January 20, 2023

Today's Topics

Hello! Instagram is rolling out a Quiet Mode, meaning your notifications will become slightly less overwhelming. We are working on a tech solution to do the exact opposite, with loud alerts to accompany each chart. Let us know if you can help us. Today we’re exploring:

  • New year, new Wiki: The internet's font of knowledge has a new look.
  • Attractive economics: Dating apps make great business models.
  • Raise the roof: The federal government has hit its debt ceiling... again.
Not yet a subscriber? Sign up free below.

New year, new Wiki

Wikipedia — one of the world’s most visited websites — just got its first makeover in more than a decade.

There’s a new search tool, an easier way to switch languages, a more dynamic table of contents section and a lot more white space, which one of our writers described as looking like a Google Doc — but even these relatively-subtle updates have managed to ignite anger in some corners of the internet.

The hit factory

Founded in 2001, Wikipedia has become an integral part of the internet thanks to the tireless efforts of unpaid Wikipedians who contribute millions of entries and edits across the 329 language editions of the site.

Wikipedia’s English-language version racks up more than 10 billion pageviews a month. For context, the largest news sites in the world usually get somewhere between100-500 million hits a month. In fact, the websites for 4 of America’s biggest news titans, The NYTimes, CNN, MSN & Fox News, only got 1.6 billion hits in December, less than one-fifth of what English-language Wiki managed.

Despite the potential to make billions from advertising, Wikipedia remains a not-for-profit entity. As you’ll likely know from its regular pop-up requests for contributions, the parent organization — the Wikimedia Foundation relies almost solely on reader donations, taking in over $150m from generous Wiki fans last year. The majority of that does get spent, primarily on personnel and infrastructure costs for the foundation itself, although the organization also gave out ~$15m of awards and grants in 2022, which helped to fund community-led projects that further the mission of the foundation.

Highly motivated swipers

Dating giant Match Group is bumping up its most-expensive subscription level on dating app Hinge to $60 a month, or $720 a year. That price-point nearly doubles the current highest membership tier of $35 a month, as the company seeks “highly motivated daters” that are hoping to increase their chances of finding the one.

The motto for popular dating app Hinge, which Match Group classifies as one of its emerging brands, is that it's “designed to be deleted”. Although that might not feel like a sound business model, it's one that's actually remarkably profitable. In its most recent full year, Match Group made nearly $3bn in revenue, eking out a margin of nearly 30% despite high sales & marketing expenses.

With roots tracing back to Match.com in the 1990s, Match Group was officially formed after holding company IAC decided to bundle all of its dating businesses in 2009. Since then, the conglomerate has been on a buying spree, acquiring multiple dating brands, though Tinder remains Match Group's crown jewel. In 2021, Tinder swipers coughed up nearly $1.7bn to the app, outperforming all of the company's other 45+ brands combined, which includes Match.com, Hinge, OkCupid and PlentyOfFish. Surprisingly, unlike so many other online enterprises, just 2% of Match's revenue came from advertising, with the vast majority coming directly from paying users.

The attractive economics of a dating app, despite the pitfalls and safety issues associated with running one, have seen hundreds of competitors enter the market, with an increasing number of niche options for love-seekers. From apps that offer exclusive dating pools with celebrities to ones that help find other singles with the same food allergies, these days there's an app for everyone, and a premium paid option for serious swipers.

Not yet a subscriber? Sign up free below.

Raising the roof

Yesterday the federal government hit its debt ceiling, the borrowing limit on the federal budget, which is currently set at a whopping $31.4 trillion.

Although the country has been in this position before, alot, yesterday’s news forced the treasury to spring into action with “extraordinary measures” to prevent the US from defaulting on its debts for what would be the first time in history.

Congress on the clock

The treasury believes the federal government’s coffers could be empty by June, putting a deeply divided Congress on a countdown to get things sorted before then.

Conversations about the national debt have rumbled away since, well, the last time Congress agreed to raise the ceiling two years ago. In fact, Congress has permanently raised, temporarily extended, or revised the definition of the debt ceiling some 78 times since 1960. And, whilst the rate of raises and revisions has slowed in recent years, the amount the ceiling gets raised by each time has of course grown. One such revision in 2021, for example, saw the ceiling rise from $22tn to $28.5tn, before the Biden administration raised the figure another ~$3tn that year to reach the current $31.4tn limit.

With deep division across party lines — Democrats want the ceiling raised quickly, Republicans want it to be tied to promised spending cuts — some fear a repeat of the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, when the US came close to what would have been a catastrophic default.

More Data

• More dancey, less happy: a deep dive on the evolution of music since the 1950s.

• Twitter’s big office clearout saw fake flowers fetch $8k and a big neon bird sign sell for $22k.

• The world’s oldest person sadly passed this week. Sister Andre, or Lucile Randon, was 118 and had lived through the 1918 flu pandemic, two world wars, and even beat Covid in recent years.

Hi-Viz

• When Congress isn't worrying about the debt ceiling, this chart proves they can be pretty productive.

• A great visual walkthrough of how the Brasília insurrection unfolded.

Off the charts: Which iconic food company, that recently announced it would be consolidating its snacks division, netted a whopping $4.1bn in sales from snacks last year? Answer below.

Answer here.

We're a fully bootstrapped, independent media company. If you enjoyed this data-driven newsletter, sharing it with your friends helps us out a lot.
Not yet a subscriber? Sign up free below.

Recent newsletters

Whistling: Crime doesn't pay... but whistleblowing seems to
Burgernomics: The Economist's Big Mac Index is back
V8 dreams: Ferrari's brand is unmatched, but will it thrive in the age of electric?