Were starting a new business.

I swore I’d never do that again. Startups are an exhausting, pride-swallowing MFer. But they’re also an addiction for those of us with the bug.

I hinted about it in February when I rambled on about privacy, the death of third-party cookies, and creepy digital identifiers. It’s all happening faster than I thought.

We never played in “ad tech” before, but our publisher and advertiser friends made too much noise for us to ignore. Media companies need to innovate or die at the hands of Google and Facebook. Advertisers need more transparency and integrity in the process – and viable alternatives to Google and Facebook.

Overnight, we found ourselves in the middle of that.

Long story short, the way we collect our massive treasure chest of data and the type of data we collect is uniquely well-suited for the coming disruption of digital media. It doesn’t even require us to do anything differently. It just works.

So, I did another thing, kicking and screaming. I stroked the biggest check I’ve ever written to hire one of those blue-chip consulting firms I usually roll my eyes at. It was worth it.

They came back to us with a picture that was even more compelling than we expected, along with a plan to make it real. By July, we began putting pieces and partnerships together – laying the foundation for a “Newco” that could not only change the way advertising happens on the web, but also accelerate the core CivicScience business dramatically. The amount of data we generate will grow by orders of magnitude.

In the coming weeks, we’ll put the finishing touches on the structure, partners, and other housekeeping you have to do before the fun stuff can begin. In the months that follow, we’ll build a team, tee up customer pilots, tech roadmaps, marketing plans, etc.

I’m sure the hardest thing will be to settle on a permanent name for it, because that’s always the hardest thing. Naming stuff sucks.

Hopefully by February, we’ll do a public unveiling – exactly a year after I first alluded to it.

I thought about waiting until then to even mention it. But I figured I tell you so many intimate details about myself, my family, and my deepest thoughts, it would almost be a betrayal not to let you behind the curtain on something I’m this excited about.

Stay tuned.

Here’s what were seeing this week:

Our Economic Sentiment Index didn’t move an inch since last time, even if it conceals a mixed bag of feelings. It’s very uncommon for us to see consumer confidence dead flat over two weeks. It’s especially uncommon when the sub-indices all move – they just netted out even. Confidence in personal finances, the housing market, and major purchases all jumped nicely, while confidence in the broader U.S. economy – and the job market especially – dipped. Political news seems to be tugging people in equal but opposite directions. The lack of a stimulus bill is a drag, while increasing hope for a decisive election outcome is cause for optimism. Though I suspect the latter will resolve the former.

Finish reading this email, send me a message to tell me how much you loved it, and then unplug for a while. OK, you can skip the message. But definitely unplug. Because it’s crystal clear in our data that people who take time to unplug from their devices every day are happier, less stressed people. Notably, we saw daily unplugging climb dramatically in the early weeks of COVID, presumably as people learned to set new boundaries after working from home, but we’ve regressed a bit since, until seeing a small jump in October. For what it’s worth, iOS people are much less likely to unplug than non-iOS people. Apple knows how to keep us addicted.

Incidentally, stress, worry, and COVID apprehension are on the rise over the past week. Cases are climbing, not to mention the president spooked a bunch of people who were previously cavalier. All that makes me pessimistic about our next Economic Sentiment reading, frankly. Also, I get to see the daily reading and it’s bleak. So, I’m not just guessing. We might be in for a rocky ride in the coming weeks.

Three Ways I’m Totally a Statistic Right Now…

I bought a guitar at the beginning of COVID. Nearly 1 in 4 Americans who currently own a musical instrument purchased one in the past six months, which is crazy. Guitars are in the lead, beating drums by more than 3:1. Piano sales were also key drivers of the category. And if you caught all the music puns I made there, you must have read Highlights as a kid. Anyway, yeah, I bought a Taylor acoustic, which puts me on-trend, even though Fender and Gibson are more popular. Read all about the instrumental stats we uncovered here.

I should have bought an outdoor heater. Way back in July it struck me that outdoor patio heaters would come in handy by fall so I started shopping for them – and telling everyone I know that they should buy one. My neighbor told me he had one he didn’t use and that I could have it. Score! Only when we went to fire it up a couple weeks ago, we couldn’t get it to work. By the time I sprinted to Amazon to buy one, they were on backorder because everyone had the same idea eventually. And I blew it. Sometimes it sucks to see the future.

I don’t order takeout cocktails. Only 15% of drinking-age adults are interested in ordering to-go drinks as a benefit to ordering takeout. I just assumed the ice would melt. Or they would judge me for ordering six Tito’s on the rocks. Anyway…

We published a boatload of other studies this week:

These were our most popular questions:

Hoping you’re well.