Before you ask, no, I’m not in the doghouse for something – at least not until she reads this. 

Tara cringes when I write about her in this thing. She prefers to be behind the scenes. 

We couldn’t be more different. I starve for attention and external validation. I mold my persona to fit the room, the conversation, desperate for everyone to like me. And I’ll lose sleep over the slightest social infraction, which partly explains why I suck at sleeping. I infract plenty.   

Tara, on the other hand, sleeps like a champ, unless her job, the dogs, or the blue light from my phone disrupts it. I’ve met few people more genuinely comfortable in their own skin, more resolute, less concerned about what other people think. It’s all alien to me.

She plans everything, not just our kids’ lives, our finances, and travels – although it’s all that, too. Those are merely sub-plans, part of a calculated, unyielding vision she had for her future, developed long before she gave her number to a drunk guy who just got roughed up in a bar fight.

I never had a chance. 

Tara will tell you – unapologetically – that her sights were set on someone tall, with good hair, and a nuclear family. Check, check, check (fortunately, money wasn’t on her list – I had none). 

They were matters of strategy, more than attraction. Trust me, the men she ogles in movies and F1 look absolutely nothing like me. I’m fine with it. A win is a win. 

According to her dad, when Tara was a teenager, she vowed to marry someone who did all the cooking and dishes, which I do, dutifully. Incidentally, I’d never cooked much before we met. It happened organically, over the countless nightly episodes of Emeril we watched together – or at least she pretended to watch. I’m not saying I was trained or manipulated. All I’m saying is my big Christmas gifts this year were a set of cooking pans and a new Cutco chef’s knife (all of which I asked for). A plan is only as good as its execution. 

I, on the other hand, never really had a vision for my life, a master plan, or even a particular “type.” I fell in love with someone I was super attracted to, held on tight, and keep riding the ship wherever it sails.

Luckily, I found the perfect captain. 

And she’ll never find anyone with better hair.

Here’s what we’re seeing:

Consumer confidence is having a hell of a run. Our Economic Sentiment Index hit its highest point in well over a year, on the heels of its fifth positive reading over the past six. Attitudes about the job market were particularly lofty this time, followed closely by a buoyant outlook for the housing market in the months ahead. All five of our key indicators were more than a full point over the last two weeks. The surprisingly good December jobs report, shrinking producer price index, and rising mortgage applications all point to the same rosy picture. But you wouldn’t believe any of that, depending on what news you watch.  

Although, maybe people are feeling better about the economy because they’re not following politicized news at all. In our 3 Things to Know this week, we looked at the precipitous decline in the percentage of Americans who follow political news. Despite the presidential primary ramping up, 23% of U.S. adults say they aren’t following political news “at all,” up nearly 50% from this time last year. Only 31% say they are following it “very closely,” down from 48% at this time in 2020. People are exhausted. Plain and simple. We also looked at how parents of young kids are increasing their spending on skincare and beauty products, while a growing number of Americans are complaining that they have too many subscription services.

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Speaking of exhaustion, cardio is falling out of vogue. In our ongoing tracking of Americans’ fitness habits, we found some notable trends in our latest data. While cardio still ranks as our top exercise pursuit, it has been falling steadily since 2020, while cross-training, competitive sports, and yoga/pilates have been on the rise. Home gyms outnumber gym memberships, where NordicTrack and Peloton remain the most popular brands. And watch out for the emerging trend of “fitness gamification.” It’s new to me. 

The recent Alaska Airlines fiasco has airline passengers shook. After a door blew out of an Alaska Airlines Boeing jet mid-flight, 25% of Americans now say they’re reluctant to fly due to safety concerns, up from just 14% in September. Overall, 47% of U.S. adults say they’re at least “somewhat reluctant.” Regular flyers on Spirit, Southwest, and JetBlue are the most concerned. Ironically, frequent passengers on Alaska Airlines are among the least concerned.         

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The majority of digital ads people see are irrelevant, but it’s getting better. In 2021, 68% of U.S. adults reported that most of the digital ads they saw were “not at all” relevant, but that number fell to 56% in 2023. There are big age variances, however, with younger adults reporting much higher rates of ad relevance, partly owed to how many of those ads they see on TikTok or Instagram. Also notable in this study is that despite the lack of user tracking on iOS devices, iPhone users are far more likely than Android users to say the ads they see are relevant. There are huge gains to be made for advertisers who play it smart. Just because you want to target me with your ad doesn’t mean it’s relevant to me. Do the extra work.  

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More awesomeness from the InsightStore:

One Programming Note: I’m hosting a webinar on Tuesday to highlight how you can use real-time, self-reported audience data to drive measurable results this political campaign season. Sign up here if you’re interested.   

The most popular questions this week:

Do you have screen time limitations before going to bed?

Do you let your car warm up before driving?

Do you embrace or dread singing in front of people?

Which of these “gig economy” services would you say you personally use the most?

Are you the most stylish person in your family?

Answer Key: No, see the intro above; For sure; Have we met?; Uber by a lot; Not even close.

Hoping you’re well.


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