Anyone shopping for a millennial starter pack would probably find White Claw, some type of plant-based meat, memes, and astrology. Only the essentials. However, that last one might be surprising. In true millennial fashion, many falling under the generation’s umbrella are excavating retro trends—astrology happens to be one of them.
The New York Times estimates that the mystical services market is now worth $2.2 billion. This is due in part to astrology apps like Co-Star, Sanctuary, and The Pattern. These apps provide users with insightful, highly personalized horoscopes directly on their smartphones every day.
Astrology for the Current Moment
Co-Star and its ilk come at a perfect time. Its creators have developed an app that speaks to society’s current moment. Reading horoscopes and your star chart are simultaneously narcissistic and exploratory exercises. Co-Star feeds into peoples’ obsession with themselves and their desire to know and discover their true selves. Adding to that, apps like Co-Star design and write content that users want to share online to followers and friends alike. The app’s slightly haughty tone and readings can be, at once, no-nonsense, funny, and realistic.
After adding birthdate info, Co-Star begins sending users daily guidance. The app’s recommendations oscillate between vague and emoji-filled to somewhat accurate. Push notifications telling users that “We’re all gonna die someday, so take a chance today,” and “Be someone’s service animal today,” aren’t out of the norm.
Co-Star’s design is also a pursuit of “aesthetic.” It is sparse yet bursting with bright colors and animations. It is cool and designed with a specific audience in mind. “We live in this moment where all the startups can look the same, feel the same, kind of talk to people like they’re toddlers,” Co-Star CEO Banu Guler tells the Verge. “Everything’s cartoon and curvy edges. But that’s not real.”
Are Co-Star’s Readings and Horoscopes Real?
When speaking with the Verge, employees at Co-Star wouldn’t divulge how the algorithm works. Instead, they say that delivering daily notifications takes “lots of study.”
The team at Co-Star doesn’t write individual horoscopes and readings for every user (obviously). Instead, they write snippets that get mapped out to different signs before an AI takes over and dispatches the blurbs to users. The key is that the content writers do all of this in a voice that’s particularly privy to how people speak online and through iMessage. It’s a lot like sitting around a few bottles of wine deep, reading horoscopes out of a book with your friend who is a yoga teacher and moonlights as an amateur astrologer for birthday parties.
“We’re always studying astrology,” says Ona Mirkinson, a lead content writer for Co-Star. “So that means that we’re reading multiple books about astrology and also looking at how people are currently talking about astrology on social media, on different blogs, just on the street or whatever…So that’s one of the really fun things about working at Co-Star is being able to merge astrology with psychology and literature to create these different snippets that then get mapped to people’s natal chart.”
Mystical Services are Cashing In
Regardless of the accuracy and veracity of Co-Star’s readings, it hasn’t stopped venture capitalists from taking notice and dumping cash into the company and others like it. Earlier this year, Co-Star raised $5.2 million in seed funding. Other services like Sanctuary have found more ways to separate truth-seekers from their cash by offering live and on-demand readings within their apps for $20/month. Miss Cleo, it ain’t. However, if history has taught us anything, it’s that knowing your future isn’t cheap.