Five – the two merger parties, HarperCollins, Hachette and Macmillan – are “pretty entrenched” in the city’s industry. King dismissed the publishers’ claims that they would continue to bid for books separately and competitively post-merger. “You might as well say you’re going to have a husband and wife bidding against each other for the same house,” he said, gifting some writer somewhere their next plot. It seems either authors or publishers can enjoy a happy ending in this story, not both.

In numbers: Cold coffee

75%

Share of Starbucks’ US beverage sales that were generated by cold coffee products in the second quarter. With customers more likely to add modifiers such as flavours and toppings to iced coffee drinks, raising the total price, this uptick leaves Starbucks quids in.

200

Number of Starbucks cafes in the US, out of about 9,000, that have unionised so far and where employees will not be receiving pay rises this month, unlike their non-unionised colleagues. Starbucks says it can’t extend the wage increases to unionised cafes without going through collective bargaining, which it refuses to do.

34,948

Total number of Starbucks cafes worldwide, including a 318 net new additions in the second quarter, as its empire continues to expand, one espresso frappuccino at a time.

Getting to know: Batgirl

Batgirl, aka Barbara Gordon, might be a DC Comics superheroine, but she has proven no match for the increasingly cut-throat streaming business. In an unceremonious refusal to throw good money after bad and have anything more to do with an allegedly “irredeemable” film, Warner Bros Discovery has thrown its near-completed Batgirl movie on the trash heap, opting not to release it either on its original destination, streaming service HBO Max, or in cinemas, which would necessitate an additional marketing budget. The $90 million (€88 million) already spent on the thing is now better off as a tax writedown, apparently. Timing is everything in both Gotham City and Hollywood: since Batgirl was greenlit by Warner Bros, the company has merged with Discovery and there’s a brutal new commissioner in town: former Discovery CEO and now Warner Bros Discovery chief David Zaslav. Batgirl, played by Leslie Grace, is not his first victim – that was the short-lived news streamer CNN+ – and she is unlikely to be his last.

The list: Collective employee names

Googlers, Amazonians and Metamates (previously known as Facebookers) are just the half of it. Cringeworthy nicknames for workforces are now practically compulsory in the tech world – here are five that are almost as bad as Metamates.

1. Robinhoodies: When Robinhood, the trading app at the centre of last year’s meme-stock craze, said it was laying off 23 per cent of its staff this week, its boss acknowledged that the news would be “tough for all Robinhoodies”. Ouch.

2. Klarnauts: Like Robinhood, buy-now-pay-later company Klarna recently used its favoured term for employees, Klarnauts, in a message announcing lay-offs.

3. Pinployees: In fairness to mood board purveyors Pinterest, pinployees is absolutely not the worst example of the genre.

4. Stripes: The Collison brothers have kept it simple at their payments business Stripe, where team members are referred to as Stripes.

5. Tweeps: “If you work at Twitter, you’re a Tweep,” the social media company insists on its careers site. This will never not sound like an insult.



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